What to Know About Common Insects in Oklahoma
As the weather warms up and Oklahoma residents start working more in their yards – a lot of bugs are also getting ready for summer! While not all common insects in Oklahoma are dangerous, some can be annoying while others are pests that may swiftly spread. Here are several insects you're likely to find in your yard or garden, and what you should know about them.
American Oil Beetle
These large beetles in Oklahoma are easily identified by their large black abdomens, while the rest of the insect is quite small in comparison. They are a species of Blister beetle, which are notorious for secreting an irritating chemical that can cause annoying blisters on the skin. If you see one, avoid it.
The brilliantly orange and black Assassin Bug is a double-edged sword for your yard. It has a sharp bite and won't hesitate to bite any humans that it runs into – but it can also hunt and eat many troublesome bugs in your garden, so these are best left to themselves.
Another type of black bug in Oklahoma that can cause trouble is the billbug, easily identified by its black armor shell. These bugs are the bane of gardens, as they pick grass or plants and lay eggs constantly throughout the summer, causing damage. Fortunately, they don't spread quite as quickly as some of the other insects you can find in the yard, but they are worth keeping an eye on.
Cutworms are small moth caterpillars that can quickly cause problems for crops as they spread, destroying plants like wheat. Because of this, cutworm outbreaks are generally monitored carefully. Early warning signs include a swarm of crows gathering to feed on a new outbreak.
Oklahoma is home to several different tick species, but the most common include the American and Brown Dog Ticks. They do indeed show up on dogs and other family pets but can feed on humans just as easily. The spotted American Dog Tick is worth watching for, because they can carry Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
Eastern Subterranean Termite
While several termite species are found in the state, the Eastern Subterranean Termite is one of the most common and has an infamous reputation for damaging homes and other wooden buildings. The worker termites of this species are small and pale, while the soldiers have dark heads and large jaws. Be wary of flying insects in Oklahoma as spring warms up, because an unexpected swarm could be a new winged termite colony looking for a home.
Fire ants are similar to many red ant species in Oklahoma, but have a larger, darker abdomen and are actually "imported," not native to the area. Unfortunately, these ants are also highly invasive, swarm aggressively, and have a powerful sting. If you find a fire ant hill, it's best to stay away and contact the experts immediately.
The Grub Worm is a particular nuisance in Oklahoma, where they can cause extensive damage to lawns and are often a harbinger of gopher problems as well. These worms are the larva form of beetles and start to appear in April – they will continue until the weather becomes too cold to survive. If you spot these unpleasant worms in your yard, call a specialist before problems worsen. A related problem are bagworms, which spin bags to hang from trees and may cause damage to evergreens.
Leaf miner is a broad term for the larval stage of many bugs, including moths, sawflies, and other species. This small, cricket-like insect eats leaves and stems as it gets ready for its adult phase. They leave behind zagging white stripes on leaves, which are unsightly, but don't do as much damage as other bugs on our list – although you will want to get rid of them if they start living in your ornamental plants.
Not all pests are flying bugs in Oklahoma! The mole cricket can do plenty of damage below by digging up new seeds and damaging turf. They love moist soil, and are easily identified by their large, mole-like front claws. Watch for them above ground starting in April.
While there are several types of wasps in Oklahoma, the black and yellow Paper Wasp can be annoying for homeowners because they live in very small colonies that can be difficult to notice until they are well established inside eaves or under a deck. While they do chew old wood, most of the danger comes from their stings, and a colony can quickly grow throughout the summer.
Red Spider Mite
These tiny red bugs in Oklahoma do a surprising amount of damage for their size. You are likely to notice their small, spreading webs long before you see these mites. The mites spread across leaves and branches over time, feeding on bushes and plants until they grow weak and die. Spider mites are infamously difficult to eradicate, but the first step is consulting a pest control service as soon as you can.
Sow bugs remain one of the easiest bugs to identify with their "roly-poly" curling. They do relatively little damage but can chew holes in garden plants during the night.
At first glance, these bugs often look like gnats in Oklahoma, but at a closer glance they are pale-colored, and are more attracted to soft plant parts than trash or water. The telltale sign is a sudden burst of whiteflies when a plant is disturbed. A group of these will damage a plant and can spread quickly through the garden, so it's important to deal with them quickly.