Spiders Everywhere

Spiders Everywhere

It seems like I’m always finding a unique spider in the house.  Whether I’ve been summoned to remove it from the premises or by a chance encounter.  It is no surprise to me that there are more than 250 species of spiders found in Florida.  In fact, I figured there were quite a bit more.  Some spiders are aggressive, some have extreme patience, and others aren’t even spiders at all.  Continue reading for some interesting facts about a few of the most common spiders in North Florida.

A golden silk orb-weaver spider with captured prey

A golden silk orb-weaver spider with captured prey. Photo Credit: Tyler Jones, University of Florida.

Golden Silk Orb Weaver (Trichonephila Clavipes)

I grew referring to orb weavers as banana spiders.  I guess I wasn’t the only one, because banana spiders are another one of their common names.  Orb weavers are known for making big webs and producing really strong silk.  Female spiders usually have other, smaller spiders occupying their webs.  Male orb weavers are roughly a quarter the size of their female counterparts.  In addition to the orb weaver couple on the web, small kleptoparasitic dewdrop spiders in the genus Argyrodes can be found eating bits and pieces of prey left behind.

Southern House Spider (Kukulcania hibernalis)

The brown recluse is a spider we can live without.  Fortunately, they’re not very common in Florida.  However, male southern house spiders are often mistaken for recluse spiders.  If you want to be sure, just count the number of eyes.  House spiders have eight eyes, whereas brown recluses only have six.  Female southern house spiders don’t look like recluses or male southern house spiders at all.  The females are dark brown with thick bodies and males are lanky and light brown.  These spiders build thick webs in wall corners and the edges of windows.

Male and female southern house spiders

Male (a) and female (b) southern house spider (Kukulcania hibernalis) The male is light brown with long pedipalps, while the female is a dark velvety brown with shorter pedipalps.
Photo Credit: Erin C. Powell, FDACS-DPI

Harvestmen (Opiliones Family)

Everyone has seen a “daddy long legs” spider or at least we think we have.  We may sometimes refer to harvestmen as “daddy long legs” spider, but they’re not even spiders at all.  Harvestmen are classified as arachnids like spiders, scorpions, and mites, but they come from a different family (Opiliones).  They only have one body segment, instead of two, they have no venom glands, and they can’t produce silk.  And if anyone tells you they are the most venomous spider but can’t bit humans because their mouths are too small – well you know what to tell them.  And there is such a thing as a cellar spider (Pholcus spp.) that has long legs, two body segments, and is also referred to as a “daddy long legs”, but what’s the fun in that.

We could go on and on about all the different spiders that can be found in and around your home, or not.  If you are interested in other common spiders in Florida, then you should check out the UF/IFAS publication “An Introduction to Some Common and Charismatic Florida Spiders”.  Then you’ll know exactly what’s lurking around the corner.

Tiny Beetles by the Window

Tiny Beetles by the Window

They’ve mostly all moved away for now, but every winter and early spring the office gets questions about tiny beetles in homes.  These beetles are small with spotty color patterns.  The answer is carpet beetles.  Carpet may be in their name, but it may not be their favorite spot.  Carpet beetles feed on a lot of the same things as clothes moths such as wool, felt, and fur because these materials contain keratin.  And their feeding damage is often mistaken for that of clothes moths.

Varied carpet beetle adult

Varied carpet beetle adult. Photo Credit: Lyle J. Buss, University of Florida/IFAS

Adult carpet beetles are between 1/16 to 1/8-inch in length.  They are oval-shaped and range in color from black to various patterns of white, brown, yellow, and orange.  The majority of samples we see are black and white mottled.  The adults are often found on windowsills and window stools in the springtime.  The larvae conduct all the damage to fabrics and other materials, while the adults stick to feeding on flower pollen.  The evidence of feeding can be seen by threadbare spots and irregular holes.  Blankets and clothes in storage and carpeted areas under furniture are preferred because they are undisturbed.

As with most insect pests, prevention is the best control for carpet beetles.  In addition to feeding on fabrics and material, larvae feed on dust, lint, and animal hair.  Frequent cleaning of floors and vacuuming of rugs and carpets eliminates most of the food supply.  Stored blankets, clothes, and rugs should be periodically cleaned, brushed, and or sunned.  Moth balls can be used at labeled rates but should not be the sole means of control.

