What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject: Bug identification needed
Location: San Diego
May 27, 2013 8:43 pm
Found these bugs on a ficus tree trunk in San Diego, CA. There was one group of the bigger bugs, and anther group with a few of the large bugs that seemed to be herding the little striped bugs. The bigger bugs were about 1/4” long, maybe less.
Can you tell me what they are, and what they are doing.
Signature: Stan



Hi Stan,
This is our second posting this week of an aggregation of Barklice from San Diego.  We are not certain of the species because this looks like an allegedly eastern species, Cerastipsocus venosus, that are commonly called by the Tree Cattle.  Tree Cattle are benign insects that feed on lichens and pose no threat to the tree, garden or gardener.  We don’t know if the eastern species has been accidentally introduced to the west, if this is a heretofore unknown species or if there is just little documentation on the presence of this insect in Southern California.  Time will no doubt provide some revelations.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination
Location: San Diego, California

3 Responses to More Tree Cattle in San Diego

  1. Kevin Doyle says:

    We just found another colony on the move here in Encinitas, California (North County San Diego). Unfortunately, we freaked out just as we did last year and killed all we could find! In my defense, they are super-creepy to look at, with a very sci-fi feel. We’ve made numerous attempts last year to find out what they were, but all the tree experts we contacted locally were baffled, even after we had collected specimens.

    The little ones were being herded along our Ipe wood deck from a Jacaranda to our big Macadamia tree. The larger, winged ones, were definitely herding the little ones along, as if they were cattle. It turns out that that was the keyword, once I searched Google for “cattle bugs” I was looking at pictures of them within seconds. Sorry they’re dead. I expect they’ll be back – it’s happened a few times now. I will spread the word among my neighbors.

    • bugman says:

      Their behavior does tend to seem more like that of a plant pest as opposed to the benign creatures they actually are.

  2. Kevin Doyle says:

    I know, right? When you first see these bugs it is easy to imagine them swarming at *you*. Totally triggered an atavistic, visceral response in my wife and me.

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