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Author Topic: Mommy Bugga Bugga
Jenny Gardener
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Post all your insect questions here! Mommy Bugga Bugga is ready and able to take you on her knee and tell you all about the fascinating world of insects!
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Scott R
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SOMEONE's been watching Dora the Explorer, perhaps?
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Elizabeth
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OK, Jenny, I will post my next bug question here.

In my garden, in a sandy area, are little indentations in the earth, about 1.5 inches in diameter. I have tried to dig up the bug I know is beneath, but have never been able to find it. There are many of these little indentations. Once, I saw movement of the sand, and waited hopefully for an emerging creature. Nothing. Sometimes, there are little dead bug bodies near the whole.

An underground spider? Another personal plague?

Please help, Bugga Mum

[ June 17, 2003, 09:18 AM: Message edited by: Elizabeth ]

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Scott R
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::steals Jenny's thunder::

Ant lion. You'll never see it. But poke a little dirt into the indentation, and in a couple seconds, the dirt will start getting tossed out.

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Noemon
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Ant lions are incredibly cool little insects with enormous (for their size) mandibles. I don't remember exactly how, but I used to catch them as a kid. I think I'd knock an ant down into their well, and when the ant lion nabbed it I'd get both of them with a jelly jar. I'm not positive that that's how I did it though.
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zgator
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If you scoop up enough of the dirt around one of those depressions, you'll get one.
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Diosmel Duda
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Not an insect, technically, but . . .

Why was there a five-legged spider in my shower this morning? And why couldn't I kill it, no matter how much I wanted it dead?

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Jenny Gardener
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I think you must have a pretty healthy backyard ecosystem. Ant lions are predators, and if there are plenty of predators around, chances are your bug populations are in balance.

I don't have ant lions where I live, so I am jealous. Be careful, though. I believe ant lions can pinch!

Ooo- fun factoid! The ant lions are really the larvae form of an insect that resembles a tiny damselfly/dragonfly with short antennae. Your ant lion is also called a "doodlebug".

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Jenny Gardener
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Five legged? All the critters I know have legs in multiples of 2 unless they have been damaged. Something tells me you've attacked this spider before!

It was in your shower because the bathtub/shower is a water source. Poor thing was in much danger, and not just from you. Spiders and insects breathe through spiracles, which are holes in their sides. If the spiracles get plugged up by water, then they drown.

You had a hard time killing it, probably, because it wanted to live. Myself, I'd let the poor bugger climb onto a washcloth and release it outside of the shower. And if it doesn't go hide in a dark corner, I'll catch it again and release it outside.

Be wary of killing things in your home that might actually help you by eating the flies and gnats and cockroaches that also invade your living space. Bad karma, etc. if you believe in such.

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Jenny Gardener
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Ants and Plants

Someone asked me if having an ant nest in the garden is beneficial or detrimental to plants. The answer is both! Ants are wonderful for opening up and loosening the soil, creating places for water to spread out, beneficial bacteria to move in, and new seeds to come up. Ants sometimes move seeds around and they can be pollinators, too. Some ants "farm" aphids and possibly? treehoppers. You'll see these farms on the young tips of plants - ants swarming around brownish or reddish or yellowish or greenish tiny insects.

The farms can be trouble for your plants, because the "cows" suck plant juices. However, if you have mature, healthy plants, it usually does not present a problem. There are plenty of aphid and ant predators in a healthy garden to keep them in check. You can also squirt them off with a hose or squish the aphids. Or, you can watch for free something that people pay their cable companies to put on Discovery Channel.

Overall, ant homes in a garden are a sign of good ecosystem health. If you are lucky, sometimes you'll see them move their eggs and larvae to a new area. Ants can provide hours of fascinating entertainment. Where are they going? What are they doing? How do they coordinate their activities?

Do be careful, though. Ants, when their homes are disturbed, will swarm to find the creature that harmed them. And for such tiny beasties, they have a painful bite!

It sounds like you have a lovely garden, Elizabeth. I hope you enjoy getting to know your tiny neighbors.

(edited to add)And no, they probably won't hurt your beans. Ant farms tend to be placed at the tips of plants where they get a lot of sun. I am lucky to see them on the ivy that grows around my kitchen window. I've also observed them on sunflowers and weeds. But I haven't seen them on beans at all.

