A banana spider, a harmless native spider. Photo by Vivian Willett.
After one version of RSFF that identified an insect, Vivian sent a picture and asked, “Can you tell me what kind of spider this is?”
This close-up image came from a larger photograph and shows a banana spider. This common spider is harmless to people and native to our area. At first, AHA incorrectly identified this spider as a yellow garden spider, a common mistake made with these spiders.
The Master Gardeners of Galveston County, TX, shared some comments on its website, “The banana spider preys on a wide variety of small to medium sized flying insects, which include mosquitoes, grasshoppers, stinkbugs, leaf-footed bugs, bees, butterflies, flies, small moths and wasps. Banana spiders have even been seen feeding on beetles and dragonflies.”
“Because of its size, people sometimes assume that the banana spider is dangerous to people. It is a shy spider (as nearly all spiders are). Just know this species is considered medically harmless to humans. There is little danger to a healthy adult from an encounter with the banana spider. It will only bite if held or pinched and the bite itself will produce a localized pain with a slight redness, which quickly goes away. Overall, the bite is much less severe than a bee string. It is best avoided, but it won’t kill you.”
George shared an interesting photograph and made this observation about love bugs, “Here is proof that at least one life-form will consume love bugs! The faithful ‘Milkweed Assassin bug’ on this cucumber leaf is consuming bodily fluids of a love bug. That bug will not make it to a car windshield.”
A milkweed assassin bug attacking a love bug. Photo by George Giltner.
Florida Extension reported that, “Lovebug larvae have been found in the gizzards of
robins and quail” which means that birds are predators of love bugs. Texas Extension also reports, “Laboratory studies using invertebrate predators found in lovebug-infested pastures indicated they were voracious predators also. These included earwigs, beetle larvae and a centipede.”
Here is a suggestion for organic gardeners and beekeepers. Consider using buckwheat as a cover crop for home gardens and bee pastures.
Buckwheat flowers with a bumble visitor. Photo by UGA Cooperative Extension.
An Extension Agent in Georgia shared these notes about growing buckwheat in the garden, “Buckwheat is easy to grow. Simply broadcast the seeds and lightly rake them in. A pound of seed is recommended per 500 square feet of garden space, or 3 ounces of seed per 100 square feet. You can’t really put too much seed down. Since it’s usually sold in bulk from the local feed store, it’s better to err on the side of too much. Buckwheat does not require highly fertile soils but will benefit from modest levels of nitrogen. Its many fine roots are well adapted to find lower levels of phosphorous, and when crop residues are returned to the soil, it becomes more available for other plants.”
“The prolific flowers on buckwheat are a good nectar source for honeybees and other pollinators. The resulting honey is dark-colored and distinctly different in taste from clover or wildflower honey.” In Louisiana, these flowers, like clover blooms, provide nectar for honey bees to forage on those warm winter days.
“Remember that those prolific flowers turn into a seed if allowed to develop and dry on the plant. If you do not want buckwheat carrying over into your next planting, cut the plants or till them under two to three weeks after flowering.”
George, who is mentioned earlier in this column, shared these pointer about growing buckwheat, “The last week in March. Buckwheat doesn’t like extreme temperatures like the 90’s or below 50 deg F. But it will mature in 60 to 80 days if planted in late March. If we have a dry Spring, it must be watered also. Scatter and rake in lightly for the seeds, or planted in shallow (<1 inch) rows to bypass bird feeding.”
If you want to contact Roots, Shoots, Fruits and Flowers, please send your questions and pictures to Keith Hawkins, Area Horticulture Agent (AHA), 337-463-7006 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, you can be on the “green thumbs” email list by emailing your request to the address above.
“This work has been supported, in part, by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Renewable Resources Extension Act Award, Accession Number 1011417.”