Category Archives: Interesting insects

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

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 →

Hollyhock thrips found in Dallas

It’s not too often that I come across an insect that appears to not have been previously recorded in Texas. But thanks to the sharp eyes and instincts of Johnette Taylor of Roundtree Landscaping in Dallas, I’ve added a new plant pest to my “life list”. Johnette was a little suspicious when a customer reported that an Althea (rose-of-sharon) that she had planted several years ago was yellowing and losing leaves.  She noticed some small red insects covering the bark of the trunks, and took a picture with her phone. After… 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 →

National Pollinator Week coming soon

National Pollinator Week this year is June 16-22.  Here’s to hoping 2014 will be looking up for honey bees and other native pollinators.  Last year during National Pollinator Week a pesticide misapplication led to a highly publicized bee kill in Wilsonville, OR.  But this year we’ll start with some good news.  Honey bee colony winter survival was up slightly this year, though still below expected survival levels prior to the advent of colony collapse disorder (CCD). In celebration of the week, I thought I would share with you some… Read More →

The “Mother” bug II

I’ve been receiving calls about a small red and black insect that is extremely common at the moment.  It’s scientific name is Sehirus cinctus, but it is also known as the white-margined burrowing bug.  Due to it’s commonness around Mother’s Day, and its motherly habits, I kind of like the name “Mother bug”, which I used in another post. Several years ago I got a call from a graduate student doing a study on the unique behavior of these insects.  He wanted to drive all the way from Notre… Read More →