Friend or Foe – Horned Passalus beetle

Friend or Foe – Horned Passalus beetle

Have you ever been strolling through your garden and decide to rearrange or remove a log? You might be amazed or intimidated by the sight of a dark shiny creature with large mandibles (mouth parts).  But don’t be alarmed- it is the Horned Passalus, Odontotaenius disjunctus.  This beetle also is known by many other common names including the Betsy Beetle, Bess Bug, Patent Leather Beetle, Jerusalem Beetle, Horn Beetle, and Peg Beetle.  

This beetle is a widely distributed from mid-Florida to Massachusetts, Southern Texas to Minnesota, and Nebraska.  Beetles are easily recognized due to their large size, ranging between 30 and 40 mm (1.2 and 1.6 inches) in length. They are known to have pre-social activities, where both males and females perform the same duties of processing decaying wood and protecting larvae.

Friend or foe?

Horned Passalus Beetles are beneficial decomposers of decaying wood or logs, often found in large numbers to efficiently complete the task!  However, they are medically harmless and not considered a pest of urban structures. Horned passalus beetles are considered to be beneficial insects as these beetles help decompose deadwood by chewing the pulp and then expelling the frass.

Musically inclined or just a talkative beetle?

The phrase “crazy as a Betsy Bug” may refer to the sounds that these insects make — The adults are able to produce at least 17 different calls (Stridulation) as they communicate with other beetles or when disturbed/agitated, which are audible to humans.

Life cycle/ Developmental stage.

Using its large mandibles, the horned passalus cuts into fallen logs and creates tunnels where the eggs are deposited and hatched into white grubs (larvae) that have up to three instars. They appear to only have two pairs of legs, but a third pair is present and reduced. Only the first two pairs are used for movement. These grubs usually retain a distinctive C-shaped position when not active.

As pupae begin to form they become pearly white with a rainbow sheen. As the pupae age, they lose their rainbow sheen and can range in color from off white to earth-toned. Adult beetles aggregate and compete for sections of fallen wood.  

Nuptial flight or defense?

Newly mature adults will leave the parent log and participate in a nuptial flight, one of the only instances of their wing use. During observations of the nuptial flight, adults were found to be susceptible to light attractants such as light traps and street lights. At the end of the nuptial flight, adults will seek out a new log to start another aggregation.

For more information, please contact your local county extension office.
Supporting information for this article can be found in the UF/IFAS EDIS publications/websites below: horned passalus – Odontotaenius disjunctus (Illiger) (ufl.edu); EENY 487/IN879: Horned passalus, Odontotaenius disjunctus (Illiger) (Insecta: Coleoptera: Passalidae: Passalinae) (ufl.edu) and Odontotaenius disjunctus (tamu.edu)

Fall into Action – Winter Weeds & Turfgrass

Fall into Action – Winter Weeds & Turfgrass

Weeds are basically unwanted plants or plants growing out of place. Proper identification and some understanding of how and why weeds are present in a lawn are important when selecting the best management tactics. All turf weeds can be grouped into one of three life cycles: annual, biennial, or perennial.

Annual: Produces seeds during one season only

Biennial: Produces seeds during two back-to-back seasons

Perennial: Produces seeds over many seasons

Knowing the types of weed previously present in an area also can help one to be better prepared and what control measures to employ in the future.

Weeds may appear in multiple categories, either broadleaf, grass, or Sedges/rushes.

Lawn with winter annual weeds in early spring
Winter annual weeds in lawn in early spring. Photo credit: Larry Williams

Broadleaves, or dicotyledonous plants, have two cotyledons (seed leaves) when the weed seed germinates.

Appearance: Broad, flat leaves with net-like veins and usually have showy flowers.

Common types: Clover, ground ivy, dandelions, chickweed, plantain, henbit, beggarweed.

Grasses are monocotyledonous plants that have only one cotyledon, or seed leaf, present when seedlings emerge from the soil.

Appearance: Narrow leaves with parallel veins in their true leaves. Hollow rounded stems.

Common types: crabgrass, goosegrass, crowfoot grass, bull grass, annual bluegrass, alexander grass, cogon grass, torpedo grass, and smut grass.

Sedges/rushes. Both favor a moist habitat. Appearance: triangular-shaped, solid stems, while rush stems are round and solid.

Common types: yellow and purple nutsedge and, to some degree, globe, Texas, annual, and water sedge.

One of the first steps in managing weeds is to have a healthy dense lawn/ turf to provide shade that prevents seed germination. Having a healthy lawn depends on turf species selected – making sure you put the right plant and right place. Other factors that influence a heathy turf and a reduced amount of weeds include proper cultural control, fertilizing regularly, mowing at the appropriate height, watering deeply, reducing traffic, pest control, and sanitation. If you only have a few bothersome weeds in your lawn, you may be able to dig them up by hand—but if your lawn is overrun with weeds, you may need to start from scratch. If you decide to start from the beginning, you have a choice ahead of you. Do you want to lay down seed or sod? There are pros and cons to each.

