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BENEFICIAL INSECTS – Beauty is in the eye of the Beholder

Maureen Sexsmith-West ISA Certified Arborist, PR4600A Diagnostics and a full understanding of insects knowing whether they are beneficial or destructive, their life cycle, control measures, etc. is essential in my line of work. I am always on the look out for new specimens to add to my photo and insect collection. Each insect plays an integral part in the ecosystem. Some help break down organic matter, some feed on other insects, some pollinate, and others feed on plant tissues (some causing minor damage, some transfer diseases, while others can kill a tree). They can end up as food for a whole range of birds and animals. Whether you love them, are afraid of them or hate them – I FIND INSECTS FASCINATING! I spend a great deal of my spare time learning all that I can about them. I thought I would highlight a few of the GOOD GUYS that can sometimes be mistaken for ‘yucky’ bugs. As the season progresses, I will post a few more.

The PILL BUG is the only crustacean that can spend its entire life on land. Their shells look like armour and they are know for their ability to roll into a ball when threatened. Most pill pugs live for up to two years. They are most active a night. They live in wet locations and are found under damp objects or under organic litter. If pill bugs enter a building, they will often dry out and die. I found a healthy multi-generational population while doing Spring clean-up for a client. I also noted weevils, millipedes, an earthworm and a spider in this snapshot – can you see them?

Copyright © 2010 Lynette Schimming

LADYBIRD BEETLES (aka Lady Bugs) are easily known in their adult form. In our region, we find the seven-spotted variety. Their life cycle is about 4-6 weeks. In the Spring, females lay up to three hundred eggs in yellow clusters under a leaf or on a stem near an aphid colony. The number of eggs depends on the availability of aphids to feed upon. Within a week, the eggs hatch into tiny ‘ALLIGATOR SHAPED LARVAE’ and join the parents feeding on many insect pests. After 3-4 weeks the larvae pupate and one week later the young adult beetles appear. Ladybird beetles can have several generations per year, depending on climate.

RED FLAT BARK BEETLES are typically found under the bark of ash and poplar trees. Their long antenna and unusual shape make them a bit scary. No worries, unless you are a wood boring insect. Its flat shape allows it travel under the bark and into tunnels of destructive wood borers and bark beetles where it eats them, thus helping control damage. It has a wide range and can withstand temperatures of -56 degrees Celcius. Studies have shown it was capable of surviving extreme temperatures of -150 degrees Celcius. Most insects that over-winter can only tolerate lows of -25 degrees Celcius. A very exciting find at my own house! I snapped this one strolling along my front porch which is shaded by a mature cottonwood tree. Go RED – get those poplar borers.


Two against One

Predatory Wasps and Wasp-like Adult Sawflies


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