You may have noticed some strange, fuzzy caterpillars crawling around your landscape lately. These are called Whooly Bear Caterpillars. There are a couple different color varieties. Some are completely black and others have a reddish stripe down the middle.
Whooly Bears are the larval form of the Great Leopard Moths. Image by John Jackman
Whooly Bears are not Asps, as some people call them. They are not poisonous like true Asps or Puss Caterpillars. However, they have urticating hairs that can cause an allergic reaction in some people. These hairs are a defense mechanism against predators. Imagine if you were a bird and ate one – those hairs
would tickle and hurt all the way down. I avoid touching Whooly Bears just in case. A good rule of thumb is that anything brightly colored or with hairs is warning me to stay away.
Whooly Bears are the larval form of the Great Leopard Moths. They are usually abundant around Spring, but this summer, they are making an appearance.
The great leopard moth, Hypercompe scribonia (Stoll) (Lepidoptera: Arctiidae), with a 3-inch wingspan, is white with black open-circular spots on the forewings and a metallic blue abdomen with orange markings. Image by Bart Drees
Whooly Bears are of no concern as long as you don’t pick them up. They generally feed on broad leafed plants and are not considered a pest.
BAG WORMS – MAKING A STRANGE APPEARANCE THIS SUMMER
Last summer was the summer of crickets and grasshoppers, and it seems this summer is the summer of bagworms. I have received more than the usual questions about bagworms – or more specifically the question asked is “what the heck is this?!” Bagworms are a very interesting insect. Most people notice them stuck to their window screens – and if you are lucky, you
might see them scoot along in their bags.
Image of bag worm photo by Brain Golick
Bagworm caterpillars collect leaves and make a little home that they carry around with them. As they develop and grow, their bag will continue to grow as well. There are multiple species of bagworms and they feed on a range of trees and shrubs.
The lifeycle of the bagworm is very peculiar. After pupating, male moths will crawl out of their bags, find a female and mate. Adult females never develop into moths; they remain in their bags and look like maggots. They never develop functioning mouthparts or eyes – their purpose in life is to mate and reproduce!
Although the host range of plants for bagworms is so broad, they rarely cause any significant damage to homeowner’s landscapes. Rather, they are more of a novelty insect to watch move about the window screens and trees.
HUMIDITY AND COCKROACHES
Unfortunately, the current humid weather is heaven for cockroaches such as Smoky Browns and Americans. High humidity is how they thrive, and you may have noticed large cockroaches in the house lately. Dry weather and high humidity drives them indoors.
Smoky-brown cockroaches require high humidity for survival. They are found outside in wooded areas that provide shade and moisture. They can also be seen in protected areas around homes (tree holes and mulch) and in buildings and attics. Image by Mike Merchant
Smoky Brown and American Cockroaches are large cockroaches (up to 1.5 or 2 inches in length), dark brown and can be found in sewers, around drains, bathrooms, kitchens, fireplaces, attics and other areas of high humidity in the house. American Cockroaches have a lighter brown ring around their head region and are slightly larger (up to 2 inches). Smoky Browns are nearly completely dark brown and slightly smaller (up to 1.5 inches).
American cockroaches prefer areas with high humidity. They are commonly found under tree bark or leaf litter outside and in barns. Sewer systems, while also providing another excellent habitat, allows them to spread throughout campuses and major cities. Image by Dept. of Entomology, Texas A&M University
Management is the same for both, and most people could care less what type of cockroach they have, just that they are large and want them out! Seal up any entry points and reduce humidity if possible. They come in from outdoors, so you must figure out how they are finding their way inside. Caulk, foam, or seal it up in whichever way possible. Apply pesticides around entry areas or areas where you see them most active to reduce the population. Be sure to read the labels properly for correct application procedures. Cockroach bait stations can also be effective if no other food source is left out. Sanitize by taking the trash out nightly, cleaning all dirty dishes (even those you leave out to soak), and putting up all food.