Seed

Pros: Less expensive, more variety

Cons: Takes longer to germinate, can only lay at certain times of year depending on grass type

Sod

Pros: Instant grass, can lay any time of year, requires little maintenance

Cons:  More costly, less variety in grass can mean less healthy lawn overall

To prepare the soil after either method, make sure you till it down to roughly 6 to 8 inches.

Supporting information for this article can be found in the UF/IFAS EDIS publications (Weed management for Florida lawns)  https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/EP141 or contact your local Extension Office!

Stinging Hymenopterans – Medical importance.

Stinging Hymenopterans – Medical importance.

Introduction

Summertime is known for cookouts, barbeque, a stroll through the park or even in your backyard; Be aware of stinging insects. These pests are especially active during the second half of summer and early fall when the colonies forage for food to sustain their queens during the winter. Although many are beneficial pollinators they often pose a danger because of their sting. While some of these stings causes minor reactions, others can pose a serious heath threat, which makes them medically important. These stinging hymenopterans includes wasps, hornets, yellow jackets, velvet ants, Africanized and European honey bee and fire ants.

 

Unique /Important Traits of this group of insects.

Photograph by Lyle Buss, University of Florida

Yellow jackets, paper wasps, and bald-faced hornets can sting multiple times causing allergic reactions. The female velvet ants have a very potent sting that has earned them the nickname “cow-killer.” Unlike Wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets, honey bees only sting once and lose their barbed stinger killing the bee within minutes talk about a sacrifice. Africanized honey bees are dangerous stinging insects that have been known to chase people for over quarter of a mile once they get excited and aggressive, earning the name “killer bee”. Imported fire ants both bite and sting repeatedly, and envenomation (injecting venom) only occurs through the sting.

Solitary vs. Eusocial
Most wasps and bees are solitary – being alone or in solitude, and do not defend their nests, but will sting in defense if caught. On the contrary, the eusocial group, especially ants, bees, and wasps, will display territorial behavior and it is mostly these groups that cause medically significant stings.

 

Photograph by James L. Castner, University of Florida

What makes Hymenopterans important medically?
Unlike the male, the female Hymenoptera possess specialized stinging apparatus used to inject their venom into prey’s or intruder’s body. Entomologist Justin O. Schmidt’s knows about this all too well, he records his own experience of venomous stings and rate it on a pain scale index ranging from 1- 4, with four being the most painful. It could be life-threatening for people sensitive to the venom. While most stings cause only minor problems, stings cause a significant number of deaths.

What are some possible reactions after the stings?
Local reactions (pain, small edema, redness at the site of the sting); regional reactions, (extensive local swelling, exceeding 10 cm, persisting longer than 24 hours). Systemic anaphylactic responses – most dangerous of the reactions. Symptoms may include itching, rashes or hives, tightness or swelling in the throat, stomach pain, nausea and vomiting and dizziness. More severe cases the individual may experience severe shortness of breath, a drop-in blood pressure, loss of consciousness. Even though some of these reactions are mild about 3% of people ends up the emergency room each year from symptoms related to stings. Some may result in death of the individual.

Treatment/ Preventative Measures
What to do?
Capture the organism, if possible, for identification; allergy desensitization shots; sting removal; hive removal (certified handler); antihistamine (oral or parenteral) and epinephrine by inhalation or epinephrine by injection.

For more information, please contact your local county extension office.
Supporting information for this article can be found in the UF/IFAS EDIS publications/websites below:
Differences Between European and African Honey Bees: IN784-9221465.pdf (ufl.edu); Stinging or Venomous Insects and Related Pests: IG099-D1czi7xu65.pdf (ufl.edu) ;
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17265905
https://extension.entm.purdue.edu/publichealth/insects/stinging.htm

The Fleeing Beetle

The Fleeing Beetle

Photo credit Lyle J. Buss, UF/IFAS

The unwanted guest- Flea beetle

Having trouble with flea beetles? Tired of them showing up unannounced? Do not be alarmed here are a few tips to get rid of the unwanted guest in your garden.

Description: Flea beetles vary in appearance, where colors range from black to tan, with other, brighter colors mixed. They may also have a solid, striped, or spotted pattern depending on the species. Beetles are tiny with large hind legs which allow them to jump like fleas when disturbed.

