Month: November 2021

Winter mild or wild? Ask the banded woolly bear, Pyrrharctia isabella

 

How do woolly bear caterpillars predict winter weather and survive winter’s chill?

 

The banded woolly bear turns into the pretty Isabella tiger moth.

By virtue of the intimate relationship between weather and insect activity, folklore abounds about the ability of insects to predict meteorological events – when hornets build their nests high, a cold winter is on the way, when ants construct tall mounds, heavy rains are just around the corner, stuff like that. An annual preoccupation for many naturalists is taking a guess at what Old Man Winter has in store for us in the upcoming months. Fact-packed sources like NOAA predict “above normal” temperatures for the mid-Atlantic region and the tried and true Old Farmer’s Almanac predicts a “Season of Shivers” with “positively bone-chilling, below-average temperatures across most of the United States”. Entomologists know the consummate soothsayer of upcoming winter weather is the banded woolly bear caterpillar, the larval stage of the Isabella tiger moth.

Exactly when and where the prognosticative abilities of woolly bears were discovered remains shrouded in mystery. However, Dr. Charles Howard Curran, an assistant curator at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City from 1947 until his retirement in 1960, popularized the forecasting skills of woolly bears. Dr. Curran made annual pilgrimages to nearby Bear Mountain Park each year between 1948 and 1956 to observe woolly bears and gather data on their color patterns. He measured the width of colored hair bands on the body of woolly bear caterpillars to forecast the severity of the upcoming winter. His observations gained notoriety when published in the New York Herald Tribune. He concluded that a wide orange or brown band in the middle of the caterpillar bordered by black bands at head and tail forecast a mild winter. Conversely, wider black segments with a narrow band of brown or orange in between forewarned of a long, severe winter. Several other entomological experts around the country have used various clues garnered from the woolly bears to predict the winter weather. Claims of 70-80% accuracy are not uncommon.

A woolly bear caterpillar bedecked with just a few black segments front and back, and many segments in the middle festooned with orange or brown is thought to be the harbinger of a mild winter. Conversely, a woolly bear with a narrow band of orange or brown sandwiched between large bands of black at head and tail signals a severe winter ahead. Having encountered representatives of both camps recently, perhaps the woolly bears are predicting a relatively mild winter with intermittent periods of severe cold. Clever meteorologists are these woolly bears.

When threatened, the woolly bear caterpillar curls into ball with a phalanx of stout, outward-facing spines which send a strong warning to would-be predators and bug geeks.

I usually think of caterpillars as rather delicate creatures and wonder why woolly bears don’t spend winter in a more durable stage like an egg or pupa, as do many other moths and butterflies. Even in Maryland polar vortices sometimes visit and drop temperatures below zero. A fascinating study by Jack Layne and his colleagues revealed that woolly bear caterpillars survive winter’s cold through a process called supercooling. As temperatures drop in autumn and early winter, woolly bears and many other species of insects produce cryoprotectants, antifreeze-like compounds including glycerol and sorbitol, that prevent the formation of lethal ice crystals in their bodies. This brew of Mother Nature’s antifreeze allows caterpillars to survive even when ambient temperatures dip well below freezing. The ability to shrug off cold enables the partially grown woolly bear caterpillar to overwinter as a larva, and with the return of warm temperatures in spring and arrival of fresh leaves, the caterpillars resume feeding for a while before spinning a cocoon and completing the transformation to an adult moth.

Imagine my delight when on a recent trip to the field, I discovered a banded woolly bear caterpillar with virtually no black bands on its body save for a few dark segments near the head. What with wildly inflating fuel prices and my ancient furnace gulping gallons of fuel oil, the prospect of lower oil bills loomed large. These hopes were thoroughly dashed a week later when I spotted a banded woolly bear with but a few orange colored segments in the middle and wide black bands at head and tail sanctioning the Farmer’s Almanac forecast of severe weather ahead. Has discord so rampant in the world of humans spread to the realm of woolly bears as well? Let’s hope not. Perhaps these seemingly disparate meteorological predictions are reconciled like this: “Woolly bears are predicting a relatively mild winter with intermittent periods of severe cold.” Clever meteorologists are these woolly bears.

Acknowledgements

Bug of the Week thanks Sheri, Finn, and Iggy for inspiring this episode and Karin Burghardt for providing images and identifying featured caterpillars. David Wagner’s remarkable book, “Caterpillars of Eastern North America”, was used to prepare this story, as was the interesting article “Cold Hardiness of the Woolly Bear Caterpillar (Pyrrharctia isabella Lepidoptera: Arctiidae)” by Jack R. Layne, Jr., Christine L. Edgar, and Rebecca E. Medwith.

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Why Do Squirrels Dig Up Lawns & Gardens?

Learn About the Damage Squirrels can Cause Each Year to Your Property & How to Prevent It

Squirrels may appear to be cute and harmless while scampering across your lawn — but the critter can actually cause quite a headache.

Residents and business owners in the Northeastern part of the United States may find their property littered with the quarter-sized holes squirrels dig in order to store food for winter.

