Bugs Take Priority in Mid-August…

Submitted by Art and Barb Straub,

Shards of silence may be found in the forest during these mid-August days. No drone of mosquitoes, birds having accomplished their missions of dating, mating and reproducing are heard at dawn and dusk, best to remain quiet while raising young. Oh, yes, as Jim Gilbert reported in one of his weekly columns, “Tracking that source of night music,” melodies from crickets and katydids permeate the evening sound waves, but insects of daylight are bustling about with daily chores....too busy to yodel. Louisa Voss was surprised to find a newly minted katydid on her red auto during the week. Usually a creature of grasses and weeds, the green against red surely were a contrast, while Bruce Bjork discovered a treasure trove of mystery insects…critters which most of us rarely if ever come upon.

For instance, consider the cicada killer wasp about which we’ve written in previous summer columns. Most of us never have the opportunity to observe the murderous yellow-brown wasp dragging home lunch. It’s only in the past few years that this intriguing critter has been spotted in LeSueur, and again east of Arlington. First, we’ve never heard of a human being bitten in our immediate area by the fierce appearing bug. They are normally docile, buzz about humans to frighten them. After they harpoon a cicada, they ‘fly it’ or drag it home, take it into the earth, lay one of twenty eggs in each captive, cover it and move on to catching more prey.

Bruce Bjork’s Stilt Bug and its identity enlightening to say the least. . Exploring a grassy area, Bruce came across tiny insects, (less than an inch long) that resembled in a sense, but in miniature, the machines being used to prepare the new LeSueur Mall Main Street; that is, rigmaroles sticking out in six different directions. These INDY writers were unable to assist the identification, so Bruce sent his photos off to a number of very reliable ‘insectoligists,’ entomologists whose joint opinions were agreeable to stilt bug classification!

This multilegged insect is described by Laura Jesse of Iowa State University as a macro-invertebrate (lacking a backbone,) and a cousin of mosquitos. They range in size from .1 to .4 inches long, so one would consider them wee wanderers??? Not only are they plant eaters, but…they eat other insects and their eggs, sip sap from certain plants, consume pollen and are harmless to humans. In the accompanying photo, please note the small club at the end of the antennae. Interesting creature, eh?

The Japanese beetle has turned out to be our arch-enemy, as they riddle the leaves on rose bushes, morning glories, while as we learned three weeks ago, they love zinnias. Our recommendation is that one not use chemicals to dispose of them, rather, pick them off, squish them between thumb and forefinger, or drop them in a bucket, bowl, or glass of sudsy water. The “squishing” advice was incorrect! Sarah and Paul Malchow, former editors of the Henderson Independent, and Master Gardeners, shared with us that when the bug is ‘squished,’ it releases a chemical that says to other beetles, “Come on ‘a my house, my house, there are tasty zinnias leaves waiting to be riddled.” Guess what? We hadn’t seen another Japanese beetle for two weeks until this afternoon, August 15th, a small one alit on the zinnias. His life was short-lived mind you! Where there is one, there will be more. Alert! Alert! Retrieve the soap!

While watching for beetles, we discovered that a dozen plus harmless Goldenrod Soldier Beetles were atop the zinnia blossoms. They were busy working on pollen and appeared to be taking a nectar break, all the while pollinating the blossoms, thus they are beneficial. It was obvious (see photo) that some had come to eat, date, and mate. We haven’t gone underground to check, but researchers explain that their larvae are carnivorous…eating soil pests!

Chimney Swift number vacillates at our ‘pet’ chimney. 08/12 = 535: 08/13 = 519; 08/14 = 465; and 08/15 = 587. Count began at 8:35, ended 8:46 on the 15th. Dry weather getting to you? Bellyache or appreciate the view. Our choice.