Urban IPM

Friday, January 6, 2017

It's freezing outside. Why are all the insects not dead?

So as I sit in my cozy office (with my sweater, scarf, fingerless gloves, and heater) I consider the poor insects that are having to deal with the drastic flip-flopping of the weather the past few weeks.  We've seen temperatures in the 20's and temperatures in the 80's, so I'm sure that they are a bit confused.  I was asked last week when it was warm how the mosquitoes came back so quickly if they died when it was freezing.  Well.......

Insects have certain adaptations that allow them to survive when temperatures get cold.  If you really think about it, they still have bugs in Minnesota when it warms up and they have to deal with much colder and longer winters than we do here in Texas (just ask my neighbors who are transplants from Minnesota).

Just like the snowbirds that drive their RVs to Texas or Florida to spend the winter, there are certain groups of insects that migrate to new areas to spend the winter where temperatures are not as cold.  A great example of this is the Monarch butterfly.

Another example that can be put into "human relation" terms would be insects that use cryoprotectants (anti-freeze compounds).  The most commonly used compound that insects use for this purpose is ethylene glycol, which is the same compound that is in antifreeze that humans put into our vehicles.  Ethylene glycol allows the insect's body tissues to supercool and remain above their freezing point.

Freeze tolerance is another modification that some insects use to survive freezing. With this method, freezing causes water to be forced out of living cells and causes the fluid around them to freeze.  These insects also need to empty their digestive tract as food can hold water which could freeze and cause problems.  Freeze tolerance is easier for smaller insects due to the fact that they have less fluid in their body because of their small size.

Some insects may gather together to create collective heat.  Honey bees do this inside the hive during the winter to keep warm.

Other insects seek areas of shelter in the immediate area where it is not so cold.  A good example of this is the ladybugs from my previous blog post.   These insects move into homes through cracks and crevices or other areas that are not well sealed when it gets cold.  This can lead them indoors to become nuisance pests.

I haven't covered all the methods that are used, so don't expect all the bugs to die just because it's freezing outside.  Like the Terminator...."they'll be back!".

Friday, December 16, 2016

Invasive ladybugs?!

There has been a rash of calls, emails, texts, and questions regarding lady beetles that have been seen in high numbers lately in Central Texas.  We all know that ladybugs are good bugs, right?  Well, not this time.  That should make you ponder "What makes a good bug or a bad bug?". My answer to that would be it depends not only upon the insect in question, but also where it is found and what it is doing.  If you find an termite in your house, is it a pest?  It depends.  Normally when you find a termite in your house, it is in relation to feeding on cellulose and leading to structural damage.  In that case, then yes, it would be a pest.  If you randomly happen upon a termite that fell on the floor from a piece of firewood you brought in, then it wouldn't be a pest in that case since it is there incidentally. Likewise, if you have a ladybug in your house and it just flew in from outside and just happens to be there, then it's not really a pest.  Flipping that will create the situation that I've been getting questions on recently.

There are some types of ladybird beetles (a.k.a. ladybugs) that will crawl into cracks and crevices around homes when it gets cold outside.  They, like you (or at least me, for sure, since I moved to Texas to get away from snow and long winters), want to seek out a warm spot to hang out on those chilly days.  When they discover a route that leads them all the way inside the structure, they can become active due to the temperatures we maintain inside to make ourselves comfortable.  This allows the ladybugs to remain active and flying around inside.

Unfortunately, these ladybugs can cause staining on fabric, are smelly when they die and sometimes will bite.

If you already have them inside, then I suggest that you get out your vacuum and suck them up.  If you have them congregating outside the structure, then I would refer you to my post on EXCLUSION to prevent them from moving indoors.

Friday, December 9, 2016

2016 Holiday Gift Wish List

It's that time again for finding the perfect gift for the discerning person on your list (or for a good gag gift for the Grinches).  Here are some possible arthropod-themed items you may need to pick up.

First up is a spider infused computer mouse.  I personally think the whole thing is a bit humorous as I used to have a bird eating tarantula that ate mice and this flips that- a "mouse" with a tarantula inside.  ....maybe it's just me that sees that angle?  Anyhoo, the website is in Japanese so good luck if you actually want to order one! http://www.kyeagifts.com/

This next one is actually something that I LOVE!  I follow Bloodmilk on Instagram (bloodmilk) and she has some amazing items. As well as various jewelry items, she has an tote that has two awesome (in my opinion) things on it- spiders and books!
The Comfort of Dust

Another item that I adore calls to my affinity for....yes, you guessed it...COCKROACHES!  And sorry folks, but this one is already in (actually on) my greedy little hands, so it's off the market.  I had the ring custom made by Amanda Black of Black Rabbit Studios with a hidden cockroach.  She does amazing work and I can't say enough about how beautiful my ring is.  She has many other items that are inspired by nature, so check her out!

If you're into real insects, then these beetle earrings may be for you.  Made by Insect Art on Etsy, they will certainly grab people's attention and provide an ice breaker at any holiday parties.

I've been following coffeetopia's (Ghidaq al-Nizar) work for awhile.  He creates art from coffee grounds and they are stunning!  My favorite, of course, had cockroaches!

This paper dragonfly chandelier is would be perfect for a child's room or to add some natural theming to a home.  Made by kismetsunday on etsy.  They have dragonflies, butterflies as well as seahorses, leaves, snowflakes, jellyfish, koi and other designs.

Susan Soares is twisting the insect theme with her insects au gratin line.  She 3-D prints (with dried insect powder) items that can be not only used or worn, but eaten! I think this is an interesting concept that creates not only beautiful works of art, but items that make you think about what can be/ is used as food around the world.