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Spotting Cockroaches: A Quick Guide to Identification 

Introduction to Cockroach Identification 

Cockroaches are feared and loathed by many. These fascinating pests survived for millions of years, earning their reputation as one of the most resilient insects on the planet. They can live for up to two weeks without water and hold their breath for longer than 30 minutes. As a result, cockroaches remain a prevalent problem, infesting more than 120 million homes in the United States every year.  

Thousands of different cockroach species exist worldwide, with only approximately 70 of those species found in the U.S. Only four are common in our region, and you can differentiate between them by looking at their physical characteristics and behaviors. Although it’s tempting to group all cockroaches together, understanding the differences between various species can help improve the success rate of cockroach control measures. 

Why It’s Important to Identify Cockroach Species 

Cockroaches are more than just an icky bug. These pests can pose a real health hazard. Cockroaches contaminate surfaces to spread vectors of disease, including bacteria and parasites. Not only can they make you sick, but they can also set off allergies and cause asthma attacks. Identifying that you have a cockroach problem is only one step toward eliminating them and restoring healthy conditions.  

Determining the species invading your property is critical, as each one has unique habits you need to understand to properly eliminate them.  

Common Myths About Cockroaches 

Nobody wants to have cockroaches in their home or business. Many of the things that people believe about these skittering nightmares aren’t true and can prevent them from understanding the real risks that lead to an infestation.  

  1. Cockroaches Only Infest Dirty Places: Although sanitation can play a big role in preventing cockroach infestations, these critters are drawn to places that offer access to food and moisture. Not keeping up with cleaning can offer more temptation and increase the risk. However, you can have an immaculate home and still attract cockroaches if food sources and water are plentiful.  
  2. Cockroaches Are Always Active: Cockroaches are mostly active at night, which makes them challenging to spot early on when combined with their preference for hiding in dark places. Understanding their behavior can help you identify the issue sooner. 
  3. All Cockroaches Are the Same: Each species has unique characteristics and behaviors. Also, of the 4,000 species crawling worldwide, only about 30 have been deemed pests. In the wild, cockroaches eat decaying matter, providing key nutrients for plants through their waste materials. They are also a good source of food for predators, including spiders, mice, birds, and frogs. 

Common Cockroach Species and Their Physical Characteristics 

Across Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire, you might encounter one or more of the following cockroach species. All have flat, oval bodies and long, thread-like antennae that they use to smell and feel their way around in the dark.  

Explore some other physical characteristics, which you can use to help identify what type of cockroach you’re dealing with on your property.  

American Cockroach 

An American cockroach sits on a rock; green grass in the background

American cockroaches hide in dark, damp spots with ample shelter, including under roof shingles, foundations, basements, and woodpiles. You may find them in kitchens, laundry rooms, bathrooms, and other areas with easy access to food and water. They come out at night to seek food, including everything from garbage to the glue that binds books. 

  • Size: American cockroaches are among the largest species, averaging 1 to 1.5 inches in size. 
  • Color: Bodies are reddish-brown, with yellow-hued bands on their heads.  
  • Wings: Both males and females have wings. 

German Cockroach  

A German cockroach sits on a green leaf; dark, blurred background

These may be the single most common cockroaches found in American homes. German cockroaches often emit a musty odor that can signal an infestation.  

  • Size: Considerably smaller than American cockroaches, this species averages 5/8 to 2/3 inch in size. 
  • Color: Colors range from tan to light brown with two dark strips down their backs. 
  • Wings: These cockroaches have wings but rarely fly, preferring to run instead. 

Oriental Cockroach 

A dark, shiny Oriental cockroach rests on a rough wood surface

These cockroaches are also sometimes called waterbugs and black beetles. They are on the smaller side, with females growing larger than males. These cockroaches love dwelling in areas like sewers, making them common vectors of disease-causing contamination.  

  • Size: These roaches grow up to 1 inch long. 
  • Color: Bodies are reddish brown to dark black with a shiny appearance. 
  • Wings: Although these cockroaches have wings, they do not fly.  

Brown-Banded Cockroach 

A brown-banded cockroach with distinct bands on its back crawls on paper packaging.

Although the other common cockroaches found throughout the region prefer humidity, brown-banded cockroaches thrive in warm, dry spots. They scavenge for food and will eat just about anything, including starchy materials like paper. 

  • Size: On the smaller side, these insects average about 1/2 inch long. 
  • Color: Bodies feature varying shades of brown with distinct banding on their wings. 
  • Wings: Both males and females have wings, but females’ wings are smaller. 

Behavioral Characteristics for Identification 

In addition to their size and other physical characteristics, some of the behaviors of various species can aid in cockroach identification. Specifically, consider their habitats and feeding habits to help narrow it down. 

Habitat Preferences 

American cockroaches are more common in commercial settings, warehouses, garbage dumps, and sewers, but they may invade homes, as well. They can often be found in and around drains and pipes, making them common in areas like laundry rooms, kitchen, bathrooms, and basements.  

The German cockroach is a common home invader frequently found in kitchens, basements, and bathrooms. Oriental cockroaches frequent sewers, often entering homes and buildings through drains and door thresholds. They can often be found in crawlspaces, basements, and outdoor piles of leaves and firewood. 

With their preference for dry conditions, brown-banded cockroaches are often found in areas like closets. They may also hide in other dark spots like inside radios, televisions, furniture, and appliances and behind drawers. 

Feeding Habits 

American cockroaches eat plants, other insects, and nearly everything else they can. German cockroaches prefer sweets but will also eat items like books and toothpaste. Brown-banded cockroaches thrive on starchy foods, including the bindings of books and paste used for wallpaper. Although the previously mentioned species may occasionally eat non-organic materials, oriental cockroaches typically stick to organic matter, including garbage. 

What to Do If You Find Cockroaches 

If you spot a cockroach — or signs of an infestation like droppings or finding egg casings — the first thing to do is remain calm. Heat waves, readily available sources of food, and easy access to moisture from leaky plumbing can attract these pests. Also, remember that they are among the most common insects in the world, and you are not alone.  

Figuring out how you got cockroaches (i.e., leaving food out, leaking faucets, or a crack in the foundation) can help.  

DIY Control Measures 

Although there are pesticides on the market that you can try, DIY roach control can be very challenging. Crushing cockroaches can release oleic acid, a substance that can attract others to the area. Additionally, because these pests are so adaptable, getting to the root of the infestation to eliminate it entirely is often beyond the scope of what you can do on your own.  

Preventing Cockroaches 

Prevention is the most effective way to deal with cockroaches on your own. Keeping pet dishes covered, promptly repairing any plumbing leaks, and storing food in air-tight contains can help. Additionally, sealing holes and gaps in the foundation, around pipes and utility lines that run indoors from outside, and caulking around doors and windows can help seal entry points. 

