Category Archives: Interesting insects

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

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 →

Devastation of Monarch butterfly habitat in 2016

For all fans of monarch butterflies, a new article in American Entomologist may be of interest.  Lincoln Brower and colleagues describe the most devastating weather event for the monarchs since studies began 24 years ago. For many years it was known that monarch butterflies migrated; but not until 1975 did scientists discover that most monarchs in the eastern half of the United States migrate to a remote mountainous site in south-central Mexico. The Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve was designated a World Heritage Site in 2008, and is located… Read More →

Class labeled a “bug success”

By all accounts, this year’s Master Volunteer Entomology Specialist (MVES) training was a “bug success”. The 2017 class was held Sep 18-21 at the Texas A&M AgriLife Center at Dallas, and represented the 12th time we’ve offered the course since 2003. I hosted this year’s class with lots of help from colleagues. Every year’s MVES class agenda is unique. In addition to core sessions (general entomology, insect orders, integrated pest management, and insects of trees and landscapes), we heard talks on insects that eat other insects, beekeeping, native… Read More →

Citrus flatid planthopper

These poor insects.  Stuck with a name that sounds pretty boring–even to an entomologist. And the scientific name is little better: Metcalfa pruinosa is a type of planthopper, a relative of the aphids, scales, whiteflies, and leafhoppers.  It belongs to the family Flatidae, hence the name flatid.  And it is found on citrus, but also lots of other plants. For some reason, these little insects seem to be pretty abundant this year, so you may be more likely to see them in your garden.  They may show up on… Read More →

Boozy beetle: the Camphor Shoot Borer

Every now and then entomologists get calls that border on the bizarre. Last week I received an email from a citizen in far east Texas. He was having problems with what he said were “insects boring into his riding lawn mower gas tank”.  Of course my first reaction was that insects don’t eat plastic, nor do they drink gasoline.  Why should they be boring into a gas tank?  But the caller had photographic proof.  Not only did he have pictures of the holes, he was able to pry about 15 of… Read More →