Squirrel holes can be an eyesore and are generally an early sign that a scurry — or group of squirrels, has taken over the inside of the residence or building.

And even though these holes in the yard or garden might not cause a significant amount of damage, it could be an indication of a larger issue at hand.

In the Northeast, where winters are long and harsh, the region’s most prevalent squirrel species — the Eastern gray squirrel, the Southern flying squirrel, and the red squirrel, seek manmade structures for warmth.

These squirrels can take up residence in an attic or crawl spaces in a home or business, resulting in expensive infrastructural damage to the wiring, roof, siding, and insulation.

Homeowners and business owners should be aware of the affects a squirrel infestation can have on a property in addition to understanding how a nuisance wildlife management specialist can take care of the issue.

So, if you’ve spotted these quarter-sized holes in the landscape surrounding your home or office it’s essential to take action sooner rather than later as it can lead to significant damage for homeowners and business owners alike.

Why Do Squirrels Dig Holes in Your Yard?

The Northeast is home to tree-dwelling squirrels as opposed to ground squirrels, which are found on the west coast. This doesn’t mean, however, that a garden or lawn is completely safe from squirrel holes.

The holes that tree-dwelling squirrels dig in gardens or lawns are only an inch deep and typically no bigger than a coin — just large enough to store acorns, seeds, nuts, and other edible items.

Gray squirrels, Southern flying squirrels, and red squirrels create these food storage holes — called caches, in preparation for the lack of available food sources during the winter months.

Caches tend to pop up most frequently in the fall, from October to November.

For anyone that is trying to keep their lawn or garden looking picture-perfect, this can be an annoying trait — but squirrels do refill the caches with dirt. Likely, a lawn that’s been dug up by squirrels will be covered in these dirt-filled caches.

Because squirrel holes are so small and shallow, property owners don’t need to be concerned about irreparable or extensive harm to the outside. Generally, no long-term damage arises from squirrel holes in lawns or gardens.

In fact, the holes can actually help promote plant growth by naturally aerating the soil.

But squirrel holes in a yard or garden can be aesthetically unappealing and may indicate that a greater problem could soon arise — like squirrels infesting the inside of a home or business.

Manmade structures are particularly enticing to squirrels during the winter as the critters look for shelter from the cold.

Squirrels can access a home or building by using their teeth and claws to gnaw holes through drywall and roofing, then build nests in the attic or crawlspaces.

Red squirrel peering out of a hole in a brown-painted wooden roof

It can be quite costly to repair squirrel damage found in a home, business, or other structure. Reinsulating an attic after it has been destroyed by nesting squirrels can cost upwards of $1,500 or more — depending on the size of the attic.

A property that is facing a squirrel infestation can face extensive — not to mention unsightly, damage. This situation can be a true nightmare for any homeowner or business owner.  

To prevent squirrels from digging holes or causing damage to the home or business, it’s important for property owners to understand how to keep them at bay until a professional can come resolve the issue.

Prevent Squirrels from Digging Up a Lawn & Garden

If a property owner suspects squirrels have infested the area, they should immediately contact a licensed pest and nuisance wildlife expert for help.

It’s not only inadvisable but also dangerous for untrained individuals to confront a squirrel infestation. Squirrels can spread diseases such as salmonella and leptospirosis — a disease that can cause liver damage in people or animals.

Although rare, squirrels can also carry rabies. A single bite from an infected squirrel can result in severe or even fatal health complications, including intense muscle spasms and paralysis.

Leaving the removal of a squirrel infestation to the professionals is the best way to ensure the problem is taken care of the first time.

But until a pest and nuisance wildlife technician can arrive, there are some simple measures property owners can take to prevent squirrels from causing further damage to a garden, yard, or landscaping.

The best way to keep squirrels at bay while waiting for a pest and nuisance wildlife expert to come is to eliminate any available food sources found throughout the property.  

This includes securing garbage can lids, barring off compost piles, taking down bird feeders with accessible birdseed, and quickly removing fallen nuts, seeds, or fruits.

Noisemakers like bells or windchimes can also scare squirrels away or deter them from returning to the area. It may also help to seal off any potential points of entry like open attic windows or roof vents.

Spraying essential oils — like peppermint, or mixtures of chili peppers and mint around the property can help to repel squirrels. These temporary solutions can be beneficial as the nuisance wildlife animal tends to dislike smelling or tasting such substances.

To discourage squirrels from digging holes and stealing seedlings, crops, or flower bulbs that are buried underneath the surface, install netting or fencing around the perimeters of flowerbeds and gardens.

While such preventative measures may not completely eliminate a squirrel infestation, it can help to temporarily control the situation.

Keep Squirrels Out with Professional Help

Ensuring squirrels remain outside of your house or business is a worthwhile investment, especially as winter approaches and squirrels are searching for warmth.

But this is not a job for non-professionals. It’s essential for individuals with properties that are struggling with a scurry or infestation to seek a pest and nuisance wildlife expert to safely remove the critters.

Those who lack the proper training risk exposing themselves and others to the harmful bacteria squirrels can carry should they attempt to confront a squirrel infestation alone.