For more information on carpet beetles and more detailed prevention and control tactics, please go the University of Florida/IFAS Publication:  “Pests in and around the Souther Lawn – Carpet Beetles”.


Crabgrass and Summer Annual Weed Control

Crabgrass and Summer Annual Weed Control

Spring is approaching and the main thing on my mind is controlling annual weeds. The most effective way to control crabgrass and other summer annual weeds is with a pre-emergent herbicide. Pre-emergent herbicides should be applied prior to weed seed germination. They don’t prevent germination, but they do prevent emergence of shoots and roots by forming a barrier on the soil surface.

Crabgrass plant growing in centipedegrass lawn
Crabgrass growing in centipedegrass lawn. Photo credit: UF/IFAS Extension

Summer annuals such as crabgrass and chamberbitter begin to germinate when soil temperatures warm in the spring. Preemergence herbicides should be applied when daytime temperatures reach 65oF to 70oF for 4 or 5 consecutive days to form a barrier to help prevent these weeds from emerging. This is about the same time azaleas and dogwoods begin to bloom. Goosegrass is the exception for this temperature rule. For good goosegrass control, preemergence herbicides should be applied 3 to 4 weeks after the suggested daytime temperature application date.

It is important to note that you should only use preemergence herbicides on lawns that have been established for at least a year. These herbicides are prone to injure newly planted lawns. In addition, many preemergence herbicides may interfere with lawn grass seed germination, so make sure to refrain from reseeding for at least six after application.

Commonly available preemergence herbicides contain the active ingredients oryzalin, benefin, pendimethalin, DCPA and bensulide. However, there are a wide variety of products on the market. For more information on weed management please read the UF/IFAS publication “Weed Management Guide for Florida Lawns”.

Twig Pruners and Girdlers

Twig Pruners and Girdlers

Not all fall color is a good thing. This statement is especially true when it comes to twig pruners and twig girdlers. These two species of longhorned beetles can certainly disappoint your grand expectations of a beautiful array of fall color. Both species cause the tips of twigs to fall to the ground in late summer, sometimes leaving your trees in an undesirable form.

Twig Pruners

The twig pruner (Elaphidionoides villosus or Anelaphus villosus) is a small longhorned beetle that attacks numerous species of hardwoods. It is usually classified as a secondary pest of declining trees and shrubs. Female twig pruners lay their eggs in late spring at the leaf axils. When the eggs hatch, the grubs bore into twigs and continue to bore as they mature. The larvae then chew concentric rings just underneath the bark. The infested twigs and branches eventually drop to the ground with the larvae inside. The larvae pupate inside the fallen twig throughout the winter.

An adult twig pruner
An adult twig pruner. Photo Credit: University of Georgia

Twig Girdlers

The twig girdler (Oncideres cingulata) is a small longhorned beetle that invades many species of hardwoods. Female twig girdlers lay their eggs in late summer in small twigs (about 3/8 inch diameter) that are covered with a thin layer of bark. The female chews a concentric ring around the outside of the twig, causing the end of the twig to die. The female chews a small notch in the dead twig and lays her eggs. After the eggs hatch, the larvae feed on the dead twigs and develop into adults before chewing their way out. The adults fly away to new host trees.

An adult twig girdler
An adult twig girdler. Photo Credit: Lacy L. Hyche, Auburn University

Management and Control

It’s important to plant the right plant in the right place. Healthy trees and shrubs are the best defense against insect pests. Twig pruners and twig girdlers live in dying or dead twigs and branches. If you have trees that have suffered damage from these pests you will notice an abundance of fallen twig ends around the base of your trees. Rake and remove fallen twigs from around the trees and destroy or dispose them. This will help reduce pruner and girdler numbers in subsequent years.

Screen Trees for Privacy and Noise Reduction

Screen Trees for Privacy and Noise Reduction

Sometimes we just need a little privacy. This is especially true if you live on a busy road or just have annoying neighbors. There are a few things to consider when selecting a screen tree: 1) full-grown size; 2) speed of growth; and 3) aesthetics. With these three factors in consideration, let’s review some screen options for different situations.

