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An Invasion of Barklice Is Lucky and Just Like Having Ladybugs!

My grandpa loved gardening. I learned much from him. To this day I enjoy puttering around in our garden, growing plants for beauty and food.

A barklouse with her eggs.

A barklouse with her eggs.

Barklice Are Good Guys!

I will never forget the first time I saw a mass grouping of insects 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.

After 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, as well as elsewhere.

This larger, soft-bodied one that 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!

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 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.

Ladybug will be eating these aphids.

Ladybug will be eating these aphids.

Ladybugs Are Useful, Too

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.

Ladybugs are a symbol of luck worldwide!

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!

A common barklice species, known as tree cattle

A common barklice species, known as tree cattle


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: Do large ants drive barklice in herds?

Answer: 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


Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 14, 2019:

Hi Dale,

Your comment had me laughing. Who knows what lurks in your garden? If it is barklice, be happy...with or without drinks! Haha!

Dale Anderson from The High Seas on May 13, 2019:

Peggy, be honest, did you just make up Barklice after having a few drinks and watching an old 1950's science fiction movie marathon? Because I have never heard of these little critters and now you've got me wondering what else is in my garden that I don't know about. Eek!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 13, 2019:

Hello Aurelio,

Prior to spotting these barklice on my mother's tree, and then later on ours, I had never seen them before. I also have not seen them again in many years. So just because you have never seen them does not mean that they are not in your area. My guess is that they probably do exist there. Your point is well taken. We should not automatically think that all such creatures do harm.

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on March 12, 2019:

I guess we don't have these beneficial insects in Southern California, where I live. Never seen them before. But it just goes to show that you shouldn't just go killing off strange creatures in your yard because they might be useful.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 14, 2018:

Hi Patricia,

Barklice are truly beneficial creatures and I agree with you that nature is often wonderful. Thanks for the greetings of angels. Hope that this day has been a good one for you and your family.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on July 14, 2018:

Hi Me back to read again. The tree in the video must have been very happy to have had so many of these critters stop by. How amazing nature is...I am in awe each time I read of something that creatures in nature do for our planet Once again my friend Angels are on the way. ps (In case you comma is broken on my laptop and so are some other I try to improvise when I need day I will get a new one or get this fixed...whichever happens first.) ps

Peggy Woods on January 08, 2018:

Hi Patricia,

I have only seen those barklice twice thus far. They were on one of my mother's trees at one time and then a couple of years later (after finding out the good that they do) on ours. Now I would welcome them just like the ladybugs.

Patricia Scott on January 08, 2018:

Good morning...I learned a lot about bark lice...I don't think have ever seen them. Ladybugs...O yes....they make me smile every time I see one. Hoping all is good with you and yours. Angels are headed your way. ps

Peggy Woods on December 04, 2017:

Hi Nell,

Yes, barklice are truly good vacuum cleaners for trees. Glad you found this to be interesting.

Nell Rose from England on December 04, 2017:

Isn't it funny how we automatically think they are going to be bad guys? How interesting! I didn't realise that they were the trees little vacuum cleaners! Interesting article Peggy!

Robert Sacchi on November 03, 2017:

Your articles provide good and useful information.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 03, 2017:

Hi Robert,

Ladybugs are great little creatures to have in a garden. Happy to have provided that information to you. I am always pleased to see them in our garden.

Robert Sacchi on November 02, 2017:

Thank you. I never knew lady bugs were beneficial to a garden.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 24, 2016:

Hi Nell Rose,

Like you...I am always happy to see ladybugs in our yard...and have now added barklice as being happy to see. We see many more ladybugs than the barklice. Thanks for your comment.

Nell Rose from England on November 21, 2016:

Thanks for this interesting hub Peggy, never knew about lark lice, but love the ladybirds/bugs we have had loads over here recently!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 29, 2016:

Hi colorfulone,

I am so glad that you found this hub to be informative. While we have only once had the barklice visiting us, we often see ladybugs. I am always happy to view them in our yard and garden.

Susie Lehto from Minnesota on October 28, 2016:

One thing is for sure, I know I can always learn something new to me when visiting one of your hubs, Peggy. I never heard of barklice before. I ts interesting to find out how beneficial some insects are, like the ladybugs. - Kudos!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 26, 2016:

Hi Roberta,

At least if you someday see barklice, you won't be frightened by them. Nice to be of service in the education department. Ha!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 26, 2016:

Hello moonlake,

Thanks for sharing my hub about the benefits of discovering barklice on trees. Appreciate it!

