Tree Cattle

Subject: Creepy Tree Bugs
Location: Abingdon, Virginia
September 20, 2014 2:29 pm
My 7-year-old was climbing a dogwood tree in our front yard when she suddenly started shrieking. She said there were bugs everywhere, and there were stains on her shirt where she had squished several. Once I got her down, I examined the tree and found this pile of little beasties. It is mid-September, and we are in the mountains of Southwest Virginia. She has climbed this tree in all seasons, but we haven’t seen these bugs before. They freaked her out pretty bad. What are they? Also, are they harmful? Thanks!
Signature: Staying Out of Trees for Awhile

Bark Lice
Bark Lice

Dear Staying Out of Trees for Awhile,
We hope we can mitigate any trauma your daughter experienced because of her encounter with these Bark Lice,
Cerastipsocus venosus.  Let her know that Bark Lice, which are sometimes called Tree Cattle, are benign creatures that are not harming the tree, though their presence might be symptomatic of a tree health issue.  Bark Lice feed on lichens and fungus, and sometimes older trees have fungus and lichens present.  The Bark Lice will not bite or otherwise harm humans.  See BugGuide and this University of Florida pdf for additional information on Bark Lice.

A herd of Tree Cattle, AKA Bark Lice
A herd of Tree Cattle, AKA Bark Lice


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