Nature Photography by Lizabeth Allyn

Butterfly Links and Other Cool Insect Resources

The Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center provides lots of information on the Butterflies and Moths of North America. The distribution maps show you where butterflies live, the species accounts tell you how butterflies live, and the photo thumbnails will help you identify butterflies. Choose a map search and click on PA to get a list of the Butterflies and Moths of Pennsylvania. Try a species search by entering a common name of a butterfly or moth, like a Hawk Moth, for instance, and then click on an individual species name to read more about it.

Thinking of releasing butterflies at a wedding or ceremony? Think again — it's not a very good idea for the life of the butterfly! Check out what the North American Butterfly Association has to say about butterfly releases and weddings.

Caterpillars of Eastern Forests, provides information on all aspects of caterpillar identification, collection, rearing, biology, and preservation. A downloadable zip file of this site is available so that you can study the volume of information on caterpillars at your leisure.

Insect Pests

Anyone who has spent time gardening or working on keeping their turfgrass lawn looking nice and healthy can tell you that there are lots of pests that one must deal with in their outdoor endeavors. Beetles and their grubs, aphids and other insect pests will bring out the warrior in you when you see them destroying all that you have worked so hard to make beautiful.

Many state agricultural extension agencies have provided fact sheets to help us combat these ferocious predators of lawns, ornamental trees and flowers. We encourage you to seek the knowledge of the ag-extension folks as they have countless hours invested in researching solutions to your problems. Read on to learn more about these insect pests!

Beetles and Their Grubs

Japanese beetles are prevalent pests in the the eastern United States. Adult beetles congregate for feeding and mating on many of our prized ornamental plants and fruit trees. Eggs are laid by the female in the grassy lawns on which we spend so much time and money.

Beetle larvae, or white grubs, that hatch from the eggs are voracious feeders on the roots of grass. Brown patches in the lawn may be evidence that beetle grubs are alive and well and dining on the roots of your nicely mowed grass. For up to three years the grubs will consume roots causing unsightly patches of dead, brown grass.

Even worse than the brown patches of grass is the fact that an infestation of beetle grubs will draw small animals, like skunks and moles, who then dig up the earth to feed on the grubs. So, the grub numbers may be somewhat controlled, but the lawn is now in worse shape having holes and ripped up sod!

Ohio State University lists four options for controlling adult beetles and three options for controlling their grubs. This fact sheet gives a great description of the lifecycle of the beetles and a calendar that shows the times when the adults and grubs are most active. Beetle and grub line drawings will help to identify which species is giving you trouble. To find the best control method for grubs, take the time to identify the white grubs to species. Green june beetles, chafers, japanese beetles, and may or june beetles are discussed with respect to their lifecycle and biology, proper identification, and methods of sampling and control.

Hand-picking the adults by knocking them into a pail of soapy water when they are first spotted may be the best control. The first-comers to your yard will send pheromones into the air to alert other beetles (up to a mile away!) that a suitable smorgasbord has been found. Where there is one Japanese beetle, there will soon be more.

Bob Vila, of This Old House TV fame, gives us the advice to keep a healthy lawn in combating beetle grubs. The general idea here is that a healthy lawn will develop more roots and, therefore, should be able to withstand a little grub activity. A weak lawn will quickly show grub damage.

First, verify that grubs are the cause of your brown grass by digging out a square foot of turf, 3 inches deep, and counting the grubs. Laying the cut-out turf on newspaper may help in the counting process. If there are 10 or more grubs, then it's time to treat the lawn. By the way you may have to water the area that you sample for grubs as most will go deeper into the soil to keep moist.

Should there be fewer than 10 grubs per square foot, fertilize the lawn near Labor Day and keep it watered. Also, keep the grass high — 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 inches tall — to develop the healthiest roots.

Second, pay special attention to Mr. Vila's warning about the use of chemicals on your lawn. Shoes, the dog's feet, and door mats will collect any chemical you spray on the lawn. Be very cautious when using chemicals and please use them wisely or not at all!

Instead, try the biological controls that are now available at any garden shop. Read on to learn about this natural kind of pesticide.

Biological Control of Pests

Biological controls are desirable as they do not have the toxicity to humans and other animals that chemical pesticides have. You'll find a few species of Bacillus, a type of bacteria, on the shelves under various trade names. The popular and effective "Bt" products contain Bacillus thuringiensis bacteria in a formulation which is harmless to humans and pets, yet lethal to many insects.

For treatment of beetle grubs read about safer alternatives to chemical pesticides, like Milky Spore Disease or Nematodes!

Beneficial Insects in the Home, Yard and Garden is a publication of the University of Georgia Extension Service that highlights the fact that there are many insects that kill and consume other pest insects. Information is provided on how to attract and keep these beneficial insects in your living spaces. Line drawings will help you learn about 10 beneficial insect species.

For a nice description of aphid control with ladybugs or green lacewings, or how to use praying mantis, fly parasites, predatory mites, beneficial nematodes, yellow sticky traps, milky spore, and mosquito dunks to control pests, check out the Beneficial Insect Company. Another great place to order these products and beneficial insects for your garden is Planet Natural.

Field Guide Books and References

What kind of insect is it? Instead of squashing that bug just because find out if it is a beneficial bug first!

IPM Images touts itself as "The Source for Agricultural Images" and justly so as this site shares over 30,000 images with us. Try searching for assassin bug or wheel bug, (click on "View Thumbnails" if not already shown) and you'll see several pictures of the little soldiers identified to the species. Click on one of the thumbnail pictures to get a close up view and find links to more images of your bug, or to members of its genus, family, order, or class. IPM Images is a fantastic source of images for learning about the insects, bugs, and other critters related to agriculture.