RTalloni on October 25, 2016:

Thanks for this introduction to bark lice. I'm glad to learn about what they are and what they look like in cases I ever am lucky enough to see them. :)

moonlake from America on October 24, 2016:

I've never heard of barklice. Very interesting nice that they do so much good. Sharing your hub.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 11, 2016:

Hi Shyron,

Yes...barklice are good. So are preying mantis. They are both beneficial predators. Between working on my own website and checking the hundreds of ones on HP for discontinued eBay capsules...I have not written much new on here for a time. Hope all is well with you.

Shyron E Shenko from Texas on October 08, 2016:

Hello my friend, I have missed you. I wish you had told me about the barklice a long time ago, maybe they could have eaten the fire ants at the base of my trees. Thank you for this valuable information.

Do you know anything about the praying mantis?

Blessings and hugs dear friend.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 18, 2016:

Hi Glenis Rix,

That must have been quite the invasion of ladybugs! Like you...I generally like letting nature take its course but do like keeping some insects at bay particularly if affecting our garden or house. Hope you discover something that works in your battle with the ants.

Glen Rix from UK on September 18, 2016:

We have wood lice in our garden which look quite similar, so they may be the same creature with a different name. I recall that around 30 years ago there was a plague of ladybirds in England - so many that they covered the windscreen of my car.

Generally, I prefer to let nature take it's course -but how I hate the infestation of ants in my garden and the brickwork of the house! I've tried all of the common remedies and don't think I will ever manage to reduce the numbers.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 08, 2016:

Hi Frank,

Happy to hear that reading this sparked your curiosity about barklice. Isn't the Internet fascinating! :)

Frank Atanacio from Shelton on September 07, 2016:

Thank you for educating me, I have never heard of bark-lice.. had to google some more info.. just to get more images..

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 30, 2016:

Hello The Dirt Farmer,

Yes, barklice is not the cutest name for these beneficial insects. I agree. :)

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 30, 2016:

Hi Dianna,

Now that I know what they are and the good that barklice do, I would not be afraid of them. Instead I find them to be fascinating. I'll admit that the first time I ever saw them...I was afraid of the damage they might be causing. So glad to find out the opposite! Glad to know that you found this to be informative.

Jill Spencer from United States on August 29, 2016:

I've never seen these before. Fascinating! They really need a cuter name.

Dianna Mendez on August 29, 2016:

I see from your poll that none of us who voted have ever heard of these bugs. The video was interesting but I hope to never see them on any of our trees. They may be good for nature but they are a little scary to watch. Thanks for educating me on the good side of this bug.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 29, 2016:

Hi Audrey,

Happy to be able to introduce the information regarding barklice to you. Perhaps you will be lucky and have some visit your trees someday. :)

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 28, 2016:

Hi FlourishAnyway,

You are lucky indeed if you have had that webbing from barklice on your trees. :)

Audrey Howitt from California on August 28, 2016:

I have never heard of barklice before! Thank you!!

FlourishAnyway from USA on August 28, 2016:

So that's what that spider web looking material is! I've been mystified and frustrated for no good reason! Thank you for this information.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 27, 2016:

Hi Linda,

Happy to be able to share these facts about the barklice with you as well as info. regarding ladybugs. Most people know about the latter.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on August 26, 2016:

You've shared some interesting and useful information, Peggy. I didn't realize that barklice could be so helpful.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 26, 2016:

Hi Rachel,

That is precisely why I thought that I would pass along this information to others. Most people who would see barklice for the first time would think that horrible things are taking place on their trees. In fact it is just the opposite! Hope all is well with you! :)

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 26, 2016:

Hi ChitrangadaSharan,

I shy away from most insects also but do find them interesting creatures. When I first spotted barklice I thought that my tree was in for some serious trouble. Happily I found out that they benefit a tree instead. Happy to share this information with others. :)

Rachel L Alba from Every Day Cooking and Baking on August 26, 2016:

Hi Peggy. I have never heard of bark lice before. If I saw them on my tree, I would think it had to be cut down, so thanks for sharing the information and videos about bark lice.

Blessings to you.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on August 26, 2016:

Very informative hub about Barklice and other insects. I am not very fond of insects but your hub informs they are good news.

A well researched hub with great pictures and I appreciate your observation about these beautiful creatures.

Thanks for sharing!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 26, 2016:

Hi thumbi7,

Glad I could introduce you to these types of beneficial insects.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on August 26, 2016:

Very interesting and informative hub about Barklice! I am not very fond of insects but as you say they are good news for trees. I have seen ladybugs on some occasions but did not know much about them.

Very well researched article and the pictures are incredible. I appreciate your knowledge and understanding these beautiful and important creatures and also for sharing this with others.

JR Krishna from India on August 25, 2016:

Thank you for the information on bark lice. This is very new