FLORIDA INSECTS

Nancy Thorn
Instructor: Donn Bree
July 16, 2001


(Green anole munching on a palmetto bug - photo by Brian Cleary)

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Summary

This web page will be a research guide to the myriad of insects that inhabit Florida.

Humans and insects have long been at war here in Florida. Insects invade our homes, damage and destroy our structures, contaminate our food and crops, sting and bite us and, in some cases, even kill us. We try to eliminate them with sprays that destroy the beneficial insects along with the harmful and which may have long-term effects on the environment.

My first step in this research project was to catalog the most common Florida insects. Starting from this list, I will be adding information as to their habitat, identify whether or not they are native to Florida, and whether they are harmful or beneficial to the environment.

Some Interesting Facts About Florida's Insects

There are so many insects in Florida that it is impossible to catalog them all. So far about 500 species of insects are found only in Florida. One of the reasons that so many insects inhabit the state is the biological diversity of the landscape and another is the mild winter climate. Also the land of Florida is very old and has remained unchanged for thousands of years. Some of the swamps and forests are so old that they are home to insects that are not even found in other parts of the state. New species of insects are being discovered almost every day. Any natural area in the state contains undescribed species. These insects are not new in the sense that they have only just evolved, but rather because they have yet to be described. However, in order to determine the species that have not yet been described, an in-depth knowledge of those that have been described is necessary.

Since 1986 over 150 new insect species have arrived in Florida and made the state their home. The Mediterranean and Oriental Fruit Flies are not counted in these statistics as they had been considered eradicated. However, both have reappeared recently, and the Oriental Fruit Fly is now under seige in Sarasota County.

Florida currently has one species of insect on the endangered list: the Schaus Swallowtail. Previously seen all over the state, it can only be found now in certain areas of the Keyes. Although not yet endangered, the fascinating and magical firefly has become increasingly scarce. The reasons for this are not known for certain, but fireflies require a very specific habitat and those habitats are disappearing. Also the insecticides that have been sprayed to eliminate the insect pests have surely been responsible for killing fireflies as well.

The single most unpleasant insect in Florida is the fire ant. The fire ant is not native to Florida. It arrived in the state from South America in the mid 1940s. Massive doses of DDT were sprayed in what was considered a foolproof way to get rid of this pest. Instead, this massive spraying succeeded only in eliminating most of the native ants that were natural enemies of the fire ant. The evil fire ant survived and has become a permanent unwelcome guest in Florida.

Giant Waterbug
Another odd Florida insect is the Giant Waterbug. This member of the beetle family is not as common as the pesky fire ant, but it is unpleasant on a much larger scale as far as size is concerned. The Giant Waterbug grows from 1.5 to four inches in length, is usually found in ponds or murky water, and can inflict a nasty bite on the unsuspecting wader. In fact, their common name is "toe biter"!

 

Florida Palmetto BugThe "palmetto bug" is actually just a large cockroach, and can be either of the American or Australian species. They don't live in palmetto trees and the name of palmetto bug seems to have been only an attempt to make these sometimes enormous cockroaches a bit more socially acceptable. Although unpleasant, the palmetto bug doesn't bite, which makes it a little less unpleasant than the fire ant and the waterbug.

 

 

The most Common Florida Insects

 

American Dog Tick
Angular-winged Katydid
Antlion
Aphid
Australian Cockroach
Bagworm
Beetles
Bermudagrass Scale
Big-legged Plant Bug
Bird Grasshopper
Black Scale
Black Turpentine Beetle
Black Widow Spider
Blister Beetle
Blood-Red Ladybird Beetle
Blow Fly
Booklouse
Bougainvillea Caterpillar
Braconid Wasp
Bull Ant
Butterfly
Cabbage Looper
Casemaking Clothes Moth
Caterpillar-hunter
Centipede
Chicken Wing Louse
Chinch Bug
Cicada
Citrus Rust Mite
Click Beetle
Climbing Cutworm
Clothes Moth
Cockroach
Cone-headed Grasshopper
Corn Earworm
Cotton BoIlworm
Cottony Cushion Scale
Cricket, Field
Cryptolaemus Ladybird Beetle
Cutworm & Moth
Damselfly
Deer Fly
Doodlebug
Dragonfly
Earwig
Electric Light Bug
Elephant Beetle
Fall Armyworm
Fall Webworm
Field Cricket
Fire Ant
Firefly
Flat Headed Borer
Flea & Larva
Flesh Fly
Florida Carpenter Ant
Florida Red Scale
Florida Wax Scale
Flower Thrips
Froghopper


German Cockroach
Giant Water Bug
Gladiolus Thrips
Grampus
Grasshopper
Grass Looper
Grass Scales
Green Bottle Fly
Greenheads
Green Stink Bug
Ground Beetles
Ground Pearls
Hawk Moth
Hemispherical Scale
Hornworm
Horse Fly
House Fly
Hunting Billbug
Indian Wax Scale
Io Caterpillar
Jassid
Jumping Spider
Katydid
Lace Bug
Lacewing
Ladybird Beetles
Leaffooted Bug
Leaf hopper
Lesser Snow Scale
Lightningbug
Locust
Long-tailed Mealybug
Lovebug
Lubber Grasshopper

Lubberly Locust
Mayfly
Mealybug
Measuringworm
Metallic Beetle
Millipede
Mole Cricket
Mosquito
Moths
Nettling Caterpillars
Old Fashioned Potato Beetle
Oleander Caterpillar
Oleander Moth
Orange-dog
Ox Beetle
Palm Weevil
Pamera
Paper Wasp
Parasitic Wasp
Phoenix Moth
Pillbug
Pine Sawfly Larva
Pinning Insects
Planthopper
Plaster Bagworm
Polka Dot Moth
Powder-post Beetle
Praying Mantid


Puss Caterpillar
Pyriform Scale
Red Spider
Rhodesgrass Scale
Robber Fly
Rust Mite, Citrus
Saddleback Caterpillar
Scarab Beetle
Scorpion
Screw-worm Fly
Seed Bug
Serpentine Leaf Miner
Sharpshooter
Silverfish
Slug
Sod Webworm
Soft Brown Scale
Soldier Beetle
Sooty Mold
Southern Green Stink Bug
Sowbug
Spider Mite
Spiders
Spittlebug
Springtail
Stink Bug
Striped Blister Beetle
Sugar Cane Scale
Swallowtail, Schaus
Swallowtail, Giant
Tea Scale
Termites
Thornbug
Thrips
Tiger Beetle
Tomato Fruitworm
Trashbug
Treehopper
Tropical Sod Webworm
Turpentine Beetle, Black
Twice-Stabbed Ladybird Beetle
Twig Girdler
Unicorn Beetle
Vedalia
Velvet Ant
Vinegaroon
Walking Stick
Wasps
Wax Scale
Webbing Clothes Moth
Web-spinner
Weevils
Wheel Bug
Whip-scorpion
Whitefly
White Grub
Wiggler
Wireworm
Wood Ant
Yellow Flies

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