And as untrained individuals don’t possess the education or tools to effectively handle a squirrel infestation, the chance of recurrence increases significantly.

Pest and nuisance wildlife control specialists at Catseye Pest Control can remove the squirrels in addition to creating and installing customized, manmade barriers that can shield a structure from squirrels or other nuisance wildlife.

These barriers, known as Cat-Guard Exclusion Systems, are tailored to fit the needs of a variety of areas and points of entry for nuisance wildlife.

The areas of a structure most vulnerable to squirrels includes eaves, soffits, wire chases, vents, attic windows, and piping.

Cat-Guard employee in blue shirt and cap measuring a white barrier next to a white house, green yard in background

Through professional pest management services like Catseye’s Cat-Guard program, owners can enjoy their property without being concerned about a pest or nuisance wildlife infestation.

Expert Squirrel Control & Removal with Catseye

Sharing a space with a scurry of squirrels is a terrible thought for any homeowner or business owner.

Keep your property protected from squirrels and other nuisance wildlife with the help of Catseye’s comprehensive squirrel control program.

Under this program, our pest and nuisance wildlife control specialists will conduct a thorough inspection of the affected area(s) in order to determine how the squirrels are accessing the property.

From there, tailor-made solutions are designed to get and keep squirrels — and other nuisance wildlife, outside where they belong.

Once the squirrels have been removed, a nuisance wildlife clean-up crew will return the affected area(s) to its former, non-infested state.

Allow the expert pest and nuisance wildlife control technicians at Catseye to help you regain and retain control of your property — whether it’s your home, business, or another structure. Contact us to schedule a free inspection today.

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What’s in a name? Ladybug, lady beetle, lady bird beetle – meet the home invading Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle, Harmonia axyridis

 

Just behind the beetle’s head, black markings form the letter M on Harmonia axyridis. This clue helps distinguish the Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle from other species of lady beetles.

 

During the last week or so numerous reports of home invasions by lady beetles have surfaced with a modicum of confusion about what these creatures are. Misleading headlines like “Ladybug lookalike invading area homes” surfaced. For starters, let’s untangle the moniker thing. The beetles invading homes in many parts of the country during this season belong to a family of beetles called the Coccinellidae. These beetles go by many names – ladybugs, lady beetles, lady bird beetles – and are among the most common beetles in the US. All of these names refer to members of the coccinellid clan, a clade some 5,000 species strong worldwide. The term “ladybug lookalikes” really doesn’t make too much sense as ladybugs and lady beetles are different names for the same group of insects.    

Lady beetles, also known as ladybugs and lady bird beetles, are members of a clan more than 5,000 species strong. Many species are important predators helping to reduce pest populations in gardens, landscapes, and crops. The Multicolored Asian Lady beetle, Harmonia axyridis, is a common home invader in autumn throughout much of North America. It seeks overwintering sites in human-made structures. In natural settings, large aggregations form on rocky outcroppings of mountains where they survive winter’s ire. Harmonia was very abundant in parts of the DMV this year, which caused quite a stir with the public.

During her lifetime, a single female lady beetle may lay hundreds of eggs.

The petite invaders recently seen on homes, schools, and office buildings throughout the DMV and in many parts of the country are multicolored Asian lady beetles (a.k.a. Halloween lady beetle) seeking winter refuge. Harmonia axyridis is a prodigious killer of aphids and other nasty pests in our gardens. In one grove of shrubs, I witnessed the annihilation of a booming aphid population. The dazzling lady beetle adults and their alligator-like spawn so completely attacked their prey that I could not find a single living aphid a couple of weeks after Harmonia discovered the aphid patch. Harmonia adults have been reported to consume more than 250 aphids each day, and a single larva may eat more than 1,200 during its development. In addition to eating large numbers of aphids, they devour other pests including adelgids, scales insects, and psyllids.

The alligator-like larva of Harmonia may consume more than 1200 aphids during its development.

Like many predators, they also eat each other. In fact, Harmonia has been implicated in declines of indigenous lady beetle populations on oceanic islands where it has been introduced. As early as 1916, deliberate attempts were made to introduce Harmonia axyridis into the United States from their aboriginal home in Asia, to control aphids. We are not exactly sure how or when this lady beetle established, but by the mid-1980s, it was firmly entrenched in the southern United States. By 1993, it was reported in several Mid-Atlantic States, including Maryland. It is now distributed from Florida to Washington State. Reports of people being “bitten” by ladybugs abound and I confess that I have gotten a small nip from Harmonia every now and then. A recent study discovered that these tiny awesome predators, especially smaller native species of lady beetles, do indeed bite humans and in some cases drink mammalian blood under laboratory conditions. Yikes! Before you duck and cover your jugglers, take solace in the knowledge that Harmonia exhibited no tendency to drink blood.

Not all coccinellids are predators. The Mexican been beetle is an herbivore, but like its predatory relatives it secretes potent chemical defenses from its joints to ward-off predators. These bitter, stinky secretions can stain skin or fabrics.

