For your Halloween enjoyment: Florida’s Top 10 creepy, icky invasive insects

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Halloween is full of creepy creatures, but many are merely creatures of imagination (hopefully).

Florida’s climate and weather conditions make it the perfect home for a swarm of very real creatures; some actually dangerous while others are simply terrifying, at least for those afraid of such things.

Researchers at the Florida State Collection of Arthropods at the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services take specimens of these creepers both native to and visiting the Sunshine State. Many are available in drawers for visitors to view; some are in laboratories, subjects for closer examination and study.

Home to more than 9 million insects, arachnids and other creepy crawlers, the FSCA Museum of Entomology, located at 1911 SW 34th St. in Gainesville, focuses on the efforts to stop the spread of invasive or dangerous bugs. It supports research to protect humans, agriculture, the environment and the state’s food supply.

Every day, fearsome creatures (of the winged and multiple-legged variety) invade Florida with the goal to rule their new found habitat. Department inspectors are the “Men in Black” who work to stop the bugs in their tracks.

No word yet on what to do about the two-legged creatures, perhaps they are saved for politics.

For Halloween, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services issued a list of Top 10 invasive bugs, the icky creatures that make Florida their home:

Love bugs

Although invasive, love bugs are generally harmless, except to your car’s paint. Love bugs congregate in swarms of hundreds and are a big nuisance for motorists. After love bugs die, the fatty tissue left behind will stain your clothing and cause holes to form in the paint on a car if not removed quickly.

Oriental fruit fly

In August, the department identified one Oriental fruit fly during routine trapping in Broward County. Two months later amid increased early detection efforts, no other fruit fly has been found. The species is one of the most serious exotic fruit fly pests in the world and attacks more than 100 types of fruits, vegetables and nuts.

Florida whitefly

This invasive species continues to infest South Florida landscapes, in particular ficus trees. These insects typically feed on the underside of leaves with a needle-like mouth and can suck the juice out of plants until they die. The goo from this process drips down onto vehicles and sidewalks making it a major urban nightmare.

Redbay ambrosia beetle

Another non-native insect, this beetle spreads the fungus that causes laurel wilt, which is threatening the multi-million dollar avocado industry in Florida.

Mexican red-rump tarantula

This exotic arachnid will eat anything in its path including insects, spiders, other arthropods, snakes, lizards, frogs – to date, humans are not on the menu.

Brown recluse spider

This non-native arachnid has six eyes arranged in three pairs and will bite if they come in close contact with humans and feel threatened. Recluse bites can produce necrosis, with severe pain and swelling around the bite and then a deep wound around the dead tissue. The most dangerous is the Chilean recluse, which has been found on one occasion in Central Florida.

Africanized honeybee

The agency considers all bees in Florida not kept by beekeepers as Africanized or a hybrid bee. Since the Africanized bees spread to the United States, they have taken over colonies and caused many injuries and some deaths. If you have a wild beehive in your yard, it is imperative that you take precautions and never try removal without a certified beekeeper.

Conehead termite

This invasive termite, found only in Broward County, was already eradicated from the United States once. It attacks wood structures and can cause widespread damage to buildings and homes. They do not respond to typical termite treatment and they swarm each spring to invade further. The termites are about the size of a grain of rice and the soldier males have cone-shaped heads.

Giant African land snail

First found in Florida in 2011, this snail (GALS for short) is subject to an intensive ongoing eradication program. More than 151,000 of the large and slimy snails have been collected and destroyed, but the snails recently appeared for the first time in Broward County. These snails can grow to more than eight inches long, eat more than 500 different types of plants and stucco, and can carry rat lungworm that can cause meningitis. If you see a Giant African Land Snail, call our help line at 888-397-1517.

Asian citrus psyllid

This tiny, but lethal, bug infects citrus trees throughout Florida with a disease known as citrus greening. Greening is now present in the majority of Florida’s groves and all citrus-producing counties. The department is collaborating with the federal government and other states and countries to research the psyllid and disease in order to find a cure to save the iconic Florida citrus industry, which has a $9 billion economic impact and supports 75,000 jobs.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.