Learn About Insects

Boxelder Insect Image

Fall's Insect Invasion

As nights cool, it’s not unusual to see an increase in the number of insects and spiders (collectively known as arthropods) inside the home. On average, homes have 200+ species of arthropods living there.  Keep in mind this isn’t a total of 200 insects and spiders, but instead of 200 species, with multiples of each not being at all unusual. There are reasons why arthropods make their way indoors.  Some, like crickets and millipedes, are seeking warmth, with heated homes offering a reprieve from cool temperatures. Other arthropods are predators, like ground beetles and spiders, following the prey indoors. . . read more

Harvesting Carrots

Final Garden Steps of The Season

As the first frost of the season becomes imminent, look around the garden for any final tasks to tidy up the garden. Harvest any warm season crops that will be damaged by frost, including tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers, basil, and zucchini.   Pumpkins, if they’ve begun turning orange, can be harvested from plants and will continue to ripen.  Food is food, so look at those things you can still take advantage of.  For instance, squash blossoms are edible and highly prized for their delicate flavor. You can harvest the blossoms for yourself or leave them in place for the pollinators to partake of that last delectable bit of nectar. . . read more

Annual Cicada

Cicada, the Cicada Killer Wasp and The Velvet Ant

The interactions of the cicada, the cicada killer wasp, and the velvet ant provide a fascinating look into insect relationships.

The Cicada

As dusk fills with the sound of male cicadas wooing females, so too does the concern for the damage cicadas can do to plants in the landscape.  Often mistaken for locusts, the annual cicada is harmless, contributing to the food web as a food source for insects like the cicada killer wasp. . . read more

Japanese Beettles Image

Japanese Beetles

If it were a simple matter of having plants Japanese beetles (JB) do not like to eat, we’d have less feeding damage to our favorite plants.  At 300 plus plant species they feed on, however, that quickly becomes a tall order. Typically, in the first year JB are found in an area, the amount of feeding damage is relatively low.  In the second and third years of infestation, however, their numbers are so high that it feels like an invasion! . . . read more

Yellow Nutsedge

Now is the time to . . .

Put down grub control to manage grub damage in lawns. The end of June/beginning of July is the window to complete this task, when grubs are small and more easily managed. 

Stop using herbicides to manage nutsedge.  Nutsedge has tiny growths at the end of roots, called nutlets, that will begin growth when the parent plant is killed, making for even more plants. . . read more

Chelone and Bumble Bees

National Pollinator Week

It is estimated that just 1-2% of insects cause problems to human health, crops, and structures. For some, “bugs” is a derogatory term that signifies unclean conditions and a messy household.  For the roughly 98% of insects that don’t fit into this description, it is a giant leap forward to recognize the importance of pollinators during National Pollinator Week. . . read more

Banded Woolly Bear Caterpillar

Wooly Bear Caterpillars

Does the woolly bear caterpillar forecast the weather?  Stories on websites, podcasts, blogs, newsfeeds, television, and radio like to add to the speculation, but could it be possible this furry caterpillar that rolls up into a ball when disturbed is just that—a furry caterpillar that rolls up into a ball when disturbed? . . . read more

Insect slug damage

Snails and Slugs

Snails and slugs are noted for their voracious appetites, eating holes in the leaves of hosta (their preferred food) but also munching on roses, ferns, impatiens, begonias, and fruits, including strawberries and tomatoes. You may not see the actual snails and slugs themselves since they prefer to feed at night or on cloudy days, but if you see holes AND their silvery slime trails, these guys are making themselves at home. Typically, snails and slugs prefer to slime their way to the center of leaves where they will eat holes between leaf veins. Sometimes they eat their way inward from leaf edges. . . .  read more

