Kansas State University


Extension Entomology

Category: Lawn and Garden


— by Dr. Jeff Whitworth and Dr. Holly Davis


Ticks are becoming more active this spring, especially wood ticks, also called American dog ticks, Dermacentor variabilis.  These are probably the most common tick encountered in Kansas and they are more common in grasses around field borders and areas with more trees.  They can transmit several diseases and thus should be carefully and safely removed, head intact, before feeding occurs for more than a few minutes, if possible.  For more information on the species of ticks found in Kansas, please see Household Pests of Kansas (pg. 97): https://www.bookstore.ksre.ksu.edu/pubs/MF3291.pdf



— by Dr. Jeff Whitworth and Dr. Holly Davis

Just started finding very small, recently hatched grasshopper nymphs.  If, or when, these nymphs start to increase in numbers in the next few weeks, remember the best time to manage them is while they are still small and thus, less mobile.  An application of an insecticide labeled for grasshopper control is most effective, cheaper, and less environmentally disruptive if applied early so it can be better targeted in a smaller area at the most susceptible time to control these pests.


— by Dr. Jeff Whitworth and Dr. Holly Davis

The last few days of warm, sunny conditions after the preceding few days of cooler, wet weather have apparently initiated considerable termite swarming activity.

Again, make sure to positively identify the insects swarming, as ants are also actively swarming.  There is a huge difference in damage potential between termites and ants, even carpenter ants.  So, please refer to these KSU extension publications to properly identify and manage ants and termites:


Termites, MF722: https://www.bookstore.ksre.ksu.edu/pubs/MF722.pdf

Ants, MF2887: https://www.bookstore.ksre.ksu.edu/pubs/MF2887.pdf

Biting Gnats

–by Dr. Jeff Whitworth and Dr. Holly Davis

We have received a few calls about “biting gnats”.  These are most likely small black flies, commonly called black flies or buffalo gnats.  These appear every year, usually near moving water, and they can be very persistent at getting a blood meal, which the females require in order to produce viable eggs.  While they can be aggressive biters for 7-10 days, they do not transmit pathogens.  Management is difficult because the females deposit their eggs in slow moving creeks and streams.  Larval populations typically decline considerably once water temperatures reach 75-80°F.


For more information, please refer to Household Pests of Kansas (page 65): https://www.bookstore.ksre.ksu.edu/pubs/MF3291.pdf


How to Avoid Getting “Bored” by the Ash/Lilac Borer

–by Raymond Cloyd


Now is the time to take “action” to prevent damage from the ash/lilac borer (Podosesia syringae). Ash/lilac borer adults are typically active from late-April through June, although activity is contingent on temperature. Adults are brown, clearwing moths that look-like paper wasps (Figure 1). Adult females lay tan, oval-shaped eggs in cracks and crevices, or wounds at the base of plant stems. One female can live for approximately one week and lay up to 400 eggs. Below are nine points associated with the life history and management of ash/lilac borer:


Fig 1. AshLilac Borer Adult (Author–City of Edmonton)

  1. The larvae are responsible for causing plant damage by tunneling and feeding within the bark (cambium). Larvae can also tunnel further into the wood and feed within the sapwood and heartwood.
  2. Larval feeding restricts the flow of water and nutrients; thus resulting in shoot or branch dieback. Ash/lilac borer larvae feed at the base of plant stems causing swollen areas or cracks, and they also feed where major branches attach to the trunk.


  1. The presence of light-colored sawdust (frass) accumulating at the base of infected trees or shrubs (Figure 2) is evidence of larval feeding.

Fig 2. Sawdust Located At The Base Of An Infected Tree (Auth–Raymond Cloyd, KS)

  1. Ash/lilac borer overwinters as a late-instar larva located in feeding tunnels or galleries.

5. Trees or shrubs infested with ash/lilac borers will have brown papery pupal cases protruding from the bark (Figure 3), which is where adults emerge from.

Fig 3. Pupal Cases of AshLilac Borer Protruding From Tree Trunk (Auth–Raymond Cloyd, KSU)


  1. There is generally one generation per year in Kansas.


  1. The primary means of avoiding problems with ash/lilac borer is to avoid ‘plant stress’ by providing proper cultural practices including; irrigation (watering), fertilization, pruning, and mulching. In general, stressed plants are more susceptible to attack by ash/lilac borer than ‘healthy plants.’ A two to three foot wide mulched area around the base of trees and shrubs prevents injury from lawn mowers and weed-trimmers that can girdle trees and shrubs leading to ‘stress.’ Moreover, avoid pruning plants in late spring through early summer (under usual weather conditions) as this is when adults are typically present and the volatiles emitted from pruning cuts may attract adult females.


