Wooly Bears will soon be appearing.  They are young Isabella moths.  For some reason they seem to like crossing county roads as the day start to     cool down. Eggs hatch in May and August.  The early ones grow up, but usually do not do a lot of harm.  They eat Grass, Asters, Sunflowers as well as Plantain, Dandelions, and Nettles.  The August crop hibernates from the summer heat in debris.  As the young warm up they spin a cocoon. They like wood piles.  Superstition says wide center brown band mean a mile winter.

          Preying or Praying, Mantis could fit either name. Some of them may reach 5 inches, especially the females.  In the fall they look huge as they are filled with eggs. The Chinese Mantis are larger than our natives, but are not as hardy.  As the nights cool off I see females on the door and window screens. By this time they are looking for plants with straight, sturdy stems on which to place their egg cases. They glue the spongy, brown masses each fall.  Males are smaller and you won’t see as many as the female because the female eats her mate to get protein for the eggs.  The young hatch in spring and begin eating-even each other.

          We think of them as good bugs because a part of their diet includes many of the bugs we hate.  But they are not fussy and will eat good bugs also. If you try to keep them over from year to year, some of their favorite plants are Golden Rod, Joe Pye Weed, Ornamental Grasses, and Raspberries. These plants have stems that are sturdy enough to stand winter with the Mantis cases hung on them. This is important as a Mantis will attack anything within reach that moves such as Beetles, Big Caterpillars, hornets, or Bumble Bees.  As a pet you can feed it insects, or treats of hamburger.

          Leaf Miners do what their name says-they mine between layers of leaves of many plants.  They are listed as “bad bugs” but don’t do a great deal of harm. Their trails through the leaves are interesting to watch. It is the larvae that are traveling as they eat between the layers and cells in the leaf. This gives you an idea of their size. Their parent can be a fly or a moth who lays tiny white eggs on the leaves.  Different species have a favorite plant. In a flower garden Columbines are one of their favorite. Actually they don’t do much harm in ornamentals, but can harm vegetables, especially if you want to eat the leaves. They do like Beets, Spinach, and Chard. They are all over the United States. Pick up a leaf and see if you can trace the travel of the tiny green or brown Maggot.

          Spiders and Parasitic Wasps help cut down on their numbers. You can squash the Leaf Miners eggs on the foliage or pull off infected leaves and destroy, in order destroy the next generation that would live over winter as pupae in the soil.

          A fierce one to find in your yard is the Dragonfly that is bloodthirsty and hunting for living prey.  They fight each other for territories and like a pond with some plants growing up out of the water as some females lay their eggs on stems in the water. Others just drop them into the water.  Their offspring love Mosquito wigglers in the water as their parents catch them in the air. Even a small pond is a life and death battle ground.  If Mosquito larvae aren’t available they will eat each other. 

          About this time (last summer and early fall) we will start to hear the Crickets.  In most species only the male “sings” in order to attract a mate. Other calls are to let other males know that a territory is taken and some have an alarm call to announce a predator. They have a series of ridges on one wing and a scraper on another. Some Crickets have a chorus in which several call together. One author says to count the chirps in 15 seconds and add to 37 to give the temperature.

          The female Cricket jabs here sharp ovipositor into the soil and may lay as many as 3 or 4 eggs. Some in bunches, or some singly. Their ears are on the twin spines at the end of their body. Their main ears are small openings below their knees on the front leg. They will eat most anything including clothing, grain, tomatoes, etc. Farmers who leave clothing in a field of crickets my find it well chewed when they come back.  The Black Field Cricket is the one most people know but there is a Mole, a House, a Green Tree, and a Cave Cricket. They die in the cold which may be why they try to come into the house in the fall.

          Cicada Killer Wasps come out of their underground homes when it warms in the spring.  They are big, handsome, black and yellow, solitary hunters belonging to the “digger” Wasps. Each of these hunters has their own special food supply for their young. The adults live on nectar after the hatch in the spring. About mid-July the females hunt for a dry place, preferably in clay, to dig a burrow with several chambers at the bottom. She then looks for a singing Cicada to stab, paralyze, and then drag upside down along the ground to her den. She then attaches one egg to the body. When the eggs hatch they eat the food their mother provided and then spin a cocoon in which to spend the winter. In the spring when it warms up they come out of the cocoon and the cycle starts over.

Copyright 2011