Category Archives: Insects

Something’s Been Bugging Me…

This last week has been all about the bugs. Or, as my entomologist husband would say, it’s been all about the insects. As he has told me many times in the past, true bugs have sucking mouth parts. That being said, saying that something’s been insecting me doesn’t quite sound the same.

First off, at work our office has moved into a new building. And since it was being remodeled beforehand, the windows were always open. Which allowed plenty of insects egress into the building, where they happily set up shop. We have fruit flies, flies, gnats, ants, and a few cockroaches (which I admit, I also saw in Bricker Hall.) They are thinking about doing something to get rid of the little pests – I had one fruit fly that just flew around my head all day. Not a piece of fruit to be seen. I named him Fred.

Then on Friday night, we put some plants in my front garden because it was supposed to rain on Saturday, and I thought that would be the perfect time to get them all into the ground. Pete and I were nearly eaten alive by Asian tigers. We sprayed with Off! but the little blood suckers just laughed at it, finding the one centimeter of skin that hadn’t been coated. Of course, with dirty hands, swatting at them wasn’t the best thing to do. I finally gave up and swatted away; I looked like I had rolled in the dirt when I got inside.

As I was relaxing upstairs Saturday afternoon, Seamus, our cat, came up to lay on my lap, something he usually doesn’t do. I noticed he had all of this white stuff on his head, and in looking at it to try and figure out what it was, I noticed the white stuff was moving. I screamed at Pete, “Seamus has something alive crawling all over him!!” Pete took a sample under his microscope and declared Seamus had mites. As did Ciara. Walking dandruff is what it’s called. Of course, no vet was open, and all the on-line treatments were prescription only. Then, in combing a sample of the fur from the other cats, I found a flea. Of course, that meant that everyone had fleas. We were told at PetPeople in Clintonville to try diamaceous earth. It’s a very fine silica powder that somehow cuts the exoskeleton of fleas, drying them out and eventually killing them. It’s very safe to use. We sprinkled some on each cat and around the places they liked to lay, after washing everything we could. It seems to have worked on the mites – Pete saw some under the microscope, but they were all dead.

Today, I noticed that our burr oak’s leaves were looking a bit yellow and the red lace bugsoak’s leaves were turning brown. Turning over the leaves, I noticed lots (and I mean lots) of eggs and insects. Pete says they are lace bugs (you, know, the ones with the sucking mouth parts). Well, they certainly were sucking out the sap from those leaves. The red oak had more eggs that Pete couldn’t identify. Dang bugs – or insects! Or whatever.

Finally, has any noticed the lack of butterflies around, especially monarchs? Pete and I haven’t seen anythcabbage whiteing but a few black swallowtails, one tiger swallowtail, and one mourning cloak. We haven’t seen one monarch anywhere in Central Ohio. I’ve heard that the conditions for monarchs this year weren’t very good – storms and drought – as well as loss of habitat in Mexico. The only thing I’ve seen butterfly-wise are the cabbage whites, introduced from Europe.

We’ve got our new LOUA membership forms up – if you’d like to become a member, click here!

Until next time!

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Itsy Bitsy Spider

Pete has informed me that we are now the proud landlords of a female black and yellow garden spider (argiope aurantia). Now normally, I’m not too excited about spiders. As a small child, I was chased with a spider (semi-squished in a tissue) held by a relative who shall remain nameless. You know who you are! Apparently, I’ve never gotten over it. Thank goodness my husband is a trained entomologist who can remove any spiders that made it inside our house.

But back to the garden spider. These are, in my opinion, very handsome arachnids. I’ve seen them out in the prairie preserves around central Ohio but never anywhere else. What Pete said was so surprising about seeing this spider in our backyard (and this is only the second one in eight years) is that these spiders travel by ballooning. (Images of a frightened spider riding along in a hot air balloon were quickly dispatched by Pete…) Now if I understood Pete correctly, the spider climbs as high as it can then stands on its tiptoes (Wait – spiders have TOES?) with its abdomen facing up into the air. Then the spider releases some gossamer (the correct term for the very fine silk created by spiders for just this purpose) that forms a parachute of sorts. Air currents lift the silk and take the spider away. In some cases, spiders have been found many miles from land, having been carried away by the jet stream. Since these garden spiders are rarely found in urban areas, this little lady got here after traveling for some distance. Pretty cool!

A little more about these spiders. The female is the large showy specimen, spanning nearly 2.5 inches. The male, by contrast, is very small and inconspicuous. The orb webs (circular with parallel lines) the spiders weave are large and often decorated with a tell-tail zig-zag of white silk. The babies, when they hatch, are bright yellow, and will emerge in the spring.

Until next time!