Category Archives: Interesting insects

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

Good news about monarchs, but…

  News headlines often bear a second look.  And this week’s “good news” about monarch butterflies is no exception.  News sources this week are reporting that monarch butterfly colonies covered almost 15 acres of Mexican mountainside in 2019, a 144% increase from last winter. Colony sizes are based on estimates of the total acreage of trees covered with monarchs in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in Mexico–the main overwintering site for eastern monarch butterflies. Acreage estimates provide an index as to how many butterflies survived the previous year’s… Read More →

Giving Monarchs a hand

Where have all the butterflies gone?  If you think there are fewer butterflies, and just plain bugs, on your windshield compared to a few years back, you’re probably right. Recent studies point to alarming declines in both insect and butterfly populations. Most scientists think that the primary causes for these declines are the many changes we humans are making to our environment.  As we replace plant-diverse rural landscapes with simplified urban and suburban streets and lawns, we reduce habitat abundance and food supply for butterflies, among other insects. … Read More →

Monarchs passing through now…don’t miss them

In case you haven’t seen your first monarch butterfly of the fall migration, you should start looking now.  Mid-October is peak monarch observation month in Texas. So what is fall migration and why all the fuss about monarch butterflies? Monarchs are one of relatively few insects that have true migration.  And one of the few migrant animals who instinctively travel thousands of miles to an overwintering site they have never seen before. The monarch migration starts each spring with old butterfly adults that have overwintered on a dozen… Read More →

Miller moths

If you live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, or any other place that has had a recent outbreak of fall armyworm caterpillars, you may have noticed an increase in fast-flying, grey-brown moths. I started noticing these last week, and they appear to be growing in numbers today. If you drive early in the morning, or in the evening, you might even catch these moths in your car headlights. It’s all part of a circle of life: moths lay eggs, which turn into caterpillars, which pupate (think of a… Read More →

Insect ID via mobile device

I get lots of images in email and on the web for identification. I get to see some amazing insects and good pictures this way, but I also receive a lot of really bad insect pictures. And since bad pictures don’t help your chances of getting a successful identification, it’s in everyone’s interest to take better pictures.  So here are five tips for improving your chances to get an insect identified via email, your cell phone or other mobile device. Focus on the insect, not the background.  Corollary… Read More →

Caring about the Other Bees

In my experience, most people like bees. Aside from the occasional bad encounter with a sting, most of us know that bees are good, and a necessary part of our spaceship-earth zoo. Recently, we’ve heard about honey bee die-offs due to a variety of problems. These stories are almost always about domesticated European honey bees, not native and wild bees.  These problems are largely cultural and have to do with sanitary bee management, not so much with ecological issues. Bees are important to agriculture and will be well… Read More →

Oak catkin mirid

Naturalists in Texas have no shortage of interesting insects to observe. If you were paying attention over the past couple of weeks, you may have noticed a small bug present in large numbers, especially around live oak trees. I’ve received several samples, some of which were sent by curious homeowners and some by pest control professionals. In some cases, they were observed clustering around doorways, other submitters just remarked that they were “very common right now.” Given the large number of small brown plant bugs on Bugguide, I… Read More →

Treehoppers

Every year brings its own oddities of entomology. Some years caterpillars strip trees bare in the spring, other years grasshoppers arrive in hoards.  This spring I’ve had a couple of reports of a small insect called a treehopper, sometimes in large numbers. Treehoppers are surely one of the most curious looking insects encountered by gardeners. They feed on plant sap, like many insects found in trees, but rarely seem to do much damage.  The most distinctive feature of the treehopper family is an upright, fin-like structure arising from… Read More →

A day in the life of a mint

  Growing plants is so much more interesting when you get to know your garden’s wildlife. Few of us will ever take the time to spend an entire day watching all the insects, spiders, birds, and reptiles attracted to our backyard garden. But if we did, we would probably be amazed at all the critters calling our yards “home.” Fortunately for us impatient folk, retired entomologist David Cappaert has done just that. Last summer, after noticing an unusual abundance of insect life attracted to just one kind of plant… Read More →

Give the love of insects this Christmas

Parents, here’s a Christmas idea for your kids. A hand lens, an insect net, a set of pins and an insect collection box could provide a doorway to the love of nature for your child. For some kids an insect collection can be the best way to learn about insects and connect with the outdoors. Photography is also good, but collecting engages all the senses in ways that a camera cannot. Many entomologists got their start collecting insects. An insect collecting kit as a Christmas present got one… Read More →