Bug FAQ

If you live in Florida, or visit here, you know that the Sunshine State is home to many bugs. Thousands of species of insects, spiders, mites and other creepy-crawly arthropods roam the state — some beneficial to people, some potentially harmful to people, some neither, some both.

You may have a few questions about Florida’s bugs. That’s why we’re here.

UF/IFAS entomology experts want to make sure you get the facts about Florida’s bugs, so we’re providing this FAQ backed by science-based answers.

If you have questions that aren’t addressed in the current version of the FAQ, let us know by writing to sfyl@ifas.ufl.edu. Many of the questions submitted will be featured on the UF/IFAS Facebook and Twitter pages during UF’s annual Bug Week celebration every May. And the online FAQ will continue to grow as new material arrives.

Jeepers creepers what are all these creatures? See our new UF/IFAS Featured Creatures! (5/25/2017) by Jennifer Gillett-Kaufman - 0001It is that time of year when it seems that everywhere you look is an insect you have never seen before. To keep you in the know we have pulled together some of the newest Creatures from the... Read More
What is this bug? It is time to explore tiny but new UF/IFAS Featured Creatures! (5/23/2017) by Jennifer Gillett-Kaufman - 01701Are you seeing fantastic creatures that are the stuff of nightmares (or an entomologists day dreams)? We all have had these moments and can often be surprised by how small some of these so called evil creatures are.... Read More
Zika and Florida Beekeepers (9/9/2016) by Mary Bammer - 3001A letter from the Florida Chief of Apiary Inspection, David Westervelt: The Southeastern United States is in a triple threat situation for mosquito proliferation and control. Listed below are conditions making it favorable for the breeding and spread... Read More
Giant wasp making you nervous? (8/26/2016) by Adam Dale - 04700This is a guest post by Lauren Webb, a research assistant in the Dale Lab in the UF/IFAS Entomology & Nematology Department. Have you ever seen a wasp nearly the length of a large paperclip? Perhaps on the ground... Read More
Why do I always find these silver bugs crawling inside of cardboard boxes? (5/27/2016) by Jennifer Gillett-Kaufman - 06100The silver critters that you find in boxes are called silverfish (Figure 1). They are a primitive type of insect that lack wings and are ametabolous (meaning they do not go through metamorphosis). Silverfish prefer places that have... Read More
What are these specks of dirt climbing up my walls? (5/26/2016) by Jennifer Gillett-Kaufman - 28500If you have ever seen what looks like clumps of dirt ascending your walls, you are actually seeing an insect. The “dirt” is actually a case that surrounds a household casebearer caterpillar (Figure 1), which is the larval... Read More
I found some bed bugs in my house. Can I use bleach to kill bed bugs? (5/25/2016) by Jennifer Gillett-Kaufman - 02600  When you have an infestation of bed bugs (Figure 1), bleach should not be used as a control method. Bleach can be harmful to people if not used carefully, and it will not work effectively to completely... Read More
I have things that move in my birdbath. What are they? (5/24/2016) by Jennifer Gillett-Kaufman - 04500Those little, squirming things in your birdbath are container-breeding mosquitoes (Figure 1). These mosquitoes are in their larval stage. Adult container-breeding mosquitoes lay eggs wherever water collects, which can be natural structures—like bromeliads—or artificial ones with standing water—like... Read More
I found worms with a spike for a tail on my tomatoes. What are they? (5/23/2016) by Jennifer Gillett-Kaufman - 02300Between April and November, you might notice spike-tailed green worms (Figure 1) feasting on your tomato plants’ leaves and fruit. These voracious creatures ravaging your garden are caterpillars called tobacco or tomato hornworms. The caterpillars are the larval... Read More
Do wasps have any benefits at all? (4/11/2016) by Jennifer Gillett-Kaufman - 015001Actually, yes! They may not make honey like pollinating bees do, but we still need them. Even though you might tend to think of wasps as pesky stinging insects, they do provide ecological benefits. Similar to bees, some... Read More
