By BJ Jarvis
Signs of spring are everywhere. Gardeners are glad to see some of these signs, but may not be so glad to see others. Plants and insects have already figured out spring has come earlier this year than last.
One striking insect popping up is the Jadera bug. Don’t be surprised to see a large number of them sunning themselves on houses and fence posts, maybe even your car.
Each spring, Jaderas emerge, often hanging out on the south side of structures. You can be assured there is a goldenrain tree nearby. Jaderas perform a great service to gardeners and should be considered a member of the “good bug” list. These little crawling beauties are beneficial insects whose primary food source is the seeds of the goldenrain tree, helping to limit the number of seedlings that can sprout from this prolific and fairly invasive tree.
Sometimes called scentless plant bugs, no attempt to control these seedeaters is needed. They are one of the garden’s helpers. About the only downside to these critters is if they get on your clothes and you brush them off, red coloration from damaged insects can stain clothing. Let them feast at the goldenrain buffet and enjoy the work they perform.
Eastern tent caterpillars
Unlike the Jadera bug, eastern tent caterpillars can not be considered in the “good bug” category. Reaching 2-inches long, these caterpillars have a white stripe down their back and are covered with long, light brown hair. After emerging from eggs in the spring, tent caterpillars build a silken tent-like structure in the fork of tree branches.
Each morning, caterpillars leave their protective tent to feed on leaves and consuming everything but the leaf midrib, a telltale sign. Their favorite trees are wild cherry, hawthorn, crabapple or wild plum, but they will travel to other trees like maples and oaks if planted close by. They return at night to their webbed home, where you can remove them with a broom if the “tent” is low enough in the tree. Otherwise, a Florida-friendly product that is very effective on young caterpillars is BT, short for Bacillus thuringiensis, and sold under such brand names as Dipel or Thuricide.
For more information about garden insects emerging in the spring, visit the University of Florida’s website, SolutionsForYourLife.com or contact the Pasco Cooperative Extension Service at (352) 518-0474.
-BJ Jarvis is Director and Horticulture Agent for Pasco Cooperative Extension, a part of the University of Florida and Pasco County government. She can be reached at .
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