There are a couple of cautions you might heed as you deal with home-invading lady beetles. When handled or disturbed, lady beetles can release a smelly, bitter secretion that may leave a faint yellow stain on your skin, wall, or curtain. The secretion is a witches’ brew of alkaloids and methoxypyrazines, potent feeding deterrents for would-be predators of lady beetles. There have been reports of pets, particularly dogs, eating lady beetles and becoming ill, so please remind Fido that these are not cicadas and don’t let him eat lady beetles.

Why are there so many lady beetles and what is the fascination with them invading our homes? Remember, these are predators and like many of the other members of their guild, when prey populations increase, populations of predators often follow. With abundant rainfall and lush plant growth providing food for aphids and other juicy prey this spring and summer, it appears that lady beetles had great success finding food, which elevated their survival and reproduction.

In autumn and throughout the winter, Multicolored Asian Lady Beetles and Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs find refuge in protected locations like attics. Many will not survive until spring.

Are these lady beetles simply nosey or are we next on the menu now that the aphids are gone? As winter approaches, Harmonia seek protected locations such as crevices and cracks in rocky cliffs and outcroppings to escape the ravages of winter. Throughout the cities and suburbs of the DMV rocky cliffs are scarce, but homes and buildings are plentiful. Like the brown marmorated stink bug we met in previous episodes, this is the time that Harmonia fly to human-made structures and attempt to find refuge. Any cracks around windows, breaks in stone foundations, unscreened vents in the attic, or gaps in facer boards can allow entry into your home. Once inside the beetles settle-in and become dormant for the winter. Many will dehydrate or starve to death indoors, but on warm days in the late winter and early spring survivors may become active and find their way to sunny windows, where they attempt to escape. To prevent lady beetles and other invaders from entering your home, repair screens on your windows and vents, caulk your foundation, seal air conditioners, and eliminate points of entry to your home. Not only will this keep invaders out, but it will also help keep warm air in and reduce your heating costs. If you find the beetles are a problem indoors, carefully sweep or vacuum them up and release them in a protected spot outdoors such as a tool shed or wood pile.

One of the real delights of the season is to visit nearby summits such as the rocky crags of Old Rag Mountain in Virginia or Sugarloaf Mountain in Maryland to witness legions of multicolored Asian ladybeetles gathering on the sunny cliffs for one last bask in the sun before turning in for the winter. But you better hurry. The arrival of the multicolored Asian lady beetle is a sure sign that Old Man Winter is just around the corner.

Acknowledgements

Bug of the Week thanks Kevin Ambrose whose recent account of Harmonia in the Washington Post provided the inspiration for this episode. The interesting study by Sam Ramsey and John Losey entitled “Why is Harmonia axyridis the culprit in coccinellid biting incidents? “, “The chemical ecology of Harmonia axyridis” by John J. Sloggett, Alexandra Magro, François J. Verheggen, Jean-Louis Hemptinne, William D. Hutchison, and Eric W. Riddick, and “Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle” by Joe Boggs and Susan Jones were consulted to prepare this article.

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Nasty scale insects spell trouble for American beech trees: Beech bark scale, Cryptococcus fagisuga

Uh oh, fluffy white wax on the trunk spell trouble for American beech trees infested with beech bark scales.

Autumn is the perfect season to explore Appalachian hiking trails and enjoy spectacular changes in foliage color as deciduous trees prepare to drop their leaves in preparation of winter’s chill. On a recent adventure to Savage River State Forest in Garrett County, Maryland, the westernmost county in the Free State, Fagus grandifolia, American beech, displayed its full glory sporting leaves of russet and gold. As I walked trails lined with these forest monarchs, I was surprised to see the usually unblemished smooth gray beech bark covered with cascades of fluffy white wax. Flocculant wax on leaves or bark is usually a bad sign, as it signals an infestation of some type of noxious sucking insect pest. Yes, this was indeed the case for our friends the American beech, who are in a mortal battle with an invasive insect pest from Europe called beech bark scale and a cabal of invasive fungal pathogens in the genus Neonectria. Together these aggressive pests cause a slowly developing but often lethal disease known as Beech Bark Disease, or BBD.

Beech bark disease continues its march across eastern North America from its introduction to Nova Scotia more than a century ago. Photo credit: USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station and Forest Health Protection. “Alien Forest Pest Explorer – species map.”

Beech bark scale belongs to a family of sucking insects called Eriococcidae. This rascal was identified as a pest of European beech trees in the mid-1800’s and was introduced into Nova Scotia in the 1890’s. Since then, it has spread throughout the range of American beech trees in eastern North America. Both adult and juvenile (nymph) beech bark scale insects insert tiny sucking mouthparts into nutritious cells beneath the outer bark of the tree. These stylets pierce and kill underlying cells. As thousands of scales feed, tissues beneath the bark die and bark cracks form. This allows the spores of Neonectria to enter the tree, multiply, and produce eruptive bark cankers, further spreading the fungus. The combined injury caused by thousands of scale insects bursting cells and fungi killing tissues beneath the bark eventually girdle the tree, resulting in a spiraling cycle of death that may take several years to kill their host.