I keep my house clean, so why am I still finding ants? (4/8/2016) by Jennifer Gillett-Kaufman - 011801It may feel as though ants, no matter what you seem to do, will never leave your house. There are several reasons why ants continue to find their way inside your home. Doing dishes every day and keeping... Read More
Fresh spring leaves: A delectable treat (3/31/2016) by Adam Dale - 0000Throughout early spring, leaf buds on deciduous trees open up into fresh, green leaves. Our recently bare and bland landscapes are green again. We aren’t the only ones who are excited about this, though. Leaf-eating insects are too. Early spring is when many... Read More
Welcome back! We STILL want to know what’s bugging you! (2/24/2016) by Tom Nordlie - 0201Welcome to the new online habitat, er, home for the University of Florida’s Bug Week! The UF/IFAS Web Team has designed this terrific new website, where you’ll find information about all the Bug Week 2016 activities, along with... Read More
What are these tents? (12/16/2015) by Jennifer Gillett-Kaufman - 07601You may have noticed branches covered in these strange structures (Figure 1) during the spring, typically in March. These are tents constructed by eastern tent caterpillars, the larval stage of a Lasiocampid moth—a hairy and golden-brown colored moth... Read More
Are ladybugs all ladies? (11/18/2015) by Jennifer Gillett-Kaufman - 06101The ladybug (Figure 1), or ladybird, is the common name given to beetles in the Coccinellidae family. This is misleading because not all ladybugs are ladies; they can be either female or male. It is difficult to determine... Read More
What is this mosquito with white feet? (11/1/2015) by Jennifer Gillett-Kaufman - 01401We are pleased to announce a new article on Featured Creatures that will answer that question! Take a sneak peek with this excerpt from the article: Psorophora ferox, (Figure 1) known unofficially as the white-footed woods mosquito (King... Read More
Real zombies are among us! (10/26/2015) by cwmiller - 18001It seems like science fiction, but insects can have their brains reprogrammed by fungi and even other insects! These zombies are common and may even be in your garden. We are mesmerized by the many examples of tormentors... Read More
Insects: A Delectable Wonder (10/15/2015) by cwmiller - 12601Have you ever crave something crunchy, spicy, and savory? You are probably thinking of potato chips or chicken wings. You will be interested to know that there is another crunchy, spicy, and savory food that is also healthy... Read More
What are the big blue butterflies we see in butterfly exhibits? (10/10/2015) by Jennifer Gillett-Kaufman - 01201We have a new article on Featured Creatures that will answer that question! Take a sneak peek with this excerpt from the article: Morpho peleides Kollar, the blue morpho butterfly, also known as the peleides blue morpho or common blue... Read More
How is this leaf walking? (9/19/2015) by Jennifer Gillett-Kaufman - 411201This leaf is not really a leaf at all. You are actually seeing an insect: a katydid (Orthoptera: Tettigoniidae) (Figure 1). On closer inspection, what you may have referred to as a grasshopper is, in fact, related to... Read More
What are these little bugs in my house that look like they roll into a ball? (7/10/2015) by Jennifer Gillett-Kaufman - 05001The pillbug, Armadillidium vulgare (Latreille), is an isopod, a type of non-insect arthropod also known as a terrestrial crustacean. It is sometimes called a roly-poly due to its ability to roll into ball when threatened or bothered. This... Read More
Why is this tree leaking? (6/12/2015) by Jennifer Gillett-Kaufman - 010700If you see sap coming out of a tree it could be caused by many different things. Damage to a tree trunk or limb can cause sap to leak out. This is natural wound protection for the tree.... Read More
Is it true that there are brown recluse spiders in Florida? (5/20/2014) by Jennifer Gillett-Kaufman - 147901That depends on your definition of ‘here.’  No breeding populations of any species of recluse spiders (Loxosceles laeta, Loxosceles reclusa, and Loxosceles rufescens have all been found in the state), has been found in any Florida county in a... Read More
