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.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

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's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

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.

My friend and I have little white bugs living in the soil of our plant. When we water the plants they float to the top of the soil then go back in once the water goes down. My friend tried to put dish soap in the water but that didn’t kill them. How can we get rid of them without buying a spray for them.
I have asthma and my friend is disabled. It would be easier if we could get a home remedy. Can you please help us. In my last email I failed to mention that our plants are indoor plants there are 5 different kinds of plants we own and 3 of them have the white bugs.

Dear Annette,
Your letter doesn’t specify if you have a full on infestation or just a few bugs. If they are big enough to see, they are big enough to be removed manually when they float to the surface. If you are squeemish, try tweezers.
A better suggestion, especially if you have many bugs, is to use the old flea bitten fox trick. Remember the fable of the fox who had fleas, so he grabbed a stick in his mouth and went for a dip? The fleas moved to his head to stay dry, and as they moved to the stick, the crafty fox let go of the stick, and was rid of the fleas for a bit.
Try submerging your plants in a bucket of water, when the pests rise to the surface, pour off the water into the toilet, and let the plant dry out. You may need to do this several times to rid the plants of the pestilence.
Sorry your description was so vague, I can’t really identify your pest properly, but they might be a variety of soil mite. It is also possible that they are not actually harming the plant, and have just taken warm refuge in your dirt. Dirt in the garden is full of insects and their kin which are actually beneficial.
Good luck.

Update:  December 5, 2009
We just got a comment on this letter, and we are linking to a site with information on Soil Mites.

Hi Daniel,
I’m having an ongoing problem with what I’m told are grubs in my St. Augustin grass. Each summer I get these patches which turn yellow/ brown and die out, just as if I hadn’t watered them in ages, which is, of course, not the case. Apparently they eat the roots of the grass causing the tops to die. I have usually spread grub killer and that seems to take care of it. The problem is that the grub killer, called "Seven," I believe, is super toxic, indicating the need to wear socks, long pants, gloves, respirator (my addition), etc. Do you know of any similar remedy for grubs that would not be so environmentally horrendous? I have three cats who live in this grass daily and I don’t want one of them to start growing an extra head or some other such gruesome mutation. Caroline, a Manx, already has all the extra toes she can handle.
Kathleen (a.k.a. Toxic Avenger)

Dear Kathleen,
I can think of three possible culprits for your St. Agustine grass problem, the likliest one being the chinch bug, Blissus insularis, small gray-black insects that suck plant juices from grass blades, especially St. Agustine grass, especially in hot weather. To confirm chinch bugs, according to the Western Garden Book , push a bottomless can into the soil just where the grass is beginning to turn brown. Fill can with water, If lawn is infested, chinch bugs will float to the surface. Diazinon and chlorpyrifos are chemical controls. According to Hogue, the Southern Chinch Bug feeds on several grasses, but Saint Augustine is by far the preferred host plant. The insect’s feeding may cause considerable damage: the grass becomes dwarfed, turns yellow and then brown, and dies. Because of the tendency of the species to form aggregations, the symptoms of attack are usually visible in scattered patches. The species is not a native. It first appeared in the Los Angeles area in the late 1960’s, having come from the southeastern states. It produces two generations per year and is most abundant in midsummer. Two additional possible culprits that require the same chemical control are Sod Webworms and beetle grubs. If you see whitish to buff colored moths flying around the lawn in a zigzag pattern at night, check for their larvae. To confirm Sod Webworms, drench area of lawn with a solution of 1 tablespoon dishwashing soap diluted in 1 gallon of water. Larvae will come to surface. Treat if there are 15 or more webworms per square yard.