Fall Armyworm image

Fall Armyworm

The fall armyworm, Spodoptera frugiperda, is a pest of row crops and lawns, preferring Kentucky bluegrass above other types of lawn grasses grown in the region. The caterpillars eat the blades of grass, to the point of turf thinning and browning. Sixth instars, the largest they’ll grow as caterpillars, are 1-¼ inches long with 3 stripes extending along their length and an inverted “Y” shape on their head. Pupation takes place in the turf, with the adult moths emerging to mate. Sources differ on the number of eggs each female produces but it is many, ranging from 100 to 1000. Egg masses can appear on buildings, fences, plants, and outdoor furniture.  Eggs develop into first instar caterpillars in just 2-5 days.  Initially, feeding is minimal, owing to the caterpillar’s small size, but as they grow, their appetite increases and the damage they cause more readily apparent. . . . read more

Coneflower Cut Back in Spring Image

Cutting Back Plants in Fall

If you are a creature of tidiness, here is a thought to ponder. Cutting back the foliage of flowering perennials, ornamental grasses, and small shrubs is damaging to native bees that overwinter in the hollow stems of plants.  Moisture seeps down through the open ends, killing the eggs, larvae, and pupae of native bees that are set to emerge as adult bees come spring. . . . read more

Cabbage Looper Caterpillar Image

Late Season Pest Management in the Vegetable Garden

This is the season of vegetable abundance and while it would be great if our most pressing concern involved harvest, instead we find vegetable pests are an ongoing problem. . . . read more

Grub Image

Moles And Grubs

It’s been a good year for moles.  A nice amount of rain keeps soils moist and workable—the perfect environment to enable mole movement as they “swim” through the soil. Many people approach the problem of moles by focusing on grubs—that if the grubs are gone, then moles won’t be in the lawn. Though not accurate, it leads to grub control measures that do little to minimize mole activity. . . . see more

Colorado Potato Beetle

Colorado Potato Beetle

From its name, it would be nice if Colorado potato beetles were only found in Colorado but unfortunately, that is not the case. The CPB, Leptinotarsa decemlineata, is a serious pest of potato and related crops in North America.  Recently, the CPB was found at the Growing Together Nebraska garden here in Fremont, feeding on the foliage of both potatoes and eggplant. This insect has a voracious appetite, eating leaves down to almost nothing, which in turn decreases yields. . . . read more

Delaware Skipper on Echinacea

Pollinators and Pollinator Gardens

Pollinators and pollinator gardens are the focus of the next GROBigRed Virtual Learning Series. Nebraska Extension Educators in entomology and horticulture will teach participants about steps to take so pollinators thrive—both from flowers and plants important to their health to insect-friendly garden practices to implement.  Why are we concerned about pollinator health? Pollinators are first and foremost critical to our food supply. Most notably, some of our favorite fruits and vegetables, like apples, peaches, cucumbers, and beans, would not exist without our pollinator friends. . . . read more

Oak Tree Flagging Image

The Oak Twig Girdler

The appearance of dead foliage clusters scattered throughout the canopy of oak trees is very noticeable right now. Some of these twig-and-foliage shoots, called “flags”, are breaking away, littering the ground below. This is symptomatic of the oak twig girdler, Oncideres cingulata. Oaks are the most common trees to be afflicted with the oak twig girdler, but other hardwood trees can be affected too. . . . read more

Native Bees Competing

Looking Ahead: Plan to Help Pollinators Next Year

Kicking back to consider next year’s garden, let benefitting pollinators be one of your considerations.  Of course pollination is important to us because we like to eat—one-third of our food supply exists because pollinators pollinate.  Pollinators, specifically native bees, are real work horses of the pollination world—just 250 native bees do the work of thousands of honey bees.

Some native bees, like the bumble bee, colonize, meaning they hang out together in a social structure with everybody having a specific job to do.  The vast majority of native bees, however, are solitary, living out their lives with no honey to make or designated job to complete.  Why is this important, you ask?  Because improving the environment of a solitary bee involves different strategies than those for hive bees where intervening efforts are concentrated. This doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do to help native bees, quite the contrary. . . . read more

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

The brown marmorated stink bug is a nuisance as well as a destructive pest and, like its name implies, puts off a nasty odor when crushed. This nonnative invasive pest has been in Nebraska since 2012. The damage the BMSB causes is from its needle-like mouthpart that punctures, resulting in sunken bruised areas on fruits. It feeds on a wide range of crops, including soybeans, corn, apple, pear, peach, cherry, peppers, tomato, maple, redbud and serviceberry, to name a few. . . . read more

