by Harry E. Williams
University of Tennessee Extension
Circa January 1971
Insects are first-class travelers, and many of them are ‘’one way tourists.” These small creatures are among the most successful immigrants in the world. How many of us could travel alone to a strange country without bags or baggage, adapt to the new environment, and leave many relatives when we pass on?
Perhaps you have questions about some of the foreign names of our insect pests. These names tell us a very interesting story about these insects. Insects are the most successful animal on earth when it comes to providing food, shelter and protection for themselves. Their strength, their reproductive potential, and their ability to escape or resist an enemy is unsurpassed.
The alfalfa weevil is a native of Europe that was brought to this country around 1900 in a bale of hay. This weevil settled near Salt Lake City, Utah, and was very successful there. Since that time his relatives have moved all across the United States. In 1958 the weevil moved into Tennessee and has been very successful here. This insect is most active during cool, wet weather which decreases the effectiveness of chemical control. Biological control by a parasitic wasp looks very promising for the future.
The Japanese beetle is a native of the isle of Japan in the far East. This immigrant arrived in the United States around 1916 and settled in New Jersey. The Japanese beetle feeds on approximately 300 plants and has found very favorable climatic conditions in this country. The beetle now has infested over 100,000 square miles and will eventually be a pest over much of the United States. Parasitic wasps and a bacterial disease are important natural controls for this pest.
The white-fringed beetle is a native of Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay. Infestations have also been reported in New South Wales, and the Union of South Africa. This beetle settled in Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi around 1936 and has spread as far north as New Jersey at the present time. The adult insect cannot fly and will walk as far as one-fourth of a mile in its lifetime. There are no males in the population. All white-fringed beetles are females and can produce fertile eggs. With favorable climatic conditions that now exist and more than 200 host plants to feed on, this pest can spread over large areas of the United States. There are no known natural enemies of importance.
The European corn borer is a native of Europe that settled in Massachusetts in 1917. Since that time it has spread southward and westward over a large part of the important corn acreage east of the Rocky Mountains. This pest feeds on corn, weeds, flowers and vegetables, and has been found in over 200 host plants. The natural enemies of the corn borer have been imported, but to date are not important in the control of this pest except in localized situations.
The face fly is a native of Europe. It was first reported in Canada in 1962. Since then it has spread over a large area of the United States. This fly is now one of our worst cattle pests. This fly is extremely annoying to livestock on pasture. The adult flies over winter in heated buildings usually in wall voids or in attIcs. As a result, it is also an annoying pest to the housewife during the winter. A parasitic nematode, which is a natural enemy, has been reported in this country.
The success of these travelers is a real challenge to our travel agencies. These tourists travel first-class at a very exclusive, economical rate. They are a constant, persistent headache to our customs service, and successfully avoid scrutinous inspections to detect their presence. On the basis of her past performance, “Madam Bug” should be most successful with a chain of franchised travel agencies.
Editor’s Note: Submitted by Barry Martin/Tennessee Aircraft. Reprint permission by Tennessee Magazine.