|Florida Nature: Insects & Spiders|
With a name like "The Sunshine State", Florida is destined to be a great
place for a wide assortment of insects and spiders to live and breed.
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.
Butterflies- Butterflies are insects. Adult butterflies share several common characteristics, including six jointed legs, two compound eyes, two antennae, a hard exoskeleton, and three main body segments: the head, thorax, and abdomen. Along with moths, they comprise the Order Lepidoptera, a combination of Greek words meaning scale-winged, and can be differentiated from all other insects on that basis. Their four wings, as well as body are typically covered with numerous tiny scales, Overlapping like shingles on a roof, they make up the color and pattern of a butterfly's wings. Butterflies and moths are closely related and often difficult to tell apart. Generally butterflies fly during the day, have large colorful wings that are held vertical over the back when at rest, and bear distinctly clubbed antennae. In contrast most moths are nocturnal. They are usually overall drabber in color and may often resemble dirty, hairy butterflies. At rest, moths tend to hold their wings to the sides, and have feathery or threadlike antennae. In Florida over 180 different butterflies have been recorded. Within that mix, some 40 are considered either unique to the state or occur mostly within its boundaries.
Spiders- Spiders are quite common in Florida, and can be found anywhere where insects can be found. Some Florida spiders spin magnificent webs, waiting to catch their prey in mid-flight. Others, such as the wolf spiders and jumping spiders, actively hunt their prey.
Unfortunately Florida also has some spiders that carry a risk to people. The recluse spider, along with the black widow spider can both be found in Florida.
There are four species of widow spiders in Florida:
Latrodectus mactans, the southern black widow
Latrodectus variolus, the northern black widow
Latrodectus bishopi, the red widow
Latrodectus geometricus, the brown widow
Three species of recluse spiders have been found in Florida:
Loxosceles reclusa, the brown recluse
Loxosceles rufescens, the Mediterranean recluse
Loxosceles laeta, the Chilean recluse
Flying Insects- Whether its a deer fly, mosquito, honeybee, wasp, the dreaded Florida No-see-ums, or the creepy flying palmetto bug, chances are these flying insects are not welcome guests to your backyard party or get together. With the exceptions of dragonflies, butterflies, and ladybugs most Florida flying insects are unwelcome pests, that may even sting or bite.
Florida Love Bugs- Plecia nearctica, commonly known as the "love bug," is really not a "bug" at all – it is a fly! These pesky Florida creatures emerge in April and May and again in September and October. Love bugs got their name by the visible in-flight mating of the species. Females emerge from their larvae into a swarm of males and are grasped by a darting male. The pair falls to the ground where they couple and eventually take flight. "Love bugs" are drawn to the highways by light and automobile exhaust fumes.
Beetles- A wide variety of beetles can be found throughout the state of Florida, including 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"!
Ants- Florida is home to several different species of ants, including the dreaded fire ant! Fire ants look like ordinary house ants; however, they are an aggressive ant capable of inflicting a painful sting. The colony of imported fire ants is a mound sometimes 3 feet across. Velvet ants belong to a large family (Mutillidae), and look like wingless, ant-like wasps. The females are solitary with an efficient, large stinger. Most species are parasitic on solitary bees and wasp species.
Creepy Crawly Insects- These are the insects that make your skin crawl. Insects like centipedes, stinging caterpillars, chiggers, and others make up this category of Florida insects that either bite, sting, or just look disgusting!
Scorpions- Scorpions are flattened, crab-like animals having ten legs and a flesh tail, ending in an enlarged upturned tip which bears a stinger. They vary in size from one to four inches long. Scorpions will sting, but usually only when provoked or disturbed. Scorpion venom is a neurotoxin, but the dose injected usually is insufficient to prove fatal to an adult human. None of the several species of scorpions which occur in Florida is capable of inflicting a lethal sting; however, the site of the sting may be sore and swollen for some time.
Garden Pests- Every gardener in Florida has had to deal with a variety of pests including the aphid. Aphids are small soft bodied insects that suck sap from the leaves and stems of plants. Long-tailed mealy bugs, scales, hornworms, and caterpillars, are just a few of the many insects that can cause damage to your Florida flower or vegetable garden.
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