  1. Insecticides containing the active ingredients, permethrin, bifenthrin, or chlorantraniliprole can be applied to the bark—at least up to six feet from the base—to prevent ash/lilac borer larvae from entering which exposes them to insecticide sprays. Once larvae are inside the plant, they are not susceptible to insecticide sprays. Systemic insecticides applied to the soil or injected into trees or shrubs do not provide reliable control of the ash/lilac borer.


  1. Commercially available pheromone traps capture adult males, which help estimate when females will be laying eggs. Pheromone traps help appropriately time insecticide applications. Insecticide spray applications should begin seven to 10 days after capturing the first adults. Check pheromone traps two to three times per week for the presence of newly captured adult males.


Common Asparagus Beetle

–by Dr. Raymond Cloyd

If you are growing asparagus then it is that time of year to be aware of the only insect pest of asparagus; the common asparagus beetle, Crioceris asparagi. Adult beetles are 1/4 inch long. The body is metallic blue to black with red margins and six cream-colored markings (Figure 1).

Figure1. Common Asparagus Beetle Adult (Author–Raymond Cloyd, KSU)

Adults emerge from the soil in early spring and fly to new asparagus shoots where they mate and feed. Females lay up to 30 eggs on the end of spear tips as they emerge from the soil (Figure 2)

Figure2. Common Asparagus Beetle Eggs on Spear Tip of Asparagus (Author–Raymond Cloyd, KSU)

Larvae hatch from eggs after about a week, migrate onto the ferns, and commence feeding. The larvae look like a small slug. They are wrinkled, 1/3 inch in length, and olive-green to gray with black heads and legs (Figure 3).


Figure3. Common Asparagus Beetle Larvae Feeding on Asparagus (Author–Raymond Cloyd, KSU)

Larvae feed for approximately two-weeks and then drop to the ground, burrow into the soil, and form a yellow pupa. After several weeks, adults emerge and start feeding. Common asparagus beetles overwinter underneath plant debris, loose bark, or hollow stems of old asparagus plants. The life cycle can be completed in eight-weeks. There are two generations in Kansas.

The adults and larvae feed on asparagus spears and can defoliate ferns if populations are extensive. Larvae consume leaves and tender buds near the tips, which leaves scars that eventually turn brown. Damage caused by larvae interferes with the plant’s ability to photosynthesize (manufacture food); thus depleting food reserves for next year’s crop.

The plant protection strategies that can be implemented to reduce problems with common asparagus beetle populations include: applying insecticides; hand-picking eggs, adults, and larvae and placing into a container with soapy water; and/or removing any plant debris after the growing season to eliminate overwintering sites for adults. Insecticides should be applied as soon as common asparagus beetles are present, and again in late summer through early fall to kill adults before they overwinter. Thorough coverage of all plant parts is important in suppressing populations.




Ant and Termite Swarms

— by Dr. Jeff Whitworth and Dr. Holly Davis


April is usually the month that most ant and/or termite swarms occur.  Thus, it is extremely important to distinguish between an ant and a termite.  Ant swarms have already been noted (5 April) this year with more to come. Both ants and termites are very common throughout Kansas although the damage potential and treatments costs are significantly different.  Therefore, proper identification is extremely important!


If the swarm is determined to be ants, the next question is whether they are carpenter ants.  Most of our ants are scavengers and therefore won’t really cause a problem, other than being a nuisance.  Carpenter ants are also scavengers; however, they do excavate and nest in soft woods including plywood, plasterboard, insulation, wood affected by water seepage, etc.  Unlike termites, they do not consume wood and wood products.  Carpenter ants range in size from ¼ inch to nearly 1 inch long and may be reddish to black in color, making them look very similar to many other ant species in Kansas.  For many, the easiest characteristic to positively identify carpenter ants is the tiny ring of hairs on the very end of the abdomen, which may require a hand lens to see.  Treatment for carpenter ants, as with most ants, is most effective by locating and treating the nest.


Showing red and black carpenter ants

For more information on ants, including carpenter ants, please see Ants, MF-2887: https://www.bookstore.ksre.ksu.edu/pubs/mf2887.pdf


Goldenrod Soldier Beetles

–by Dr. Raymond Cloyd

Hordes of goldenrod soldier beetle, Chauliognathus pennsylvanicus, adults are now feeding on goldenrod (Solidago spp.) (Figure 1) and other flowering plants. Adults are extremely abundant feeding on the flowers of wild onion (Allium spp.) (Figure 2), and can also be seen feeding on linden trees (Tilia spp.) in bloom. Adults, in fact, can be seen feeding and mating simultaneously. The goldenrod soldier beetle is common to the western and eastern portions of Kansas.