White fluffy wax on the trunk of American beech trees is a good indication of an infestation of beech bark scale. Beneath the wax, tiny nymphs dormant throughout late fall and winter will resume feeding and develop into adults in the warmth of spring and summer next year. As thousands of adults and nymphs feed through the bark, their wounds allow fungal pathogens to enter, multiply, and produce a disease called beech bark disease (BBD). Over the span of several years, BBD can be lethal to infected trees.

In a strange evolutionary twist that we have seen in other insects like beech blight aphids and some scale insects, beech bark scales are parthenogenic, meaning female scale insects skip the business of romance and reproduce without the service of males. These nasty girls rule! Inside their fluffy bundles of wax, nymphs pass the winter months and resume development when spring returns. Wingless adults are present in June and July and new batches of eggs are deposited that will later hatch into mobile nymphs called crawlers. Ok, if adults are wingless how is it that they have spread from Nova Scotia in the 1890’s to western Maryland between 2010 and 2015? Tiny crawlers hatch from eggs and become windborne where they join aerial plankton capable of traveling untold distances on currents of wind. These tiny vagabonds may also crawl onto the feet of birds and be transported from one tree to another as birds migrate and stopover on trees along their route. Some evidence points to human-assisted travel as campers move vehicles around the country with nearly invisibly tiny vagabonds hitching a ride.

Not really stabbed twice, but it’s easy to see how the twice-stabbed lady beetle gets her name.

Is there any good news for our imperiled beech trees? Yes! Very cold temperatures around 30 degrees below zero Fahrenheit that occur in parts of the range of American beech can be lethal to overwintering scale insects. But in a warming world, this may not be all that helpful. Variation in susceptibility of beech trees to infestations provides hope that some trees carry genes conferring resistance to the scale insect and that resistant cultivars of beech can be bred. Lady beetles, including the twice stabbed lady beetle (gotta love that name), feed on adult and immature beech bark scales, and several insecticides are effective in killing these noxious pests. Insecticides can certainly help for specimen trees in managed landscapes but this tactic is not a solution for the vast stands of beech trees in natural settings. Perhaps Mother Nature has another trick up her sleeve to help quell this invader from overseas. Let’s hope so, but in the meantime take a moment to visit and enjoy American beech trees, remarkable sovereigns of the forest.

Acknowledgements

We thank Dr. Shrewsbury for spotting several beech trees in Savage River State Park. Several enlightening references were used to prepare this episode. They include “Beech bark disease in North America: Over a century of research revisited” by Jonathan A. Calea, Mariann T. Garrison-Johnston, Stephen A. Tealec and John D. Castello, “ Beech Bark Disease” by Esther Kibbe and Enrico Bonello, and “Characterization of mating type genes in heterothallic Neonectria species, with emphasis on N. coccinea, N. ditissima, and N. faginata” by Cameron M. Stauder, Jeff R. Garnas, Eric W. Morrison and Catalina Salgado-Salazar.

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Bugs better beware of feisty feather-legged flies, Trichopoda pennipes

 

Notice the feather-like hairs on the hind legs of the feather-legged fly, a native ally in the fight against brown marmorated stink bug.

 

Autumn is a perilous time for many beneficial insects as they strive to collect food reserves to help them survive the approaching winter. In last week’s episode we watched honeybees taking advantage of an unusual source of food, honeydew produced by spotted lanternflies. Premier late season nectar sources for honeybees and many other beneficial insects are native goldenrods, brilliant members of the aster family widely distributed in North America. Rich in nectar and pollen, they help sustain many bees, wasps, and beetles preparing for winter. A few weeks ago, while visiting a favorite patch of goldenrod, I happened across a couple of very cute flies sporting orange and black bodies and feathery hind legs. These belong to a clan of parasitic flies known as tachinids. Some tachinids attack caterpillars, including the nefarious gypsy moth caterpillar, but feather-legged flies have a penchant for members of the “true bug” clan, insects with sucking mouthparts and immature stages called nymphs. Included in this clan are some very bad performers including the brown marmorated stink bug.

Goldenrods are super attractors for many beneficial insects, including feather-legged flies. Flies deposit eggs on many true bugs, like this hapless native leaffooted bug. Eggs hatch and fly larvae bore into the host to develop. With development complete they exit, drop to the ground and pupate in the soil. Adults emerge from the soil to feed, mate, and find new bugs to parasitize. They are known to attack invasive pests, including the nefarious brown marmorated stink bug.

Uh oh, with three tachinid eggs stuck just behind its head, this leaffooted bug is doomed.

As with many other tachinids, female Tricopoda flies seek hosts on which to deposit their eggs. Stink bugs, squash bugs, leaffooted bugs, and other true bugs are on the hit list. Upon hatching from the egg, tiny fly larvae drill their way through their egg shell and then through the outer skin of their buggy host. Inside their host they develop on the bug’s nutrient rich tissues. Once larval development is complete, maggots bore their way out of the host and drop to the soil below. A pupa forms within the skin of the final stage of the maggot and from this puparium the adult fly emerges ready to find food and a mate. As you might guess, hosts usually succumb to this parasitic invasion.

