A few strange caterpillars and other insects are being found around the state. Hope this helps you to answer some questions.
1. Fungus gnats – Many people are preparing plants to bring them indoors for the winter. Many of these will be sources for a complex of small flies we call fungus gnats that live in the soils and organic matter used in potted plants. These can be very annoying and aggravating once indoors. Before these are moved inside a drenching with one of the pyrethroid formulations with permethrin or other pyrethroid will help to reduce or remove these populations from the potted plants.
2. Phorid flies – These little flies are still showing up in large numbers in and around many homes. These little flies can breed very readily and quickly in many areas, and good sanitation is the best control. However, although the interior of homes have been cleaned, many of us have cracks in driveways, under carports and in concrete patio areas where we have cleaned off the surface but have forced foods for these little flies into the cracks. Literally thousands of these little flies can reproduce in a small area. Sop up water when cleaning these areas and be sure to flush out these cracks and crevices to remove any potential food sources for these flies. Besides the sanitation, sticky fly traps or sprays with pyrethroids will help to break the life cycle and remove the problems with the phorid flies. Figure 1.
3. Melon worms – This first cousin to the pickle worm loves pumpkins. The first generation feeds on the foliage, and the second and subsequent generations will feed directly on the pumpkins. The adult moths lay their eggs at the base of the stem on the pumpkin. The hatching larvae bore into the pumpkin around the base of the stem and make shallow galleries or tunnels in the pumpkin. When populations are dense, they will bore into the sides and bottom of the pumpkins. When found, sprays with a pyrethroid will effectively mange the infestation. Figure 2.
4. Stinging caterpillars – Remember that two or three of the stinging caterpillars are out and about. They can be found feeding on iris, rose of Sharon, hibiscus and many other plants around the house. Because of their bright color or fuzzy appearance, they are very attractive to small children. Some children may actually pick them up and put them in their mouths before they are stung. Should this occur, make them spit them out and put toothpaste in their mouths and rub it around inside the mouth. Toothpaste is a basic material and will help to neutralize the effects of the amino acid venom. Stings on the body can be helped with any basic material: toothpaste, ammonia, Clorox, tobacco juice or slurries with meat tenderizer or baking soda. Figure 3.
5. Large caterpillars – We have several large caterpillars that are occasionally found around the state at this time of year. None of these sting or cause any type of injury to people. They include several Sphinx moths, the Hickory Horned Devil, the Cecropia moth and the Polyphemous moth. These large caterpillars primarily feed on the foliage of trees and vines and occasionally smaller plants. Many are found when they fall from the trees and are wandering on the grass, driveway or sidewalk. Many people are alarmed and scared due to the size of the caterpillars and the bright and colorful horns or spines on the caterpillars’ bodies. These caterpillars produce some of the large colorful moths we see around lights at night and cause no economic damage or injury except for eating a few leaves from our plants. Most of these are single specimens that are on a tree or plant. Figure 4.
6. Ants and spiders – At this time of year both ants and spiders tend to gather around and work their way into homes in search of food and sometimes shelter. The normal food sources that feed both of these pests are dwindling in the field, and many are attracted to light sources and trash cans around homes. Foods dropped at outdoor parties are prime foods for ants, and the insects attracted to lights feed both ants and spiders. Some assistance can be gotten simply by changing outdoor lighting to yellow or bug lights. This reduces the attraction for other insects so the spiders go elsewhere for food. Good sanitation measures will help to reduce ant population in and around homes. As a precaution treatment around homes’ entrances can also reduce potential problems with these pests indoors.
7. Firewood pests – Remember to keep firewood stored outdoors. These stacks of wood can be a very good place for insect to overwinter or be a food source for insects that use dead or dieing wood for their next generation. Many insects – including beetles, wasps, moths, ants, roaches and termites – can attack or hide in these stacks of wood, and bringing them in out of the cooler temperatures will be a stimulus for them to emerge in the house. Bring in only what you will use in a short period of time and keep the remainder outside.
Until next month!