When to Call a Professional 

As soon as you suspect you have a cockroach infestation, call for professional cockroach control. There are usually many more insects hiding in and around your property than you can see, which is why it’s critical to rely on the pros. At Catseye Pest Control, our highly trained technicians have extensive education and state-of-the-art equipment to address the problem. The Catseye team can identify the species and tailor the approach to both the unique needs of the property and the species infesting it.  

Contact Catseye today to learn more about our services or schedule a free inspection to get started.  

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Return of the monarda marauder: Raspberry pyrausta, Pyrausta signatalis

 

Eggs laid in buds of leaves and flowers by the pretty raspberry pyrausta moth hatch into hungry caterpillars ready to pillage monarda foliage and blossoms. Image: Paula Shrewsbury, PhD

 

After a few seasons of respite for my monardas, the raspberry pyrausta has returned with a vengeance to my perennial flower beds. For readers that love spotted beebalm, scarlet beebalm, and wild bergamot, this week we visit a pesky small caterpillar and learn some ways to help safeguard the blossoms of these wonderful perennial plants.

A small creamy colored caterpillar is the marauder feasting on my flowers.

Why should we protect the blossoms of monardas? By providing rich nectar rewards, these delightful natives are magnets for an astounding array of beneficial animals ranging from hummingbirds and gold finches to butterflies, bumble bees, hover flies, and myriad predatory and parasitic wasps. I have watched the summer parade of interesting and beautiful insects visiting monardas for hours over a cup of coffee on sunny summer mornings. But every year, there is foul-play afoot in my flower beds. Sometime in the latter days of May and early days of June just as the bergamot was prepping to bloom, developing flower buds, attendant sepals, and supporting leaves became shredded and riddled with holes. Close examination of the buds revealed tiny black pellets lodged in the nooks and crannies of the flower heads. Now, to bug geeks, tiny black pellets usually are a sign of insect activity. Said pellets are actually the excrement, a.k.a. frass, of caterpillars feeding within the flower buds. Some further poking around the nascent blossoms revealed small creamy colored caterpillars hiding in the axils of sepals and at the bases of florets.

While identification of small caterpillars presents a challenge even to seasoned entomologists, identification of adult moths and butterflies is way easier. A more extensive search of the bergamot patch revealed a rather pretty raspberry pyrausta moth, a member of the crambid moth clan. Crambid moths, also known as snout moths, are named for the elongated mouthparts protruding from the front of their head. Many bore into the stems of grasses and other monocots and some, such as the European corn borer and sod webworm, are serious agricultural and lawn pests. Just one or a few of these caterpillars feeding within a developing flower bud are sufficient to all but ruin its floral display.

While some blossoms on my bergamot look fine many are ravaged. This culprit is a small caterpillar feeding in the flower head. Chewed florets, holes in leaves, silk and pellets of frass are telltale signs of the caterpillar. Regular inspections and crushing caterpillars when you find them will help keep your blossoms looking fine.            

Early generations of the raspberry pyrausta defoliate leaves and distort developing terminal buds.

Here is the dilemma. For many herbivores in my landscape, the death sentence is commuted under a live-and-let-live policy with the belief that even pests will become food for other insects or birds higher in the food web. However, in the case of the raspberry pyrausta, lack of intervention translates into few or no blossoms on monardas and few or no resources for pollinators, predators, and parasitoids dependent on nectar and pollen for their activity and survival. So, in this case the caterpillars gotta go to make way for the beneficial insects. Ridding the blossoms of caterpillars is fairly easy to do. As flower heads begin to form in late spring and early summer watch out for holes in leaves, feeding damage to developing florets, and small black frass pellets accumulating in the axils of leaves and sepals. Carefully search the flower head and when you locate the caterpillar, simply crush it. If you don’t like touching insects, don a pair of rubber gloves and do the deed. Mechanical destruction of the pest is foolproof and works well in small patches. For larger patches, you could consider using an insecticide listed by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) for controlling caterpillars. These insecticides have been reviewed by scientists and approved for use in the production of organic food crops. Two of my favorites contain the active ingredient Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki (Btk) or spinosad. Btk is derived from a common soil microbe and it works well on many species of caterpillars. If you grow milkweeds as a source of food for monarch caterpillars in your flower beds, take care not to spray Btk on your milkweed lest you poison any resident monarch larvae.

Some brands of spinosad will also carry the OMRI stamp of approval and they work well on caterpillars. Spinosad is also a product of a soil microbe. This molecule attacks the nervous system of insects. But be careful with spinosad, as it is highly toxic to bees. If other plants in your garden are in bloom or are about to bloom, avoid drift that might contact and harm charismatic pollinators. Use the same caution with monarda. The pyrausta will be present in the early formation of flower buds but as florets form and mature, avoid using spinosad as bloom time approaches and certainly when flowers are in bloom. Many snout moths have multiple generations and in my experience the raspberry pyrausta is no exception. I have crushed several crops of caterpillars in the flower buds and just the other day, a few more adult moths dared to flit around my flower bed. For a bug geek, watching the sunrise on a warm summer morning while sipping some coffee and squashing some caterpillars is not a bad way to start the day.

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Is the Jorō spider coming to your neighborhood? Trichonephila clavata

 

Despite what you may have heard, the Jorō spider is docile and poses no known threat to humans or pets. Image credit: David Coyle

 

Last week a team of scientists from Southern Adventist University, University of Florida Lake Alfred, University of Texas El Paso, Clemson University, and an unaffiliated researcher really captured the interest of the media with predictions that a large orb-weaving spider, the Jorō spider, was poised to expand its range from its southern stronghold to states further north. Jorō is native to eastern Asia, Japan, China, Korea, and Taiwan. Although it likely arrived in Georgia around 2010 it is now found in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, the Carolinas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Ohio. Jorō joins its cousin the golden silk spiderTrichonephila clavipes, as a spider from afar that has established residence in our land.

The underside of the Jorō spider has striking red markings. Image credit: Bob Bellinger

The golden silk spider has been in the US for more than a century, where it occupies parts of Florida, several other southeastern states, and even rarely makes an appearance elsewhere, sometimes as far north as Pennsylvania. The golden silk spider, a native of Central and South America, has remained mostly bottled up in the south likely due to its inability to tolerate cooler temperatures further north. However, a recent study by Dr. Nelsen and colleagues found evidence for abundant suitable habitats in eastern North America and some in western North America that could support the Jorō spider. In southern states, populations of the Jorō expand rapidly once they become established in an area. Jorō also has remarkable talents when it comes to moving great distances. In nature, the typical mode of dispersal of many spiders, including Jorō, is by aerial dispersal of spiderlings. They balloon on strands of silk like Charlotte’s babies in the book of the same name. By the way, ballooning likely has given rise to the more spectacular moniker for Jorō, the “parachute spider.” No, they really will not rain down on you from airplanes. Long distance transit by Jorō probably depends on human assistance, as both adults and their spawn are good hitchhikers. Jorō may have entered this country as an inseminated and gravid female or as an egg-case stowaway in a cargo container from Asia. Rapid population growth coupled with its ability to be transported inadvertently by humans and naturally by ballooning make range expansion likely. Previous research by scientists Davis and Frick found that Jorō spiders have a higher metabolism, supported by a faster heart rate, and a better ability to tolerate freezing temperatures than their warmth-loving cousin the golden silk spider. These traits, combined with more rapid development, enable Jorō to complete its life cycle rapidly before chilly temperatures bring its seasonal development to an end. This suite of adaptations may enable Jorō to escape the relative warmth of the south and expand its range northward along the eastern seaboard.