[ June 17, 2003, 10:44 AM: Message edited by: Jenny Gardener ]

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Storm Saxon
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What's the best solution for mosquitoes?
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Jenny Gardener
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Female mosquitoes prefer blood. Males prefer the nectar of flowers.
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AndrewR
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This one has been driving me crazy, Jenny. About two years ago, these strange creatures appeared on my garage wall (the one attached to the house, with possible access to the crawlspace). They are about a centimeter long, shaped something like an oval leaf (long and thin, but with a litle bit of swelling in the center). Gray in color, with no legs. They move up the wall using a retractable probiscus at one end, and some sort of sticky "foot" at the other. Completely smooth, with no antenna or any other sort of protusion from the body.

What are they??? [Eek!] Did my house get invaded by leaches???? (I worry about it because I saw that movie on late-night TV.)

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Avadaru
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Stay inside. [Razz]
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Scott R
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Storm- Not sure if you want to do this-- but to keep mosquitoes away during the warm, wet, northern Italian summers, we used to eat some toast with raw garlic scraped over the top. We'd add a tomato, on occasion, and some olive oil. . .mozarella cheese balls. . .mmmm. . . bruschette. . .

But apparently, the garlic keeps the little bloodsuckers away.

[ June 17, 2003, 11:16 AM: Message edited by: Scott R ]

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AndrewR
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That's the problem, Avadaru...they are inside... [Eek!]
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Noemon
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I've got a question. According to this article, the insects in question are half a centimeter long. How wide are they?

[Eek!]

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ludosti
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EWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!! O_o
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Olivet
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Mosquitos don't like the taste of heavily garlic-ed people, that's true. You have to eat enough of it for the smell to start oozing out your pores.

My favorite mosquito/bug repellant, Jungle Juice, actually contains garlic oil and other natural repellants, like peppermint oil. Doesn't smell bad either.

My mom never gets bitten by mosquitos anymore. She's been on lots of meds since her kidney transplant, and I think her blood has more chemicals in it than blood. That's not a suggestion, though. Just an observation. [Big Grin]

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Kayla
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quote:
Mark Fradin and Jonathan Day of the University of Florida tested 17 nationally marketed mosquito repelling products under laboratory conditions. They asked 15 volunteers to stick a forearm coated with repellent into a cage containing 10 mosquitoes and observed how much time elapsed before the first bite. Products containing DEET repelled best, and the more DEET they contained, the better they worked. Off! Deep Woods, which contains 23.8 percent DEET, provided the longest-lasting protection: 302 minutes on average. By contrast, Avon Skin-So-Soft Bath Oil failed after 9.6 minutes, on average.
http://www.snopes.com/spoons/oldwives/skeeters.htm

quote:
I’m sorely tempted by one of those propane-heated machines that put out carbon dioxide, like human breath, which draws the biters in and traps them in a filter. These things are the only wide-area mosquito catchers that really work.

They’re also ridiculously expensive. If you don’t go outside much, stick to the Off!. But if you intend to use your yard a lot, and you figure you’re amortizing the cost over many years of mosquito-free yard use, you might want to check out the Mosquito Magnet machines offered at www.frontgate.com. You can spend $1,000 or more on a big machine that keeps a whole acre mosquito-free. But if your needs are more modest, they have a $300 half-acre machine.

It takes a few weeks of continuous use (and you have to replace the propane tank and the filter every couple of weeks) before you’ve broken up the life cycle of the local mosquito population. But then your yard belongs to you again

http://greensboro.rhinotimes.com/osc1.html

Okay, how do I stop the invasion of the roly-poly? They are everywhere!

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Elizabeth
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Mosquitos:

Don't eat bananas if you go camping! They love banana-tasting humans, apparently.

Liz

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Dragon
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Why did you start this thread after I finished my nearly-impossible ecology block????
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Elizabeth
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Cool about the ant lion. Or doodlebug. Thanks.

As for the ants, they were quite maniacal when i was planting the beans. They were definitely gunning for me, as they carried their little white egg things around. It was amazing to watch.

Did anyone read THE POISONWOOD BIBLE by Barbara Kingsolver? I wll never forget the scene where the army ants move through town. Yikes.

