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Insects and Orchids

Moving from Colorado to Florida this year has been a fairly easy transition. I grew up in the South—in Florida and Alabama—so I am accustomed to heat, humidity and hurricanes. I’m familiar with the traffic issues and urban sprawl, too.

One thing I wasn’t prepared for, though, was bugs. I must have blocked this fact out. Colorado has insects, but the number of species, as well as the kind of species, is noticeably different. Let’s just say Colorado has less “household pests.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about bugs in Florida lately, because every time I sit down at my computer to write I see flies. Well, I don’t see them very well—they’re tiny and quick. I started to notice them after I brought in some houseplants a few weeks ago. (The orchid pictured is the latest addition.)

orchid_new.jpg

I haven’t been able to isolate a carcass yet, but I’m fairly certain my flies are the common fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster. Of course, they could be some unnamed, small flies that just evolved here, but it’s comforting to have a name.

I read that overwatering indoor plants can cause a fly problem. So, I’m watering my plants less now. I’ve moved all the fruit and vegetable matter from my kitchen counters into the refrigerator. I also set out a red wine trap—supposedly the flies will be attracted to the wine and drown in it. I haven’t seen any dead flies yet, but I’m hopeful. I also read they like apple cider vinegar, so I plan on setting up a vinegar trap later today. I’m not afraid of insects, but flies have always given me the heebie-jeebies since they usually come around when there’s death and decay. (I’ll admit there was at least one questionable banana in my fruit bowl.)

The fly problem got me thinking about insects in general, especially species in Florida. These particular flies, (if they are D. melanogaster), lay 500 eggs at a time, which go through larval and pupal stages to emerge as adult flies in about two weeks. Adults are capable of breeding within 48 hours of maturation, and they live several weeks, breeding more than once during this time. Wow. No wonder my apartment was starting to resemble the Serengeti.

No one knows for sure how many species of insects exist in the world or in any one state. I’ve read estimates that there are 20 to 30 million species of insects worldwide. This is just Class Insecta, not the whole phylum of Arthropoda.

I was shocked to learn more than 80 percent of all living things on the planet are classified as arthropods. Researchers estimate that in a typical forest acre there may be 425 million living arthropods—with Arachnids being the most abundant of these.

In North America, there are an estimated 920,000 named species of insects. Florida is estimated to have more than 15,000 species—but, I think this is a very low estimate. Come on. Have you been to Florida? I think I have at least 15,000 species of insects in my house alone. I used to collect arthropods and knew the names of quite a few. Lately, every few days or so, I see a dead insect on the floor or out in the yard and think: I’ve never seen anything like that before. Hmm…

UPDATE:

The traps appear to be working. I’ve seen a significant drop in the fly population.

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