The bite of the “venomous” Jorō will be terrible and painful, right? Nah, according to expert Rick Hoebeke, the risks to humans and pets are small due to the puny size of Jorō’s fangs, which are unlikely to pierce our skin. I have visited Jorō’s cousin, the golden silk spider up close and personal in the rainforest of Costa Rica and found the large females to be completely non-aggressive. These spiders are passive hunters that build enormous webs, larger than a meter in diameter, to capture prey snared by silk. For arachnophobes these may be scary, but for arachnophiles these are beautiful spiders which may provide important ecosystem services including biological control of crop pests such as brown marmorated stink bugs or spotted lanternflies, with which they have an ancient association in their native range in Asia. Jorō spiders may be like Hannibal Lecter “having an old friend over for dinner” when they reunite with the stink bug or lanternfly here in the US. Large spiders like these may also become juicy prey items for feathered and non-feathered reptiles.

The large and beautiful Jorō spider poses no known direct threat to humans or pets. Like its cousin from Central and South America, the golden silk, Jorō is here to stay in the United States.  Jorō often becomes the dominant orb weaver in colonized locations. Here is the mystery.  How will Jorō affect indigenous orb weevers like the pretty marbled orb weaver, spotted orb weaver, and my favorite, the black and yellow garden spider, destroyer of stink bugs?  If you spot Jorō in your neighborhood, please report it to iNaturalist.

As with all non-native species that arrive on our shores, it is difficult to predict what impact they will have on our ecosystems but experts suggest that beyond their somewhat scary mien, and maybe giving our indigenous large orb weavers like the black and yellow garden spider, marbled orb weaver, and spotted orb weaver a run for their money. In locations in other parts of the world where Jorō is established, it often becomes the most abundant and dominant orb weaver. What will it mean for our resident spiders and their ecosystems? Only time will tell.

In 2022 when Bug of the Week first talked about the Jorō spider, its presence in the DMV was speculative. But in 2023, several sightings of the Jorō spider were confirmed by iNaturalist in Howard County Maryland. The fascinating part of this story stems from the fact that images clearly show both male and female Jorōs present in the landscape. How did they arrive in Maryland hundreds of miles distant from their southern redoubts? While ballooning is possible, the likelihood of both male and female spiderlings dropping from the sky into the same location and hooking up seems somewhat unlikely. Perhaps a gravid female spider or an egg case hitched a ride from down south and inadvertently arrived in eastern Howard County. The million-dollar questions are, of course, did the Jorō survive the mild winter of 2023-2024 in Maryland and will we see even more of this gorgeous spider this year? Clearly, a road trip to eastern Howard County is in order for the Bug Guy. One final tidbit about Jorō comes from Japanese folklore. Jorō is a shapeshifter known as Jorō-gumo. Jorō-gumo turns into a beautiful woman, seduces men, binds them with silk, and devours them. Yikes! Sounds like a bad date to me.

Acknowledgements

Bug of the Week thanks Rick Hoebeke for identifying Jorō as it arrived in the US and for providing insights into the ways of these large beautiful spiders. We also thank David Coyle and Bob Bellinger for sharing great images and knowledge of Jorō. Fascinating studies entitled “Veni, vidi, vici? Future spread and ecological impacts of a rapidly expanding invasive predator population by David R. Nelsen, Aaron G. Corbit, Angela Chuang, John F. Deitsch, Michael I. Sitvarin and David R. Coyle,  “Physiological evaluation of newly invasive Jorō spiders (Trichonephila clavata) in the southeastern USA compared to their naturalized cousin, Trichonephila clavipes” by Andrew K. Davis and Benjamin L. Frick, “Nephila clavata L Koch, the Joro Spider of East Asia, newly recorded from North America (Araneae: Nephilidae)” by E. Richard Hoebeke, Wesley Huffmaster, and Byron J Freeman, and “The Life Cycle, Habitat and Variation in Selected Web Parameters in the Spider, Nephila clavipes Koch (Araneidae)” by Clovis W. Moore ND provided the inspiration for this story and details surrounding the stars of this episode.

To see other large orb weavers and differentiate them from the Jorō spider, please click on this link: https://resources.ipmcenters.org/view/resource.cfm?rid=27877

To hear more about the Jorō spider and calm your fears about Jorō, please click on this link to watch Jorō guru David Coyle’s take on this spider: https://youtu.be/zhO_bwwg-E4?si=nhd9au-t-HRCmw6b

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Ultimate Guide to Apartment Pest Control 

Pest management is ultimately the responsibility of both the landlord or property owner and residents of an apartment building. Landlords must provide a healthy, safe environment where people can live. However, residents also play a part in maintaining their individual units and living up to the expectations of cleanliness set forth by property managers.  

As an apartment dweller, taking proactive measures like keeping your unit clean can make a big difference in an effective pest management strategy. Knowing what to look out for can help you head off pest problems before they become a nightmare instead of the dream you would want apartment living to be.  

Identifying Common Apartment Pests  

A seven-month study led by Rutgers University – New Brunswick’s professor of entomology, Changlu Wang, found that cockroaches are the most common apartment pests. Other frequently seen critters include rodents, bed bugs, ants, and termites. Catseye Pest Control has decades of experience handling these pests and more. Let’s explore signs to watch for, which can help you get ahead of pest problems before they become widespread infestations.  

Recognizing Signs of Cockroach Infestation 

Several german cockroaches crawl on a white window frame, leaving excrement behind

In Wang’s study that surveyed 258 apartments spread across 40 buildings, 28% of respondents said they had dealt with cockroaches. Pest Control Technology (PCT) echoes that sentiment, citing cockroaches as the number one pest problem found in apartments. The German cockroach, which is tan or light brown with two dark stripes on its back, is the most common offender. Cockroaches can reproduce quickly, and they potentially contaminate surfaces in your home with dangerous germs. 

Identifying cockroaches early is critical for preventing a full-blown infestation. In addition to seeing living or dead cockroaches, some of the signs to watch for include: 

  • New or worsening allergy symptoms or asthma attacks 
  • Reddish-brown or brown streaks on surfaces that are difficult to clean  
  • New musty or oily odors  
  • Tiny dry droppings that look similar to coffee grounds 
  • Shed exoskeletons and oblong-shaped red or brown egg cases 
  • Chewed food, packaging, garbage, or even wallpaper, with droppings or egg cases nearby 

Identifying Rodent Entry Points 

A rat with pink ears and a long pinkish tail sits on a peach-colored shelf with dishes on it 

Rodents are sneaky little critters that can slip through openings as tiny as a dime (mice) or a quarter (rats). Because of their ability to take advantage of small entry points, it’s critical to perform a thorough inspection. Roofs, chimneys, attics, exterior siding, garages, and outside debris piles are among common entry areas. Foundations, drainage pipes, vents, and utility lines with gaps or openings around them can also provide a “welcome” sign to rodents in search of shelter. 