But how do these smallish flies find their hosts? Insects communicate in a variety of ways using sight, sound, and volatile chemicals to find and join other members of their species. Chemicals used for communication by members of the same species are called pheromones. In a series of fascinating studies, Jeff Aldrich and his colleagues discovered how these parasitic flies locate their victims. Many species of true bugs produce pheromones that serve as assembly calls for purposes of mating or defense. Tachinids use these aggregation pheromones for their own mischievous purpose, to find hosts that will serve as food for their parasitic offspring. While this tale may seem a little dark, the good news here is that native Trichopoda flies have joined other allies, including wheel bugs, garden spiders, robber flies, mantises, and wasps to stymie the shenanigans of invasive pests including the brown marmorated stink bug.      

Acknowledgements

The intriguing references “The biology of Trichopoda pennipes Fab. (Diptera, Tachinidae), a parasite of the common squash bug by Harlan Worthley, “Bug pheromones (Hemiptera, Heteroptera) and tachinid fly host-finding” by Jeff Aldrich, Ashot Khrimian, Aijun Zhang, and Peter Sherer, and “Parasitism of the Invasive Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, Halyomorpha halys (Hemiptera: Pentatomidae), by the Native Parasitoid, Trichopoda pennipes (Diptera: Tachinidae)” by Neelendra K. Joshi, Timothy W. Leslie, and David J. Biddinger were used to prepare this episode.

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Getting Rid of a Hornet Nest in a Tree

Learn How Pest Control Experts Can Help to Remove a Hornet Nest from Your Property — Including Nests Found in a Tree

Among the most common, territorial stinging insects native to the Northeast are wasps, some species of which are referred to as hornets, like the bald-faced hornet.

Hornets tend to be aggressive, especially towards those who come too close to the colony’s nest.

Unintentional encroachers may find themselves under attack by groups of the stinging pests.

A hornet’s stinger possesses venom that can trigger life-threatening reactions such as anaphylaxis in some individuals — making the idea of a hornet nest in a nearby tree particularly alarming to homeowners and business owners alike.

With the threats hornets can pose to a property, it is important that property owners understand how to identify a hornet nest in a tree and who to contact to have it safely removed.

Identifying a Hornet Nest in a Tree

Hornet nests typically start to appear in April with the onset of warmer temperatures.

When temperatures reach over 50 degrees Fahrenheit, the impregnated queen — the only surviving member of the previous year’s colony, comes out of hibernation and begins building a new nest.

Hornets do not reuse old nests. This is generally because the nests can’t withstand the intense rain, wind, and snow that comes with cold Northeastern winters — they become damaged beyond repair.

The queen uses her saliva and chewed-up wood pulp to construct the new nest, inside of which she will produce the next generation of worker hornets who can then take over expanding the nest.

Hornets tend to build nests at least three feet above the ground. Most can be found established in treetops, canopies, or the eaves of a building.

Hornet nests generally look like upside-down, papery cones with a single round hole serving as the main entrance.

light-gray hornet nest built on brown-colored tree branches with green leaves in background

Some types of hornets, such as the European hornet, which is the only true hornet species in the United States, tend to build nests in wall voids or tree cavaties.

Hornet nests in tree trunks and cavaties are more difficult to spot, but the trees that host such hornet nests are usually dead or dying.

Queen hornets also use deceased or rotting tree trunks to overwinter by burrowing underneath the bark for warmth.

The size of a hornet nest is proportional to the size of the colony it belongs to. Hornet colonies generally include 100 to 800 workers.

Nests can be as small as a softball or can become as large as a basketball, so the sooner a hornet nest is removed, the better.

light-gray European hornet nest nestled in the crevice of brown tree trunk, tree branches with green leaves in background

Dangers of Removing Hornet Nests without a Pest Control Professional

Whether contained deep within a tree’s cavity or hung from its highest branches, hornet nests can be difficult — even dangerous, to reach. Moreover, hornets are overprotective of the colony’s queen and dwelling.

Attempts to remove the nest can instigate a collective attack from the hornet colony. Hornet stingers are long and sharp enough to puncture through most types of cloth, including cotton and polyester.

The insect’s stings are painful and can cause itchiness and swelling around the affected area. In extreme cases, stings from the pest can cause a fatally allergic reaction resulting in anaphylactic shock.

A single hornet can sting multiple times before dying, giving the pest ample opportunity to sting an inexperienced person attempting to remove the nest.

Considering the dangers, untrained individuals should not try to remove a hornet nest. Instead, they are encouraged to contact a licensed pest professional.

An experienced specialist can safely remove the nest and eradicate the pest without endangering themselves or others on the property.

Professional Hornet Nest Removal

A pest expert begins by conducting a thorough inspection of the property in an effort to identify the problem area(s).

Those who choose Catseye Pest Control receive a free, in-depth inspection of their home or business by a trained specialist who then creates a customized treatment plan based on that initial analysis.

Once the situation has been assessed, the pest expert can enact their plan of action. For Catseye technicians, this generally includes a combination of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices.

The IPM solutions used by Catseye technicians eradicate an infestation in an environmentally friendly way.

To remove a hornet nest, Catseye pest management experts have the equipment and education to get rid of it by first vacuuming the hornets out of the nest then dislodging the dwelling from the tree.

