Friday, July 24, 2015

Seasonal Crickets

Prepare thy-selves people of Central Texas.....they are coming.  I've seen immature crickets around various buildings in Central Texas.  The adult masses are building.

Crickets are about 1" long, dark brown to black with large hind legs used for jumping.  Female crickets have a large, sword-like structure, the ovipositor, protruding from the tip of the abdomen.
The ovipositor is an egg laying structure.

Cricket nymph.

Crickets feed on plant material and other insects.  They can cause damage to seedlings and be destructive to plants when in high numbers.  Males can become a nuisance with their sounds (there's always that one cricket chirping at night when you're trying to sleep).  Crickets can further become a nuisance when masses of them flock to lights at night or when piles of dead crickets form near doorways and other areas, causing a foul odor.

Cricket management is more easily accomplished in the summer months when nymphs, who cannot fly, are present (this is why I am writing this now!).  Most people do not try to do anything about crickets until they are in the adult stage and in large numbers.

Before crickets invade your home try some of the following tips:

  • Turn off lights at night, direct lighting away from the structure or use yellow bulbs which are less attractive to insects
  • Seal cracks and crevices that give entrance to the structure with sealant
  • Remove debris that is stacked near the structure
  • Keep lawn and surrounding landscape tended
  • Stuff weep holes with copper mesh (this will allow air flow into the wall voids, but will reduce accessibility)

Friday, July 10, 2015

Cicada killers

Cicada exoskeleton.
Have you seen any cicada exoskeletons (they look like Garthim from Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal) lately? I found one near my front porch last week.  This time of year, with the cicadas (and their noise) come the topic of today's post- cicada killers.  These large wasps can be startling to see when they fly around trees or low over the lawn.  They reach about 1.5 inches in length with dusky wings, reddish-brown thorax and a yellow and black abdomen.

Cicada killer wasp.
Females are pretty docile, but males are territorial and will fly at you until you leave their area.  Only female wasps (and bees) can sting as the stinger is a modified egg-laying structure.  The female cicada killers create burrows in the ground and then go off to sting cicadas.  The cicadas are paralyzed by the sting and taken by the wasp back to the burrow where she digs a side tunnel, crams in the cicada and lays an egg on it.  When the egg hatches, it will feed on the cicada provided.

That being said, cicada killers can be considered beneficial as they help to cut down on the cicada population.  They can also be considered a pest since sometimes people will have holes all over the yard from the wasps' tunneling behavior.  If you fall into the latter category and want to do something to manage the population, you can sprinkle a insecticidal dust over the holes and tamp it down with your shoe.