Rodents are typically active at night, so you might not see them in action. Instead, it’s vital to watch for signs of a rodent infestation, including: 

  • Scrambling or skittering sounds in ceilings and walls 
  • Droppings, which are typically dark-colored and look a lot like grains of rice 
  • Signs of chewing on walls, floors, siding, windows, and food packaging 
  • Torn insulation, fabric, plant materials, and paper used for nesting 
  • Stale, musty smells coming out of hard-to-see areas 

Understanding Bedbug Behavior 

A closeup view of bed bugs and dark excrement on a white mattress 

Bed bugs have been feeding on the blood of humans since the dawn of humanity when people lived in caves. Their behavior can largely be explained by the bed bug’s cryptid lifestyle. They spend most of their time hiding and nesting in dark cracks and crevices, including mattress seams, behind baseboards, and in headboard joints.  

Bed bugs become active at night, usually feeding between 12 a.m. and 5 a.m. before crawling back to their nests. These blood-drinking pests can crawl quickly and typically spread by catching a ride on luggage, clothing, and other soft items that make it easy for them to go from place to place. 

These insects reproduce quickly and can be challenging to eliminate. Because they wait until you are asleep to feed, you may not see live bugs. However, you can be alerted to a bed bug infestation if you see signs such as: 

  • Red stains on mattresses and bedding caused by tiny drops of blood or crushed bugs 
  • Excrement, which looks like dark spots, approximately the size of a pen point 
  • Shed skins and eggshells near headboards and mattress seams 
  • Small, itchy bites on your body that you can’t explain 

Spotting Signs of Ant Colonies 

Ants can be seriously challenging to eliminate, largely because they live in large colonies. Unless you can eliminate them at the source, it’s hard to achieve effective control. If you can find the colony, you have a better chance of controlling the infestation. Depending on the type of ants you have, you may need to look for piles of wood shavings, which could indicate the nest of carpenter ants. Most species look for areas with easy access to moisture to build their colonies. Check areas with wet or moist wood, leaking pipes, pipes covered in condensation, or other moisture-rich spots. 

How will you know to even look for a colony? Signs of an ant infestation include the following: 

  • Seeing live ants, particularly a swarm on windowsills or other surfaces, or finding piles of dead ants  
  • Spotting ants traveling in distinct patterns or trails 
  • Locating hollow sounding wood or signs of crumbling, softening, or structural damage 

Identifying Termite Damage 

More than 500,000 U.S. homes experience termite infestations every year. These wood-destroyers cost upwards of $5 billion in damage annually and often wreak havoc silently until the damage is extensive. The most common termites are subterranean termites, which stay close to the ground. They chew patterns that look like honeycombs in wood and often create tunnels to lead from their nests to wood sources. 

Identifying termite damage is often the first sign of an infestation. Potential damage includes: 

  • Buckled wood flooring or blistered wood surfaces 
  • Windows and doors that become difficult to open 
  • Small holes in wood, hollowed-out studs, and long grooves in wood left behind as termites remove the cellulose 

Prevention and Maintenance Tips 

The single best way to treat pest infestations is preventing them from ever occurring. Even the best measures aren’t 100% effective, but when you take a proactive approach to pest management, you can spot problems and eliminate them before they get out of hand and cause extensive damage to property and health.  

Proper Food Storage Techniques 

Many pests enter apartments in search of food and water. Eliminating easy access to these items can help reduce your risk of an infestation.  

  • Keep food (including pet food) in sealed, air-tight, pest-proof containers made of metal, hard plastic, or glass. 
  • Wash dishes after use and avoid leaving dirty dishes in the sink. 
  • Store leftovers in proper containers. 
  • Wipe down counters, clean up spills promptly, and vacuum or sweep floors to eliminate crumbs. 

Sealing Cracks and Gaps in Walls and Floors 

By sealing openings, you close off entryways that pests can use to get into your apartment. This can effectively halt the problem before it begins and reduce the spread of pests from other apartments to yours. 

  • Use caulk to close off openings around door and window frames, baseboards, and cabinets.  
  • Add steel wool to any voids surrounding pipes. 
  • Use wire mesh to cover any holes. 

Regular Cleaning and Decluttering Practices 

Sanitation is one of the most powerful ways you can prevent pest problems. In addition to regularly wiping down your kitchen counters and floors, consider the following:  

  • Regularly clear up any piles of clutter, including cardboard boxes, newspapers, mail, and debris that would give pests a spot to hide. 
  • Clean under both small and large appliances frequently. 
  • Promptly fix or report leaks and moisture problems. 
  • Frequently remove trash from your apartment and use a pest-proof receptacle to contain it while it’s inside the unit. 

Using Pest-Repellent Plants Indoors 

Simple houseplants could offer an effective addition to your pest management and prevention strategy. Many plants contain compounds or scents that repel pests, helping to keep your space free of rodents and insects. A few examples include: 

  • Herbs like basil, mint, sage, and rosemary 
  • Lemongrass and citronella plants 
  • Lavender and catnip 
  • Marigolds 
  • Chrysanthemums 
  • Sweet pea 
  • Wood hyacinth 
  • Alliums 

Eco-Friendly Pest Control Methods  

The fewer chemicals you have to use, the more eco-friendly your pest control methods will be. That’s why Catseye recommends taking preventive measures first and foremost. Additionally, routinely inspecting your apartment to check for any signs of a pest infestation can be tremendously helpful. As soon as you see evidence of activity, contact your maintenance department so the landlord can take action.  

Depending on the pest, insecticides and pesticides may not be effective. For example, cockroaches are developing an increasing resistance to sprays and may not die after contact. Some eco-friendly pest control options to consider include: 

  • Using natural pesticides like neem oil, which can alter pest lifecycles and inhibit reproduction 
  • Excluding pests by closing off any gaps, cracks, crevices, and holes 
  • Using essential oils like peppermint, tea tree, and citronella as natural repellents 
  • Installing door sweeps and screening in windows 
  • Spraying a vinegar and water mixture where pests, including ants, are often found 
  • Placing citrus peels in cabinets and near your apartment entrance 

When to Call in Professionals 

Taking preventive measures, including instituting stringent cleaning protocols, eliminating clutter, and performing regular inspections, are helpful starting points. If you notice signs of a pest problem, contact your maintenance department or contact the professionals at Catseye Pest Control as soon as possible. Experts can get to the root of what’s happening, properly identify the pest, and devise a plan for the most effective treatment.  

Catseye’s technicians have extensive training and are well versed in the unique challenges that apartment dwellers face. Additionally, our approach is one that always focuses on the safest and most eco-friendly yet effective pest management strategy.  

