From the monthly archives: "May 2003"

We have been invaded and infested with small ants (sweet ants). What is the best and cheapest way to get rid of them.
Thanks,
rd

Dear RD,
You probably cannot truly get rid of them but there are many theories worth trying including Chinese chalk. Just seal up the cracks where they enter the house and keep the place spotless. They love sugar and grease.

Update:  August 21, 3016  Article on Tipsbulletin.com
We recently published an extensive article, covering 8 natural ant remedies and all important aspects of how to best get rid of ants. It is a quick read and might be a worth a link from your page.
Here’s the link – https://www.tipsbulletin.com/natural-ant-remedies-how-to-get-rid-of-ants/

Hello,
Last summer bore beetles wiped out half the pines in my yard. (1 acre.).Since the Florida drought is over and steady rains are back, and the pines are not as stressed as last year, will my remaining loblolly pines fight off the bore beetles naturally or do I have to spray with something. And if I spray is it true the beetles are only on the trunk of the tree. Last but not least, what do I spray with? Thanks from Central Florida, Roger

Like many living forms, insects reach a peak population, do major damage, and then suddenly die back to a small population which takes seasons to grow large again. The stress on the trees due to the drought combined with the population explosion of the beetles contributed to the tree loss. That population was increasing, doing hidden damage for years. The best control is to rid the area of tainted wood from the dead trees which is harboring the pest. Chec
k with local exterminators regarding a pesticide control.

Hi. Digging in the dirt where I usually plant my tomato plant, I discovered a cocoon the size of my thumb. It is brown and like I said, it is the size of my thumb. Any ideas what it may be? I put it in a jar with some of the dirt from where I was digging. I hope it will live. I can send a picture If will help you identify it.
Thanks
Michelle


Dear Michelle,
Did it have what looks like the handle on a jug? If so, it is the pupa of a Tobacco Hornworm Moth (Manduca sexta) which in its larval, caterpillar form is the dreaded Tomato Hornworm, a four inch long behemoth that devours the leaves of tomato plants, sometimes leaving them defoliated. The larva eventually buries itself in the dirt to pupate without spinning a cocoon, leaving its bare pupa to mature. The handle of the jug is actually the place where the long proboscus, a tubelike mouth that the moth uses to gather nectar from deep throated flowers. We would love a photo.

Hi Daniel. Thanks for getting back to me. I have attached a photo, but I’m afraid it’s not a very good one. It sounds like your know your bugs. My next question is, how do I get this thing to hatch? Is the moth beautiful? I would imagine that it is. I currently have it in some soil in a jar without a lid. Should I keep it out side or in the house? Let me know.
Thanks
Michelle

 

Dear Michelle,
The moth is large and mottled grey with very elongated wings. There are a series of yellow spots along the body. They are very strong fliers. While not traditionally beautiful, they are truly awesome. They are very similar to the moth used in the “Silence of the Lambs” advertisements, and you can also see a swarm of them crawling on Patsi Kensit (spelling?) in the totally awesome movie” Angels and Insects”. You are doing the right thing as far as getting the pupa to metamorphose. Do not let the soil either dry out or get too wet. Keep it out of the direct sunlight.

Thanks again for your time and the information. I hope I get to see him. I think I forgot to ask if you know how long it could take? Do you know?
Michelle

Dear Michelle,
Normally they overwinter as pupa and then metamorphose in the spring. I’m guessing your specimen has passed the necessary time underground and it should be happening soon.
Good luck.

Hi. Recently my son found this beautiful bug near our house in Glendale, AZ. I’m attaching a picture. It has a bright red head, and it’s back is yellow with a black pattern dividing it into 4 parts. It’s the first and only time we’ve seen one.
Any idea?
Thanks–
Wes

Ironcross Blister Beetle

Ironcross Blister Beetle

Dear Wes,
I contacted our sources at the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles, and he provided the following information.

Thanks for sending the beetle photo. It is in the Blister Beetle family: Meloidae. You can probably look it up on the internet…try under the genus name Lytta. Some of these beetles exude a toxic liquid which can cause blisters on the skin. I’m not sure this one does that.
Hope this helps you!
Take care. Brian Harris
Entomology Section
Natural History Museum LA Co.

