Dear What’s the Bug?

Even though I’m not a homebody, I am concerned about some bugs invading my home. There are some pesky critters flying in, on and around my hibiscus bush in the front yard. These tiny flying pests have covered the leaves and pink flowers so that the whole bush appears to be spray-painted white. To make matters worse, these insects are now stuck in my window screen because the humid weather compels me to leave my fan on all day and night. As a result, I will have to remove my screens and hose them off, allowing these white, yucky bugs into my home. What are they?

Sincerely,

Nechelle Wong,
Highland Park, CA

Dear Nechelle,

Based on your vivid description, I have no doubts that you and your hibiscus are being plagued by whiteflies. These miniscule insects belong to the order Homoptera, which is sometimes grouped together with the order Heteroptera, the true bugs, into an order called Hemiptera, because the insects in the two groups share similar sucking mouthparts and undergo incomplete metamorphosis. Hogue writes in his now legendary book, Insects of the Los Angeles Basin, “Virtually all homopterans have wax-producing glands in the integument, and many excrete honeydew, a sugary sticky solution that may attract symbiotic associates (especially ants). A great number are plant pests because of their great fecundity and ability to bleed their hosts of life-giving sap. Some also injure plants by transmitting pathogenic organisms, especially viruses.” There are several species of whiteflies found locally, and they are difficult to distinguish from one another. They all belong to the family Aleyrodidae, and are approximately 1/16 inch long and frequently infest ornamental plants. When disturbed, the adults fly from their perches, usually the undersides of leaves, in a flaky cloud. The flightless nymphs so most of the damage, sucking sap from plants in a manner similar to their relatives, the aphids, scale insects and mealybugs. They can be difficult to eradicate, though I rid my fuschias of them several years ago by diligently spraying the leaves with a mild solution of dish soap in water. The slick surface imparted on the water by the soap causes the insects to drown.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

WHAT KIND OF BUGS ARE THESE??? THEY ARE BLACK WITH TWO RED STRIPES ON THE WINGS AND THEY LOOK LIKE A FIREFLY. WE WERE TOLD THAT THEY ARE A TYPE OF BEETLE, BUT ARE UNABLE TO FIND THEM IN ANY BOOK. THEY ARE COMING FROM A ROTTING ELM TREE. THERE IS ALSO WATER DAMAGE TO THE HOUSE IF THIS HELPS IDENTIFY THEM.

Dear Stat,
Without more concrete information regarding size and orientation of the stripes, vertical versus horizontal, it would be difficult to identify your bug. Wood boring beetles are often of the longhorn variety, and though they are not true beetles, the box elder bug (Leptocoris trivittatus) might be your culprit, but they eat leaves, not rotting wood. Rove beetles look like fireflies, but their wings are hidden. They might lurk around rotting wood, searching for soft succulent prey. Can you send a photo?

I am new to growing tomatoes, and am currently having mixed results. I live in the DFW area and planted the young plants about 4 weeks ago (middle of April). They have been growing well, but there is a slight mystery. One of the plants (an heirloom variety) has leaves that are looking scrunched up. Almost as if they have been lightly squashed in hand. Another plant is having trouble keeping its flowers. Flowers show in nice little yellow clumps, and then all of a sudden they are broken off – almost like they are cut or bitten through leaving a kind of stumpy growth. I would love to know what is doing that and what to do about it.
Thanks in advance
Christopher Bird
PS Please don’t publicize the email address, I have been spam free for 3 years! Thanks

Dear Christopher,
Heirloom varieties often have potato type leaves. This is no indication that the plants are unhealthy. Blossoms will not set fruit until the nighttime temperatures are warm. Don’t fret.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Hi,
I live in Southern California… East of Riverside. I found a bug in my garage that I’ve never seen before… and have no idea what it is. It is about 1 1/2 long, yellowish-tan in color (except for the abdomen which is darker). On a larger scale it has a head like an ant. Each of its feet are like a combination of around six spikes with an extra claw appendage growing out of the middle of the spikes. It has no wings.
It almost looks like a huge relative of an ant or termite.
Any ideas.
Thanks,
Scott

Dear Scott,
It sounds like it could be a wind scorpion or solpugid. We often get photos of them from our readers especially those in drier climates. Check out the newly revamped Whats That Bug? website at www.whatsthatbug.com and simply click on wind scorpion. Let us know if that is your critter. Here is a photo recently sent in but the letter is lost.

These little things are ratherr shiny, jump great lengths compared to their size. The one in the picture is about 1/4 inch long – I’ve seen them up to about 1/2 inch. We had the house fumigated for termites 8 weeks ago; these were among the earliest re-entrant critters. Can you identify this thing?
Thanks, … Al

Dear Al,
You have a Jumping Bristletail, Family Meinertellidae. They are related to silverfish and are found in leaf litter and in old stone walls. Some species invade houses. Most species are nocturnal, abhor light and are secretive in their habits.