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Bugs and Other Things


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Kimberly Schofield
Program Specialist-Urban IPM

Pesky Pill Bugs

Adult Pillbug. Photo by: Texas A&M University.Pill bugs might be entering households this fall, due to the lack of moisture and cooler weather. Pill bugs are in the Class Crustacea so they are closely related to shrimp, lobsters and crabs. Pill bugs have seven sets of legs and their color varies from dark gray to white. They get their name from rolling into a tight ball when bothered.

Pill bugs are typically found under rocks, boards, bricks, trash, decaying vegetation, logs, or any area with a high humidity level. Mulch, grass clippings, and leaf litter provide enough decaying organic matter to allow these creatures to survive. They are considered omnivores feeding on dead or decaying plants or animals, so some may feed on the young roots and shoots of live plants.

The female pill bug produces offspring which she carries in a pouch under her body, until they can take care of themselves. Although mating is common, males can be produced through parthenogenesis. An immature pill bug will molt four or five times, before becoming an adult. The immature pill bugs look like adults except for size, color and sexual development. There are usually multiple generations a year.

Pill bugs are generally harmless in landscapes and they are usually considered beneficial, since they break down organic matter. However, they can become a serious pest in greenhouses if large populations exist.

Some Control Options

Non-Chemical Controls:

Reduce areas of moisture, especially areas where moss or fungi inhabit.
Protect natural enemies such as frogs, toads, and spiders.
Remove plant debris to discourage pill bugs.

Chemical Controls:

If infestation exists, then granules and perimeter sprays can be applied around structures and within the landscape, such as those containing bifenthrin. 

Inviting Thrips Indoors

As winter approaches, we start to move our potted plants indoors. One insect that may go undetected are thrips. These insects are very tiny, almost microscopic and can be a nuisance since their mouthparts are able to penetrate into human skin, causing a prickly sensation.

Female thrips lay eggs inside plant leaf tissue, using a serrated ovipositor to cut through the plant tissue. This allows the eggs and larvae to be well protected from insecticides and natural enemies. The immature thrips will feed on the plant tissue until it falls to the ground to pupate. Thrips undergo a prepupal and pupal stage before becoming an adult. The total length of the lifecycle from egg to adult can be completed in about a week.

Thrips have rasping-sucking mouthparts that allow them to cut open epidermal cells to release the cell contents that are then ingested. This causes the cells to collapse due to absence of its contents. Their feeding also causes discoloration and deformities of leaves and petals.

As thrips feed, they inject salvia into the plant tissue which allows viruses to be transmitted. The viruses they transmit are Tomato Spot Wilt Virus and Impatiens Necrotic Spot Virus. However, the first instar larvae are the only life stage that is capable of obtaining the virus. The virus then replicates inside the immature thrips’s saliva glands as it matures into adulthood. Once it reaches adulthood, the thrips is able to transmit the disease.

Some Control Options:

Cultural Control tactics:

Dispose of weeds, trash or debris to reduce the thrips population, since these areas may serve as overwintering sites for thrips.

Avoid planting thrips susceptible plants in areas close to wheat or rye fields. Wheat and rye are both good overwintering sites for some thrips species that can attack landscape plants.

Discard infested plant materials to avoid infesting other plants.

Biological Control tactics:

A natural enemy of thrips is the adult minute pirate bug (Orius sp.), which attacks both immature and adult thrips. Another natural enemy is the Neoseiulus sp. predatory female adult mite, which attacks the first instar thrips and the soil-dwelling predacious mite, Hypoaspsis sp, which attack the prepupal and pupal stages of thrips in the soil. Also Beauveria bassiana, a fungus sold in certain biopesticide products, is effective at controlling thrips. This fungus grows and reproduces on the host, eventually killing the thrips in around 7 to 10 days.

Chemical Control tactics:

Some chemical control options include products such as insecticidal soaps, products containing spinosad, permethrin, bifenthrin or acephate applied as foliar sprays or systemic products containing such chemicals as imidacloprid or acephate.

Western flower thrips, Frankliniella occidentalis (Pergande).

Another Invading Cockroach……the Asian Cockroach

The Asian cockroach, Blattella asahinai was recently discovered in Harris County, in Houston, TX this year. It is only a matter of time before this cockroach could be found in North Texas. Asian cockroaches resemble German cockroaches, but they have different habits. The Asian cockroaches can be found both in human dwellings and in areas away from human habitats, unlike the German cockroach that will only be found in human dwellings. Outdoors, Asian cockroaches prefer areas that are shaded or covered with leaf litter or grass.

Asian cockroaches are most active one hour after sunset and they are excellent flyers. They will crawl on the grass blades or trees and then fly to the lights at night. If these lights are close to structures, then these roaches could gain entrance into the buildings. They can live in large colonies of 30,000 to 250,000 per acre and they can fly up to 120 feet in a single flight. The Asian cockroach’s ability to fly, high reproductive potential, and outdoor living habitat will make it hard to manage this cockroach.

Some Control Options:

Non-Chemical Control Options:

Seal any cracks a 1/8 inch or more in the foundation, walls, ceilings, and around air conditioning units, windows, doors, electrical outlets, pipes or other openings.

Keep trash and stacks of firewood away from the home or garage.

Garbage cans, racks, platforms or slabs should be cleaned regularly.

Chemical Control Options:

Since this cockroach occasionally invades structures, indoor and perimeter applications of insecticides are effective such as those containing bifenthrin, permethrin or pyriproxyfen.

Adult female Asian cockroach, Blattella asahinai Mizukubo, carrying an egg case (ootheca). Photograph by: R.W. Baldwin, University of Florida.

Mention of commercial products is for educational purposes only and does not represent endorsement by Texas Cooperative Extension or The Texas A&M University System. Insecticide label registrations are subject to change, and changes may have occurred since this publication was printed. The pesticide user is always responsible for applying products in accordance with label directions. Always read and carefully follow the instructions on the container label.

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