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This Really Bugs Me

As if we didn’t have enough to be concerned about with the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease in our deer herd, and a bunch of invasive plants overtaking portions of our landscape, we also have a good number of unwelcomed bugs to deal with as well. In case you’re wondering what invasive plants, just try walking along the Susquehanna River in certain places sometime — good luck trying to get through the thick, fast-growing Japanese Knotweed that covers the banks. Better yet, try getting rid of it. But enough on invasive plants for now, instead let’s look at some other relative newcomers to our landscape-invasive, destructive bugs.

I don’t have room to get into a lot of detail about the unwelcomed bugs listed below, but here is a little summary of some of the little, but highly destructive critters, that now inhabit our state.

I guess the first one that often comes to mind is the deer tick, which often times carries Lyme Disease. I’ve mentioned Lyme Disease in this column before, and there’s a lot of information out there now so I won’t get into all the details. Suffice it to say that if you have a tick embedded in you somewhere, you should probably see a doctor. The so-called “bull’s-eye” doesn’t always show up. By the way, there is some evidence now that says that you can be infected within hours instead of a day or two after the tick bores into your skin. Most treatments involve taking doxycycline for a period of time — see your doctor. I was diagnosed a number of years ago with Lyme Disease; apparently, once you get it, you will always test positive for the disease. There’s still a lot I don’t understand about the disease, but I don’t think you should take it lightly — especially if you dug a tick out of your body.

While not every bug affects the human body directly, there are some bugs that are bringing serious destruction to some of our common trees, which can certainly have a negative effect on our environment. The Wooly Adelgid, an aphid-like insect, covers itself with a white, waxy “wool” that acts as a protective coating. The insect was accidentally introduced to North America from Japan, first showing up near Richmond, Virginia in 1951. It feeds by sucking the sap from the base of the needles of hemlock and spruce trees, often resulting in the death of the infected tree. In some wooded sections of Pennsylvania, hemlocks have been completely destroyed.

Another bug that has made its mark is the Emerald ash borer — a green beetle native to northeastern Asia. It too was accidentally brought to the U.S. in the 1990s. The beetle lays its eggs in the crevices of ash trees; the larvae feed underneath the bark eventually killing the tree. How bad is it? Well, most of those dead trees you see as you head down the road are probably ash trees; in fact, they have pretty well been wiped out across the state.

Of course, we don’t want to forget the humming, dainty little-winged mosquito; it’s known for carrying the West Nile virus, which affects not only humans but animals as well — even birds.

That’s not the only little critter bugging us; we now have another concern with keds — no not kids — keds. The deer ked has been around for a long time, but now scientists are wondering if keds might be carrying a half-dozen other diseases including Lyme Disease. Keds are a small, brownish winged insect about the size of a housefly. Keds can live on deer for a long time while a human would notice one rather quickly. The blood-sucking bite may not be painful, but the remaining welt may itch for weeks.

Finally, how about the stink bugs that we find just about everywhere now including, on occasion, crawling around in the house. They don’t bite, but they sure do stink when you pick them up to get rid of them. Apple and peach growers have seen their crops spoiled by the brown stink bug, and they have also caused losses in corn and soybean fields. By the way, it’s an invasive insect from Asia. Help is on the way, however; the samurai wasp, about the size of a sesame seed and also from out of the country, has been found to be alive and well in Pennsylvania. The tiny wasp feeds on the stink bugs, so scientists hope to control the stink bug with another bug.

I’m out of room, and I’m also all bugged out.

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