Pineapple guava
Pineapple Guava (Acca sellowiana) hedge. Photo Credit: Daniel Leonard, University of Florida/IFAS Extension – Calhoun County

Pineapple Guava (Acca sellowiana)

At one time this shrub was hard to find, but it is slowly becoming more available. Pineapple guava is native to South America, but it adapts well to the Florida Panhandle. This plant can reach 10 to 15 feet in height with an equal spread and has a moderate rate of growth, so it’s a great choice when you just need a small screen. Pineapple guava is moderately salt-tolerant and does well in coastal landscapes. As a bonus, the flowers and fruit are edible. It’s hard to find a more aesthetically pleasing large shrub. Pineapple guava is evergreen with leathery green leaves that have grey undersides. This plant can be grown as a large shrub or pruned to be a small tree.

'Emily Bruner' Holly
A large ‘Emily Bruner’ holly at the Santa Rosa County Extension Office. Photo Credit: Matt Lollar, University of Florida/IFAS Extension – Santa Rosa County

‘Emily Bruner’ Holly (Ilex x ‘Emily Bruner’)

‘Emily Bruner’ holly is a cross between the Chinese holly (Ilex cornuta) and the lusterleaf holly (Ilex latifolia). This evergreen shrub has glossy green leaves. It has a pyramidal growth habit and is listed as reaching 15 to 20 feet tall by 5 to 8 feet wide, however the specimen at the Santa Rosa County Extension Office is about twice that size. ‘Emily Bruner’ holly prefers moist, well-drained soil. This holly has dense, prickly leaves so it does well keeping people out of your yard in addition to buffering sound. The flowers have a sweet scent and are a favorite of honey bees.

Dahoon Holly
Dahoon holly foliage and berries. Photo Credit: University of Florida/IFAS

Dahoon Holly (Ilex cassine)

Dahoon holly is native to North America, is tolerant of wet, shady sites (but can also handle full sun), and displays some salt tolerance. This evergreen, small tree is somewhat shrubby. It can grow to be 25 to 30 feet in height with an 8 to 12 foot spread. Dahoon holly has nice light green leaves that are smooth, not prickly like ‘Emily Bruner’ holly. It has a moderate growth rate.

cultivar magnolia
Bracken’s Brown Beauty as an accent tree in a lawn area. Photo Credit: Beth Bolles, University of Florida/IFAS Extension – Escambia County

Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora)

It’s hard to beat a majestic southern magnolia in the landscape. Why not utilize it as a screen tree? Now, not all southern magnolias are made equal. There are a few cultivars that do well as screens as well as on their own. ‘Bracken’s Brown Beauty’, ‘Claudia Wannamaker’, and ‘D.D. Blanchard’ are three that come to mind and are readily available in the trade. Southern magnolias can reach up to 80 feet tall and 20 to 40 feet wide depending on cultivar and growing conditions. Not only do these three cultivars have beautiful dark green, leathery leaves, their leaves also have brown undersides. These versatile trees can tolerate are variety of soil conditions and they are very wind resistant. And as another bonus, they have beautiful, fragrant flowers.

Eastern Redcedar
Middle-aged Juniperus virginiana ‘Burkii’: Burk Eastern Redcedar. Photo Credit: Ed Gilman, University of Florida/IFAS

Eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana)

If your looking for softer texture in your landscape, then you can’t go wrong with a cedar tree. Unbeknownst to its name, eastern redcedar can be found growing all over the United States. This evergreen conifer prefers well-drained sites in full sun. It can grow 30 to 40 feet in height by 10 to 20 feet wide. Eastern redcedars have good salt tolerance. These trees produce beautiful, blue-green foliage. One key to growing this tree successfully is to give it space. Plant trees 12 to 24 feet apart. If using as a screen, you may consider staggering this tree to give it the space it needs.

There are lots of good options when selecting trees for a screen. It’s important you select plants that fit the site. The University of Florida has an excellent plant selection tool found at the Florida Trees for Urban and Suburban Sites webpage.