Liz

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Elizabeth
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Jenny,
I am generally OK with the insect world. However, last summer, my insect tolerance was tested. Our kitten had a terrible wound in her neck. It looked like a hole poked with a chain link fence(same size)Then, it became infected. We took her to the vet. The vet said "watch it." (We know why she said that, now)

Well, it got terribly infected, so we took her back. Turns out, it was a botfly.

Oh my, oh my. They lay their evil eggs at the entrance to rodent holes. The rodent(or cat chasing the rodent) sucks in the eggs. The eggs travel through the body, find a lovely place to grow, and then burst forth through the skin of the poor animal.

The vet said, after she knew it was out, "You should see how gross it is when we have to remove them." She knew what it was all along, and just didn't want to remove it.

UGH.

Liz

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Jon Boy
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quote:
Why was there a five-legged spider in my shower this morning? And why couldn't I kill it, no matter how much I wanted it dead?
It sounds like you need a guy around to squish spiders for you.
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Storm Saxon
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Kayla, I saw his most recent article. My thought is that there are a lot of animals that eat mosquitoes for food. Dragonflies. Some birds. I don't think a CO machine would be very nice for them. [Frown]
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Kayla
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You could get some bats. [Wink]
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Storm Saxon
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You laugh, but bat houses are way cool. If I wasn't really lazy, I would do it. [Smile]

Though, that, too, is not without peril. I've been hit in the head about three times in the past by a dive-bombing bat. Apparently my head must give off the same kind of radar signature as a tasty bug or something. [Frown]

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T. Analog Kid
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<cough> Sonar <cough>
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ginette
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I don't know if this is exactly an insect, but I'll mention it anyway, because I would really like to know what it is.
I was on holiday in France and I found this stone in the mountains with crystals in it and a lot of holes. When I was looking with my loupe in one of the holes, I saw this tiny animal. It had a house like snails have, only this one had the shape of the point of a hat and was made out of very tiny stone slices and pieces of crystal.

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Jenny Gardener
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Dora the Explorer: Yes. What can I say? The name seemed to fit.

Mosquitoes: Learn to live with them. Adapt. The more we try to kill them off, the closer we get to creating Super Mosquitoes. Some things you can do to lower the population without damaging the environment: do not allow standing water on your property. This means make sure the kids' toys don't stay outside collecting water, dump anything that does collect water on a regular basis, and put fountains in your decorative pools. Natural predators of mosquitoes include bats, birds, fish, dragonflies, damselflies, the larvae of the aforementioned insects, and water striders. There are probably many more. Spraying poison on the mosquitoes is not such a good idea; the mosquito predators are much more susceptible to the poisons, and the mosquito generations that survive your kill spray are the ones that are breeding the next generation. Attract mosquito predators if you can. More about mosquitoes later, depending on your future questions.

"Leeches" in the garage: I have no clue at this point. No legs? Where do you live? Can you find or take a picture of one? Does it move like a caterpillar or like a slug? A slug is my best guess at this point. That or some sort of larva. See if you can observe more and give me more description.

Rove beetles: I don't know for sure, but rove beetles tend to be longer than they are wide. What a bizarre story! Most rove beetles are scavengers or predators. I cannot imagine how they would have gotten into the boy's body. Wild.

Rolie-Polies, also known as Pillbugs, Sowbugs, Wood Lice...: Believe it or not, these little critters are actually crustaceans! They need dampness to thrive. They are part of nature's clean-up crew, feeding on rotting vegetation. However, they are only primitive-eyed critters that don't know the difference between a very soft strawberry and the mushy rotten leaves in your garden. They are usually not a problem unless you have plants you care to keep healthy lying in wet stuff. Don't do anything about them - there's not much you CAN do. Just keep things dry if you can, and be happy you have beasties to help turn all that used-up plant matter into rich soil!

THE POISONWOOD BIBLE was a fascinating book. Most anything Barbara Kingsolver writes is thought-provoking and ultimately life-affirming.

Botflies: YUK! I can't believe your vet wouldn't relieve your poor kitty! Just because it's gross? I thought that vets had to deal with gross stuff all the time!

