From the monthly archives: "February 2003"

Hi, Bugman….
This guy was just stumbling around on the trunk of my avacado tree….having trouble finding his legs…..he couldn’t fly but he flapped his wings…. I’ve seen a lot of these…..this one was maybe newly hatched and just getting started….he wasn’t as big as the ones who used to live in my bathtub at my old place.
Anyway, this guy was just about an inch long, not counting his legs.. What is he? He looks just like a super sized mosquito, but friendlier, and not at all bloodthirsty. Thanks…..Jonathan

Dear Jonathan,
How nice to hear from you.
You’ve got a common crane fly, (Tipula planicornis). The larger species is the Giant Crane Fly (Holorusia hespera) which can have a three inch wingspan. Craneflies have short soft mouthparts and are incapable of biting. Larvae are called leather jackets and are found in rotting vegetation. Some are aquatic.

I am growing an assortment of vegetables as well as tomatoes in pots on my screened in porch here in Florida. My tomatoes, although protected from the larger menaces due to the screen, have fallen victim to these very small white flying pests. Due to their size they are very difficult to describe other than the fact that they are extremely small, bright white and seem to live inside the flowers on the tomato plants. When I touch the Q-tip to the flower about four or five of these small flying insects come flying out. Is there anything you recommend for me to get rid of these nuisances, and will these little rascals prevent the plant from producing tomatoes? I have been using a Q-tip to cross pollinate. Out of the 12 plants I have only 2 tomatoes. Thank you,

Dear Terrence,
It sounds like you have whiteflies. They can become a real infestation. They like shelter, preferring to stay out of the wind. Usually you can rid the plants of the buggers by a brisk spray of water from the hose. Strike quickly before you have a real problem. They should not prevent pollination which is more dependant upon warm nightime temperatures.

Great!! Thank you for the advice. I will give that a shot.
I hate to bother you with more questions, but I have seen a couple articles on the internet about using a mixture of Canola oil and water to keep the bugs off the plants. Is this a good idea for me to try, or will it harm my plants. Ground clove was recommended as well. Thanks again!!!
Dear Terrence,
I’ve not tried the canola oil and water, but have heard it works. Sometimes I put a drop of mild dishsoap in water and spritz out of a bottle. This is good for aphids and all sucking insects including whiteflies. The soap helps to drown them. The canola oil probably does the same thing. Be careful not to use too much soap or oil as it might damage the plants worse than the insects. Also, try not to spray the plants in the hot sun which might cause burning of the tender shoots, and also in the evening which might encourage mildew. Morning is best. Ground cloves would get expensive and would not help with the sucking insects. Might be an ant deterrent

I recently came across a message where you had identified the dreaded "stink bug". I live in northern Michigan near Petoskey. I build a new house in the winter of 2002 and in August of 2002 was invaded by brown stink bugs. I have 2 plants which I have never seen the bugs near. I usually find them near the windows. I am desperate to get rid of these ugly creatures!!!! Please advise me of anything you know that would be helpful.
Thank you,
Ami Watkins

Dear Ami,
What constitutes an invasion? A few stink bugs might have wandered into the house through the door and then were drawn to the windows because of the light. They are accidental visitations, much like the occasional fly or bee which finds itself indoors and wants nothing more than to get out. Also, they are seasonal, maturing in the late summer when you found them. You shouldn’t have a problem when they are in their wingless stages. Rest assured that stinkbugs will not take up permanent residence in your new home. Ants, roaches, termites and silverfish are a bigger concern.

Just wanted to say, your site is excellent! I was looking for what turned out to be a Wheel Bug, a picture of which was sent in by a boy in Pennsylvania, the same day I saw the bug in central Texas! The strength of your site seems to be a combination of three important factors:
1) seasonal bugs seem to make themselves conspicuous at the same time of year over a broad range, making them a curiosity to many people simultaneously,
2) the popularity and effectiveness of your site is such one of these curious people will actually act on their sighting and
3) your dedication and accuracy feed back to the curious, reinforcing your site’s popularity and effectiveness. Very Nice!

Thank you so much Mike,
Your letter really made my day.

Hi, I currently had the most unfortunate experience of discovering a silverfish in my bathtub. It is one of two that I have seen sense I moved in in November. My apartment is old with steam heating and hardwood floors, So the option of dehumidifying is not really an option. I have spent many frantic hour on line trying to find out how to get these little darlings out of my apartment. My problem is this …I found much conflicting info on them. Such as "there is no way of truly eliminating silverfish" to "two silverfish are nothing to worry about" and "silverfish will not generally eat clothing" to "you should perchance silverfish traps to put in your drawers" So what’s the deal? Any info you could give would help. I’m at a point of hysteria (have you seen a yuckier looking bug) and very worried about my clothing collection. Thank you very much and also if moving away and starting over is my only option at this point I’m okay with that…..:)


Dear Steph,
Silverfish, which belong to the order Zygentoma, are also sometimes known as firebrats because of their love of warmth. According to expert F. Lutz, "If such a creature is eating your wallpaper, starched clothes, photographs or other belongings, your sorrow may be mitigated by your interest in seeing the most primitive insect you are likely to observe without special effort. Further damage may be prevented by fumigating or by liberal use of fresh Pyrethrum powder". If you move, be sure to not take along any hitch-hikers. We once had a lengthy correspondance with Miss Swanlund who was worried that her lovely Hollywood starlet apartment was infested. She eventually moved, leaving the vermin behind.

what is the family name for preying mantis’s (genus – i guess) this will help me win an argument!

Dear Tristian,
Let me settle your etymological query before addressing your entomological one. Thanks to Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778), one of the most famous biologists that ever lived. we use a two name system to name all biological species. The first name, which is capitalized, is the genus name. The species name, which follows, is all lower case. There are many species of preying (praying) mantid (mantis), belonging to several families, but all belong to the animal Kingdom, Phyllum Arthropoda, Class Insecta, Subclass Pterygota, Infraclass Neoptera, and Order Mantodea. All American species belong to the family Mantidae. There are various genus and species. Some native species include the California Mantid (Stagmomantis californica) and the Minor Ground Mantid (Litaneutria minor). Species introduced from Asia include Tenodera or Paratenodera sinensis and Mantis religiosa.