Contact Catseye today to learn more about our apartment pest control services or to schedule a free inspection to get started.  

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From the mailbag: What’s that fly? March flies in May – Bibionidae

 

Large eyes of the male March fly provide excellent vision for chasing competitors and selecting mates.

 

This little male March fly piqued the interest of a nature enthusiast and inspired this episode. Image: Bill Miller

A couple weeks ago, a bug aficionado inquired about an unusual, largish fly in his yard. This stranger was none other than a March fly, a member of the bibionid clan some 700 species strong. A few seasons back on a welcomed warm afternoon in April, swarms of March flies bobbed and weaved over the lawn in my backyard. In many parts of the land, March flies seem not to get the email and make their appearance in April or May rather than March, creating an interesting misnomer for these small flies. As a family of insects, March flies include randy Lovebugs, a.k.a Honeymoon bugs, so named for their behavior of remaining intwined in conjugal bliss for long periods of time. Adult flies do not bite or sting, but vast numbers emerging in spring and again in fall are a real nuisance to residents in some of our southern states. In addition to entering homes and bumbling about in the garden, Lovebugs splatter windshields of cars and trucks creating hazardous driving conditions. In some locations they become so numerous that they can clog radiators of cars.

 Since last growing season, March fly larvae have been consuming organic matter in the soil beneath my lawn. These tiny maggots are recyclers helping unlock the nutrients in decomposing plants and returning them to the food web that is my backyard. In late spring they complete development and form pupae which, with the warmth of spring weather, mature as acrobatic flies that emerge from the earth and perform over my zoysia grass. The aerial ballet of March flies consists mostly of males jockeying for position to capture a mate as female March flies emerge from the turf. One fascinating study of male swarming behavior discovered that larger males often occupied flight space nearer the ground where they chased other smaller males away – all the better to intercept nubile females as they rise from the earth. After mating, females return to the soil and lay more than 100 eggs to complete the circle of life.

On warm afternoons in March, April, and May swarms of March flies perform aerial acrobatics over the lawn. It’s all part of the mating game. A big-eyed male rests on a blade of grass before taking off to find a mate. And in southern states it’s easy to see why these flies carry the handle of Lovebugs and Honeymoon bugs. As larvae, they recycle organic matter in the soil while adults help keep our world green by pollinating plants.

March flies like this little beauty help pollinate spring blooming trees and shrubs.

Bobbing, weaving, chasing other males, and intercepting females in flight are facilitated by the large complex eyes of the males. These bulbous eyes are actually divided into dorsal and ventral visual systems with the dorsal eyes gathering information from above and the ventral eyes watching what lies below – truly a case of four eyes. However, clever photographic analysis has shown that the dorsal eyes are the ones used to gage pursuit of other March flies and to differentiate potential mates from potential competing suitors. In addition to being highly entertaining as they swarm in my yard, many March flies are important pollinators of spring blooming plants. Each spring my large holly tree gives forth with blossoms that March flies and a wild menagerie of bees, wasps, and other pollinators find irresistible.    

Acknowledgements

The interesting article “Sexual Dimorphism in the Visual System of Flies: The Free Flight Behaviour of Male Bibionidae (Diptera)” by Jochen Zeil was used as a reference for this episode. We thank Bill Miller for sharing his nice image of a March fly, which inspired this episode.

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Effective Strategies for Dealing with Carpenter Bees 

Although they look similar to the cheerful bumblebee, carpenter bees have very different nesting habits than their fluffier counterparts. Bumblebees nest in existing cavities, including those left behind by rodents or in bird houses and man-made structures. Carpenter bees, on the other hand, create their own nests by digging into wood. In the process, these bees can create significant structural damage, which is why preventing carpenter bees from nesting on your property is essential. 

Catseye Pest Control has been providing carpenter bee infestation solutions to properties across Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire since 1987. Let’s explore some tips for how to get rid of carpenter bees and keep them from returning for long-term peace of mind.  

Carpenter Bees 101 

Before you can effectively deal with a carpenter bee infestation, it’s critical to properly identify these pests. These six-legged insects fall into the Apidae classification of long-tongued bees. They can be found worldwide on every continent with the exception of Antarctica. Throughout the United States, the most common species is the Eastern carpenter bee. 

Identifying Carpenter Bees 

You can find several species of carpenter bees in the U.S. The most common is the eastern carpenter bee (Xylocopa virginica), which has yellow and black coloration that makes them look similar to bumblebees. They are large insects, typically reaching 0.75 to 1 inch in length. Female carpenter bees have black faces, while males have yellow faces.  

Oftentimes, carpenter bees can be seen “hovering” near the eaves/roofline of the home whereas bumblebees often fly lower to the ground. Additionally, carpenter bees, when they have drilled into a piece of wood such as a trimboard, will leave a “splatter” of the drilled wood staining the siding. 

Other types of carpenter bees that live outside of this region include: 

Southern Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa micans): Typically found in southern coastal areas and wetlands, they usually do not travel farther north than Virginia. These bees have a metallic sheen. 

California Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa californica): Also with a metallic body, these carpenter bees prefer making their nests in the limbs of soft, dry trees like oak trees. They can be found in California and throughout the Southwest. 

Violet Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa violacea): You may never get a chance to see this beauty in person because it is native to Asia and currently inhabits Asia and parts of Europe. The violet carpenter bee is shiny and black with iridescent wings with a violet-blue hue.  

One easy way to tell carpenter bees apart from bumblebees is to look at their abdomens. Carpenter bees have shiny, smooth, hairless black abdomens. In contrast, bumblebees have yellow and black hair on their abdomens.  

Behavior and Environment 

The Eastern carpenter bee is native to the U.S. These bees are important to the ecosystem because they are pollinators. Carpenter bees are rarely aggressive, although the females will sting if the nest is threatened. The danger comes from these solitary bees’ nesting habits. 

Females use their strong jaws to tunnel into wood, creating a network of tunnels to lay their eggs and raise their young. They don’t eat the wood. Rather, they feed on nectar and pollen. One female can excavate approximately one inch of wood daily. Over time, that can add up and create structural instability when those tunnels are created in fencing, decks, porches, and other structures.  

A carpenter bee sips nectar from a Hosta.

Preventing Carpenter Bee Infestations 

Year after year, carpenter bees may return to their old nests to continue working on them. Even though the damage may occur slowly, it can accumulate over time. Signs of a potential infestation include seeing bees hovering about, small piles of sawdust near perfectly “drilled” holes, and fan-shaped stains on the sides of a wooden structure.  

Preventing carpenter bees from nesting in your wooden structures is the best way to deal with them. When dealing with new construction, using hardwoods can help reduce the odds of carpenter bees attempting to create nests. Additional tips for prevention include the following: 

Sealing Entry Points 

Painting, varnishing, and using other products to seal wood can help deter carpenter bees. Additionally, adding metal flashing, wire screening, or another type of cap to the unfinished end of wood surfaces can also prevent the bees from tunneling into the wood. 

