Pest Information


There are many types of ants that may be found in houses. Some are actual household pests, while others occasionally wander in to look for food or water.

Ants are often nuisance pests and just their presence can be upsetting. They often get into foods and feed on them. Some species crawl over refuse, carrion or sewage which may afford them an opportunity to carry the causal organisms of some diseases. Food contamination can also occur and may result in allergic reactions by certain sensitive people. Some ants damage wooden structures, and others undermine slabs or patio stones. But, we should not forget that ants are beneficial in their natural habitat because they help clean up the environment.

Ants have three body regions (head, trunk and gaster) distinctly defined by narrow constrictions. They have elbowed antennae, and the gaster is attached to the thorax by a waist that consists of one or two small separated segments.

There are three distinct castes of ants - queen, male and worker. There may also be different forms of each casts. Ants always live in societies known as colonies. Workers are wingless, but at mating time swarms of males and females are produced, usually winged.

Adult winged males and females emerge from their cocoons and eventually leave the nests. Emergence of large numbers of ants (swarming) usually occurs at certain times, and often this is the only time we notice the ants at all. Males seek out females in the swarm; mating usually occurs in the air. Males die soon after the mating flight, while female (queen) starts a new nest. She removes her wings, forms a small cell and starts a new colony by laying several eggs. The young queen tends the eggs and the larvae that hatch from them feeding them by trophallaxis. Some of the food comes from the breakdown of the wing muscles, but if there is a shortage of food, a few of the larvae may be eaten also. The queen does not leave the cell to forage for food, except in some primitive hunting ants.

The surviving larvae mature, from pupae with or without spun cocoons, and finally emerge as adult ants. The workers are sterile, wingless females. The first workers are dwarfs, called nanites. When the workers emerge, the queen retires as nursemaid and concentrates on her job of egg production. The nanites take over as nursemaids for the next batch of eggs -- they hunt for food outside the nest and do a better job of rearing larvae. Under their care, the larvae produce normal-sized workers. Adult workers may live for weeks, or up to two years or more. Queens have been known to live for as long as 20 years.

After a colony is well established, some of the larvae will now develop into males and females which will take off in the mating flight.
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Winged andwingless forms

Aphids or plant lice are small, soft bodied slow moving insects which feed by sucking juice from plants. They can usually be recognized by the pear-shaped body and fairly long antennae. Aphids vary in color -- white, gray, green, brown, red, yellow or black. They are usually found in large numbers (colonies) on the undersides of leaves or on stems. There are both winged and wingless aphids in most species. As the aphids feed they secrete honeydew &endash; a sweet sticky shiny substance seen on leaves. Honeydew consists mainly of excess sap ingested by the insect and passed through the body.

Aphids may damage plants including fruits, vegetables and ornamental trees and shrubs. The major damage is caused by the aphids sucking the juices from the stems and leaves causing a reduction in vigor, curling and distortion, and reduction in yield. Some species inject saliva into the plant tissue as they feed and may transmit virus diseases from one plant to another.

In addition to the direct damage caused to the plant by the aphids feeding a black fungus, known as sooty mold, grows on the honeydew secreted by the aphids. Sooty mold is unsightly and in association with honeydew it is objectionable to the buyer of affected plant material, fruits or vegetables.

Most species of aphids overwinter in the egg stage. The eggs hatch in the spring to produce a generation of females. These female aphids give birth to living young. Generally the first young aphids are wingless, however, when a colony becomes too crowded, winged forms may be produced. The winged forms migrate to new host plants and begin new colonies. Enormous populations are built up from these overlapping generations all summer long.

Late in the season the aphids migrate back to the original host plant, and a generation consisting of both males and females is produced. These individuals mate and the females lay eggs which will overwinter.

Carefully inspect plants for the beginning of an aphid population buildup. Check for natural enemies such as mummies (gray-brown bloated parasitized aphids indicating wasp parasites at work), and the alligatorlike larvae of lady beetles and lacewings.

Yellow sticky boards are also used as a monitoring toll for aphid populations. Aphids are attracted to the yellow color and often are visible on the cards before they are detected on the plant.
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Rhagoletis pomonella

Apple Injured by Apple Maggot

In the fruit growing areas of New York State the apple maggot (AM) or "railroad worm" is one of the most serious pests of apples. All apple varieties are attacked, but summer varieties and early fall varieties are especially subject to injury. The insect also attacks certain varieties of European plums.

Signs of the infestation on the fruit are minute egg punctures in the skin and pitted areas on the surface. In late season varieties the injury usually appears as corky spots or streaks in the flesh. In the varieties ripening during July, August and September open tunnels may occur. Rot producing organisms follow the maggots causing rapid decay of infested fruit.

Apple Maggot Fly


The adult apple maggot is a black-bodied fly slightly smaller than the house fly. The female is larger than the male, has four white bands across the abdomen, while the male has only three. The wings of the fly are crossed by four dark bands. The adult flies emerge from their overwintering puparia (cocoon-like) structures in the ground during the latter half of June and continue to emerge through the middle of August.

