Tag Archive | insect

Bee in Flower

imageI was sad to see this little cutie becoming sluggish from the cold. I gave her a pet, a few hot breaths and left her in a flower near our shed that has many carpenter bee holes. These guys do hibernate. Many folks aren’t too happy about these guys drilling holes into their woodwork. I don’t mind. They make my flowers happy by pollinating them.

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Pennsylvania Leatherwing – Chauliognathus pensylvanicus

imageThis little, native warrior princess was visiting my marigolds last week. I just had to snap a photo and share her with you.

This Northeastern girl is from Pennsylvania and is part of the assassin beetle family. She’s closely related to the lightning bug. Unlike most beetles that have a hard shell protecting their wings, hers are a tough skin, hence the ‘leatherwing’ name. 

Her favorite pollen is from the goldenrod flower which gives her another common name of ‘Goldenrod Soldier Beetle’. Her snacking on the pollen helps to pollinate the goldenrod, among the other flowers she visits.

If she’s bothered, she’ll emits droplets of white viscous fluid from pores along her sides. Chemical analysis has shown the secretion contains (Z)-dihydromatricaria acid, an acetylenic compound. This makes her taste kinda yucky, however she does end up on the dinner plate for many birds, bats and other small mammals.

So, next time you see her in your garden, blow her a kiss, ‘cuz she’s looking out for your flowers.

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Two-Spotted Stink Bug ~ Perillus bioculatus

imageI saw this little guy climbing around my Veronica ‘Purplicious’ and of course he’d be turned into a post!

Folks, I’d like to introduce Mr. Red and Black Two-Spotted Stink Bug or Perillus bioculatus for short. Peri here is a native North America soldier bug, and is a part of the Pentatomidae family with all the other stink bugs.

There are generally 2-3 generations of these guys a season, with the last generation hibernating over winter. Females can lay up to 100 eggs usually grouped in 10-15 on branches.

I won’t make you wait any longer for the obvious answer to the question floating in your head. YES! They do smell if you step on them or threaten them. So, basically, when he gets scared, he farts. I feel his pain….

Peri’s favorite food is the Colorado potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata). He doesn’t care how this beetle is being served up, sweet young larvae or adult.. . He eats them all. Don’t get me wrong. Peri won’t let a meal pass him by. No. He’s not a fussy eater and will plunge his sharp beak into any nearby meal, excrete some digestive fluid, and enjoy a bug juice cocktail.

The shape of the shield makes me think of cops out walking their beats. And these guys do serve and protect… POTATOES! These guys have been mass released near potato crops to help eradicate the potato bugs.

So, if you’re a fan of the spud, don’t give this guy too much flack about dropping SBD’s. He’s your ‘potato savior’!

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Ilex VS Woolly Aphids

Woolly aphids sure sound cute… Until you notice a flock of them has landed on your favorite plant, like this echinacea.

These guys are the size of a pencil lead, fluffy white and travel in large groups. You don’t usually see just one of these guys. The white fluff is actually a wax that protects the insect. They aren’t specific in their meals and can be seen feeding on foliage, buds, twigs and branches, bark, and even the roots.
If no action is taken damage materializes as twisted and curled leaves, yellowing foliage, generally poor plant growth, branch dieback, or even the development of cankers and galls.
Parasites, predators and even heavy rainfall will help reduce the populations naturally.  If you believe the natural population controls need your help you can use a forceful stream of water from the garden hose to dislodge the aphids or prune and remove selected, heavily infested stems and water sprouts.  I like squishing them. Spraying with insecticide is rarely justified.


These were lined up on my echinacea stem. When I moved in with my gloved hand, they jumped quite powerfully, out of the way of my squishing fingers. Ah, looks like I was going to have to be faster. Boom. I move in and wiped the stem in a swift motion. 6 down, with only two jumpers. Next stem fairs better with 4 casualties and no jumpers. I got this.

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There are numerous species of woolly aphids, and they feed on many types of plants. They usually require two separate food plants called the primary host and the secondary host. They live on the primary host plant during winter and spring, on the secondary host plant in summer, and then return to the primary host. However, there are several cycles between the start and end of the season. Their seasonal, breeding cycle is very strange. Let’s see if you can wrap your mind around these funny gals:


  • In fall, the eggs are laid on the primary host.
  • In spring, they hatch into wingless females.
  • These females give birth to live young without mating (parthenogenesis). Each female can give birth to hundreds more wingless females.
  • In late spring to early summer, the wingless females give birth to winged females that fly to the secondary host plant, where they give birth to wingless females again.
  • In late summer and early fall, winged females will again be born.
  • They fly back to the primary host plants and change things up a bit by cloning themselves as both female and males!
  • The males and females mate and the mated females lay eggs. Low temperatures kill the adult aphids while the eggs wait patiently under the mulch for the warmth to start the cycle again!

