Category Archives: Interesting insects

Posts on insects that are not necessarily pests, but worthwhile knowing more about.

What’s all the buzz about insect hotels?






Insect pollinators seem to be receiving some overdue attention these days.  Pollinator insects provide incalculable services to humans via increased fruit production and crop pollination. According to the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service, 3/4 of the world’s flowering plants and about 35 percent of the world’s food crops depend on animal pollinators to reproduce. This new interest in bees is resulting in a renaissance of a sorts in creative ideas for attracting and sheltering pollinator insects in backyards and parks and even hotels.  In European hotels and hostels I’m told… Read More →




New study on bees and neonics






Are insecticides to blame for killing off the honey bee?  That question has stimulated lively debate in both scientific and policy circles the past two years.  At the heart of the controversy is a group of insecticides known as neonicotinoids.  Neonics, as they’re sometimes called, have risen over the past 20 years to become the number one class of insecticides sold worldwide, and are being used increasingly by nurseries and home gardeners to control a variety of landscape and garden pest problems. Environmental groups contend that the case is… Read More →




For Monarchs not all milkweeds are equal






Graceful and beautiful at the same time, the sight of a Monarch butterfly never fails to lift my heart.  In Texas, Monarchs are harbingers of both spring and fall.  In the spring, Monarchs are seen traveling north to exploit the emerging crop of milkweed plants favored by their caterpillars.  In the fall, Texas serves as a flyway for southward migrating butterflies, as most of the U.S. eastern population of Monarchs heads toward their overwintering habitat in Michoacan State, in the Sierra Madre mountains west of Mexico City. In recent years, however,… Read More →




Hollyhock thrips found in Dallas






It’s not too often that I come across an insect that appears to not have been previously recorded in Texas. But thanks to the sharp eyes and instincts of Johnette Taylor of Roundtree Landscaping in Dallas, I’ve added a new plant pest to my “life list”. Johnette was a little suspicious when a customer reported that an Althea (rose-of-sharon) that she had planted several years ago was yellowing and losing leaves.  She noticed some small red insects covering the bark of the trunks, and took a picture with her phone. After… Read More →




Never more than 5 feet from a (wolf) spider






I was reminded the other day of the old saying “You’re never more than five feet from a spider”.  I was working on the computer when I glanced up from my keyboard to look into the face of a BIG wolf spider. It was sitting on the base of my computer monitor about 2 feet away. After the initial startle reaction (even entomologists are human) I had to smile.  I really do like spiders–if not especially on my keyboard–and I was thinking how most of my non-entomologist friends would react to… Read More →




National Pollinator Week coming soon






National Pollinator Week this year is June 16-22.  Here’s to hoping 2014 will be looking up for honey bees and other native pollinators.  Last year during National Pollinator Week a pesticide misapplication led to a highly publicized bee kill in Wilsonville, OR.  But this year we’ll start with some good news.  Honey bee colony winter survival was up slightly this year, though still below expected survival levels prior to the advent of colony collapse disorder (CCD). In celebration of the week, I thought I would share with you some… Read More →




The “Mother” bug II






I’ve been receiving calls about a small red and black insect that is extremely common at the moment.  It’s scientific name is Sehirus cinctus, but it is also known as the white-margined burrowing bug.  Due to it’s commonness around Mother’s Day, and its motherly habits, I kind of like the name “Mother bug”, which I used in another post. Several years ago I got a call from a graduate student doing a study on the unique behavior of these insects.  He wanted to drive all the way from Notre… Read More →




Most attractive contest






Where are you on the mosquito attractiveness scale?  Are you a “1” or a “10”?  Me?  I know that I’m more attractive to mosquitoes than my wife (she is much more susceptible to poison ivy… I think I’ll be content).  I suspect that I’m not a ten, though.  Several years ago I was asked to visit a Plano resident who was very upset about the mosquito problem around her home.  After searching her yard and poking about the surrounding neighborhood, the city health official and I had not… Read More →




Gall insects most active in the spring






Every year I receive numerous questions about strange, misshapen growths on the leaves or stems of trees.  These growths, called galls, are often the result of insect egg-laying or feeding. Galls themselves are tumor-like growths produced by the plant in response to chemicals injected into the plant by the adult or larval gall-making insect.  The shape, size and form of the gall is determined by the precise chemicals chemicals used by each species of gall-maker. The mechanisms of gall formation, and how these chemicals result in very distinctive… Read More →




The sky is falling… oh it’s just spiders






“Fairies with gossamer wings, bring forth beauty, grace and joyful things.” Dallas television and radio stations yesterday were obsessed with reports of strange white silk dropping out of the skies over north Texas. Although this is an annual phenomenon, it always seems to catch many unawares. The silken strands falling from the skies are spider silk.  The English called it “gossamer”, the Germans call it the “flying summer”.  Whatever you call it, this silken shower is evidence of a massive spider dispersal that takes place every year, especially in… Read More →