Expert’s Tip: Update from the Insect Diagnostic Lab

P.J. Liesch, Extension Entomologist

With summer inching closer, samples are starting to pick up around the UW-Madison Insect Diagnostic Lab.  I’m currently at just over 500 cases for the year, which is nearly the same as last year at this time.

The most exciting things lately have been the butterfly sightings. I saw my first swallowtail in late April and just heard my first reports of monarchs in mid May.  Many of us probably have milkweed and other wildflowers in our yards for pollinators, but it’s exciting to hear the details of the recently released plan from the President’s Pollinator Task Force.  Besides focusing on the health of honeybees and monarch butterflies, the plan is calling for the improvement of millions of acres of pollinator habitat.

Throughout the past winter, there were the usual cases of overwintering boxelder bugs and multicolored Asian lady beetles, as well as insect stowaways in firewood. The brown marmorated stink bug has popped up six times in Dane, Milwaukee, and Rock counties earlier this winter.  I only had 3-4 cases all year last year, so hopefully we’re not seeing the beginning of an unpleasant trend. . .

Speaking of unpleasant trends, I’m expecting the mosquitoes to pop out any day now.  We’ve had a decent amount of rain and I’ve seen a few mosquitoes as early as mid-March, but I haven’t seen a big “boom” yet, but are starting to make their appearance.  On the topic of blood-sucking arthropods, the ticks have been out in force this spring.  I’ve had plenty of reports of deer ticks and a lone star tick came in from Middleton on the west side of Madison.  The wood ticks have been out in force as well: my wife and I had been hiking on Big Island in the Turtle-Flambeau Flowage in mid-May, and pulled nearly 50 wood ticks off our our two black labs.  Our dogs pretty reliably find ticks, but never this many!  Perhaps, I should volunteer their services to the medical entomologist in our department for conducting tick surveys…

The two most interesting cases so far in 2015 have been a new fly species in the state and an Australian beetle associated with orchids.  The flies came in from a business in Milwaukee and had been captured in a pest control company’s black light trap.  You could tell from a quick glance that they weren’t our standard cluster flies as they had the patterned wings of a ulidiid (picture-winged flies).  The species ended up being Ceroxys latiusculus, which is known from the western US (here’s some more information).  The Australian beetle came in from an orchid enthusiast in the Milwaukee area.  It turned out to be the silvanid Cryptamorpha desjardinsii, which had actually been recorded once before in the state by Jordan Marche (also associated with orchids).

That’s all from the lab for now!

image of PJ Liesch