If you already have a few tunnels, you can seal those holes to discourage the bees from returning to expand the nest. Bees that overwinter in the tunnels typically come out in spring to mate, and new adult bees typically emerge from the nests in late summer. Time your project accordingly to ensure the tunnels are unoccupied. Then fill them with steel wool or wood putty and caulk over them and paint or varnish the wood to seal it.  

Removing Old Wood  

Sealing wood to create a barrier against carpenter bees and closing off holes is an excellent starting point. It’s also helpful to remove decaying and weathered wood from the property. This type of wood can attract carpenter bees to the area, making it more likely you could end up with an infestation. When building new structures, consider the benefits of using vinyl or composite materials to reduce the odds of attracting carpenter bees.  

Natural Remedies for Carpenter Bees 

Because they play a role in maintaining the environment and serve an important job as pollinators, using insecticides should be a last resort for dealing with carpenter bees.  

Homemade Deterrents 

A few easy DIY options to repel carpenter bees include: 

  • Playing loud music near the nests, which causes the bees to exit, allowing you to seal it up 
  • Spraying wood with citrus-scented products, which help repel bees because they don’t like the smell 
  • Applying almond oil to wood, which works similarly to citrus in repelling carpenter bees 

Decoy Traps 

Carpenter bees won’t nest in the same area as wasps. To repel them, you can create a decoy wasp nest by adding air to a paper bag and closing off the end. Hang it near susceptible areas to keep bees from tunneling and building any new nests. 

This will not only prevent bees, but also repel those already living in your wooden structures. Installing traps that hang near nests, in roof eaves, and in overhangs can also help remove these pollinators safely.  

When to Call a Professional 

If you suspect a widespread carpenter bee problem or you are uncomfortable trying to handle the problem yourself, it’s time to contact professionals. Catseye’s friendly technicians have the experience, education, and equipment needed to promptly and safely eliminate the infestation and restore your peace of mind.  

Contact Catseye today to learn more about our services, including our preventive, ongoing Platinum Protection program. Schedule a free inspection to get started.  

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Waxy lady beetles come to the rescue of pest-plagued crapemyrtles, Hyperaspis spp.

 

This white waxy creature is no pest. It is the larva of a Hyperaspis lady beetle, destroyer of dastardly crapemyrtle bark scale.

 

In a previous episode we met the invasive crapemyrtle bark scale, a dastardly sucking insect new to the DMV that wreaks havoc on our widely planted crapemyrtles. Populations of this eruptive pest reach fantastic densities on the bark of these flowering trees. As thousands of probing mouthparts remove plant sap, branches of crapemyrtle wither and die. Prodigious volumes of sweet sticky honeydew excreted by the bark scale rain down on leaves and bark of infested plants and coat underlying vegetation and objects. Carbohydrate rich honeydew serves as a medium for the growth of black sooty mold fungus which reduces the photosynthetic capacity of fouled plants. Even more problematic are the yellow jackets, paper wasps, and other stinging insects that are attracted to the honeydew.  

Adult Hyperaspis beetles will continue the carnage of crapemyrtle bark scales.

Ah, but there are heroes in this story and one such natural enemy of scales insects in general and crapemyrtle bark scale in particular are small black and red-spotted lady beetles known as Hyperaspis.  Several species of Hyperaspis are native to North America and many specialize at making meals of scale insects and their eggs, which are deposited in waxy egg sacs like those of the crapemyrtle bark scale. Larvae of Hyperaspis look much more like a mealybug than the fierce predators that they are. Cases of mistaken identity surround this predator insect and many of these fine beneficial insects are misidentified and mistakenly killed. The larva of Hyperaspis produces wax from glands lining its sides. This wax is more than a way to be styling. Studies of related species of waxy lady beetles reveal that the wax reduces the effectiveness of ants and other predators that might like to make a meal of a lady beetle larva. In this way, the wax serves much like the cloak of trash carrying lacewing larvae we met in a previous episode. One fairly easy way to distinguish the larva of this beneficial ladybug from pesky mealybugs is to give it a little poke in the behind. Mealybugs tend to stay in one place and move slowly. Ladybug larvae usually amble away quickly when disturbed.

Honeydew, sooty mold, and white waxy egg sacs full of pink eggs are hallmarks of dastardly crapemyrtle bark scales. But native heroes are on the scene, the larvae of lady beetles called Hyperaspis, wearing cloaks of white wax. See these two parked near egg sacs of the scale. What are they up to? Through the lens of the microscope, watch as one chews a hole in the egg sac, thrusts its head inside and gobbles up eggs, and then when finished, leaves to find another meal. After completing larval development and pupating, adults will return to the scale hunting ground to continue their carnage of crapemyrtle bark scales. You go Hyperaspis!

Hordes of waxy larvae may eat several thousand immature scale insects during the course of development and the adult beetles consume many harmful scales too. Later in summer, Hyperaspis larvae complete development and become adults. Although the larvae of Hyperaspis are somewhat hard to recognize as good guys, adult beetles are easily recognized. The ones we met in this episode are gorgeous shiny black beetles with four red spots adorning their wing covers. Some species of Hyperaspis have fewer spots or bear combinations of yellowish spots or stripes on their back. By early December, adults have departed scale-infested trees to spend the winter in protected locations beneath bark or in leaf litter on the ground. Next spring, they will return to scale-infested trees and lay eggs that will hatch into stealthy, wax-cloaked larvae. Keep an eye out for these small masters of disguise and when you see them, do not spray them with insecticides. They are working for you!   

Acknowledgements

The fascinating article “Hyperaspis Lady Beetles” by James Baker was consulted to prepare this episode. Thanks to Dr. Shrewsbury for help wrangling lady beetles.

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Preventive Pest Control Measures Every Retailer Should Implement 

Every year, pest infestations cost businesses across the United States nearly $7 billion. Worse, besides temporarily hurting your bottom line, it can cost your establishment in lasting ways, including leaving you with a tarnished brand identity that causes you to lose business.  

The threat is very real, but you can take proactive steps to prevent infestations from derailing your retail business. Catseye Pest Control has decades of experience helping stores just like yours remain pest-free. When preparing, it’s critical to understand what you’re up against, including the common pests you may face. Overcoming the challenge is all about taking preventive actions that can safeguard your property, including knowing when to call for professional help.  

Importance of Pest Control for Retail 

Imagine shopping in your favorite store, only to come across a swarm of ants, scurrying cockroaches, or skittering rodents. Now ask yourself how likely you would be to return to that store.  

Temporary closures, lost productivity, cost increases due to damaged products, and other business losses can quickly add up and leave you holding a hefty bill. Given the costs of doing business in the retail industry, pest-related expenses are one bill you want to avoid at all costs.  

Monthly rental costs for retail real estate soared to $22.95 per square foot in 2023, compared to $19.40 per square foot in 2013. That data from Statista underscores the importance of using your space wisely and in ways that put your retail business’ best foot forward.  