Fig 1. Goldenrod Soldier Beetle Adults Feeding On Goldenrod Flowers (A.–Raymond Cloyd, KSU)

Fig 2. Goldenrod Soldier Beetle Adults Feeding on Wild Onion Flowers (A.–Raymond Cloyd, KSU)


Adults are about 1/2 inch (12 mm) long, elongated, and orange with two dark bands located on the base of the forewings (elytra) and thorax (middle section) (Figure 3). Adults are usually present from August through September. Adult soldier beetles feed on the pollen and nectar of flowers; however, they are also predators, and will consume small insects such as aphids and caterpillars. Flowers are a great place for the male and female soldier beetle adults to meet, get acquainted, and mate (there is no wasting time in the insect world J) (Figure 4). Soldier beetle adults do not cause plant damage. Sometimes adults will enter homes but they are rarely a concern. The best way to deal with adults in the home is to sweep, hand-pick, or vacuum.


Fig 3. Goldenrod Soldier Beetle Adult (Author–Raymond Cloyd, KSU).

Fig 4. Goldenrod Soldier Beetle Adults Mating (A.–Raymond Cloyd, KSU)


Adult females lay clusters of eggs in the soil. Each egg hatches into a larva that is dark-colored, slender, and covered with small dense hairs or bristles, which gives the larva a velvety appearance. The larva resides in soil feeding on grasshopper eggs. Occasionally, the larva will emerge from the soil to feed on soft-bodied insects and small caterpillars.


Scolia dubia: Parasitoid of Green June Beetle Larvae

–by Dr. Raymond Cloyd

Have you seen large wasp-like looking insects feeding on flowering plants such as wild onion, Allium spp and goldenrod, Solidago spp.? Well, this is Scolia dubia, which is a parasitoid of green June beetle, Cotinus nitida, larvae (grubs) located in the soil. Parasitoids are approximately 3/4-inches long with purple to black wings. The abdomen has red-brown markings and two very conspicuous yellow spots on both sides of the third abdominal segment (Figure 1). The parasitoids may be seen flying in a figure-eight pattern several inches above turfgrass infested with green June beetle larvae. The parasitoid can be seen feeding on goldenrod flowers along with goldenrod soldier beetle, Chauliognathus pennsylvanicus, adults (Figure 2) (see next article).

Fig 1. Adult Scolia dubia Feeding on Wild Onion Flower (Author–Raymond Cloyd, KSU).


Fig 2. Scolia dubia Adult Feeding on Goldenrod Flowers Along with Goldenrod Soldier Beetle Adults (A.–Raymond Cloyd, KSU)

Female parasitoids enter the burrow of a green June beetle larva, paralyze the larva by stinging it, and then attach an egg to the underside of the larva. After hatching, the parasitoid larva consumes the dead green June beetle larva. Scolia dubia overwinter as a pupa in a cocoon located at the bottom of the burrow and then emerge (eclose) later as an adult. Adult parasitoids typically emerge (eclose) in middle to late August and feed on flower pollen and nectar. These parasitoids, unlike cicada killer wasps, are not very aggressive and will only sting (at least the females) when handled or stepped on with bare feet.


New Extension Publications – Pesticides and Bees; Squash Bug and Squash Vine Borer

–by Dr. Raymond Cloyd

Pesticides and Bees

This extension publication is intended to increase awareness of the impact of pesticides on bees and offer suggestions on how to protect bees from pesticide exposure. It describes how bee behavior influences pesticide exposure and toxicity, and why laboratory studies reach different conclusions than what researchers have observed in the field. Benefits and risks associated with specific types of pesticides and application methods are discussed, as well as, complex pesticide interactions, which increase risks to bees but are not well understood. Below is the link to retrieve a PDF file of the extension publication:





Squash Bugs and Squash Vine Borer

Both squash bug and squash vine borer are still creating havoc in vegetable gardens throughout Kansas. What can you do to alleviate the damage caused by these insect pests? Well, there are extension publications on both insect pests that were up-dated in 2016 by Drs. Raymond Cloyd and James Nechols. Below is the link to these extension publications:


  1. Squash Bug





  1. Squash Vine Borer




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