Category Archives: Interesting insects

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

Caterpillars in fall not so bad

Finding a caterpillar on a plant or tree in your backyard can be cause for excitement. But they should be little cause for concern, especially during the fall months. To most human eyes caterpillars are alien creatures. With their squishy, worm-like bodies, and accordion gait, they are weirdly unique among other insects. Some are large and fantastically showy.  Others have ominous-looking barbs and hairs. And some are skillfully camouflaged, nearly invisible among the leaves and shadows. When gardeners do encounter a caterpillar, reactions range from “cool!” to “yuck!!!” Caterpillars, of course, are the larval stage of moths and… Read More →

Turning the tide against ash borer?

On one hand, we’ve learned a lot about how to fight emerald ash borer with pesticides in the past 14 years since it was first discovered devouring ash forests in Michigan.  But we’re still learning how nature keeps EAB in its place in its native Asian home.  Insect parasites and predators are almost certainly the reason EAB is not a major pest on the other side of the globe. If only we could put some of those same beneficial insects to work for us!  Then maybe we could… Read More →

Closer than you’ve ever been

Photographer Levon Biss started out with portrait and sports photography, but got hooked on insects.  Now his extreme photographic skills have landed him a gig at the Oxford University’s Museum of Natural History. Biss shoots his images through a microscope to create scenes that no human eye has seen before. That’s because, even for an entomologist with a very good microscope, it’s impossible to see a full insect, like the mantis fly image shown here, in complete focus all at once. Biss achieves this by piecing together around 30… Read More →

Crane flies, not mosquitoes

While concern about mosquitoes floats over the digital airwaves this month, annual flying hosts of crane flies quietly fill the real air over cities and fields throughout Texas.  Crane flies are most apparent each year in our state during the late winter/early spring.  I think of them as one of the first signs that spring is nearly upon us. The common name “mosquito hawk” is sometimes given to these flies; however the name usually comes with the belief that these clumsy, long-legged insects are predators, perhaps on mosquitoes.  Nothing… 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 →

Your chance to hear REAL cicadas

Texans are no strangers to cicadas.  One writer in 1933 proclaimed east Texas “a veritable cicada paradise,” before going on to list all the different species he had encountered here. Indeed, you would have to be hard of hearing, or very unobservant, not to notice the buzzing sounds of annual cicadas coming from nearly every summertime tree between June and August. Even if the annual singing of cicadas is not your cup of tea, you have to marvel at the once every seventeen year emergence of the periodical cicadas.  Sometimes deafening, the periodic… 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 →

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 →