“Parachuted” spiders, bedbugs, more spring bugs in New Jersey

NEW JERSEY – Spring brings many welcome sights. Flowers. Birds. Rabbits and other wild animals.

There are also unwanted visitors: bugs. We’ve heard of the parachute spiders that scientists say could soon spread to the East Coast, and warnings urging New Jerseyans to scrape the eggs of the spotted lanternfly have gone out. On top of that is the annual invasion of these adorable little bugs.

Creatures with six or eight legs come out of somewhere this time of year, and some of them have the potential to become true cult heroes in the worlds of insects and arachnids, like the murder hornets of 2020 and the periodic cicadas of 2021 who did the thing – Come on, you know what – until their butts fell out. We had cicadas for lunch too. (Sorry/not sorry for the juxtaposition.)

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The 2022 Freak-Out Bug

This year people are freaking out about the 3-inch Joro spider that fell into view in Georgia in 2013. And why not? They are huge jumping spiders with a unique ability to “parachute” to new places using their webs to “ride the wind” to other places.

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Freak out in the best possible way about this. Spiders are good little creatures (so few can be used to describe such a giant of his species). Superb predators, arachnids are a biological weapon against other insects and pests around the house, yard, garden and crops.

The bottom line: Learn to live with Joro spiders. They don’t do any harm, says Andy Davis, one of the authors of the study predicting their spread on the East Coast and a researcher at the University of Georgia’s Odum School of Ecology. They do no harm and can even serve as a food source for birds. “The way I see it,” said study co-author Benjamin Frick, an undergraduate student, “there’s no point in excessive cruelty, when it’s not necessary.”

“You have people with salt water guns shooting them out of trees and things like that, and it’s really just pointless,” he said.

Turn off the lantern

The spotted lanternfly has become an annual problem in New Jersey, with calls to kill the beautiful-looking but extremely destructive leafhopper starting earlier and earlier.

The New Jersey Department of Agriculture is urging residents to be on the lookout for the insect’s egg masses, which are often laid on flat surfaces including tree bark, rocks, furniture in garden, firewood, boats, recreational vehicles, pallets or anything left outside.

The egg masses are about an inch long and contain 30 to 50 eggs and look like cracked gray or light tan mud. Egg masses on trees are often 10 feet or more, but masses on other objects can result in the insect being transported elsewhere.

The spotted lantern feeds on the sap of more than 70 plant species, including vine, maple, black walnut, and it has a strong preference for economically important plants. “Damage from feeding significantly stresses plants, which can lead to decreased health and potentially death,” state officials say.

It also shows a preference for the “tree of paradise,” an invasive tree common throughout New Jersey, state officials said.

If you find an egg mass on a tree or other surface, scrape it with something flat and crush the eggs as you scrape. Put the mass in a bag (and even double it) to prevent the eggs from hatching.

The bottom line: Familiarize yourself with the insect’s life stages and when to look for them. Descriptions and photos of each step are available here. And kill anyone you find, at every stage of its life.

Become a backyard bug warrior

The brown marmorated stink bugs that crept into your home last fall are getting ready to leave and replenish their species. It’s tempting to let these jerks go just as stealthily. (Stink bugs can rightly be called jerks because, once outside, they are free to satisfy their voracious appetites by chewing on orchards and ornamental plants.)

In New Jersey, bedbugs do more than just stink your homes: the state is among 21 in the nation where they cause major agricultural and nuisance problems. They attack vegetable crops and are also a problem for fruit growers in New Jersey.

When you see them in your home at this time of year, be careful. Be very careful. Vacuum them or sweep them right out the door if you have to, but do it as surreptitiously as possible because when scared, bedbugs give off an odor that will scare you away.

If you pick up bedbugs, be sure to replace the bag immediately. If you have a bagless model, rinse the dust bin with vinegar.

The bottom line: Become a garden bug warrior. Capturing them in commercially available traps is one option, but there are several environmentally friendly ways to tell them to retreat.

