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UK Extension Entomology

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This has been the summer of barklice in Kentucky. Specimens, descriptions, and pictures of large groups of these insects have come in from across the state during the past three weeks. Tight knit groups of these small scavengers have been seen on trunks and limbs of maples, oaks, pines, and other trees. Barklice do not harm trees and probably benefit the tree be eating accumulations of fungi, algae, dead bark and other materials. They do not feed on leaves or tunnel into bark. No control measures are needed.

Barklice are 1/8 to 1/4 brown to gray soft-bodied insects with a distinctive pair of long, thin antennae. Adults have two pairs of wings that are held are held roof-like over the body. The immature stages are smaller and wingless. Barklice spend the winter as eggs in bark crevices and become active in the spring. These gregarious insects cluster together in "herds" on the bark. The herd will move as a mass if disturbed and may scatter if startled but will soon regroup. Sometimes, they are called “tree cattle.”

Some barklice species produce silk webbing that may encase the trunk or limbs of trees and shrubs they inhabit. They apparently eat the silk as their numbers decline in the fall. The webbing probably gives them a humid, protected living space.

The reason for large numbers during some springs may be due to frequent rainfall that creates the humid conditions that favor their survival.

Now is the time to watch for Emerald ash borer adults (EAB). These half-inch long brilliant green beetles can be seen sitting or feeding on ash leaves or flying around the trees. The purple trap survey program will not be conducted this year so reports of new infestations will be the only way to follow the spread of this insect in Kentucky. Information on the EAB in Kentucky along with a map of its known distribution is available on this UK website. If you suspect EAB is present and live outside of the counties in green or orange, contact the Office of the State Entomologist at (859) 257-5838 or your local Cooperative Extension Service office.

These running red mites are everywhere, including soil litter, tree trunks, brick or stone walls, and flowers. Little is known about their biology and habits but they have been seen feeding on small arthropods and pollen. These Balaustium mites also have been reported as biting humans. This may just be incidental cases of probing the skin they find themselves on, not taking an intentional meal.

red mites

Oak foliage is being stripped overnight in some areas by May beetles.

stripped oak

The northern fowl mite is a relatively common blood-feeding parasite of birds that nest on ledges or in cavities in homes or buildings. When birds leave the nest, mites left behind will disperse in search of another host. They can enter structures through very small gaps around windows, etc. The mites will follow warmth or carbon dioxide cues in search of a new host. This can lead them to humans. Feeding attempts leave small red spots on the skin that itch. The mites are not a health threat and are not able to live and reproduce on the blood from humans or non-avian pests. However, they can survive off of a bird for several weeks.

The first step in controlling bird mites is to remove the nest. Often, it will be in the attic, around the eaves and rafters, or in the gutters or chimney. After nests are removed, the areas adjacent to the nest should be sprayed or dusted with a residual ant and cockroach insecticide according to label directions. A vacuum cleaner or cloth moistened with alcohol or soapy water can be used to eliminate mites crawling on open surfaces.

bird mite

Kentucky Bugs shows some insects and their relatives found in the Commonwealth


Extension Entomology Program Responsibilities

  • Ric Bessin: IPM coordinator, vegetables, fruit
  • Doug Johnson*: Corn, small grains, soybeans and stored grain
  • Patty Lucas*: IPM Specialist
  • Blake Newton: 4H and Youth Programs
  • Mike Potter: Structural pest control, urban, medical entomology
  • Lee Townsend: Tobacco, forages, veterinary entomology, horticulture and turf, and pesticide safety education

S-225 Ag Science North
Lexington, KY 40546-0091
Phone: (859) 257-5955
Fax: (859) 323-1120

Click for Lexington, Kentucky Forecast

*Western Ky Research & Education Center
Princeton, KY 42445-0469
Phone: (270) 365-7541
Fax: (270) 365-2667

Click for Princeton, Kentucky Forecast

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