Why are there bugs in my firewood? Identifying and managing firewood insects. A stack of firewood on the ground covered in a dusting of snow.

With the arrival of winter-like weather, many of us will be firing up the fireplace. When bringing wood inside for the fire, we can sometimes bring some unexpected hitchhikers. Many insects and other critters will use firewood (or wood in general) as a food source or a place to overwinter. Fortunately, for the most part, they pose little to no threat to us or our homes.

What praying mantid have I found? Identifying praying mantids in Illinois. Closeup photo of a female Carolina mantid on a tree

Most people are familiar with praying mantids. These large predatory insects are a common site in the fall, and we often encounter their egg cases (ootheca) this time of year too. But did you know that three different species of praying mantids, the native Carolina mantid and the introduced Chinese and European mantids, can be found in Illinois?

While praying mantids are a welcome sight to some, others are concerned about the presence of the non-native species.

Wheel bugs: good bugs with a painful bite. Adult wheel bug climbing from a yellow flower to a brown flower.

As we transition from summer to fall and the temperatures start cooling off, many of us will be spending more time outdoors. While enjoying our time outdoors, we often encounter various insets we may not have seen or noticed earlier in the growing season. One such insect is the unusual, and to some scary, looking wheel bug.

More than monarchs - What are those bugs on my milkweed? milkweed bugs on seed pod of butterfly milkweed.

Milkweeds have become a popular garden plant the last several years. They are most commonly planted to help support monarch butterflies because milkweeds are the sole food source for monarch caterpillars.

Milkweeds contain toxic compounds (cardiac glycosides) to deter animals (insects and mammals) from feeding on them. However, monarchs have evolved to be able to feed on these plants. Additionally, they can take these chemicals and incorporate them into their bodies, making them unpalatable as well.

monarch butterfly resting on a finger

Like a lot of parents right now in the US, we have decided to homeschool our children. Right now, I’m trying to remember what in the heck did I do in third grade? Time to brush up on the reading, writing, and arithmetic skills. Side note, I should probably start a therapy fund for my kids when they get older.

One subject I have a bit of experience with is science. It was always my favorite subject in school, after recess of course. You might be thinking, how am I going to teach science? I don’t have Bunsen burners and beakers. Fortunately, science is all around us.

a pink spotted lady beetle on a strawberry flower

Ladybugs, ladybirds, or more appropriately lady beetles (they are beetles, not bugs after all) are common insects in the landscape. They are one of the darlings of the insect world. They’re commonly found on stationery and clothing, and they are even featured in nursery rhymes and songs. They are also one of the few insects people are excited to have land on them since many believe they bring good luck.