Saturday, November 13, 2010

West Wall Insects

When the days are cool and the nights are cold, many insects congregate in areas that provide some additional warmth. The west side of the house, warmed by the setting sun, is a great place to find insects. The Boxelder Bug, Boisea trivittata, is drawn to the warmth absorbed by the brick. If given the opportunity, it will move right on into the house. Boxelder Bugs are not very abundant here and seldom congregate in large numbers.

This midge selected a place on the aluminum downspout. It may be warm while the sun shines, but aluminum gives up heat rapidly and will shortly be a chilly perch. A spot on the brick would have provided a more long term source of warmth.

Scudder’s Short-winged Grasshoppers, Melanoplus scudderi, were the most numerous species on the wall. I hadn’t realized how many grasshopper species shared this same general appearance, until I went to the keys for an ID. Fortunately, most were not found anywhere near Ohio, so I was able to trim the possibilities down to a handful.

As is implied in the name, this is one of a group of grasshoppers with short wings, not to be confused with the short, stubby wing pads found on immature nymphs of long winged species. From the descriptions it seems that several of these species have short wings UNLESS they are an individual that displays long wings. I’m going to have to do some more research to see what’s up with the long winged short wings.

The Asian Lady Beetle, Harmonia axyridis, is a common species known to millions of people as that nuisancy bug that invades their home every fall. It’s been several years since I’ve seen these in any great numbers. Typically, the population of an aggressive introduced predator explodes when it first arrives into an area with abundant food. After a few years, the food supply is exhausted and the population declines. Then the food supply comes back and the population again increases. Before it can rebuild to its previous numbers, the food is gone and the population again falls. This cycle continues until a balance is reached, with the new predator claiming a fairly permanent place in the new regime.

This tiny bagworm obviously moves too slowly to have climbed up the wall just to get warm. It may have just chosen this as a good location to anchor down and pupate. It reminds me of climbers who pin their hammocks to vertical rock faces and stretch out to sleep.

This is what I was really out there looking for. I have an immature Anolis lizard that needs to be fed and house flies are just the right size. The drought has really caused the insect numbers to be down this fall. Flies are normal fall visitors to my barn and garage, but this year there have been none.


  1. We, too, are in the same drought area and have noticed fewer insects this fall. That's pretty nice for us while removing a large tree and splitting the wood. The wood splitting is going on over quite a period of time between trips that are mostly business so unavoidable. There is a rumor we will get rain today so will try to have the last large pieces moved under cover before that rumor becomes reality.

  2. HI Steve....I have many of those house flies that are on the inside of the garage on the windows!!
    I see if I can get some of to you by Fed-X at least they deliver on weekends!!
    I had a beetle ,I call ladybugs, walk all around the other edge of my pc screen the other many times I don't know but I got tired of shooing it away!!

  3. We are invaded every autumn by box elder bugs and the asian lady beetles; this year is no exception. They are both a real nuiscance, getting into the house by the hundreds to thousands. The asian lady beetles were originally brought in to predate harmful insects on soybean crops in this region. Every autumn when the soybeans are harvested, the lady beetles lose their homes and on cool/cold days find their way inside our homes through the smallest of spaces. I wish their numbers would drop!

    We have a little snow on the ground from yesterday's snowfall with more rain/sleet/snow in the forecast for every day next week. It appears that winter has started in the upper midwest. It is mid-November, after all. ;-)

  4. Hi, Lois. I still have things that I should get done before it starts raining, but we really need the rain. I’m just hoping we get enough to replenish the ground water and raise the level of my well. So far, we’ve just been getting those drizzly rains that make it too messy to work outdoors, but don’t put a drop of water into the ground.

    Hi, grammie g. I would appreciate the flies, but Ohio law prohibits the interstate traffic of flies unless they are securely sewn into a pair of trousers.

    Hi, Wilma. Sounds like you’ll have plenty of beetles as long as there are the monocultures of soybeans to artificially inflate the aphid numbers. We’re several miles away from any grain crops that would act as a nursery for growth of beetle food, so the beetles here have to depend on more natural populations of aphids.
    It was sunny here today, with the temperatures in the low 70’s. Southern Ohio is likely to have just about any type of weather in November.

  5. Thanks for the i.d. of the Box Elders. I had taken a photo during my visit to Maine in August and hadn't taken the time to look them up yet. I learned much from reading your posts, as usual. It always amazes me how you make things seem so obvious! Thank you for the continuous lessons. ~karen

  6. Glad I could help, Karen. I used to get confused every year about the difference between Boxelder Bugs and Milkweed Bugs. I guess from confusion comes clarity.