Mosquitoes Part 2: I am an incredible mosquito magnet. Even when wearing the highest allowable DEET formulas, I get bitten. I've given up on trying to keep the buggers away. Even so, I would hate to use a fogger and mess up my backyard ecosystem that I have grown to love.

Ginette: Perhaps you found a relative of the caddisfly. Was the stone wet? Caddisfly larvae live in running water and make themselves homes from bits of sand and pebbles from the bottom of the stream.

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Kayla
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I have nothing wet. No plants, nothing. And they keep crawling across the patio and under the back door into the house!
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Polemarch
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Dealing with mosquitos: use higher concentration DEET sprays on your clothes, and the normal repellents on your skin. Try not to touch your clothes. [Smile] Only use this in an emergency (you're in agony). The last time I used this I was out in the woods and had been for several days. It was right after a pretty heavy rain, so there was standing water everywhere.

Question: what's effective for dealing with large contentrations of Green-headed flies?

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Jenny Gardener
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Green-headed or greenbottle?
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jexx
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Carpenter ants. Boo. I live on the second floor, but I think that the carpenter ants are coming up through the foundation and up the walls somehow. They scare the beewhozits out of the Boy. I know that a chalk line will confound an ant, but where do I draw it? They are already IN THE HOUSE! (sorry, freaked out a little bit there)

Also, what are the little teeny tiny red bugs (bright red!) that are all over the cement and sidewalks here in the Northeast? I grew up in the Southwest, and I don't think we had them there. They don't bother me, I was just wondering what they were. They are all over the place at the motorpool where my husband works. Why? Do they love the grease? So odd.

And I love roly-polies. Me and my brother used to make them race on little race tracks we made from paper. Big fun! Once we kept some in a jar with a potato in it for them to eat (because they are potato bugs). Mom made us let them go because she said they turned into maggots. I know that isn't true, now, but it sure made us empty that jar in a hurry!

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jexx
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*bump*
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Elizabeth
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Carpenter ants: if you can find some tansy, an herb, and plant it around the foundation of your house, the ants won't like it. You can also lay it down, maybe with your chalk line, and they will avoid it.

The little red things are spider mites. They might be in your garden and on your houseplants, if you look close.

Liz

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Theca
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I used to love playing with roly-polies. And with ant lions. I didn't know they could pinch! Ant lions never pinched me. Lizards are great fun, too.

I don't have any buggie questions. Other than, will fire ants and/or killer bees make it up to the Chicago area, eventually. And I hope the answer is no!

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Elizabeth
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Theca, do you mean army ants? They are the ones that eat villages. Fire ants are nasty, but I don't think they seek out new territory. If you disturb them, they get mad. They are probably in your area.

There are killer bees in Arizona, I know that, because my parents live there. I don't know how much farther they have traveled.

Jenny?

[ June 19, 2003, 08:40 AM: Message edited by: Elizabeth ]

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Jenny Gardener
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Carpenter ants: I'd never heard that about a chalk line. You really don't want the boogers in your house. Carpenter ants can do lots of damage to the structure of your home. Are you sure they are carpenter ants, as opposed to other types? 6-13 mm, light red to brown or black, an area on their abdomens covered with ashy grey hairy stuff, 12-segmented antennae without clubs on the ends (details from Simon and Schuster's Guide to Insects). They emit a strong odor of formic acid. When ants in general invade my house, I use Terro if they are really bad. Before that, though, I do a thorough cleaning of my home with essential oils that they don't like - strong stuff like peppermint and lemongrass and citronella and pine. And I make sure to leave all kitchen spiders unmolested for a time. And I cripple any ants I see and feed them to the turtle and the gerbils. Only then, if their numbers are disturbing, do I resort to antkiller. If you really do have carpenter ants in your woodwork, you may have no choice than to call an exterminator.

Tiny red bugs: Yep, they're spider mites. They are incredibly tiny, and resemble tiny pieces of bright red lint with legs. These particular mites are predators, so they're probably out hunting. I've seen them most often on concrete on a sunny day. I think they like concrete for some reason.

Rolie-polies: They are not potato bugs! They are not insects at all! While eating a potato would keep them healthy with plenty of moisture and nutrien, they bear no relation to the beetles called potato bugs. And, as you probably know, maggots only come from eggs. Maggots are larvae that develop into flies.