All it takes is one pest to potentially ruin the carefully curated shopping experience you worked hard to create. Additionally, many pests, including rodents, can carry dangerous diseases and create property damage. This is why retail pest control and prevention are so incredibly essential for retailers.  

Common Pests Found in Retail Stores 

Retail food facilities are among the most challenging retail environments to control, primarily due to their unique settings and complex environments with food storage. However, thanks to doors frequently opening and closing and an abundance of foot traffic, retail stores of all types are vulnerable to various pests, including the following: 

Rodents 

Mice and rats can wreak havoc on a retail store. Rodents leave messes everywhere they go, including tiny, germ-filled cylindrical droppings and gnawed food items. Their saliva, urine, and fecal matter may spread disease-causing bacteria, viruses, or fungi. Additionally, rodents can carry other hitchhiking pests, like mites and fleas, inside along with them. Add in the potential damage from chewing on insulation, wiring, and structural elements, and these pests can be a real nightmare.  

Cockroaches 

The sight of these insects, which have roamed the earth for more than 100 million years, can cause a major case of the heebie-jeebies for many people. Additionally, common species, including German, Brown-Banded, American, and Oriental cockroaches, can trigger allergies and asthma attacks and contaminate surfaces and food with dangerous germs.  

Ants 

Ants don’t typically present as much of a public health hazard as cockroaches and other insects, although they can contaminate surfaces and food. However, their presence does leave a lasting impression on customers. Some species, like fire ants, can sting or bite people. Other species, like carpenter ants, can create significant structural damage to your establishment. These typically social pests can create large colonies and present an enormous challenge when attempting to eliminate them without professional help.  

Termites 

Many people don’t realize they even have termites until the damage is already extensive, which is why routine inspections are so important. Subterranean termites, which are commonly found in this region, are wood-consuming insects. They chew through wood 24/7, causing billions of dollars in damage to homes and commercial properties.  

Wildlife and Birds 

Insects aren’t the only danger. Nuisance wildlife like chipmunks, squirrels, and birds pose another threat. These pests can potentially spread and transmit illness-causing pathogens, carry secondary pests like ticks and mites into your business, and make a real mess of your retail establishment.  

Cleaning Best Practices 

Retailers have a tremendous duty to their customers and clientele, who rely on them to provide a safe, clean environment. Shoppers do not want to enter a store and see dirty floors, overflowing garbage, and filthy surfaces. Keeping your environment clean does more than just improve the impression you make on customers. It can also halt many pest problems before they begin by eliminating sources of food and shelter. These two elements often act like a neon “Welcome” sign to pests.  

Regular Cleaning Routines 

Depending on the nature of your business, you may have more intense needs than others. However, some of the most common actions you should be taking on a routine basis include: 

  • Regularly sweeping, vacuuming, and mopping floors  
  • Wiping down counters and other surfaces 
  • Cleaning up spills or messes promptly 
  • Maintaining sanitized restrooms 

Proper Waste Management 

Regularly taking out the garbage and waste materials is the first step. However, it’s also essential to ensure that trash and other waste is stored in secure, lidded containers, with dumpsters kept away from the building’s exterior. 

Food Storage and Handling Protocols 

If you aren’t a food retailer but allow food storage on the premises, it’s still crucial to follow safe food storage and handling. Keep food in airtight containers and always cook it to safe temperatures and refrigerate promptly as necessary. Additionally, employees should be instructed to wash their hands and clean food preparation surfaces frequently. Any food or beverage spills should be cleaned up promptly to avoid attracting pests and to maintain shoppers’ safety.  

Maintenance and Pest Control 

Promptly fixing — or calling for a professional to fix — problems like leaky pipes can help reduce the risk of certain pests. Moisture-loving insects like cockroaches and termites and thirsty wildlife and rodents could be attracted by the easy access to water. Also, regularly inspecting the building and noting areas like broken screens, worn weatherstripping, and any gaps around utility lines can help prevent pests from entering.  

Sealing Cracks and Entry Points 

Rats, mice, and other pests will take advantage of any access they are given. Cracks, gaps, and other openings provide easy entry. Sealing them with caulk, screening, wire mesh, or exclusion systems like Cat-Guard, which is a permanent barrier for targeted protection, can make a significant difference. 

Pest Monitoring and Detection 

Ongoing monitoring is one of the cornerstones of any effective Integrated Pest Management strategy. IPM seeks to minimize the use of chemical pest control, favoring preventive approaches and early detection. Many pest problems are easier to solve if you can catch them early.  

Catseye’s commercial pest control technicians provide detailed notes about when they visit the property, what they discovered, and how the issues were addressed. Having a professional, trained eye keeping watch over your retail store can provide peace of mind and help catch potential problems before they become widespread. 

When to Call a Commercial Pest Control Professional 

Retailers have a responsibility to their business, their employees, and their customers. Partnering with a qualified professional pest control company from the beginning can help ensure your business remains free of pest activity. 

Don’t wait until you see a pest to get the support you need to protect your brand and your clientele. Contact Catseye today to learn more about our services or to schedule a free inspection.  

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From the mail bag – “Oh they’re back and they’re bad”: Spotted lanternfly nymphs, Lycorma delicatula

 

Spotted lanternfly nymphs are back, and they’re bad!

 

Last week I received a whimsical video from two avid young bug hunters who spotted spotted lanternfly nymphs in a park in Washington County, Maryland. Dressed in domino-colored exoskeletons of black and white, nymphs of spotted lanternflies are unmistakable. As these budding naturalists noted, they’re back and they’re bad. This season of lanternfly evil began about three weeks ago when lanternfly nymphs hatched from overwintering eggs deposited by their mothers last autumn.

Tiny, wraithlike spotted lanternfly nymphs pop the lid on their egg case and hatch head-first from eggs deposited last autumn.

Recently, I was asked when lanternflies would go away. Like other invasive species we’ve met, such as gypsy moths, brown marmorated stink bugs, emerald ash borers, and euonymus leaf-notchers just to name a few, the answer is this: they are not going away. At this time in Maryland, spotted lanternflies are established members of our ecosystems in all but four of our southernmost counties according to the Maryland Department of Agriculture. They have also established breeding populations in more than a dozen states and spread some 600 miles distant from their point of introduction in Berks County, Pennsylvania. The good news is that, in many locations, spotted lanternfly populations have declined dramatically. In parts of Pennsylvania, naturally occurring fungi put a beatdown on lanternfly populations. A recent study by scientists revealed that a vast number of established predators are helping to quell the lanternfly invasion. Arthropods led the reported carnage with more than 200 attacks by spiders, 196 attacks by mantids, 177 attacks by wasps, 55 attacks by sucking predators like assassin bugs, and another 21 attacks by other arthropods. Twenty some families of birds accounted for more than 500 attacks, with ground dwellers like chickens and pheasants leading the way. Death delivered by members of the cardinal, mocking bird, wren, and several other bird clans contributed to the total. Mammals, amphibians, fish and non-feathered reptiles also got into the act accounting for 106 additional observations.

