Entomologist Dr. Art Evans and WCVE producer Steve Clark discuss kissing bugs in the news and Facebook queries dealing with carpenter bees and “flying centipedes”.
SC: I'm Steve Clark with Dr. Art Evans, entomologist, and this is What’s Bugging You. So what's been going on in the world of entomology this week?
AE: Well my inbox has been replete with all kinds of news bits and queries from our listeners. A couple of news bits that caught my eye - the first being kissing bugs are back in the news.
SC: Yes, they are.
AE: Darn it. (laughing) I still have to shake my head about this, especially here in the east. You know we have a native species of Triatoma. It's been here all along, and when it shows up, people act like it's a problem or it's something new, when in fact it is not. We have a native species here. It lives out in the woods. It generally is not found around homes, and they're potty-trained. You know that's how Chagas disease is spread. It's not through the bite. It's through infected feces that are rubbed into the itchy wound. But our local species has a tendency to walk away from its host.
SC: Very polite.
AE: Very polite. And the other news bit that has popped up, and also a lot of queries in my Facebook page, is how to get rid of carpenter bees. I appreciate what homeowners must think when they see big holes and saw dust raining down. But I'm not a pest control operator, and so I'm loathe to tell people how to get rid of insects. We’re all about how to get along with insects. I always try to steer people toward information that says, at the very least, you can plug up the holes with wood putty or steel wool.
SC: Got to paint it.
AE: Painting helps, but it's not a guarantee. And if you look at a lot of the university extension materials here in Virginia and beyond, they're not giving you a lot of absolutes - if you do this, they will stop coming. If you have a nice eastern or southern exposure, they will find you and your untreated timbers and make hay. And another interesting thing, there are a couple of videos that are popping up on Facebook and elsewhere where male carpenter bees, they’re the white-faced ones that get in your face, are flying up to security cameras on people's front doors against the hole.
SC: And just hovering there?
AE: Right, and they’re just right there. And it's just, it's hilarious. And of course that brings me to my last point today. I received an email about a flying centipede, (laughing) and I got to tell you folks, you know, centipedes don't fly. Only insects can fly among arthropods.
SC: Sure looks like it though.
AE: Sure looks like it. The quality of the security camera was such that it couldn't slow down the insect enough, so the flapping wings look like legs sticking out the side.
SC: Yeah, didn’t have a fast enough frame rate.
AE: Right, and so the listener was curious to know, “What is this thing?” And I said, “You know, it looks like something that's got one or two pair of wings, but I can't tell. Is there any chance you can catch one?” Not long after that he sent me another email, and said, “Mystery solved.” It turns out they were mosquitoes.
AE: Yeah (laughing).
SC: They still looked bigger than that, didn’t they?
AE: Well, I know. Because I have no frame of reference, so you just see this big long thing with lots of things sticking out that streak along. Yeah, so it was kind of funny, but these are the kinds of things that show up in my inbox day after day, and things are really starting to heat up now that spring is here.
SC: But you get a lot of great stories that way.
AE: I do, interesting anecdotes.
SC: Dr. Art Evans is a Research Associate at the Virginia Museum of Natural History. You’ll find photos, audio, and links to the museum and Art’s Facebook page at ideastations.org/radio/bugs.
Dr. Arthur V. Evans teams up with WCVE Public Radio producer Steve Clark for a weekly feature, “What’s Bugging You?,” which airs during NPR’s Morning Edition. The program takes its name from another of Evans’ books “What’s Bugging You – A Fond Look at the Animals We Love to Hate.”
Tune-in each Tuesday at 8:45 a.m. or at 5:44 p.m. on 88.9 WCVE, Richmond’s Public Radio station.