Fire ants and killer bees: I don't know. They're not in Indiana yet, so I haven't collected them. I played with a nest of fire ants once in Florida, stirring up their nest and springing away in terror lest they discover me. Killer bees, poor things, are so misunderstood. They operate by chemical messages, and when one of their number kills herself defending the hive, a message is released that says, "sting this target; it's dangerous". So don't make 'em mad.

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Tstorm
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quote:
Be careful, though. I believe ant lions can pinch!

I have yet to be pinched by an ant lion. I must profess, I kept a couple as pets last fall, too. Even if they did pinch, I doubt it would scratch the skin, let alone break it. Sure, they've got large mandibles, but they're all the better for sucking the juice out of ants.
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Polemarch
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Green headed flies. Y'know, the big ones with the extremely painful bite (much worse than a mosquito's bite- a green head's just doesn't leave a welt afterwards).
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Elizabeth
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Polemarch,
You must mean the greenheads that make going to the beach on the North Shore of Massachusetts a living hell? If so, I know NOTHING to stop their attack. They are tough. There is no soft landing, like a mosquito, no "preparing the food." Nope, they dive, and they are out for blood. I find they are the worst later in the summer.
Liz

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Polemarch
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Exactly. I have all sorts of problems with them on Nantucket. We go there every summer.
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Elizabeth
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Polemarch,
I can't even imagine any kind of repellent would work, because they are so fast. Do you find they are worse as the summer progresses? It always seemed like August in Rockport when they were the worst. They are so nasty I get nervous taking the kids to the beach.

Those biting flies aren't very nice, either. You think a gentle housefly has landed, and then, BANG, you are bitten.

The only thing that really helps is a good, strong breeze.

Liz

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Jon Boy
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quote:
Rolie-polies: They are not potato bugs!
In some parts of the country (Utah, for instance), that's what they're called. Either potato bugs or pill bugs, but usually potato bugs.
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Elizabeth
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So much for my August comment.

"Biting Flies: Hoards of biting flies swarm and chase people from the tundras of Alaska to the game preserves of East Africa. They are all big, bad and unpleasant. Each locale has it's own. For instance, horrid greenheads often ruin visits to the glorious East Coast beaches in July. They come from the salt marshes, where they live, to molest with their painful sting. Then sometime in early August they just disappear until the next year. Use DEET, protective clothing or stay out of their way."

http://www.bobvila.com/ArticleLibrary/Subject/Lawn__and__Garden/Lawn_Care/BitingBugs.html

Polemarch, I wonder if your beach is near a salt marsh. I know the one I go to in Rockport is right next to one. Obviously, there are tons of salt marshes near oceans, but I wonder if it would be better in areas farther away from them. Do a study for us, OK? Lie on a whole bunch of beaches on Nantucket, and make a scatter plot of how many bites you get compared to the beach's proximity to a salt marsh. I will stay in the country and battle the ticks and skeeters, and my nemesis, the squash vine borer. You could publish a pamphlet for people, telling them the beaches that are the least populated by greenheads.(actually, I really think this would be a good experiment, without the part about being bitten)

Liz

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Jenny Gardener
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Thanks, Liz and Jon Boy! I had no idea that the creatures I learned to call "sow bugs" had so many names! I apologize for the mistake. And I am not terribly familiar with green-headed flies. They sound nasty! Are they similar to the deer flies we have in the woods?
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Elizabeth
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Jenny,
Yes, greenheads are like deer flies, but I would say they are even faster. Even horse and deerflies have at least a millisecond before the bite, but the greenhead is a dive bomber.

In the salt marshes in Rockport, there are these black boxes that are some kind of bug control.

Polemarch, do you know those black boxes? Are they for greenhead control?

As for my little treehopper, I have become quite fond of it. I swear there is only one, sometimes, and that it is following me. The other day I went out, saw only one on the tomato plant, and then a few minutes later, one landed on my arm. They really are quite cool.

We have had no luck capturing the ant lions, though. Any tricks? The kids are fascinated by the whole thing.

Liz

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Theca
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My method of catching ant lions was just to scoop all the dirt under the base of the sand funnel into my hand and slowly sift away the dirt. The ant lion would more often than not be left in the palm of my hand, running in little circles. I suppose if they really do pinch you could use gloves or something.
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