That’s some crazy Shyt!!



© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Ilex VS Leaf Miners

Leaf miners can cause a fair amount of damage to a plant, if the gardener isn’t paying attention. A leaf miner is the larva of an insect that lives in and eats the leaf tissue of plants. Most of leaf-mining insects are moths (Lepidoptera), sawflies (Symphyta) and flies (Diptera), though some beetles also begin this way. This feeding action causes strange scribbles to appear on the leafs of some unfortunate plants.  I’ve always thought of the book ‘Charlotte’s Web’ when I observe these… Always wondering if I’m going to read,”Some Pig!” one of these days.

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It looks like a prescription from my doctor…

I spotted them in my Vervain Mallow (Malva alcea) this summer. This plant is considered a weed here, although I think its pretty and allow it to grow in my garden. With the weed title in mind, I can’t find much information on what fly causes these tunnels. Either way, it doesn’t matter. The way to get rid of them is the same for all miners. Squish or remove leaf. It is that easy. I try to find the newest feeding area and squish the leaf between my fingers, thus squishing the insect. If there are too many on a leaf, remove it and throw it away.

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Someone got confused and laid an egg on an annual   ||   Leaf miners on columbine

Miners overwinter as pupa in the soil, then morph into flies that lay eggs on the underside of leaves. The eggs then hatch into maggots and burrow inside the leaf tissue to mature. Three species of miners in the genus Phytomyza are associated with columbines.


© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Four-Spotted Sap Beetle ~ Glischrochilus quadrisignatus

Four-Spotted Sap Beetle (or ‘picnic beetles’, ‘picnic bugs’, or ‘beer bugs’) feed on sap from injured trees, decaying vegetables or fungal matter. They love ripened fruit, as well as beer, wine, fruit juice and fermented beverages. The beetles like to party in large numbers when these beverages are present, often drowning while enjoying their libation. Then I get to enjoy protein in my wine =-P

They can be a nuisance to farmers, however they don’t generally bother crops until something else causes the crop to be damaged in some way. Once damage is done, like Japanese beetles nibbling on tomatoes do they come from miles around. They aren’t strong fliers, however scientists have tested marked beetles by placing a basket of rotten tomatoes 200 yards away, and the beetles found the prize in less than two hours.

Researchers have also found that their favorite food is beer mixed with bananas. Hmmm, I do peanut butter and bananas.. However, I wouldn’t think to down my meal with beer, yuk.

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© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Red Admiral – Vanessa atalanta (Take two)

These guys were everywhere last weekend! They were flying around some damaged trees. They like fermented tree sap and other fermented things. My kind of butterfly!! They weren’t as big as the ones I saw last year, however that was later in the year. They like moister atmosphere and this location was near a river.

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© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Cellar Spider ~ Pholcus phalangioides


Cellar Spider ~ Pholcus phalangioides

Octavia, as I like to call her, visits me in the winter. She loves to hang out on my bathroom walls, enjoying the sauna-like atmosphere. She wasn’t exactly feeling the love for the camera tho today and continued to cross the ceiling looking for a spot to set-up shop (sorry for the unclear photos). Spiders like Octavia don’t make sticky, geometrically perfect webs. Her kind, who are also part of the same family Daddy long-legs are in, make erratic tangles of non-sticky threads which captures prey by getting tangled in it.

Just like Daddy long-legs, cellar spiders are not poisonous to humans. Don’t believe the story that they are, but their fangs are too small to pierce human flesh. Hee Hee, I have A bridge I want to sell you then.

Don’t judge her on her size either. While on a whole, she’s only about an inch and a half, her body is less than a 20th of that. She will whip-out a can of whoop-ass and take down some nasty spiders that can and will kill a human. So, don’t go at her with a tissue or shoe, this girl is looking out for you.

Cellar spiders are also known as vibrating spiders, as when they feel threatened, they will start a frenzied, gyrating dance. I’m guessing this scares away potential enemies or makes them harder to see.  It worked for me at the bars 😉

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© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl