Category Archives: Pests of landscapes

Posts dealing with insects that affect landscape plants, turf.

Oak leaf itch mite confirmed in Oklahoma

In the latest issue of Pest Alerts from the Entomology Department at Oklahoma State University, entomologist Justin Talley reports finding evidence of a biting pest that has not been seen in Oklahoma or Texas for over ten years. The oak leaf itch mite, Pyemotes herfsi, is cousin to the straw itch mite–a predatory mite often associated with stored grain and stored grain insects, and known to bite people who come in contact with infested grain.  It was first reported in the U.S. from Kansas in 2004, a year… Read More →

Recognizing emerald ash borer damage

This summer my assistant spent the better part of her summer hanging and checking over 100 purple sticky traps to determine whether Texas has been invaded yet by the dreaded emerald ash borer (EAB), Agrilus planipennis.  The beetle has already been detected in neighboring states of Arkansas and Louisiana; but much to our relief, after thousands of miles of winding county roads and many hundreds of traps, neither she nor our colleagues in the Texas Forest Service or Sam Houston State University found a single EAB.  However, this beetle is elusive.  And… Read More →

Bagworms in the fall

You’ve been watching your arborvitae all summer and noticing brown, spindle-shaped sacs hanging from the branches.  Someone points out to you that these are bagworms, a case-making caterpillar that feeds on leaves and can be highly damaging, especially to evergreen trees and shrubs like arborvitae and cedar. Now it’s late September, what do you do? Before I answer that question, it’s worth pointing out that bagworms are interesting insects with a decidedly non-traditional life cycle. Bagworms are not really worms, but caterpillars, the immature stages of a nondescript moth.  They… Read More →

Hackberry defoliator in north Dallas area

Over the past few weeks I’ve had several emails concerning a small caterpillar infesting hackberry in the Flowermound and Grapevine, TX area especially.  After some initial head scratching over fuzzy pictures sent via email, my lab employees went caterpillar hunting yesterday and brought back a good haul of larvae feeding on sugarberry trees, Celtis laevigata. After sending pictures to colleagues, James McDermott of College Station identified the critters as Sciota celtidella, an obscure moth that has been recorded feeding on hackberry, Celtis occidentalis (Alma Solis, Bull. Biolog. Soc. of WA May… Read More →

Webinar on emerald ash borer available

If you live anywhere in east Texas and have an ash tree you love, you may want to check out this new webinar on emerald ash borer. The webinar reviews some history and background on the new invasive pest that is likely to enter Texas very soon. I was invited to present on this topic by Dr. Mengmeng Gu as part of her Spring Quick-Bite webinar series this week.  So fair warning that you will be listening to me for 43 minutes. The webinar goes over some basic biology and how… Read More →

A roly poly invasion

Is it just me, or are we in the midst of a roly poly invasion?  Now, I tend to not “see” some of the same pests other people see, because they just don’t bother me.  I’ll look right past a spider in the house, because it’s just doing its thing.  Similarly, I don’t tend to notice roly polies, also called pillbugs, because I’m so used to them living in the heaping piles of mulch around my home. The past month, however, working on my lawn and landscape, even I have… Read More →

May beetles on pecans

Nearly everyone who’s grown up in a rural or semi-rural area of Texas knows about “Junebugs”, or more correctly, June beetles. These are the heavy bodied, spindly legged beetles that flock to lights at night.  Even in my suburban home, miles from pastures or farm fields, we get June beetles and their relatives coming in waves throughout the spring, clumsily bumping against window screens, drawn by the light. It seems that “June beetle” is not a very accurate descriptor of the dozens of species of spring emerging scarab beetles that… Read More →

Bug with a punch

I ran a story about this insect 5 years ago, and thought it might be time for a refresher course. The fourlined plant bug,  Poecilocapsus lineatus, is a small, attractively colored insect that is active right now. Don’t be fooled by its pretty face.  This insect has been recorded as a pest from about 250 different plant species, both herbaceous and woody plants. Herbs, mints, and composite flowers seem to be especially favored. What makes the fourlined plant bug unique is the rather severe damage (see image) that… Read More →

Kern’s flower scarab

I’ve received several reports this week from worried gardeners concerning an attractive (yes, bugs can be pretty!) beetle feeding in flowers.  The Kern’s flower scarab, Euphoria kernii, is a medium-sized (8-11 mm-long) beetle reported to feed on pollen of a number of different species of flowers ranging from roses to irises to certain grasses.  Coloration and markings of this beetle is also variable, ranging from all black to nearly all yellow with black markings. There are several species of Euphoria found in Texas, but the one that seems to… Read More →

Tent caterpillars without the tent

Forest tent caterpillars are one of the most widespread and abundant of the tent-making caterpillars. Like their close cousins the eastern tent caterpillars, forest tent caterpillars feed primarily on trees; but unlike their cousins, and the common fall webworm, the forest tent caterpillar doesn’t make an actual tent. Instead the caterpillars aggregate between feedings on a silken mat which they spin on some area of the trunk or on large branches of the host tree. Forest tent caterpillars are relatively easy to recognize. Besides their distinctive aggregation behavior, caterpillars can be… Read More →