This Months Topic!
Good bugs, bad bugs.
As we move into some of the hottest days of summer, the peek of the hurricane season: and almost every insect known to mankind is active, I thought I would talk about the pests that are really helpful or at least not harmful. Many of the common pests you see around your home are not only innocuous, but may be helpful to you. Some insects eat other pests that are harmful or destructive, while others pollinate plants and perform other positive functions in nature.
The much maligned Earwig is a good example of a beneficial insect. Because of its ominous appearance and old wives tales of crawling into your ear, it has developed a bad name; literally. In actuality, it normally eats vegetable matter and other insects. One Earwig can eat hundreds of Chinch Bugs in a day, and we all know what damage Chinch Bugs can do to our St. Augustine lawns. All that being true, Earwigs reproduce at a very rapid rate if conditions are right, and can infest a home in large numbers. Although harmless, it’s disconcerting all the same.
A fun little bug from our childhood is the friendly Pill Bug, commonly called the Roly-Poly. Actually this is a crustacean and more closely related to a shrimp or a crayfish than to an insect. A vegetarian and quite harmless,it can be a nuisance if it makes a home in your potted plants.
Another creature that has relatives in the sea is the snail or slug. They are closely related to shellfish. Quite harmless, yet their slime trails can be unsightly. The giant African snail can grow a shell up to 5” across and has found a new home here in Florida – thanks to exotic pet owner that have released them into the environment.
Exotic potted plants have brought us other types of pests; some beneficial, others not so. One that seems to be helpful and harmless, so far, is the tiny Potted Plant Snake. It eats eggs, larva, and tiny insects. Most people mistake them for a worm, until it moves, then it is quite obviously a snake.
Sometimes it is our own government that brings in these non indigenous pests, to benefit agriculture. A good example is the Asian Lady Beatle, which looks very much like our old friend the Lady Bug. Both eat aphids and scale off our ornamental and agricultural plants in large numbers; one alone can eat over a thousand aphids in a day. “Great,” you say. Well yes; unless you are one of the unfortunate few to have your home colonized by these foreign visitors. It is not uncommon to have tens of thousands in a single house, and they are quite resourceful in defending themselves. They not only bite, they give off an odor to repel other pests.
Many other bugs are actually our friends; the Boxelder Bug, most Centipedes, and others eat unwanted pests, yet even the friendly ones can become a nuisance in numbers. Call your county extension office or an eco-friendly pest control company before you act