Deer Flies and Yellow Flies… Oh My!

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Many of us who work or play outdoors always seems to know when Summer is right around the corner, ‘cause that’s when those annoying and usually painful bites occur from Deer Flies and Yellow Flies.

The female lays her eggs preferably on aquatic vegetation above water or saturated soil.  She could lay as many as one thousand eggs.  Now that’s a lot of eggs!  Hatching takes place in about a week.  As the larvae hatch, they fall to the moisture below where they will feed on an organic matter they find in the wet soil.  When the larvae are ready to pupate, they move to a drier area of the soil.  They will stay in the pupal stage for about three weeks…Misery is just around the corner!

The males are usually the first to emerge and wait around for the females (Sounds familiar).  When mating is completed, the female is ready to seek out a warm-blooded host, such as you or me, or maybe your dog or cat.  She injects an anticoagulant into the wound she just sawed on your ankle and then sops up the blood with her sponge-like mouthparts.

Activity normally begins in late May and continues through September.  Her favorite feeding time is two or three hours after sunrise and then again for a couple of hours before sunset.

Now that you know everything there is to know about these flies, you’re probably thinking, “How do I stop these (insert expletive) from torturing me?”  Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot you can do other than wearing protective clothing and applying insect repellents.

If you want to try trapping them on a sticky blue Solo cup or a big black ball, do an internet search using your favorite search engine and type in “Trolling for Deer Fly Trap.”  Some say they work very well.

What’s Eating Your Gas Can?

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You may suddenly see holes in your plastic gas cans left outside. Some people have noticed holes in gas lines and gas tanks on their mowing equipment. The holes look as if these items have been shot repeatedly with a BB gun. If you look closely at the holes though, you may notice very small black beetles nested in them. These are the cause of the holes, and they are called Camphor Shot borers (Camphor Shoot beetles).

Camphor Shot borers are a type of ambrosia beetle. These beetles normally attack stressed-out trees, and not gasoline cans. So what does a stressed-out tree have in common with a gas can, you might be thinking? Ethanol. Trees emit chemicals when they become stressed or are injured. This triggers beetles and other pests to attack the tree. In the case of the Camphor Shot borer, they seem to be most attracted to alcohol. Much of the unleaded gas we have contains an alcohol called ethanol. The beetle can’t tell the alcohol in the gas can from chemicals emitted by a tree, so they dig on in! These beetles are usually most active in the months of March through June, so what can you do in the meantime to protect your gas cans from them? Basically, you will need to place the cans inside or cover them with something to impede the beetles’ attack. These beetles feed on a large range of trees, so chemical treatments are not advised.

Meet Florida’s Beautiful Nursery Web Spider

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There are spiders and then there are really cool spiders.  Meet Pisaurina mira, one of Florida’s prettiest and coolest Nursery Web Spiders.  They get their name because of the webbing nest the female builds for her spiderlings.

Although Florida is home to several species of Nursery Web Spider, P. mira is probably the most common.  You may have seen one in your yard, or maybe on or in your home.  They are found throughout Florida.

One of their favorite places to hang out is in the forest, where they can be seen hanging upside down on tree trunks waiting for dinner to pass by.  They can also be found in fields on tall grass and shrubs.

Just like many spiders, they have eight eyes…the better to see you with!  Nursery Web Spiders can grow to nearly ¾ of an inch, which is about 15mm.  Also like many spiders, they feed on insects and other small critters.  What’s even more interesting, Nursery Web Spiders do not construct webs to capture their prey.  They do this by ambushing the insect or chasing it down!

Nursery Web Spider on LeafMating can be quite tricky for some species of male Nursery Web Spiders.  If he’s off his game, he could become her next meal.  He must offer her a “nuptial gift” before mating begins. The male captures an insect, gift-wraps it in silk, and slowly brings it to her.  Now, some males are slick and offer a fake gift, but she, being very smart, refuses it and chases him off or may even eat him!  The larger the gift the more time he will spend with her.  When all is said and done, the male often takes the nuptial gift back from her and crawls away.  Geez…Go figure!  Guys, think about this on Valentine’s Day.

The Insects of Christmas

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Most people enjoy the aroma of a fresh-cut evergreen tree in their home to decorate for Christmas.  We find the perfect spot, bring out the ornaments and the fun begins; never paying any mind to the critters that may crawl out of that well-lighted, beautiful tree in the corner.

Two of the most common creepy crawlers found are aphids and spiders.  During the late summer and fall, the adults lay their eggs on the stems and foliage of these wonderful trees.  In nature, these eggs lay dormant during the winter to hatch in the warmth of spring.  It shouldn’t be any surprise that when the tree is brought into the warmth of the house, these eggs may hatch.

This hatching normally goes undetected because the aphids and spiders are so small unless of course, they are in great numbers!  Then you see them all over the tree!  But not to worry, they cannot live for long out of their natural habitat.

On a lighter note, did you know that insects are often used for Christmas decorations?  It’s true.  The ladybug, butterfly, and honey bee have been used since the Middle Ages.  And more recently, the dragonfly has been showing up on some trees.

Almost everyone knows that ladybugs eat aphids.  During the Middle Ages, farmers would pray for help when aphids would start destroying their crops.  The ladybugs would show up and eat the aphids, so you could say they were “God sent”.  These insects became known as the bug sent by the Virgin Mary or “Our Lady’s Bug”.  Today, we simply call them ladybugs.

The butterfly is a Christian symbol for redemption.  The caterpillar goes through a metamorphosis to change into a beautiful butterfly.  It symbolizes the resurrection of Christ and, to some, the transformation of the human soul.

Now, how about the honey bee?  They’ve been around humans for a very long time and are thought to be a symbol of prosperity.  British farmers of long ago would say bees hummed when the Christ child was born on the first Christmas in Bethlehem.

Ladybug Feeding on Aphids

Now you know why these insects are used for decorating the Christmas tree.  It’s all related to why we celebrate Christmas in the first place.  Put a couple of ladybug ornaments on your tree.  Maybe they’ll eat the aphids and spiders!