Quoddy Nature Notes

Creepy crawly critters in the house.

Pseudoscorpion

Pseudoscorpion

In case you haven’t noticed, it’s mid-winter here in Maine, but one thing you probably don’t brag about is some of the uninvited guests that are rooming with you.  The most common of these pests is the Cluster fly, Polinia rudis.  These guys like to over winter in houses, and each cycle of the weather brings more into the living quarters for you to enjoy.  But sometimes before you vacuum up the little buggers, notice that they are not all the same type.

There are several other types of flies that joined their cousins to come in and help you watch the playoffs.  Another pretty common bug is the Ladybug.  Not quite as obnoxious as the Cluster fly crowd, but Hippodamia convergens can be a nuisance in the house and is very difficult to positively indentify, as it has a confusing array of spots and color patterns.  Don’t be too destructive in your collecting of the ladybugs since they are a big help in keeping the garden free of aphids in the summer.

Do you feed the birds?  Your bag of black oil sunflower seeds will somehow sprout winged bugs that are attracted to light.  These Indian Meal Moths Plodia interpunctella will survive happily on only one type of grain or seed in any place above 50 degrees like a garage,  basement or  pantry.  After gorging on your largesse, the well fed worms will spread their webbing around everywhere until they find a suitable place to pupate.  After the adults mate the female will unerringly sniff out a place near some food to lay her eggs and start the whole process again, which, under optimum conditions, may take only one month.

Most spiders here in the Quoddy region live only one year, and only overwinter as eggs or newly hatched spiders, except for some of the critters that live indoors.  These are usually pretty small, and generally build their little webs in corners and underneath furniture.  These spiders live off the other critters that I have noted, and also their own cousins, the pseudoscorpions.

Pseudoscorpions are a neat group of animals.  They are a subminiature version of a regular scorpion, but have a rounded rear end and lack the stinger.  Pseudoscorpions have been around for over 300 million years and while the majority of their 3300 or so species live in the tropics, they are found almost everywhere, and here in North America they range as far as Northern Ontario.  Pseudoscorpions live on tiny things like dust mites, and seem to be attracted to places with old books, and were first described by that old bookworm, Aristotle.

The common pseudoscorpion we have here indoors in the Quoddy region seems to be Chelifer cancroides.  Now our pseudoscorpion is, thankfully, only about one quarter of an inch long, and even though he is pretty sneaky, you might see him sometimes on a white countertop or caught in the bathroom sink.  He got here originally by hitching a ride on anything like a cat or dog, a piece of firewood, a person or a book. C. cancroides is not dangerous or destructive and will not keep you awake at night by making loud, mysterious noises or bumping into furniture.  C. cancroides apparently does have an interesting mating ritual that I have never witnessed, and they live for up to 4 years.  As they age, our pseudoscorpions lose their agility somewhat and become less able to scurry around.  Now I can relate to that, but with C. cancroides it is more likely to get caught and eaten by an indoor spider.  C. cancroides can increase their chances of survival with a subscription to AARP  (American Association of Retired Pseudoscorpions).  I already get a lot of their literature.