The flies require approximately 10 days after emergence to feed, mate and lay eggs. During this time they may be seen resting on the leaves or fruit of apples and other host plants lapping up drops of honeydew or moisture with their fleshy mouth parts.

The female has a sharp ovipositor with which she punctures the skin of the apple and inserts her minute whitish egg into the pulp of the fruit. A large number of eggs may be deposited in a single fruit, and fruits of late varieties become much dimpled and pitted as a result.

The eggs hatch in 4 to 6 days, young maggots beginning at once to tunnel through the fruit causing brown trails. Severely infested fruits often fall to the ground early. The numerous trails in the fruit reduce the inside of the apple to a brownish pulpy mass and render it unfit for consumption.

The full grown maggot (about 3/8 inch long) leaves the fallen fruit and burrows into the soil to a depth of 1 to 2 inches. Here it changes to a puparium in which stage it overwinters. The following year the cycle starts again.

Monitoring for these insects will help you determine when AM is active in your area and this information will help you with management decisions. Home gardeners may use visual traps to effectively monitor apple maggot populations. Red sphere traps and yellow sticky boards are two types which are currently available, but red spheres are better and more accurate. Synthetic volatile lures are now available, which greatly increase the efficiency of traps. Traps should be place in mid (Southeastern NY) to late June (Upstate NY) at head height, clearly visible on the outside edge of the canopy. Traps should be checked 1-2 times per week for AM flies. If a cumulative average of 5 AM flies/baited trap is caught a spray of a suitable pesticide is recommended, and the traps can then be ignored for 10-14 days (the period of time the spray residue will protect the fruit). Begin checking traps again after the protection period. Trapping can be stopped by August 30. Traps should be cleaned of insects periodically and recoated with stickum if necessary. No treatment is recommended until a cumulative total of 5 AM flies per trap are caught.
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At certain times of the year, you may notice an odd creature attracted to the outside light or on the porch. The following are four of the more common insects that attract attention because of their size, shape, or numbers. These insects are not harmful. Occasionally insects such as these are considered an annoyance, but usually the problem does not last long. The immature stages of these insects are aquatic, living in water.

Female Dobsonfly (left)
Head of Male Dobsonfly (note large mandibles) (right)

The most spectacular of these insects is the dobsonfly, Corydalus cornutus. This is the largest species of dobsonfly found in New York, having a wing spread of 4 to 5 inches. It is usually found near water, but at night it may be attracted some distance to bright lights. The wings of both males and females are net-veined, and the mandibles (jaws) of the female are inconspicuous, while those of the male are long and sickle like.

The larvae, often called hellgrammites, are found under stones in swift moving streams and are used by fishermen for bait. Before you try them for bait -- remember these insects have strong jaws and can inflict a painful bite. The larvae may live for three years before transforming to adults and may be as long as 2 or 3 inches when full grown. Hellgrammites are predaceous insects feeding on small aquatic life.

Adult Mayfly

Mayflies are soft-bodied, slender insects that may be seen moving in great clouds moving across streams and lakes at twilight in an up and down motion mating dance. Fishermen model many "dry flies" after these fragile insects. The adults have two or three long tail filaments and may be seen attracted to lights in the early evening. Generally the adults hide in trees and shrubs close to aquatic areas until the mating flight. Hundreds of these insects move off the vegetation and into the air, fly about _ hour during which time some of them mate, and then return to vegetation for cover or to the surface of the water to lay eggs.

The nymphs live in clear fresh waters and feed on vegetable matter including diatoms and desmids (which make the gold-green color upon stones of the brook bottom). They will also feed on soft tissues of larger plants, either alive or dead.


Aquatic midges (some resemble mosquitoes, but they do not bite) often occur in large swarms. Midges breed in water and under summer conditions several generations may occur each year. Adults are relatively short lived, about 10 days at most. Their presence causes a great annoyance to homeowners who live near the aquatic breeding sites. In some instances they may be so numerous as to cover sides of houses. The males of many species swarm at dusk and mating occurs when females enter the swarms. Turning off lights or the use of yellow lights at night when midges are active (dusk and for about 1 hour thereafter) can help reduce the annoyance. Larval stages serve as food for fish in the aquatic habitat.

Adult Stonefly

Stonefly Nymph

Adult stoneflies or shed nymphal skins of these insects are seen near trees, rocks or other materials. The adults may be attracted to lights at night. They range from 1/2 to 2 inches in length and are dark colored, brown or yellow or pale green. The adults do not fly very far. In contrast to the caddisflies, these insects hold the wings close to the body giving them a flattened appearance. Adults are usually found near water in shady places.

The nymphs are found under stones, around branches, or in debris in the stream bed. Most are vegetarians, feeding on dead organic matter, but a few are predaceous.

