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Scouting for Bugs

June 5, 2014

The transition of spring to summer is one of the best times to spot emerging insects that have been overwintering. If you’re curious as to what friendly neighborhood insects you have patrolling your backyard, grab your best magnifying glass and take some time to venture outside. Depending on the time of day and weather conditions, you’re bound to find a different array of insects.

Red Milkweed Beetle (Tetraopes tetrophthalmus)

Red Milkweed Beetle (Tetraopes tetrophthalmus)

The morning is one of the best times to spot insects due to limited activity from low sunlight and cooler temperatures. Insects at this time of day will be slow moving, allowing greater time for visual inspection. They will most likely be found at the base of plants or on the undersides of leaves. Early summer inspections will result in beetle larvae, caterpillars, and various true bugs that have overwintered as adults, such as stink bugs. It is important to note that a majority of insects at this time of year will be early in development, so a once familiar-looking adult insect may not be as distinct as remembered. A common way to identify an insect is to first identify the plant. A majority of insects are host specific, meaning they will only feed on that particular plant and can be distinguished accordingly.

By noon on a sunny day, a different assemblage of insects can be discovered. Flowers will hold many different pollinators that include bees, wasps, ants, beetles, and plant bugs. A commonly found insect are sweat bees. These are small, brightly colored bees with often a metallic abdomen or thorax. The underside of flowers can sometimes hold crab spiders, ambush bugs, wheel bugs, or jumping spiders. These predatory arthropods use their camouflage to their advantage as they sit in wait for an unsuspecting meal to arrive. If observing the soil, centipedes, millipedes, sowbugs, and springtails are just a few arthropods to name you might find. Centipedes are quick and predatory insects with one leg per segment, whereas millipedes are slow detritivores (feeding on decayed matter) with 2 legs per body segment. It is important to have a sense of what the insect is, and helps to carry around a field guide for further identification. Field Guide to Insects and Spiders of North America by Arthur Evans is a great field guide if you’re looking to better your understanding of the insects around you.

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