Two budding naturalists have it right. Spotted lanternflies are back and they’re bad. Don’t be surprised to see dozens of spotted lanternfly nymphs feeding on small branches of trees and shrubs and stems of herbaceous plants. White spotted nymphs are scrambling up tree trunks. Leaves of maples and scores of other plants can be festooned with legions of lanternfly nymphs. Will predators and disease quell their mischief? Only time will tell.

Ravaging hordes of spotted lanternfly nymphs may be controlled by natural enemies, by simple mechanical means such as knocking them into soapy water, or by the use of OMRI approved pesticides.

Circling back to the lanternfly nymphs at the top of this episode, what should you do if you find these rascals on your plants?  Well, you could just let them serve as a feast for the many predators and pathogens that will make a meal of them. Of course, if you are a viticulturalist, eliminating as many as possible is the order of the day and there are many highly efficacious insecticides to help do the job. But for homeowners, if you don’t want to wait for Mother Nature to intercede, you can knock them off your plants into a container of soapy water. They are not good swimmers. Or you can use one of several products such as insecticidal soaps, horticultural oils, or natural pyrethrins (not synthetic pyrethroids) listed for use on organic vegetables by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI). Look for the OMRI symbol on the label of the insecticide. Excellent studies conducted by scientists at Penn State found these active ingredients provided excellent or good control of spotted lanternfly nymphs. Always read the label and follow instructions to the letter if you decide to go the insecticide route. Good luck dealing with these noisome pests from afar.

To learn more about the biology and management of spotted lanternfly, please click on this link: https://extension.psu.edu/spotted-lanternfly-management-guide

Acknowledgements

Penn State’s most excellent spotted lanternfly website was used to prepare this episode. Bug of the Week thanks Eloise and Abbigail for providing video footage and inspiration for this episode.

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Vanishing viburnums: vandalism by the Viburnum leaf beetle, Pyrrhalta viburni

 

Larvae of viburnum leaf beetles can lay waste to beautiful viburnums.

 

Yikes! Shredded leaves are the hallmark of feeding by viburnum leaf beetle larvae.

Last week I encountered a planting of viburnums vandalized by yet another invasive species of insect. One of my favorite flowering shrubs, viburnum, had been stripped of 99.9 % of their leaves. My first thought was that some devastating weather event like drought or flood or some hideous disease had laid waste to these usually lovely shrubs. On closer inspection of the few leaves that remained, the culprit of this devastation was found – larvae of the viburnum leaf beetle. The saga of this invader from Europe begins in 1947 when it was first discovered in Canada. It took almost five decades to move south across the US border, when it was detected in New York in 1996. It has now spread to more than 20 states ranging from Maine to Florida and as far west as Washington state.

As adult beetles and their offspring feed on viburnum leaves, they create a type of injury called skeletonization, dining on tender leaf tissue between tough leave veins. So complete is their feasting that only a lacy memory of a leaf remains when they are done. These ghostly leaves soon wither, die, and drop, leaving naked stems behind. This season of misery began when eggs deposited last summer and autumn by female beetles hatched from tiny egg-niches lining small branches. In Maryland, eggs hatch near the time when Japanese camellia is in full bloom in early spring. Each female beetle can lay as many as 500 eggs. Little wonder why viburnum leaves vanish with so many hungry mouths at work.  After completing three stages of larval development, larvae move to the soil and pupate. By June, adults emerge from the soil, clamber up stems, and begin to skeletonize nutritious viburnum leaves. In summer and autumn females chew small pits along branches and deposit five to eight eggs in each pit. This tiny nursery is then sealed with a cap of mother’s poop, chewed bark, and mucous. I have to wonder if young beetles undergo intense sessions of therapy to understand why their mother pooped on them. Well, this poopy mucous cap is thought to protect developing eggs from predators and help prevent moisture loss.

Oh no, what happened to these viburnums? They look beat. Environmental stress? Hideous disease? Let’s take a closer look at the few green leaves left standing. This is the larva of the nefarious viburnum leaf beetle, invader from Europe that vandalizes viburnums. Thousands of hungry larval mouths completely stripped these shrubs.  Later this year adults emerge, mate, feast, and lay eggs, levying more misery on viburnums.

In June adult viburnum leaf beetles will emerge from the soil and move to leaves to mate, feed, and lay eggs.

What can be done to thwart these rascals? Clever research conducted by Cornell University revealed significant variation in susceptibility of different species of viburnums to attack by viburnum leaf beetle. Sadly, some of my favorite viburnums are on the “most susceptible” list, including our abundant native arrowwood viburnum, Viburnum dentatum. Two other species on the “most susceptible” list are   Viburnum trilobum (previously known as Viburnum opulus var. trilobum), European cranberry bush viburnum, and Viburnum sargentii, Sargent viburnum. The University of Maryland lists these viburnums as resistant to viburnum leaf beetle: ‘Dawn’ viburnum, V. x bodnantense, Koreanspice viburnum, V. carlesii, David viburnum, V. davidii, Judd viburnum, V. x juddii, doublefile viburnum, V. plicatum, doublefile viburnum, V. plicatum f. tomentosum, leatherleaf viburnum, V. rhytidophyllum, tea viburnum, V. setigerum, and Siebold viburnum, V. sieboldii

Viburnum branches bear the scars of egg nests made by viburnum leaf beetles.

If redesigning your landscape by planting resistant viburnums is not feasible, here are a couple additional things to consider. Sometime between the last killing frost of a season and the following spring, prune out branches bearing egg masses of viburnum leaf beetles and destroy them. Several species of predators attack and eat viburnum leaf beetles, including lacewing larvae, lady beetle larvae, and assassin bug larvae and adults. Including a rich diversity of flowering herbaceous and woody plants in your landscape will help support these beneficial insects that depend on floral resources and alternate prey to become resident in your landscape. If all else fails and as a last resort, you can annihilate infestations of beetles for at least a short period of time by applying insecticides labeled for beetle control. Because viburnums are so heavily visited by pollinators, systemic insecticides that may show up in nectar or pollen are not the best choice. Several products listed for use on organic vegetables listed by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) may be a better choice. Always read the label and follow instructions to the letter if you decide to go the insecticide route. Good luck saving your lovely viburnums.

Acknowledgements

Bug of the Week thanks Dr. Paula Shrewsbury for contributing images and comments to the episode. Bug of the Week is supported by the Department of Entomology at the University of Maryland and grants from USDA – NIFA. To learn more about viburnum leaf beetle and its management, please visit the following websites that were consulted for this episode:

https://extension.umd.edu/resource/viburnum-leaf-beetle/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_BPp-9MljSc

https://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/orn/beetles/viburnum_leaf_beetle.htm#:~:text=The%20viburnum%20leaf%20beetle%20overwinters,%2F5%20inch)%20at%20maturity.

https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/keep_your_eyes_open_for_the_viburnum_leaf_beetles

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