Once the nest has been contained and removed from the property, technicians can treat the surrounding area with traps or other barriers to prevent the hornets from building a new nest.

Hornet nest removal is a difficult operation that should only be handled by a professional as untrained individuals risk harming themselves and others if they attempt to address the situation alone.

Regain control of a property in a safe, efficient way with the assistance of a licensed pest expert.

Hornet Nest Removal with Catseye

Removing a hornet nest can be dangerous and ineffective when performed by anyone other than a pest technician.

Without the proper tools or knowledge, the chances of bodily injury and recurrence of the hornet problem increases significantly.

Maintain your safety and sanity by enlisting a Catseye pest management expert to remove a hornet nest from your tree or property. Catseye’s Hornet Nest Removal service ensures the stinging pest infestation is eliminated — leaving you with peace of mind.

To learn more about how Catseye can remove a hornet nest from your tree or property, contact us.

This article appeared first on Catseye Pest

Mice Infestation Eliminated in Farmington, Connecticut, Home

Significant Mouse Infestation Remedied for New Homeowners with Intense Cleanup, Removal & Cat-Guard Rodent Exclusion Services

Purchasing a new home is a stressful process whether the purchaser is a first-time homebuyer or not.

While moving into a new home and feeling ready to make changes so it feels like your own, it’s possible to discover an issue(s) or unwelcomed visitor(s) that can quickly become a nightmare — especially if the issue is a rodent infestation.  

This is exactly what one couple encountered after purchasing their home situated on 11 acres of land in Farmington, Connecticut, in 2021.

As an interior designer, the wife has an eye for what works in a home and what should be eliminated immediately.

In this case, it was the mice that didn’t belong.

And, as they said in an interview with the New York Times, the couple wasn’t even sure they could live in the house due to the mouse infestation.

This isn’t an ideal situation for any homeowner, let alone for someone who just purchased and moved into a new home.

“The issues that they faced is a reminder why it’s so important to take care of rodents as quickly as possible,” said Catseye Pest Control President Joe Dingwall. “Treatment and damage repairs can become very expensive if it is not done properly or if people wait too long.”

How the Mice Infestation Was Eliminated

To successfully eliminate the rodent infestation, the couple contacted the nuisance wildlife experts at Catseye.

Over the course of 10 trapping visits followed by five days with the Cat-Guard installation crew, Catseye was able to successfully eradicate the infestation — leaving them with peace of mind and a quiet house rid of all the unwanted visitors.

To permanently eliminate the current mice infestation and prevent future infestations, all points of entry used (and potentially used) by the mice had to be sealed.

The points of entry for the mice included:

  • Underneath cedar siding
  • Around bulkhead doors
  • Around the exterior of the brick chimney
  • Around exterior windows
  • Sides of the front doorsteps
  • Around the garage doors
  • Under the roofline drip edge
  • Underneath corner posts

That’s quite a few places for mice to gain access to the interior of the house and garage.

But removing the rodent infestation and eliminating points of entry with Cat-Guard Exclusion Systems is only part of the task.

Catseye wildlife technicians were also tasked with replacing parts of the home and garage that had become damaged due to the mouse infestation.

“During our visit we replaced the damaged and soiled batten insulation with new batten insulation,” Dingwall said. “There was a significant amount of urine and droppings left behind by the mice. The areas had to be HEPA vacuumed and disinfected as well.”

This process allows the Catseye wildlife technicians to safely eliminate the threat of disease or bacteria being left behind by the mice.

What is Cat-Guard?

Cat-Guard Exclusion Systems are a permanent barrier designed to eliminate points of entry that mice, squirrels, bats, and many other nuisance wildlife may use as a way to access a structure.

This service from Catseye is a chemical-free, long-term solution that prevents future infestations.  

Each wildlife exclusion system can be tailored to the unique needs of any home, garage, business office, or any other structure that requires protection — from below-ground to the first floor of the house all the way up to the roof.

Featuring three products, each aspect of Cat-Guard Exclusion Systems has been designed to keep nuisance wildlife outside, without creating an eyesore on the home or office.

Cat-Guard Exclusion Systems consist of:

  • Upper Cat-Guard Wildlife Barrier: From the top of the first-floor windows to the peak of the roof, Upper Cat-Guard shields homes or businesses from nuisance wildlife that may find their way inside through the upper-part of the structure.
  • Lower Cat-Guard Wildlife Barrier: Ensuring there are no openings for critters to make their way into the structure, Lower Cat-Guard protects from the first-floor windows down to the ground.
  • Trench-Guard Wildlife Barrier: Acting as an underground barrier, Trench-Guard ensures that low-clearance areas like decks or sheds are protected against nuisance wildlife.

Our mission is to protect your home and loved ones from the dangers of rodent infestations, as many of these critters tend to carry harmful bacteria and germs.

Mice, raccoons, rats, and many others can also cause significant damage to a structure. While others — like groundhogs, burrow beneath the structure leaving it structurally unsound.

This situation is all too familiar for our clients, as much of the home needed repairs after the mice infestation was dealt with — including brand-new insulation.

