Skydiving Spiders, Needle Ants and Stink Bugs Could Invade VA, DC
VIRGINIA — As temperatures warm in Virginia and the district, from giant parachuting spider creatures that scientists say could soon spread along the eastern seaboard to an invasive species of needle ants, known for its painful sting, head north from southern states like Florida. , Georgia and the Carolinas.
It’s officially spring in Virginia and DC, which means six- and eight-legged creatures are crawling out of their winter homes. Some of these creatures have the potential to become true cult heroes in the worlds of insects and arachnids, like 2020’s murder hornets and 2021’s periodical cicadas that did the thing – come on, you know what – until let their butts fall out. We had cicadas for lunch too.
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 along the East Coast and a researcher at the University of Georgia’s Odum School of Ecology.
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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.
Joro spiders use their web like a parachute to carry them by the wind to new places, a behavior called ballooning, a researcher told WGCL.
“There’s really no reason to actively crush them,” Frick said. “Humans are behind their invasion. Don’t blame the spider Joro.”
You had us at ‘Needle’
Let’s talk about the Asian needle ant, though. It probably won’t kill you if you are bitten by one of these insects, recently discovered in Evansville, Indiana.
In rare cases, the ant’s venom can be fatal to people who have reactions to insect bites and stings. In most cases, however, the most serious reaction to a sting is a “tingling” sensation that may persist for a few weeks.
Although established and well frequented in the South since the 1930s, it has never been so far north. Members of this ant species also make their home in Kentucky.
Purdue University entomologist Timothy Gibb told the Indianapolis Star that the Asiatic ant’s stinger and venom sac give it a place of honor among Indiana ants. None of the others in the Hoosier state have stingers.
“Other ants will bite,” Gibb told the Star, “but that’s really new.”
The Asian needle ant typically lives in wooded areas, but also crawls inside homes when temperatures cool. Ants are great characters overall. But Asian needle ants infest residential, commercial and school kitchens and steal food, increasing the likelihood that you will be bitten by the venom, according to the North Carolina State University Extension Service.
These opportunistic ants wake up now, before other ant species, and can already make life generally difficult for other ants by a) eating them alive, b) eating their food, or c) kicking their nests.
The bottom line: The world needs ants. They aerate the soil, creating underground channels for the water and oxygen plants need to reach their roots and grow. Asian needle ants are bad actors, however. Get rid of them.
The North Carolina Extension Service recommends several commercially available insecticidal baits, warning that it is important to confirm first that you are dealing with Asian needle ants and not a beneficial species and also cautioning against broadcast applications.
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. (Stinkbugs can rightly be called jerks because, once outside, they are free to satisfy their voracious appetites by chewing on orchards and ornamental plants.)
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 also 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 on 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 wet as forecasters predict in many parts of the country, 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 104 out of every 100,000 emergency room visits, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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 the lawn 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 are also full of opossums — 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.
At least 28 states have enacted laws to save pollinators, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Laws generally fall into five categories: research, pesticides, habitat protection, beekeeping, and public education.
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.