By Jiminy! They may be pests but insects are fascinating creatures
Insect pest books
Insect pests can still be fascinating
Tenerife has plenty of insects that are regarded as pests but some like the Casemaking Clothes Moth are most fascinating creatures. The caterpillar weaves a shelter around its body and carries its mobile home.
Casemaking Clothes Moth larvae move slowly and are sometimes found on a wall or a shelf. You may think your eyes are playing tricks when you first see what appears to be a small moving stick, and then when you look closely, you can see it has a head that pokes out but can be drawn back in if disturbed.
Clothes moth larvae don't just eat your favourite garments because they will feed feathers, fur, hair, leather, lint, dust and debris, paper, and even synthetic fibres. They especially like articles that have been left undisturbed for a long time, like blankets folded away in a drawer and carpets under heavy furniture.
The adult moth is much like the ordinary type of clothes moth. The forewings of the Casemaking Clothes Moth are yellowish-brown, and there are usually three dark dots on the outer part of each wing.
The Bagworm is another moth with a caterpillar with a similar method of protecting itself. Bagworms are not a threat to your wardrobe, however, and they live on trees and bushes and add tiny pieces of material from their habitats to their cases to act as a camouflage.
The larva pupates inside its home and when they hatch the female bagworm moths live their lives inside these cases. They cannot fly or eat and really amount to little more than a bag of eggs, and they even lay these in the case they have lived in.
Male bagworms are lucky enough to have wings and at least get a chance to fly in search of mates but they too are unable to eat. In some species there are no males and the insect is an example of parthenogenesis in which females produce daughters only.
Bagworms are distributed worldwide and some are viewed as pests because of the leaves of trees they eat. In Florida a type of bagworm is a threat to the orange tree crops.
Another insect regarded by many people as a pest is the Field Cricket and its cousin the House Cricket. These common insects are more often heard than seen and can cause a nuisance with their monotonous chirping. Although the Field Cricket is often found in Tenerife the British species is a severely endangered insect.
I heard a story about a woman tenant of a housing complex that was so annoyed by a cricket she thought was up a tree, that in the early hours of the morning she chopped it down only to find that the cricket was still singing away.
That's the thing about crickets you can never spot them and they have a tendency to make the most noise at night. They also have a liking for cracks and crannies to hide away in and if you come close they shut up quickly.
The males sing to attract females and also to establish territories. They make the sound by rubbing their wing cases together and they hear with an ear on the elbows of their front legs.
Crickets are omnivores and eat plants, fruits and seeds as well as dead insects and even resort to cannibalism.
One more interesting insect pest is the Cockchafer or May Bug that is often seen as an adult beetle. They emerge in the month they are named after and fly at night when they are often attracted to lights and crash noisily into them.
The larvae are fat whitish grubs that live for 2-3 years in the soil feeding on roots of grass, plants and shrubs. In the UK they often live in fields and when they are ploughed the rooks come down to eat them.
A friend of mine called Roberto who comes to me for gardening tips made me aware of their presence in Tenerife because he had found 3 of the larvae in one of his plant pots. They are just like Witchetty grubs the Aborigines eat in Australia he told me.
These insects are actually the larvae of the Ghost moth and they are found in the trunks and roots of Eucalyptus trees and are a very popular item of "Bushtucker." Said to taste like somewhere in between chicken and prawn they are usually eaten alive but apparently have even ended up in Witchetty Grub soup.
Well, I didn't think they lived on Tenerife and Roberto told me he had one of the grubs for me to see. The other two had made a getaway from where he'd put them.
As soon as I saw the one he still had I recognised it as a Cockchafer larva and very aptly he was showing me it in May. In America related species are called June bugs because they are seen the month after, but either way they are a sign of summer.
Footnote: First published in the Tenerife Sun.
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