Category Archives: Beneficial insects

New-bee volunteers

A new resource was birthed this spring with the first graduating class of apprentice Master Beekeepers.  In March the Texas Master Beekeeper program graduated its first class of 68 volunteers specializing in bee culture and protection. Like its cousins, the Master Gardener and Master Naturalist programs, the Master Beekeeper program is intended to nurture trained volunteers to assist with public service and educational programs.  But the Master Beekeepers will work on projects primarily related to honey bees. With this first class Texas joins Florida, Georgia, Oregon and other Master Beekeeping… Read More →

Spiders Gone Wild in Rowlett

Rowlett, Texas is a relatively quiet suburb of big neighbor, Dallas.  Driving along the city’s CA Roan Drive, a quiet stretch of road running through Lakeside Park South, you can feel a long way from the big city.  But cyclists and drivers along that route this week may have noticed the trees looking a little shiny, and maybe just a little creepy. Along a football field length stretch of the drive, the spiders are taking over.  Glistening webs are draping the trees like shrouds at Lakeside Park, a stone’s throw away from the… Read More →

Flag waving for Americans

The ensign wasp is one of the odder insects found occasionally in homes.  A small insect, only 5-7 mm long, it does not sting or bite.  In fact, it does no harm; but it is a beneficial parasite of at least three household cockroaches, the American cockroach being the most common. Ensign wasps are experts at locating not the cockroaches themselves, but the egg cases (oothecae) that cockroaches deposit.  According to one account, when the female ensign wasp encounters a cockroach egg case, she first taps it with her antennae, presumably… Read More →

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 →

Plan Bee: Insecticide tags on nursery plants

Lobbying efforts by “defenders of the bees” have been rewarded by one of the largest retailers of nursery plants requiring new tags on plants.  As reported today by Nursery Management magazine, all Home Depot plants treated by greenhouse or nursery producers with one of the neonicotinoid insecticides will have to carry a special tag informing customers of the treatment and potential residues. What’s this about?  It’s all part of a political and scientific brouhaha over a group of insecticides that were recently discovered to have some subtle, and possibly deadly,… Read More →

Powwowing about pollinators

Pollinator protection has become almost trendy recently. One of the spin offs of the honey bee controversy over CCD, is that the spotlight has come to rest not just on honey bees, but on all insects that pollinate plants. And this is a good thing. Today nearly everyone at some point is taught in school, or via Discovery Channel, that bees pollinate flowers; but I’ll wager that relatively few understand what this really means to all of us.  Pollination is the biological process by which female plant parts are… Read More →

The NYT on CCD

The New York Times just published an article and video on the complex nature of colony collapse disorder (CCD) in honey bees.  Author Clyde Haberman does a good job of presenting the case for the side of the debate that argues for multiple interacting causes of the bee problem. If you’re not familiar with CCD, it is a mysterious disorder that has afflicted 30% or so of commercial bee hives in the U.S. since 2006.  Something about the problem has touched a nerve with many Americans who fear that… 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 →

Bee protests are cute, but…

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9W5PQbitoS4#t=115[/youtube]A recent protest by organic activists outside a Chicago Home Depot highlighted the current debate over pesticides and bees.  It also reminded me that no one wants to go on record as being “against the bees”.  Check out the video above. Let’s face it.  Despite their sometimes dangerous side, bees rank relatively high on most people’s list of favorite insects. After all, bees are a sure sign of spring (much needed this year).  And they make honey for goodness sake. And, as the beekeeping industry keeps reminding us,… Read More →