Friday, March 16, 2012

Friday Bug: Monster on the Monstera

Brown Soft Scale on Monstera
As the sun slowly inches higher and higher above the horizon and the snow shrinks towards the shadows, some six-legged life is again stirring in the Home Bug Garden. A few flies and spiders seem to be willing to share in the delusion that spring is just around the corner. A small fly with long wings in the genus Sapromyza is the most common, sunning itself on fence, trellis, and garage. With their wings folded, these flies are maybe 5-6 mm long, but half is wings. Their family, Lauxaniidae, seems to be too obscure to have garnered a common name. That may be a good thing, since Sapro + myza seems to be from the Greek for putrid + suck. Somewhat larger (~10 mm) and more elegant is what looks like a small cranefly. I think is a Winter Cranefly (Trichoceridae) [but I was wrong, it was a female Meniscus Midge, Dixidae, Dixella sp.] .
Soft Scale, honeydew, and bay leaf
No true bugs seem to be active outside in the dim late winter sun, but we have our own indoor colony of Brown Soft Scale Coccus hesperidum (Linnaeus). This is a pernicious pest, more for the sticky honeydew is squirts on windows, floors, and leaves, than for the minor damage it otherwise does to the plants. We've completely failed to eliminate the pest in spite of years of squirting insecticidal soaps and horticultural oils. We put the plants outside in the summer, and predators and parasitoids reduce the numbers seemingly to zero. Yet every winter they reoccur in their sticky invincibility.
Tetragnatha on Pitcher Plant 2005
Oh well, the one lone spider, a Longjawed Orbweaver Tetragnatha sp., observed this afternoon is also a survivor. The picture above was taken during the second Home Bug Garden Summer and its relations still inhabit the Garden. That is comforting. The Pitcher Plant, alas, failed to survive its first winter.


  1. oh, man, for some reason, scale insects (insects, right?) totally creep me out.

    I had a friend plant-sit for me once, taking my 1 plant into her home for a bit. When I got it back, it was COVERED in scales so completely that I freaked out and chucked it into the alley trashcan.

    Me. A biologist. Who drops to her knees, squealing with delight, to look at slime mold.

    I was thinking maybe it's cause they're so not recognizable as an animal, but acorn barnacles are similar that, and don't bother me in the least. Maybe it's the squishy factor?

    Thanks for the reminder to get my camera out and see who's about. =)

    1. Scale insects are so sneaky and their refusal to respect my Authority really bugs me. We tossed a myrtle two winters ago and a cardamon last winter after giving up on controlling the scales. The Monstera seems somewhat resistant and is relatively easy to take care of, but the Bay Tree is highly susceptible.