Tiny insects finding homes on trees in St. Tammany Parish more bark than bite

July 26, 2012By 0 Comments

Tiny insects finding homes on trees in St. Tammany Parish more bark than bite

By Jim Derry, The Times-Picayune

Barklice “are small, most often wingless, soft-bodied insects,” which are feeding on decaying bark, algae and lichen, said Rusty Batty, the LSU AgCenter extension agent for St. Tammany Parish. Their webs are created to protect them from predators such as birds or other insects.

Normally, the barklice webbing forms in August or September, but it emerged emerged in June this year due to the very mild winter and warm spring. Batty said the insects likely will disappear around the start of fall or a little earlier.

As the summer ends, many of them die off or retreat to “the ground nearby.”

He has received more calls than usual, saying he has had as many as 50 over the past few weeks along with several emails. They have been spotted all over St. Tammany Parish and into some of the other Florida Parishes.

“There are all kinds of area codes and prefix numbers that have called me,” Batty said.

Oak trees are the domicile of preference for barklice — “hardwoods and predominantly oaks. I don’t see it ever in like a cedar or pine tree or anything that’s a scented tree,” Batty said.

He stressed they’re completely harmless, although “you may have a little staining. I don’t recall they even have a smell or significant smell.

“And as far as biting you or anything, no, they don’t do that. Some people are more sensitive than others to anything; a house fly can cause a reaction in some people for instance. Generally speaking, they’re not an irritant to humans.”

Jim Derry can be reached at jderry@timespicayune.com or 985.898.4816.

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