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People often ask: “What is that yellow butterfly that is flying around everywhere right now?” From my observations, I would say we are beginning to see the first wave of sulphurs visiting our landscapes.
The Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae) is a small to midsized butterfly in the family Pieridae found in the Americas. There are several similar species some with angled wings or other sulphurs, which are much smaller. They have a wide range, from South America to Canada, and are most common from Argentina up to southern Florida and Texas.
The adults feed on nectar from many flowers, especially those with long tubes. In our area, you may find them feeding from hibiscus flowers, lantana, morning glory and several other flowering plants common to this area. Open spaces, gardens, seashores and watercourses are common habitats for this butterfly. The caterpillars prefer several types of plants found in this area including partridge pea, sennas, clovers and other legumes.
The male butterfly is clear yellow above and yellow or mottled with reddish brown below and the female is lemon-yellow to golden or white on both surfaces, with varying amounts of black spotting along the margin and a black open square or star on the bottom forewing.
The ‘ne’er do wells’
Just when you thought it was safe to go outside, along comes a host of other biters, stingers and other “ne’er do wells.”
Fire ants are on the prowl and we have had some reports of them invading houses. They are foraging for food and possibly just trying to get out of the heat and into our air-conditioned homes. Fire ants will be building and expanding their mounds throughout the rest of the warm season in preparation for winter. Treat mounds with fire ant baits or other commercially available control products. Please follow label directions for best control.
Be on the watch out for stinging caterpillars because they can cause painful stings. There are several types of these caterpillars and many are brightly colored or look harmless but they pack a “wallop.” They should be arriving soon if they are not already here.
The colorful Saddleback Caterpillar looks harmless and inviting. The name is very descriptive in that the caterpillar looks like it has a saddle on its back. People are often stung by mishandling them.
I know the feeling of the fire from these tiny creatures. If you are lucky like me, you get a second streak of stings as you remove your arm raking it across the same stinging spines that made you notice that something was not right when you first brushed against the critter.
We also have the Puss Caterpillar, which looks like a fuzz ball with tan brown or light brown hairs. It doesn’t even look like an insect, but it is. They love to eat foliage of some of your favorite ornamental shrubs. A client, who served in Vietnam, said the sting of the Puss Caterpillar was the most painful wound he had ever experienced. You definitely do not want to experience this sting.
Another “bad guy” is the Io Moth. The Io Moth is also brightly colored and peaks the interest especially of young kids wanting to capture or hold the insect in their hands. Covered with many colorful spines, the Io Moth also causes a painful sting. There are a few other stinging caterpillars but these are the ones I see the most and usually at this time of year.
Mosquitoes are rebounding from drought conditions due to our recent rains and are coming out in full force to disrupt your favorite early morning or early evening activities.
Ticks are looking for a blood meal, too. I like to tuck my pants leg into my socks when I go out into the woods to keep the ticks from crawling up the insides of my pants and then attaching themselves on me. Ticks carry diseases that can be quite serious. It is advisable to use repellants if possible and to inspect your skin afterwards if you have been out in the woods or in areas where ticks can be found. They are relatively easy to remove with a pair of tweezers. Grip the tick firmly under the head end and push down to disengage the “teeth,” then gently pull away. Once the tick has been removed, treat the bite area with antiseptic.
If you have questions about biting or stinging insects or just curious about the arrival or interesting insects found at this time of year, feel free to call our office at 253-2610. We will be glad to help.