Japanese Beetles

The Dreaded Japanese Beetles Again

Despite winter and spring conditions that we hoped could thwart them, the Japanese beetles are at it again. They fall on us as we mow beneath trees, eat our hard-won fruits as they multi-task, and drown in the dog’s water dish.  Here are some important considerations:

▪Japanese beetles do lay their eggs in the soil.  Managing Japanese beetle grubs to stop the damage to turfgrass IS effective. . . . . read more

Silvery Checkerspot Butterfly

Caterpillars on Coneflowers

The silvery checkerspot caterpillar, Chlosyne nycteis, can be found right now, happily eating away on sunflower, aster, Echinacea, goldenrod and Rudbeckia.  The checkerspot caterpillar has branched spines on its back that are black in color. Sometimes the caterpillars will have an orange stripe or two.  Depending on weather conditions, there will be one to two generations per year. Once first generation caterpillars are an inch long, they will stop feeding and form a pupal case on foliage. As the growing season winds down, the second generation caterpillars will hibernate as third instar larvae. . . . read more

Picnic Beetle on Under Ripe Tomatoe

The Picnic Beetle

Picnic beetles are small black insects with yellowish spots on their wing covers. This nuisance insect feeds on over-ripe and decaying fruits and vegetables. Its common name comes from its annoying habit of showing up in your potato salad at outdoor events. While it can damage fruits and vegetables, picnic beetles take advantage of over-ripe produce, often eating their way through and enlarging the amount of damage. Their saliva and fecal material introduce an abundance of bacteria and fungi into wounds, hastening the decay process. . . . read more

Squash Vine Borer Adult Moths

Squash Vine Borer

Nothing is more frustrating than seeing the almost-ready-to-produce zucchini plant collapse.  If the base of the plant is mushy and has holes, the most likely reason is the squash vine borer.

The squash vine borer adult is a ½ inch long moth that doesn’t look or act like most moths. It has an orange abdomen with black dots and, while most moths are night time fliers, the squash vine borer moth is a day flier.  After, the female moth lays her eggs at the base of plants, eggs will hatch and the caterpillars will bore into the stem.  Their feeding causes plant wilting and eventually death to the plant. . . . read more

Grasshopper on Pigweed Image


They are cute.  They are little.  So what is the big deal if there are lots of grasshoppers?  These seemingly innocuous little guys and gals can be quite harmful to our landscape plants and vegetable gardens.  As grasshoppers grow, their appetites become larger, making the damage they do even more severe.

Floating row covers and screens can work as exclusion devices to protect plants but bear in mind that grasshoppers can chew through floating row covers and screens made of nylon (not metal screens, thank goodness).  Exclusion devices will need to be removed so bees and other pollinators can pollinate vegetable plants. . . . read more

Japanese Beetles

Japanese Beetles - They're Colorful, They're Hungry and They're Here

The most important thing to understand about Japanese beetles is their feeding doesn’t kill trees, shrubs and flowers.  Granted, it isn’t fun to see the lacy leaves they’ve created, but pesticide management options require thought and planning before you set out for revenge. . . . read more

Nebraska Pollinator Habitat Sign

Pollinators and Their Health

One third of our food supply exists because a pollinator moved pollen from one flower to another. Their quest for nectar and pollen means we reap the benefits by harvesting fruits, vegetables, and legumes. Despite the necessity of pollinators for a reliable food supply for humans, pollinator habitat is in jeopardy because of reduced food sources and chemically-dependent pristine landscapes.

Helping pollinators is a local issue. Gardeners can make a difference for pollinator health by planting more flowers, supplying a water source, reducing the number of insecticides used and leaving a few dandelions and white clover for them to feed on.

The Nebraska Certified Pollinator Habitat Program was launched in 2016 to address this growing concern for the health of our pollinators.  Individual gardeners, neighborhoods, churches, businesses with green spaces, schools, community gardens, fair grounds and municipalities can apply to have their garden certified as a pollinator habitat. . . . read more