The Farmers’ Almanac points out that garlic repels bedbugs. They don’t like mint either – mash dried mint around where you see them congregating; but mint is invasive, so be careful where you plant it. Sunflowers and marigolds attract beneficial insects that appreciate a buffet of stink bug eggs and larvae. Sprinkle food grade diatomaceous earth under and over the leaves of all fruits and vegetables lying on the ground. Or simply prepare a bedbug potion with mild soapy water made from washing-up liquid and spray it directly on the bedbugs.

In search of blood

All sorts of insect species also come to life at this time of year – some you’ll be happy to see, but others that are a nuisance or could outright kill you, or at least make you very sick.

Let’s talk about ticks.

If spring is as rainy as forecasters are predicting in New Jersey, expect an abundance of these bloodthirsty insects and, subsequently, tick-borne illnesses such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and a few others.

Tick ​​bites requiring emergency room visits are most common in the Northeast, accounting for 103 out of every 100,000 emergency room visits, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This includes New Jersey, where tick bites are a serious concern due to Lyme disease.

Lyme disease, transmitted by the blacklegged tick, also known as the deer tick, is an ongoing problem in New Jersey. The state reported 2,400 confirmed cases and 1,219 probable Lyme cases in 2019, the most recent data available, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The state has been near the peak in Lyme case counts for years. Untreated Lyme disease can produce a range of symptoms, including fever, rash, facial paralysis and arthritis, and can begin to appear as early as three days after being bitten. According to the CDC, long-term Lyme can cause more debilitating problems than scientists are still trying to figure out.

The bottom line: Protect yourself from tick bites with human and pet tick repellents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, chemical lawn treatments offer some protection, but should not be considered your only line of defense against ticks. Landscaping, keeping lawns clean and trimmed, and discouraging tick hosts — such as deer, raccoons, and stray dogs — go a long way in keeping ticks away.

If you have opossums in your area and many places with the type of habitat that attracts ticks in abundance, these are your friends. These marsupials devour ticks with incredible speed; however, a 2021 study cast some shadow on the myth that opposums look like ticks. They are meticulous groomers and eat them almost by accident as they clean up after wandering the woods in search of something more delicious. Opossums eat worms, insects, rodents and the like, but also berries, nuts, grains and, perhaps, your vegetable garden.

let it be

On the friendlier side of the insect world, queen bees will seek a quick meal in your flowers. They are important pollinators. In fact, bees pollinate 75% of the food consumed by humans worldwide, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

The bees are in trouble. Their populations are declining all over the world, and it’s up to us to do something about it. When planting your garden or landscaping this year, look into plants that encourage bees.

Here’s a fun fact: bees see color and love yellow, purple, blue and white flowers, which makes echinacea, snapdragon, hostas and wildflowers great garden choices, according to Country Living, which has a list of 20 flowering plants that bees love.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 28 states, including New Jersey, have enacted laws to save pollinators. Laws generally fall into five categories: research, pesticides, habitat protection, beekeeping, and public education.

New Jersey has two laws that have been enacted in the past four years. In 2018, Governor Phil Murphy signed a law requiring pesticide applicators to notify beekeepers when applying pesticides within 3 miles of a registered honey or native hive or apiary. Beekeepers register their honey or native hives or hives with the state DEP each year.

In January, Murphy signed legislation banning most non-agricultural outdoor uses of harmful neonicotinoid pesticides. An outpouring of scientific evidence indicates that neonics are a leading cause of bee losses as well as threats to birds and other wildlife.

The National Resources Defense Council called the law “landmark legislation (that) makes New Jersey a national leader in protecting pollinators, wildlife and people from neon contamination.”

In New Jersey, beekeepers have lost more than 40% of their bee colonies nearly every year for the past decade, according to the NRDC, suggesting similar losses for the more than 300 species of bees native to New Jersey. the state.

“These losses threaten both the state’s ecosystems and many of New Jersey’s most valuable crops, including blueberries, apples and cherries, which rely heavily on insect pollination. Rutgers’ research has revealed that some of these crops are already ‘pollination limited,’ meaning a lack of pollinators is already limiting their production,” the NRDC said.

The bottom line: Unless they cause damage with nests built on chimneys or in wall cavities, or if someone in your household is highly allergic to bees, let bees be bees.

In cases where they have to leave, do not kill them. Call a professional extermination company with the clothes and equipment to remove and relocate the bees without irritating them.

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