Tag Archives: beetles

California Has Fireflies! Who knew?

What better time to start planning a summer vacation than in the middle of a cold (sort of), wet California winter.  If you are doing a little California dreaming right now, why not plan a summer adventure in the beautiful southern mountains.  You might be surprised at what you find.  Like Joshua Oliva, who recently completed his undergraduate studies at UC Riverside, who discovered a brand-new species of firefly while exploring in the Santa Monica mountains, in Topanga. firefly-2466543_640

This tiny creature with its glowing personality, was only about half a centimeter long and it did faintly glow. He (she) has a long way to go to measure up to its East Coast relatives, who, by the way, are larger, more numerous and really, light it up, on warm summer evenings.

USA, TX, Jeff Davis Co.: Fort Davis.Davis Mountains State Park.04-ix-2016
Public Domain Image by Alejandro Santillana for Insects Unlocked Project, University of Texas,  Austin

Contrary to popular belief, California is home to 18 species (soon to be 19). In contrast, Florida has about 56 species of fireflies. Fireflies are nocturnal members of Lampyridae, a family of insects within the beetle order Coleoptera, or winged beetles

Heinz Albers, www.heinzalbers.org(https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], from Wikimedia Commons
Firefly larvae eating a snail, Heinz Albers, www.heinzalbers.org(https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], from Wikimedia Commons

Firefly larva, also known as, glow worms live for about one year, before it turns into an adult and mates.  The average lifespan of adult fireflies is around 2 months. The firefly’s sole purpose in life is to mate and procreate. Flashing each other, the males and females, find the loves of their lives.

In the United States, it’s extremely rare to see glowing fireflies, west of western Kansas, and even the ones that do glow can be very small and their light so faint that it can hardly be seen. But here’s the scoop.

Courtesy of Art Farmer from Evansville Indiana, USA. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/
Courtesy of Art Farmer from Evansville Indiana, USA. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/

Luminescent fireflies also known as lightening bugs, have been seen in the Santa Monica mountains and the Laguna mountains in San Diego.  They’ve also been spotted on the southeast slope of Mt. San Jacinto and upper Lytle Creek in San Bernardino County.

In general, fireflies prefer wet, humid habitats that  support their favorite food, snails. Those few species that have been discovered in Southern California have been found mostly by ponds, springs, seeps and streams.

Firefly Fun Facts: 

See more fun Pest Toons athttps://www.corkyspest.com/toons.html
See more fun Pest Toons at https://www.corkyspest.com/toons.html
  1. They have strange eating habits. Contrary to the cute image of baby fireflies flitting from flower to flower, the underground-dwelling larvae of the lightning bug are carnivorous and feast on oozy slugs, worms and slimy snails. Once they grow up, some turn to cannibalism and eat other fireflies, but most live on pollen and nectar (while some don’t eat anything during their short lifetimes).
  2. Predators that might crave a “light” meal, beware the lightning bug. They taste disgusting. Firefly blood contains lucibufagins, which is a defensive steroid that tastes really yucky. Predators associate the awful taste with a firefly’s light and learn not to eat bugs that shine.mason-jar-2-3864319_640-1

If your summer, mountain adventure includes firefly hunting, your best bet is to grab a mason jar (don’t forget to poke holes in the lid) and head for an area with a natural water source on a warm summer night. Turn off your flashlight, so you can see their glow.  Be thoughtful.  When you are done admiring these little guys, let them go.  They will thank you for it.

A warm beverage, A romantic fire and BUGS !

Even sun worshiping, Southern Californians like the aroma,  romantic ambiance and the warmth that a fire in a fireplace brings to their homes during cool, damp, fall and winter evenings.  Although some enjoy the atmosphere of an electric fireplace, nothing beats  a real wood fire.

Be aware! Anytime you bring materials from the great outdoors into your home, you may be importing hitchhikers. Firewood, pine cones, seedpods and other natural items often host insects and arthropods. The majority, of these pests don’t pose a real threat to your home, furnishings or family, but it’s nice to avoid the unexpected fright and frustration tha their presence can elicit.

Firewood inswood-pileects usually belong to one of two groups:

  • those that actively feed on wood and
  • those only seeking shelter.

Here are some creatures that you might run into and some tips for keeping them  out of your home.

Beetles are the most common group of insects found within firewood. Wood borers often attack dead or dying trees and are in the woodeucalyptus_longhorned_borer_01 when it is cut. Often, the first indication of beetle activity is the presences of a powdery dust or frass coming from holes on the wood surface. Adult beetles may also be seen on or around the firewood.  Longhorned beetles (Cerambycidae), Flathead and metallic wood borers (Buprestidae), Bark and ambrosia beetles (Curculionidae), Powderpost beetles (Bostrichidae) are a few you might run into.

Termites: Termites accidently brought indoors with firewood will not infest structural wood.

Termites

Their presence in firewood, piled close to the home, may warrent an inspection for termites.

Ants: Some species of ants- including carpenter ants can be found in wood. There is little chance they will nest in the home, but if wood is brought indoors and warmed up,

carpenter_ant_nest_creemorethe ants can become active and create a nuisance anytime of the year.

 

Wood Wasps: Species of wood wasps, horntails and other wasp-like insects breed in dead wood.As with most of the insects mentioned here, they cannot re-infest wood or cause damage to a structure.

wood-wasp.

Spiders, earwigs, wood roaches, sowbugs, crickets and small flies may hide and/or overwinter in firewood. Oh, and don’t forget rats and snakes find woodpiles quite homey too.

Earwig and Black Widow
Earwig and Black Widow
Wood roaches and sowbugs
Wood roaches and sowbugs

 

crickets
House Crickets

Insect invasions of homes from firewood can be reduced by following these simple rules:

  • Avoid stacking the wood directly on the ground. This will keep the wood from getting too wet and reduce the chances for infestation by termites and ants.
  • Don’t stack firewood in or against the house or other buildings for long periods of time. Termite or carpenter ant problems can develop and cause more serious problems.
  • Use the oldest wood first, for it is most likely to be infested. Avoid the tendency to stack new wood on top of old wood.
  • Cover the wood during the summer and fall. This will keep it drier and exclude some creatures seeking overwintering sites.
  • Shake, jar, or knock logs together sharply to dislodge insects and brush off any obvious structures such as webbing or cocoons before bringing it inside.
  • Bring in small amounts of firewood that can be used up in a day or so and keep it stacked in a cool area (e.g., garage or porch) until it is burned. When wood warms up, the creatures in or on it will become active.
  • Do not treat firewood with insecticides. It is unnecessary and potentially dangerous due to chemical toxins released while burning.  Pesticide treated firewood is a “Health Hazard”!

Always obtain your firewood locally. Firewood from other areas could harbor, non-native, invasive pests, and has the potential to create a destructive infestation where you live or camp. Most experts recommend that no firewood be moved more than 50 miles from its origin. If you are planning a camping trip, away from home, don’t bring your own firewood with you. Buy wood from a source near the camping area. buy-it-where-you-burn-it-banner