Lifecycle: These unwanted guests will overwinter as adults in the soil or beneath plant debris and become active in early spring when temperatures reach 50°F, and begin feeding on weeds or early-planted crops. Eggs are laid by adult flea beetles normally around May in the soil or at the base of host plants. After 7-14 days eggs will hatch and larvae will feed and develop on various plant parts. They pupate in the soil for 11-13 days before emerging as adults.

Host plants:  Some species attack a wide range of plants, while others target only certain plant families. (Table 1).  In the garden, several vegetable crops are eaten by these pests, particularly those in the Brassica family.

Table 1: Common flea beetles and host plants.

Scouting:  Adult flea beetles are particularly active on warm, sunny days. To identify damages, scout every 1-2 days in newly planted fields, since it is easier to identify the damages than to see the beetles themselves. Flea beetle populations can be monitored with yellow sticky traps. 

Damage: Adult beetles feed on foliage, producing shot holes in the leaves, especially new leaves which will have a lacy appearance. Additionally, in leafy crops like lettuce or spinach, the holes can reduce the quality of the leaves.

Photo Credits: Jeffery Hahn University of Minnesota

Photo Credit : Jeffery Hahn University of Minnesota.

Management / Control strategies:

  • In the spring delay transplanting or planting by a couple weeks if possible.
  • In the fall, till the garden to uncover any hiding flea beetles.
  • Plant “push” or repellant crops such as catnip, sage, mint, hyssop, nasturtium, and basil.
  • Use a “trap crop” such as radishes, taking the pest’ focus off more valuable plants.
  • Dusting leaves with plain talcum powder repels flea beetles on tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and other plants.
  • Insecticides may be used early in the season.
  • Water deters adult flea beetles. Any watering should be done in mid-day.
  • Planting after adults have emerged or crop rotation can help minimize flea beetle damage.
  • Apply commercially available nematodes that feed on flea beetle eggs, larvae, and pupae.

Supporting information for this article can be found in the UF/IFAS EDIS publications EENY-721/IN1238: Flea Beetles of the Genus Altica: Altica spp. (Insecta: Coleoptera: Chrysomelid) (ufl.edu); https://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/ORN/BEETLES/flea_beetle.html and https://extension.uga.edu/content/dam/extension/programs-and-services/integrated-pest-management/documents/insect-pdfs/fleabeetles.pdf

Spring into Action- Pollinators

Spring into Action- Pollinators

As spring approaches, are we thinking about pollinators?  How often do we stop to think of the importance of pollinators to food security?

Pollination is often described as the transfer of pollen grains from the anther to the stigma of a flowering plant.  These transfers are made possible due to pollinator visits in exchange of pollen and nectar from the plants.

Who are our pollinators?

Main Global Pollinators

Social                                                                          Solitary

Honeybees                                                                  Alfalfa leafcutter bee

Bumble bees                                                               Mason bees

Stingless bees                                                             Other leafcutter bees

How can we care for pollinators?

Photo by Donna Arnold

We can care for our pollinators by growing plants that have abundant and accessible pollen and nectar.

Choose plants with flat flowers or short to medium-length flowers tubes (corollas), and limit plants with long flower tubes such as honey suckle.

Avoid plant varieties that do not provide floral rewards (pollen), which is the essential food source for bees. (e.g., some sunflower, and lilies).

Many native wild bees have relatively short proboscises, or tongues, and may not be able to access nectar from flowers with long tubes; however, flowers with long floral tubes can attract other pollinators with long tongues or beaks such as butterflies, moths, and hummingbirds.

Are we creating an ecosystem aesthetically pleasing while attracting pollinators?

UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones

The planting of native wildflower in Florida can benefit agricultural producers likewise, native pollinators and other beneficials such as parasitoids and predators. Some of the main benefits of growing native wildflower are:

  • Increasing wild bee presence in the surroundings.
  • Providing nesting and foraging sites for pollinators, butterflies, bees etc.
  • Increasing natural enemies of pest insects.

It is important to select mix varieties of native wildflower when restoring habitats for our pollinators. Mix varieties will flower all year round and make available continuous supply of nectar and pollen. If possible, use wildflower seeds that are produced in the state that you want to carry out pollinators’ restoration. It is highly likely that one will experience better growth from locally produced seeds because they will adapt better to regional growing conditions and the climate.  For optimum flowering and high production of floral rewards such as pollen and nectar. Place wildflowers in areas free of pesticide and soil disturbance.

Most bee species are solitary, and 70% of these solitary bees’ nest in the ground.  A wildflower area of refuge can fulfill the shelter resource needs of these bees since that area will not undergo regular tilling, thus minimizing nest disturbance.

Supporting information for this article can be found in the UF/IFAS EDIS publications (Common Native Wildflowers of North Florida) visit : https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdf/EP/EP061/EP061-15448828.pdf and Attracting Native Bees to Your Florida Landscape  IN125500.pdf (ufl.edu.