Subject: boxelder bugs?
Location: Charleston, South Carolina
June 25, 2012 9:40 pm
I was wondering if you could identify this. There were about 35 of them in a cluster on a barkless tree, eating lichen growth. Very small, about a quarter inch long each. I thought they might be young boxelder bugs, but the color and markings are wrong. Now I’m thinking some variety of plant bug. They resemble fireflies as well, and seem to have a whitish abdomen (or are those white wing markings? hmmm), but the ant-shaped head is throwing me off. Any help would be appreciated.
Signature: Scott Matheson
These are Bark Lice in the genus Cerastipsocus, commonly called Tree Cattle. They are benign creatures that feed on lichens and they do not harm the trees even though their mass aggregation would tend to imply otherwise. See BugGuide for a matching photo of Bark Lice.