I heard that UF was responsible for releasing the lovebug. Is that true? (5/6/2014) by Jennifer Gillett-Kaufman - 029001No, it’s not true. Not by a long shot. Not even close. NO! This rumor’s been around for decades and its origins are unknown. But we can tell you a few things to bust this myth: First, it’s... Read More
What’s the best mosquito repellent to use? (5/6/2014) by Jennifer Gillett-Kaufman - 08900Scientific studies have shown the mosquito-repelling effectiveness of the chemical N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide, which is better known by the acronym DEET. Although people have reported good results with other options ranging from cosmetics to home remedies, DEET is a widely... Read More
Why is my area so bug-infested? (5/6/2014) by Jennifer Gillett-Kaufman - 03000These are some common questions- Why are there so many bugs in Florida? Not species but individual bugs. Why is my area so bug-infested? Why are there sometimes so many bugs of a certain type, like love bug... Read More
Why are there so many species of bugs in Florida? (5/6/2014) by Jennifer Gillett-Kaufman - 04300Florida is home to thousands of insect species, plus thousands more land-dwelling arthropods that aren’t classified as insects – organisms including spiders, mites, centipedes and ticks. Part of the reason we have so many species of bugs here... Read More
I think I’m having health problems related to bugs. (5/6/2014) by Jennifer Gillett-Kaufman - 0000As much as we’d like to help, we’re not physicians and so it would be irresponsible for us to try to diagnose a medical problem. The best thing for you to do is discuss your symptoms with your... Read More
Which bug is the biggest agricultural pest in Florida? (5/6/2014) by Jennifer Gillett-Kaufman - 07100Right now it’s probably the Asian citrus psyllid, a small flying insect that’s the vector of the presumptive cause of citrus greening disease, the bacterium Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus. The disease cost Florida citrus growers $4.5 billion in lost... Read More
How do I know if I’m allergic to bee or wasp venom? I don’t think I’ve ever been stung. (5/6/2014) by Jennifer Gillett-Kaufman - 03700You should talk to your primary care provider. There are tests available that can indicate potential bee and wasp venom allergies. In the meantime, if you’re not certain if you are allergic to bee or wasp venom, the... Read More
What’s the most dangerous bug in Florida? (5/6/2014) by Jennifer Gillett-Kaufman - 14602In the big scheme of things, it’s the mosquito. These blood-sucking pests don’t pose a danger by themselves, but their bites can transmit microscopic organisms that cause infectious diseases including Eastern equine encephalitis and dengue. Scientists believe that,... Read More
What are those little dark-colored flies that come out of my bathroom sink? (5/6/2014) by Jennifer Gillett-Kaufman - 130500Is this what you are seeing? Those are representatives of a fly family called Psychodidae, commonly called drain flies, sink flies or moth flies. These insects are harmless, they don’t bite, sting or transmit diseases. However, they are... Read More
What’s the biggest bug in Florida? (5/6/2014) by Jennifer Gillett-Kaufman - 06100For greatest body length, we’re confident that the title holder is Scolopendra alternans, commonly called the Florida Keys giant centipede or Haitian giant centipede. A really big adult can be somewhere in the neighborhood of seven to 10... Read More
What’s the difference between an insect and a bug? (5/6/2014) by Jennifer Gillett-Kaufman - 016000Let’s start with the easy part- defining what an insect is. An insect is a type of organism in a larger group called arthropods, which are cold-blooded creatures with an exoskeleton and no backbone. An insect ( like... Read More
Welcome to UF/IFAS What’s Bugging You FAQ’s (5/2/2014) by therron - 0000 If you live in Florida, you already know that our state is a hotbed for bugs. And with thousands of insects, spiders, mites and other creepy-crawly critters wandering about, you may have a few questions about them. UF/IFAS... Read More