Halloween is just around the corner. We start thinking of creepy crawly things. If you have a phobia about bugs, Florida is not the place to live. I spend many hours in my yard encountering all types of insects. Some I like and others I could do without.
The bug featured with this week’s column landed on my screen last weekend. After doing some research, I found out he was a Vine Sphinx Moth. To me, this moth’s wings look like they were carved out of wood. He was fairly large with a wing span of 3 to 4 inches and a body of almost 3 inches. Common in the southern U.S., as well as the mountainous southwest, they dine on evening primrose, oenothera species, water primrose, and nectar plants. That would explain his presence in my butterfly garden. The moth lays large spherical, smooth eggs on a food plant. The hatched caterpillars feed on the plant and the mature larvae bury themselves in an underground cavity in the fall. In the spring they crawl out as a moth. This would explain why you do not see them in the winter months.
In my front garden I encountered a horn-worm or sphinx moth in flight. At first I thought it was one of my hummingbirds. It hovered in front of my flowers and was fairly large. But as it got closer, I could see it was a bug. Research says they are very damaging to certain plants especially tomato plants and ornamentals but he was on a penta flower. This bug was sporting five yellow spots on each side of his abdomen. These unique worms start as large green caterpillars. From a distance you will think he is a hummingbird in flight.
One of my favorite bugs is the viceroy butterfly. To me it resembles a monarch butterfly until it stops flying. Orange and black in color with white spots on the black trim of its wings, this butterfly spends many hours in my gardens and adds color and motion.
The dragonfly also adds bright color and movement to my garden. They are beneficial insects in the adult and immature stages. They lay eggs inside plants, in water, and on shorelines. In only a week the eggs hatch and go into a larvae stage for two months. After they emerge they leave the water area and go through a month-long period of maturation during which the body color brightens. The colors are brilliant and bold.
One bug I would like to see more of in my area is the lady beetles. They are very beneficial by consuming aphids. In the spring the adults lay their eggs near a food source and hatch within three to five days and the larvae feed on aphids and other small insects. After two to three weeks they pupate. The adults emerge within a week. They may produce up to six generations in one year. In the fall they try to protect themselves from the cold weather near fallen trees, rocks and around your house.
Mosquitoes love me. I can be in a group of 50 people and they seek me out. I do not spend much time outdoors at night. Female mosquitoes lay their eggs in rafts on the surface water. Most eggs hatch into larvae in two days. The larvae live in the water for two weeks until they pupate. The adults emerge within two days.
As an orchid grower I have problems with white flies. These bugs are very small, 1⁄10- to 1⁄16-inch in size and have a white powdery wax that makes it difficult to kill them. They attach themselves to the underside of my orchid leaves and suck the juice from my plant. The nymphs live for four weeks and the adults also.
Other bugs that love my orchids are thrips. They are also very small, 1⁄20” long. These bugs damage leaves, blooms, and new growth. So look close at your plants.
Two bugs I hate with a passion are the fire ant and cockroach. These bugs give me the shivers. They are worse than mosquitoes in my book. If a cockroach gets in my house, this means war. My neighbors call them palmetto bugs but they are still cockroaches. These bugs deposit 10 to 48 eggs. You can bring this bug into your house with groceries, flower pots or by opening your garage door. At first sight, start your control. They will multiply quickly.
Go outside and enjoy the bug world. Color, motion, and excitement are happening in your yard and parks daily. After reading this article, can you sleep tonight?
Some of this information came from UFL.edu web site or for more information visit the Highlands County Master Gardeners at the Ag center.