Category Archives: Beneficial insects

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…

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 →

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 →

Butterfly gardening gets a boost

Anyone who knows me, knows I love books. Especially books with beautiful pictures.  And what subject is more beautiful than butterflies? The book I have most commonly recommend for people interesting in learning more about butterfly gardening is Butterfly Gardening for the South by Geyata Ajilvsgi.  Now there’s an updated, Texas version, of her book, Butterfly Gardening for Texas.  According to Sarah Gardener at Texas Discovery Gardens, the Gardens will be hosting Ms. Ajilvsgi Sunday, September 8 for a Garden Stroll and book signing. Admission is free to the… Read More →

What is a beneficial parasite?

  The words “beneficial” and “parasite” are not normally heard together.  But when talking about gardens, and parasitic wasps that attack pests, the word pairing makes good sense. Many insects in both natural settings and the urban landscape have long been recognized by humans as “beneficial”, as in benefiting man. Predators of pest insects, in particular, have attracted admiring fans, especially farmers.  As early as ninth century China, farmers were modifying their orchards to aid the transfer of predator ants for control of citrus pests.  By the 18th century… Read More →