A web search did not turn up a more exact identification, but there is this site which has a photo of a close relative Lytta magister http://www.solpugid.com/gallery/Gallery3.htm which also has a red head and legs. I do have some interesting background information on the genus however. A blue-green colored European relative Lytta vesicatoria, is known by the common name Spanish fly: Perhaps the most famous `aphrodisiac’ of folk lore is `Spanish Fly’ made from the dried beetle _Cantharis_ (Lytta) _vesicatoria_, which is widely found in areas of southern Europe. The active ingredient of the prepared insect is cantharidin, and the powdered product contains around 0.6 percent of the substance. Sometimes a tincture of cantharidin is made, and the fatal dose is usually reckoned at 1.5 to 3 grams of the powder, or about 200 millilitres of the tincture. I have not given up entirely on the identification. I will be making a trip to the insect museum in Riverside in the near future. Thanks again for the awesome photo which is currently on my desktop at work.
Have a great day.
Daniel

Editor’s Note: Continued research has identified this little beauty as a member of the Blister Beetle Family known as Soldier Beetles, Tegrodera erosa Lec. or Tegrodera latecincta Horn. “They are 17-30 mm. long; the head red; the prothorax dusky red; the antennae, legs, and remainder of the body shining black; and the elytra golden yellow, reticulated, and with black margins, a black median belt, and black apices. In the former specioes the black markings of the elytra are very obscure, while on the latter they are strongly pronounced. The beetles ordinarily feed upon the native sage brush, artemisia, and other plants, but frequently invade alfalfa fields and do much damage.” according to Essig in Insects and Mites of Western North America.

Update: (11/09/2008)
After doing our site migration and checking that everything migrated, we found this posting that was never correctly identified as an Iron Cross Blister Beetle

Another Iron Cross Blister Beetle
We have Hundreds maybe Thousands on the ground and
all over our house. Please help us as my 6 and 4 year olds are scared and me too!
aceman

Iron Cross Blister Beetle

Iron Cross Blister Beetle

We were unable to anwer this reader who should be somewhat afraid of Blister Beetles which can cause a skin reaction.

Hi. Recently my son found this beautiful bug near our house in Glendale, AZ. I’m attaching a picture. It has a bright red head, and it’s back is yellow with a black pattern dividing it into 4 parts. It’s the first and only time we’ve seen one.
Any idea?
Thanks–
Wes

Dear Wes,
I contacted our sources at the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles, and he provided the following information.

Thanks for sending the beetle photo. It is in the Blister Beetle family: Meloidae. You can probably look it up on the internet…try under the genus name Lytta. Some of these beetles exude a toxic liquid which can cause blisters on the skin. I’m not sure this one does that.
Hope this helps you!
Take care. Brian Harris Entomology Section
Natural History Museum LA Co.

A web search did not turn up a more exact identification, but there is this site which has a photo of a close relative Lytta magister http://www.solpugid.com/gallery/Gallery3.htm which also has a red head and legs. I do have some interesting background information on the genus however. A blue-green colored European relative Lytta vesicatoria, is known by the common name Spanish fly: Perhaps the most famous `aphrodisiac’ of folk lore is `Spanish Fly’ made from the dried beetle _Cantharis_ (Lytta) _vesicatoria_, which is widely found in areas of southern Europe. The active ingredient of the prepared insect is cantharidin, and the powdered product contains around 0.6 percent of the substance. Sometimes a tincture of cantharidin is made, and the fatal d
ose is usually reckoned at 1.5 to 3 grams of the powder, or about 200 millilitres of the tincture. I have not given up entirely on the identification. I will be making a trip to the insect museum in Riverside in the near future. Thanks again for the awesome photo which is currently on my desktop at work.
Have a great day.
Daniel

Editor’s Note: Continued research has identified this little beauty as a member of the Blister Beetle Family known as Soldier Beetles, Tegrodera erosa Lec. or Tegrodera latecincta Horn. "They are 17-30 mm. long; the head red; the prothorax dusky red; the antennae, legs, and remainder of the body shining black; and the elytra golden yellow, reticulated, and with black margi
ns, a black median belt, and black apices. In the former specioes the black markings of the elytra are very obscure, while on the latter they are strongly pronounced. The beetles ordinarily feed upon the native sage brush, artemisia, and other plants, but frequently invade alfalfa fields and do much damage." according to Essig in Insects and Mites of Western North America.

Looking through almost 20 years of memory distortion, my wife and I were confronted by the strangest looking bug we had ever seen. We were living in Glendale and this "tinker toy" bug had somehow gotten into the house, seemed to be nesting in the pile of our rug near the patio sliding glass doors. It was about 2 inches long, and looked like it had been assembled out of brown plastic parts, big round shiny head with two smaller black dot eyes, antennae, a shiny cylindrical body and six legs. We even captured it into a jar where it clicked away at the sides trying to escape. Eventually it was released but we never have seen it pictured in any reference books. The name, Vinegaroon, was mentioned but it hasn’t really satisfied. Any ideas?
Richard Leppig

We’ve lost our original reply to Richard which included a photo, but we correctly identified his visitor as a Potato Bug.