When the nymph completes development, it crawls out of the water and takes firm hold on a rock, stick or other nearby object. Very soon it goes through the final molt, the nymphal skin splits right down the center of the back and the adult stonefly emerges. Within a few minutes, the wings are hardened and the insect is ready for flight. The adults live only a few weeks.

Both stoneflies and mayflies may occur by the millions at bright lights near bodies of water. In such instances they are an extreme annoyance. There is however, no way to control them without seriously altering their larval habitat. They do not last long.

The caddisflies are small to medium-sized insects that look somewhat like moths in overall appearance. The wings are usually held roof-like over the abdomen when the adult insect is at rest. Unlike moths, the wings and body are covered with hairs, not scales.

The larvae are aquatic living in lakes and streams. Most of the larvae construct "portable homes" or cases. Many types of materials are used in the case construction including small stones, sand grains, leaves, sticks, conifer needles and even small snail shells held together by silken threads. The cases are often found attached to vegetation near the aquatic site. The larvae feed on aquatic animals with a few species predaceous on insects. After the larval stage is completed, the insect pupates inside the case and seals the entrance with silk.
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Argyresthia sp.

Arborvitae leafminer damage

There are four species of arborvitae leafminers in the Northeast, although the arborvitae leafminer Argyresthia thuiella is the most common in New York State. The major food plant is arborvitae (Thuja). The adults are tiny (3/8 inch wingspan) white to light gray moths with brown markings on the forewings. The larvae or caterpillars are 1/8 inch in length with a light green (sometimes with a reddish or yellow tinge) body and a shiny black head.

Mined leaves have at first a translucent or straw color, later turning brown. Mines start near the end of a branchlet in the scale-like leaves and extend into other branchlets. Injury begins in the summer and reaches a climax in the fall. Death of mined branchlets often occurs giving the tree a sickly appearance. The greatest injury probably occurs to hedge rows and ornamental plantings.

The adults are active from late May to early June. Many tiny glittering moths may call attention to an infestation. After mating, the females deposit eggs on the inner edges of the arborvitae leaves. The young larvae enter the leaves and mine or excavate between the leaf surfaces. The larvae overwinter in the mines and resume feeding for a short while the following spring. Pupation occurs in late May and the adults emerge soon after.
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There are two species of beetles that attack and cause economic damage to asparagus in New York. They are the common asparagus beetle, Crioceris asparagi (Linnaeus), and the spotted asparagus beetle, Crioceris duodecimpunctata (Linnaeus). The common asparagus beetle is in the more widespread of the two species.


Common Asparagus Beetle (x5)

The common asparagus beetle is _ inch in length, has a bluish black head, legs and antennae tinged with green, reddish thorax and the wing covers are marked by yellowish patches and reddish borders.

The larva or grub of this beetle is dark gray to olive green with black legs and head.

Both the larvae and the adults of the common asparagus beetle damage the asparagus plants. The overwintered adults emerge and begin to feed on the tender growing tips of newly sprouted asparagus. They eat out holes and cause a brownish discoloration of the tissue. The grubs will feed on the tender young tips and on foliage. The plant growth is seriously reduced and proper root development prevented causing a decrease in the size and quality of the crop.


Adult beetles overwinter in sheltered places such as piles of rubbish and heaps of old asparagus tops. They emerge from their shelter when the new shoots come up and begin feeding on the tender tips. They soon lay eggs on the young shoots. The eggs are elongate, oval and deposited either singly or in rows of two to eight. Later in the season the eggs are laid on leaves and flower stems.

The eggs hatch in 3 to 8 days and the grubs begin feeding on the tender tips. When the grubs mature, they drop to the ground and construct a small earthen cell where they transform into pale yellowish pupae. The adult beetles emerge from the pupae. There may be two or more generations a year depending on the climate.


Spotted asparagus beetle (x5)

The spotted asparagus beetle is slightly larger and more robust than the common asparagus beetle. The adults are reddish-orange in color with black antennae, eyes and underside of thorax. Each wing cover has six distinct black spots.

This beetle is most injurious in the early season when the adults attack the growing tips and sometimes eat the buds of newly sprouted asparagus. The beetles also feed on foliage eating out irregular areas. The larvae cause little damage because they feed inside the berries.

The adult beetles overwinter in piles of debris. They leave their winter quarters about one week later than the common asparagus beetles and begin to feed on the tender young shoots. They do not deposit eggs until the plant begins to blossom, about three weeks after they've emerged. The egg is deposited singly on plants, usually those bearing fruit. The egg is 1/25 inch in length, olive brown and attached to the leaf by one side.

The grubs hatch in 7 to 12 days and are yellowish-orange in color with a black head and legs. The larva finds a berry and enters it at the blossom end. Inside the berry, it feeds on the seeds and it may attack 3 or 4 berries before it is mature. When fully grown, it drops to the ground by a silken thread and spins a cocoon just under the soil surface. In New York State a second brood usually occurs in July.

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