Tag Archives: insects

“It’s not The Planet of the Apes—it’s The Planet of the Arthropods.”

 

Who are the most successful beings on Earth? It certainly isn’t Man, Ape or any other mammal. The most successful animals on the planet are the arthropods. They have conquered land, sea and air, and make up over three-fourths of all currently known living and fossil organisms. They are the true masters of the Earth!

Various Arthropods Wikipedia Commons
Various Arthropods Wikipedia Commons

The Phylum Arthropoda got its name from the Greek, arthros (jointed) and poda (foot) and encompasses over 800,000 species, including arachnids (spiders), crustaceans (sea creatures) and insects.  Also, members of this gigantic phylum are Myriapods; centipedes, millipedes, sea spiders, and maybe a host of other organisms yet unidentified.

What do all of these creepy, crawly and flighty creatures have in common?  They are all invertebrate (without a backbone), have symmetrical, segmented bodies, jointed legs, exterior skeletons, a ventral (front) nervous system, highly developed sensory organs and they are cold blooded.

Arthropods have a leg up on all other organsms. They do everything with legs or modified legs. They swim, crawl, jump, and fly, they use legs to sense with (their antennae), to bite and sting with and to chew with (they even chew sideways).  All this and more, is done with legs.

So, with segmented bodies that accommodate environmental changes, with legs that let them walk; with hard, waterproof shells that keep water in or out; and with highly adaptable respiratory systems, arthropods have dominated the animal world.

Arthropods occur in virtually every earthly habitat, from the cold ocean depths to the hottest deserts. They can live through extremes that would kill most vertebrates.

Fun Facts about Arthropods:

  • Arthropods crawled onto land about 100 million years before vertebrates did. It’s thought that colonizing land was easier for them for several reasons – including the fact that they had already evolved legs, which they used for walking on the bottom of the sea.
  • About 80% of all animal species are arthropods!butterfly-emerging-from-cocoon-1518060_640
  • All arthropods undergo metamorphosis – a process where their bodies change radically as they pass from their larval to adult stages. Butterflies are the best-known for entering cocoons as caterpillars and coming out quite different, but all arthropods do something similar!
  • When arthropods outgrow their old exoskeleton, they molt – leaving behind their former skin and growing a new one. All arthropods do this at least once in their lives.
  • Crustaceans and arachnids – two types of arthropods – have blue blood instead of red blood! Their blood uses a blue copper compound to carry oxygen, instead of the red iron compound used by most other animals.
  • An Arthropods’ hard exoskeleton is made of chitin – which is made of a sugar glucose compound! It’s not sweet but it sure is hard!

If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos. (E. O. Wilson, The Diversity of Life)

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