How to identify bugs that shed their skins

Written by jessica lietz
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How to identify bugs that shed their skins
Bugs that shed their skins are often pests in the home, lawn and garden. (insect image by Sergey Baranov from Fotolia.com)

Bugs that shed their skins can cause structural and agricultural problems in the home and garden. These pests also may damage goods, such as clothing and food, if they cause an infestation in the home. Identifying these bugs helps to find the best pesticide or natural remedy to rid them from the structure or property and to prevent future infestation.

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Cicadas

Websites, such as Fulton-Montgomery Community College Bug Finder (see the Resources section), show photographs and display written details of the anatomy of all types of insects, including cicadas. On InsectIdentification.org (see the Resources section), search by primary and secondary colours of the bug or shed skin, as well as by the state where the shed insect skin was found. Periodical cicadas are found in the Midwest and Great Lakes states in the summer, in time periods of 13 to 17 years. The shed skins of these insects are found in large numbers, sometimes in the hundreds or even thousands at a time. The skins are often found near trees and are green and black with some areas of yellow.

Spiders

Using a field guide helps with identifying bugs that shed their skins, such as spiders. A comprehensive field guide will include full colour photographs, including photos of life cycle stages and information about habitat, range, size, behaviour and life cycles. InsectIdentification.org suggests the use of field guides for identifying spiders by their shed skin, such as the "National Audubon Society Field Guide to Insects & Spiders: North America," by Milne & Milne or "National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Insects and Spiders of North America," by Arthur V. Evans. Although spiders are scientifically considered arthropods, it is common practice to consider them an insect. Shed spider skins are identified by their size, amount of "fur" or hair, colours or other markings. For example, a black widow spider's shed skin will contain an hourglass-shaped mark on the abdomen.

Carpenter Ants

If shed insect skins are found in the home or business, a call to the exterminator can help identify the pests. Common household insects that shed skins, such as carpenter ants, are often detected by exterminators during a home inspection. Another resource for identifying carpenter ants is an entomologist. Shed skins of carpenter ants are often found near wood, especially in a crawl space or in the subfloor or walls of a house. The shed skins are often located with frass, which is a sawdust-like material produced by the ants when they chew the wood of the structure. These shed skins are large, up to three-quarters of an inch long, compared to common sugar ants.

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