Insects Around Banning

Hickory Horned Devil

Hickory horned devil caterpillars look fierce and can be almost as big as a hot dog, but they’re harmless. They have green bodies (that become turquoise as they age) and lots of prickled, orangey horn-like structures on their heads. They’re so big and fierce-looking that even chickens — which usually love to eat caterpillars — have been known to stay away from them.

HHDs eat leaves, chiefly those from hickory-type trees, such as walnuts, pecans, buttonbush, filbert, ash, and others. They also like persimmon leaves.

HHDs live in the deciduous forest areas of the eastern U.S. In earlier years you could find them as far north as Massachusetts, but now they only get as far as New Jersey. They’re more common down south — as far west as eastern Texas and as far east as central Florida.

They hatch from eggs in about a week, and then the larvae (the HHDs) live about five weeks -– usually from late July to the middle of August. They are then known as the Regal Moth.

They eat leaves, storing up energy for their pupation and final transformation. They eat a huge meal right before they start looking for soft earth to burrow into for pupation, when they live in dark brown cocoons.

It’s their last meal ever, because as moths, they don’t eat. They don’t even have mouths that can absorb nutrients. Also, pupation could last one season or even two, depending on when the pupa senses conditions are ripe for its emergence.

The HHD is the larva of the regal moth, which is the biggest moth found north of Mexico. It has gray-green and orange wings about four to six inches wide. It lives only about a week, and in that time this beautiful moth works as hard as it can to mate and reproduce, before it eventually dies of exhaustion.

Luna Moth

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We spotted this beautiful moth right down the road from us this July! The Luna Moth is a Nearctic Moth which is in the Saturniidae family more commonly known as Giant Silk Moths.

The Luna Moth can reach a wingspan of 7 inches or larger but most commonly is found with a wingspan around 4.5 inches. The Luna Moth, like the Regal Moth does not have a mouth and cannot feed, but instead feeds off stored fat reserves left over from it’s caterpillar stage.

These moths lay between 200-400 eggs in one location or split into smaller groups and takes several days to finish laying them all. The Luna Moth can be found along the east coast from Florida to Maine and even into Canada!

Fishing Spider

Fishing Spiders are also known as Raft Spiders, Dock Spiders, or Wharf Spiders. There are many species of Fishing Spiders with a range from Florida and Georgia up to Canada. The species found mostly in Georgia is the Dolomedes Okefenilenises.

Fishing Spiders are large and can reach up to 4 or 5 inches in length. Their habitat is usually a wooded area near bodies of water or swampy areas. Fishing Spiders can stay underwater for up to 30 minutes by using the air on the hairs of their body to breathe! Unlike many spiders, these spiders do not spin webs to capture their prey, but rather wander around looking for insects, minnows, lizards, tadpoles, and frogs to eat.

Fishing Spiders can sit back on their hind legs and put their front legs up in the air to use as sails. This allows the wind to push them across the water towards their prey.

Female Fishing Spiders will eat the male after mating. She will lay eggs on a silk mat and then secure them in the foliage. She will then spin a nursery web around the eggs to protect them. The female fishing spider guards the eggs until the babies hatch and go through their first molt. Fishing Spiders live one to two years.

Fishing Spiders have fangs which do have venom if they bite, though they normally don’t pose a threat to humans. They are very shy and their venom does not pose a threat to humans unless the person is allergic to spider bites.

Chiggers

Chiggers (Trombiculidae), also called Red Bugs or Berry Bugs, are tiny insects commonly referred to as Mites. They can be found world wide but are especially abundant in the South East United States. They like to hang out mostly in damp areas, in grassy or wooded spaces. Chiggers are out from Spring to first frost. During the winter, Adult Chiggers burrow deep in the soil. In Spring they emerge to lay eggs which hatch into larvae.

Contrary to popular belief, Larvae do not bite or burrow into the skin, nor do they lay eggs in your skin. They use their mouths to drill a hole into the skin and then secrete special salivary enzymes which breakdown the skin. A tube of hard skin is formed called a sylosome and the larvae then “slurp” up the mixture. The larvae can feed up to 4 to 5 days if not removed from the host. Eventually, the larvae will drop off and turn into a nymph and then an adult. This process causes severe itching and skin reactions resulting in hard, reddish raised bumps that can last a week or more.

Protection can make a big difference for your comfort in the outdoors. The larvae will crawl up your shoes and legs. They love finding tight fitting clothing such as the top of socks and waistbands. To protect yourself against Chiggers, make sure you stay away from high grassy areas and be sure to use an insect repellant with DEET or permethrin. If you do get a case of Chiggers, be sure to wash off all areas with soap and water and apply cortisone cream to the affected areas. Calamine lotion can be applied and Benadryl can be used as well!