Bug Facts

Linda F. Benedict, Bollich, Patricia A.

Red imported fire ants, Formosan subterranean termites and Asian tiger mosquitoes are just a few of the invasive species that typically appear first in urban areas because of importation of ornamental plants or other raw materials and subsequent transportation of infested materials through the urban environment and into rural areas, says Tim Schowalter, head of the LSU AgCenter Entomology Department. Each person has a responsibility to check plants, luggage and vehicles to prevent spread of unwanted pests. Bring any unusual insects to your local parish extension office. If the agent is unable to identify a specimen, it is sent to the Entomology Department for identification. Any new pests must be reported to the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry and verified by a taxonomic specialist. Surveys and management programs are then developed to restrict movement and manage the pest. Keeping our plants, homes, businesses and commodities free of invasive pests allows us to produce ornamentals, turf and foods efficiently and economically and to protect our urban as well as rural environment.

If you do a Google search of the Formosan subterranean termite or the red imported fire ant, you will find that the LSU AgCenter is consistently among the top 20 sites worldwide. Go to www.lsuagcenter.com and search for information about any insect pest you find in your home or yard, and you will find a wealth of information.

Beneficial insects are an important link in pest management. Lady beetles, rove beetles, assassin bugs, spiders, lace wings, wasps, parasitic wasps, tiger beetles, some thrips and mites, dragonflies, robber flies, syrphid flies and praying mantis are just some of the good insects that assist us in our gardens. They feed on a wide variety of pests that potentially could damage our ornamental plants. Identification is important. If you do not know the insect found, ask your county agent. If he or she cannot identify it, he or she will ask the specialist. Many people see insects and just spray. Many times this removes the beneficial population and allows the pest population to increase. For more information, contact Dale Pollet, LSU AgCenter entomologist.

The best cure for bug problems is prevention, say Dale Pollet and Alan Morgan, LSU AgCenter entomologists. You don’t want insects destroying the beauty of your home’s landscape. First, select the right plants for your area and the correct location to plant. Then, keep them healthy and growing with appropriate watering and use of fertilizer. A well-maintained landscape will attract the birds and butterflies that enhance your yard.

The LSU AgCenter cooperates with other agencies to help solve Louisiana’s bug problems. An example is a recent incident in Jefferson and Orleans parishes with the pink hibiscus mealybug. This pest is a danger to both nursery and agricultural crops. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) provided tiny parasitic wasps – a natural enemy of the mealybug – which officials from the AgCenter and the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) released and monitored. The mealybugs were controlled before they became a problem.

Insect injury to plants can often be confused with other types of damage. Insects can cause a stippling of the foliage that begins as a zigzag line of discoloration. Over time the entire leaf has a grayish bleached-out color. Thrips, mites, lace bugs and whiteflies can all create these symptoms, so it is important to check plants and identify the pest causing the problem so the right treatment can be applied.

12/12/2007 9:22:31 PM
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