An Invasion of Barklice Is Lucky—Just Like Having Ladybugs!
Barklice are Good Guys!
I will never forget the first time I saw a mass grouping of insects like this on our oak tree in our Houston garden some years ago! There seemed to be hundreds of them and I became worried as to what kind of damage they would inflict.
Large swarms of these insects can be viewed in the video below on the bark of a crape myrtle tree.
Doing some research it turns out that this is one of two different types of barklice that occasionally appear in our Houston and Galveston, Texas landscapes as well as elsewhere.
This larger soft bodied one which appears in large groupings consumes smaller bugs, algae and dead material on the trunks of trees without harming the tree at all.
Think of them as an efficient maid service using vacuum cleaners cleaning the surfaces of the tree. Where they congregate and move...the tree is better off for having had their visits. And the best part...all of this is done free of charge! There will be no cleaning bill presented when they leave.
A smaller type of this insect works under a silky white webbing which encases the trunk while they do their same scouring type of work. The cobweb type webbing eventually disappears on its own.
The white webbing looks a bit like spider webs but thicker. The small insects lay their eggs under this webbing. Eventually when the young are ready to move on to other locations, the webbing is eaten.
Prior to that any algae on the tree or other sources of food will have been scoured from all the nooks and crannies of the bark.
So fear not if you see the quarter inch sized Cerastipsocus venosus ones as featured in the picture at the top of this page or the smaller ones called Archipsocus nomas appearing under those white webs.
They are small but powerful scavenger insects that are truly beneficial. We should lay out the red carpet for them!
You can see the more mature insects in this video below and learn even more about them.
Some people might consider the webbing on trees from barklice to be unsightly. If that is the case water under high pressure from a hose might be able to eliminate the webs. However...knowing how beneficial these insects truly are to a tree...you might alter your perception of any webbing found on your trees.
I know that I will be welcoming them in the future should they appear on any of our trees. It is too bad that they cannot be purchased and introduced to our landscapes just like ladybugs.
People can easily purchase ladybugs! Those type of insects feed on aphids and scale which can be detrimental to plants in home gardens or vast fields of agriculture. In fact I just checked on Amazon and for $19 about 1,500 live ladybugs could be purchased! They even sell ladybug habitats, ladybug attractants and ladybug nectar.
Worldwide...ladybugs are a symbol of luck!
My grandpa taught me about the value of having ladybugs in a garden. Every time I see one I am happy. I remember the times I spent wandering in my grandpa's garden when I was a youngster. It brings back fond childhood memories for me. His love of gardening also helped to feed our family good nutritious food on a year round basis.
Grandpa used organic gardening methods as a matter of course. I don't ever remember him using chemicals in his garden. Pesticides kill beneficial insects as well as the bad guys. It is much better to have ladybugs eating aphids than using chemicals on ridding aphids from plants in a garden.
If anyone ever decides to sell barklice...there would undoubtedly be a market for them as there currently is for ladybugs!
Have you ever spotted barklice on your trees?
Questions & Answers
Do large ants drive barklice in herds?
Ants are omnivorous. They eat vegetable matter as well as animals including other insects. That, however, does not mean that they herd barklice.
The barklice move as a group massed together much like a swarm of bees. If you place a stick near them, that will cause a wave-type movement away from that stick as if a large ant was near them. I actually did that once when we had barklice on one of our trees. Each time I placed the stick near the barklice, they would flow en masse in another direction.
© 2016 Peggy Woods