You can almost set your calendar by the insects that we commonly see brought into the extension office. Recently we've had a few that you should know about.
The Jadera bug was a little early this year, with its first appearance at the extension office on Feb. 19.
The Jadera bug, in its immature nymph stage, is a bright red. As the bugs mature into half-inch-long adults, they grow black wings that cover their backs.
You never see only one of these bugs; you see thousands congregated together. I have been on a farm visit where the ground appeared to move every time I took a step. In this instance, there were easily millions of these bugs forming a living, moving carpet.
This usually concerns homeowners. The sight of one or two bugs usually isn't too concerning, but thousands constitute a plague in their minds. In reality, this bug is doing them a favor. It feeds primarily on the seed of the golden rain tree. It will not attack tomato plants or lawns. To rid oneself of this "plague," the most effective method is to rake up and remove the golden rain tree seeds.
Homeowners started bringing in small scarab beetles at the beginning of March. Again, one or two beetles don't cause homeowners much distress, but hundreds of these lead to sleepless nights.
There is no real cause for concern with these beetles. True, in their immature stage (white grubs) they damage the roots of plants. But the adults don't cause damage.
Homeowners note these masses of insects, unaware that leaving the outside lights on all night attracts the critters. These little guys will throw themselves again and again against a light until they die. They collect in a pile underneath the light and cause concern for homeowners, who fear their landscape is under attack. The solution is to turn off the light at night.
I witnessed my first Tussock moth caterpillar of the season a couple of weeks ago. I can hear them before I see them. At night, I can hear their excrement falling from the oak trees like drops of rain. (For those who forgot what rain sounds like, June will be here soon.)
These hairy caterpillars prefer oaks, but will eat other ornamental trees and shrubs. They will also cause itching on some individuals. The most annoyance comes in April, when they pupate. The sticky cocoons are hard to get off the siding of your home, boat or lawn furniture.
The major problem in controlling this insect is that your pump-up sprayer range is 5 feet. Trying to spray a 60-foot oak tree with a sprayer with a 5-foot range doesn't work very well.
If you have any questions about these or any other insects, please call me at (352) 754-4433 or stop by the Hernando County Extension office.
Stacy Strickland is a regional specialized extension agent-agriculture/small farms with the University of Florida Extension Service. He serves residents in Hernando, Citrus, Pasco, and Sumter counties.