When Are Lice Nice? When They Are Barklice!

When one hears the word “lice” several scary thoughts enter your mind. “Blood sucking creatures”, “Creepy crawlers” , and other unpleasant images. Did you know there are some insects called “lice” that are not harmful? They are even helpful! Meet the Barklice.

I discovered these interesting creatures while we were walking around the yard of our friend’s house that had recently moved to a house out in the country on a large lot. My wife and a couple other ladies saw them on the trunk of a Mimosa tree and called me over to identify them. When I took a look I did not know what insects they were. I only recognized that they must be some type of “true bug” because of the way their wings overlapped on their backs. I had to do some research to find out what they were.

Move Around In Groups:

One characteristic that sets these insects apart is the way they travel around on the bark of trees. They wander like a herd of cattle. Traveling in groups makes them appear larger than they are so that predators have to think twice before taking on the large group. Like cattle, these creatures are grazing as they move around. Guess what they eat?

Nature’s Clean Up Crew:

These tiny little insects are beneficial because they feed on fungus, lichen, algae, and decaying plant scraps that grow on the surface of the bark of trees. So…if you find them on your trees, don’t be alarmed and definitely don’t grab a can of bug spray! No insecticide is needed. They are here to help!

Two Major Groups:

While reading up on these creatures I discovered there are two primary varieties of Barklice: Aggregating and Web Spinning. As these common names imply, one group travel around in groups while others wrap the trunks of trees in silky webbing while feeding on the bark beneath. The ones I viewed were the Aggregating variety. Apparently there are many species in each of these two larger groups. Some have wings while others do not. Some are black (like the ones pictured here), while others are yellow, green, gray or brown. Most have striped abdomen with banding similar to the bees. Some have very long antennae and others of varying size.

The Web Spinning group is classified in the Achipsocas group while the Aggregating group is in the Cerastipsocas group.

So What Should You Do If You Don’t Like Bugs on Your Trees?

For those who don’t like creatures crawling on their trees, rather than using insecticides to banish them, just grab a high pressure garden hose and spray them away. That way no poisons need to be inserted into the environment. Most people, after they learn more about the creatures they fear, are quick to change their view of things with a little education. Before taking knee-jerk reactions it’s good to take a little time to gather facts to make better decisions.

Think About It:

Have you noticed that all creatures, great and small, have a purpose in the larger scheme of things. This is by design! When God originally created every thing He placed each in just the right place within the world. It was only when man sinned in the Garden of Eden when nature was cursed and it became more difficult for man living in relation to the creation around him. Man’s role as caretaker of the Earth remains and we should recognize our responsibility to use the natural resources wisely.

If you take the time to investigate you can discover your purpose as given in God’s Word, the Bible. The more you look around you the more you will find He left a lot of evidence in His Creation to direct man to see there is a Creator and Sustainer.

Why Not Go Out And See If You Can Find These Insects In Your Neighborhood?:

If you would like to see these little guys in action, go out and find a tree. The easiest trees to find them on are the smooth barked trees like Crepe Myrtle and Mimosa trees since the insects stand out against the smooth background. They also can be found on oak trees and other hardwood trees, though they are harder to see there because of the texture and coloration of the bark.

Look in moist places on the trunks of the trees since the humidity helps the fungi, algae and lichen to grow. That is where they will be feeding. Move your hand over the group and watch them move away in a herd. They are really interesting little creatures.

One thought on “When Are Lice Nice? When They Are Barklice!

  1. Interesting! I never knew what these were called, but I’ve seen them in the last few years on our fresh Christmas trees, which my family has gone up to Apple Hill to cut down.


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