A GROWING CONCERN: Don't let insects bug you

DO INSECTS IN your yard and garden give you the creepy crawlies? If you thought insects really bugged you now, the ensuing information will get you crawling with winged knowledge that should cause a metamorphic change in your method of acceptance and control of the most abundant class of organisms living on Earth with an estimated 6 million to 10 million species.

With that warning, here we go!

Start first by writing down in your notebook the absolute tenant on insect control: Correct diagnosis requires positive identification. Beetles, which can damage crops, currently register in with 360,000 species, but in balance, there are 5,000 dragonfly species and 2,200 praying mantis species eagerly seeking out prey and devouring the various mosquito species.

All insects, regardless of type or species, have segmented bodies, and this is the basis for the scientific study of insects. Entomology (from the Greek word “Entomos,” that which is cut in pieces or segmented) is the branch of arthopology that studies two-thirds of all known organisms — insects.

The Smithsonian Institute of Entomology estimates that, at any given time, there are 10 quintillion (18 zeros) insects living on Earth.

It’s no wonder you may feel overwhelmed when it comes to your cherished plants.

The vast numbers of insects are here by no accident. This great and diversified number of insect species is the exact reason why they are so difficult to control.

Insects evolved along with the Earth and all its diverse situations some 400 million years ago in the Paleozoic era, so they have had a lot of time to get reproduction and survivability down pat. They can fly, crawl, creep, swim, burrow, camouflage or hitch a ride, and their size allows for optimum survival in numerous habitats.

They reproduce quickly and in enormous numbers — the East African termite queen lays 43,000 eggs a day. This large number and rapid succession of generations mean they evolve quickly to adverse situations.

In fact, this allows insects to quickly become immune to many chemical sprays and is leading to a huge global problem as more chemicals are being required in greater concentrations, creating polluted runoff and indiscriminately killing all insects. It is the chemicals that could come back to bite you.

Then, to make matters worse, the stage of development (enstar) an insect can render biological control, chemical control or your own mechanical control worthless. This is because the eggs are now hidden from you, the pupa or cocoon cannot be penetrated by spray or the bug-eating bugs you release will only feast on hatched insects.

The developmental process of insects include several enstars, which marked the stages between each molt. These different stages many times are seen not only in body size but number of body segments, form of movement or their desired food source.

Depending if an insect has a complete metamorphosis (egg larvae, pupa, adult) or an incomplete metamorphosis (egg nymph adults), they all go through these enstars.

During these enstars, they may cause no damage as an adult (butterflies), horrendous damage as a larvae (caterpillars). So to just prune away the bad stage of an insect’s lair but not get its eggs or to kill the winged, pregnant adult now landing on a new plant does not solve the problem.

Then, too, many sprays must be used repetitively over several intervals to effectively catch and destroy all developing stages because very few chemicals kill all the enstars of a particular bug.

So what is a homeowner or gardener to do with insects that visit the yard and wreck havoc?

You must positively and absolutely identify the insect — this is a primary importance. You must positively identify the insect that is causing the damage and what stage it is in or what enstar causes the damage.

Without that knowledge, resistance could be futile.

So I must continue to bug you to ... stay well all!


Andrew May is a freelance writer and ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email news@peninsulanews.us (subject line: Andrew May).

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