For this situation, the Cat-Guard Exclusion Systems were tailored to seal quite a few areas, including:

  • Under the siding with metal
  • Around the brick chimney
  • Flashing on the roof
  • Under the roofline trim boards on gable ends
  • Thresholds

Additionally, garage door gaskets were replaced, small gaps on the upper portion of the home were sealed with silicone, and areas inside the garage were also sealed.

And exclusion is only part of the solution, a total cleanup is an essential step in the process as well.

Catseye technicians also facilitate removing the mice or other critter from the structure, in addition to removing the nests and debris left behind by the rodent.

A thorough cleaning of the affected area — and surrounding areas, is essential as it can help prevent further damage to the property or cause potential harm to loved ones.

A trained and certified Catseye technician will remove damaged insulation, clean and disinfect areas impacted by droppings or urine, remove nests, and install new insulation.

Prevent Infestations in Your Home or Business

The Cat-Guard Exclusion Systems are a long-term solution designed with your peace and wellbeing in mind.

Whether it’s a skunk, snakes, or a family of birds, Catseye will create a customized solution to eliminate the infestation and prevent it from happening again in the future.

To eliminate a rodent infestation of any kind, it’s essential to contact the experts at Catseye today.

A Catseye technician will visit the property to assess the situation and create a customized plan suited to the infestation and the structure.

After Cat-Guard has been installed, you will be left with peace of mind knowing that the property is secure, and that wildlife is being kept outside.

This article appeared first on Catseye Pest

Honeydew for honey bees? Spotted lanternflies, Lycorma delicatula

 

This little honeybee seems to know exactly where the honeydew will appear.

 

Back in September we visited spotted lanternflies as they continued their spread across the eastern United States. In the intervening weeks, several counties in Maryland, West Virginia, New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts have reported new breeding populations of lanternflies. Recently, we visited infestations in Maryland and Virginia and were astounded not only by the sheer numbers of lanternflies but also by the gushing volumes of honeydew produced by adult lanternflies feeding on the bark of trees. On a bright sunny day in northern Virginia while admiring a throng of these rascally pests in a stand of Ailanthus trees, we were showered by a steady rain of lanternfly honeydew.

Phloem sap is a rich source of carbohydrates for many types of sucking insects, including spotted lanternflies. Large quantities of sap are processed to extract nutrients and the excess fluid is excreted as a liquid waste called honeydew. With hundreds or thousands of lanternflies feeding and expelling honeydew, one can experience rain on a sunny day while standing beneath an infested tree.

While honeydew sometimes refers to a tasty brand of doughnuts or delicious type of melon, in ento-speak honeydew is the sugar-rich liquid waste of sucking insects like aphids, scales, and lanternflies that squirts from their anus. Honeydew is derived from a vascular tissue of plants called phloem which many sucking insects consume. Earlier this year we met another sucking insect, the cicada, that feeds on a different vascular tissue called xylem. Cicadas process great volumes of xylem fluid and excrete copious amounts of watery liquid waste, creating a gentle shower beneath trees on which they congregate and feed. Previously, we reviewed the serious economic threat spotted lanternflies pose to grape growers, orchardists, and the general public, whose lanternfly-infested trees could be fouled by lanternfly honeydew. Economic losses associated with lanternflies in Pennsylvania are currently estimated to exceed more than 50 million dollars annually and are expected to only increase as lanternflies spread.

 As we stood in a gentle honeydew shower, we were chagrined by the diversity and number of stinging insects taking advantage of the sugary bounty provided by lanternflies. Paper wasps, yellowjackets, and hornets greedily collected and often battled over droplets of honeydew. Some even waited near the rear-end of lanternflies, apparently for fresh deliveries. One happy visitor to the honeydew bonanza was our friend the industrious honey bee. As the day warmed and lanternflies amped up honeydew production, growing numbers of honey bees were recruited to this rich sugar source. This may be some good news for our beleaguered bee friends. There is growing concern that honey bees face a dearth of nectar and pollen food sources, especially late in the growing season in temperate regions of our land.  Perhaps honeydew produced by spotted lanternflies can serve as a novel carbohydrate source for our struggling bees. Wouldn’t it be nice if spotted lanternfly, an invasive pest, provided some lemonade and not just lemons in its new home here in the US?   

Honeydew excreted by spotted lanternfly creates a nuisance around infested trees when stinging wasps and bees gather to collect this sweet source of food. But does this honeydew serve as a useful food resource for honey bees?

Acknowledgements

Bug of the Week thanks Sally, Tim, and Mark for providing inspiration for this episode. Special thanks to the great crew of entomologists at Penn State and Virginia Tech working to quell the spotted lanternfly invasion.  The interesting articles “Scientists Examine Potential Economic Impact of Spotted Lanternfly in Pennsylvania” by Amy Duke, and “Native habitat mitigates feast–famine conditions faced by honey bees in an agricultural landscape” by Adam G. Dolezal, Ashley L. St. Clair, Ge Zhang, Amy L. Toth, and Matthew E. O’Neal were consulted in preparation for this episode.

This post appeared first on Bug of the Week

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