by Antonino Crapanzano
When we use the term Curculio (Linnaeus, 1758) we mean a genus of insects belonging to the order of Coleoptera and to the Curculionidae family. The family Curculionidae (Latreille, 1802) includes about eighty thousand species of beetles, including some species harmful to humans and agricultural crops.
It has been classified as the largest family in the animal kingdom.
Anyone who has had the opportunity to deepen the study of insects, by profession or simply because they are passionate about them, will know that their body is divided into three parts: the head, the thorax and the abdomen.
The eyes, antennae and mouthparts are inserted into the head; in the thorax, divided into pro-, meso- and metathorax, we find the motor organs, generally two pairs of wings and three pairs of legs; finally, in the abdomen we will find the organs responsible for the reproduction of insects.
Insects belonging to the genus Curculio, since they are part of the Curculionidae family, they have a common feature, namely that of having an elongated head at the end of which is the mouthparts that will be modified in this family of insects, in fact there will be a structure called rostrum.
The rostrum, typical of some insects, is narrow, elongated, cylindrical and concave on the dorsal side, it is composed of a variable number of articles which vary according to the systemic group; although it is only the lower lip, it is the most evident part of the mouth apparatus as a whole and, for this reason, is called the rostrum.
In all species belonging to the genus Curculio this is thin and long especially in the female, in which it can reach a double length compared to the body of the insect itself, while in the males it will be shorter.
This peculiarity is due to the fact that females of the genus Curculio they lay their eggs on leaves, on the ground, in wood or in plant tissues, using the rostrum, in the latter case, to dig holes; the modifications of the mouthparts are also due to the particular dietary regime, often vegetarian.
Another peculiarity of the genre Curculio and of the Curculionids in general consists of antennas that fit in the middle of the rostrum.
As for the males such Curculio, their peculiarity is represented by the penis which, equipped with hooks, wears out the female reproductive organ during mating, preventing the female from carrying out a new fertilization.
The larvae they have no legs, have a typical “C” shape and feed at the expense of the plants, usually roots or tubers, stems or leaves.
Finally, we can affirm that most of these species have a body color that allows them to blend in with the soil and roots, the remaining part has an intense, lively color with metallic shades.
To the genre Curculio over thirty species belong, for the most part ubiquitous and therefore widespread everywhere, which generally live on both terrestrial and aquatic plants.
Among the best known species we remember:
Rhynchophorus ferrugineus or Curculio ferrugineus, originally from Southeast Asia, causes serious damage to date palm crops; following the trade in infected palms, in 2004 it was found for the first time in Italy. It can affect several species of ornamental palm trees in the Mediterranean but also species of economic interest.
The red palm weevil is a harmful organism subject to emergency measures by the European Community and in Italy, to combat it, the D.M. 07/02/2011 “Provisions on the compulsory fight against the red palm weevil Rhynchophorus ferrugineus“.
To learn more about the characteristics of this insect, the species attacked, the symptoms it causes and the methods of struggle, I recommend that you take a look at this article.
Curculio elephas it has a gray-brown body covered with a light down. The rostrum, slightly curved, in females reaches the length of the body itself while in males it is very short; the larvae are apodic and whitish in color, have a hazelnut colored head and prothorax.
Both the adults and the larvae cause damage to the plants, respectively, the former piercing the fruits to feed and causing them to dry out; the larvae develop by feeding on the chestnut, dig tunnels inside them, which will be recognized by the lighter weight and the opaque color of the skin, causing them to fall early.
There prevention it is the main method of fight against the chestnut Balanino. The preventive techniques adopted consist in the collection and destruction of early fallen chestnuts, thus helping to prevent infestations the following year and in the following years.
Furthermore, physical treatments before storing the chestnuts by disinfecting them in water at 45 ° for a time of 50 minutes; when the treatment is finished, the chestnuts must be dried to prevent any mycopathies or diseases caused by fungi from arising.
THE chemical treatments they can be carried out during the summer with phosphorganic products, only in case of heavy infestations.
Curculio nucum it has a chestnut colored body, covered with a dense yellow-gray hair. The very thin rostrum is short in males, however, in females it can reach the entire length of the body. The larvae will be apodic and whitish in color, with a hazel head and prothorax.
Unlike Curculio elephas, the damage is mainly caused by adults of Curculio nucum that, with the rostrum, pierce the leaves and make holes on the fruits to feed themselves; subsequently the larvae, born from the eggs laid inside the fruits, will devour the seeds.
For the infested hazelnuts there will be a drop, or a fall, early and they may get moldy.
To remove the Balanino of hazelnuts is mainly used agronomic struggle tending to reduce the potential for infestation through:
THE chemical treatments they are rarely performed, in case of severe infestations, during the flicker of adults.
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Living in the city can make us lose a lot of the essence of nature, and if we have children this weight is even greater! But sometimes we can discover the nature that is in our cities, one way to do it is encourage our children to observe insects which are practically everywhere.
Insects are present in any type of habitat and are the largest group of animals that populate our planet, exceeding one million species. They are the real colonizers of the earth, and they really hide many secrets and curiosities to be discovered.
It is true that we mothers love insects very little, because they shamelessly invade our spaces and most of the time their appearance is not so "pleasant" .... but for our little ones we could make an exception and for once stop and observe them with them.
To appreciate them more we have chosen books that will help us discover why insects are important to us, and will also be useful for answering the thousand questions that our children ask us about it.
Let's start with the illustrated books that appeal to young and old.
Let's start by talking about one of the cutest insects along with butterflies, ladybugs.
Amy Nielander's Ladybug Race is an illustrated book that allows us to know hundreds of ladybugs of various sizes and colors from all over the world. I did not know that there were so many ladybugs, I swear!
Beyond scientific accuracy, the underlying idea that sees these ladybugs competing with each other to reach the finish line is wonderful. A book that talks about competition, which is often harmful but sometimes even competition can lead to kind actions dictated by altruism, solidarity and generosity.
Another very nice picture book, written by a great author of children's books, is The Little Spider Weaves and Is Silent by Eric Carle.
A multi-sensory book, which, thanks to its essential graphics and repetition, totally captures the attention of the little ones. The protagonist is a cute spider who works hard to build a web in relief, but other animals try to distract him from his task.
Determination, confidence and commitment have the upper hand and with great satisfaction the little spider will complete its work.
Some very interesting "books to learn", always dedicated to spiders and insects that explain the characteristics that unite them and at the same time differentiate them.
I love the necklace 100 things to know about Steve Parker because it is full of additional, curious and particular information. Very interesting this book that speaks about d'Insects and spiders.
I like the “Incredible But True” column which deals with topics that enrich the study with strange and incredible news. Fun quizzes and games that will involve children and allow them to evaluate themselves and what they have learned.
(We don't test but if they want to test their skills, go ahead!)
The book Look inside: insects and spiders totally catalyzes the attention of adults and children thanks to its pages with attention to every part and full of colorful illustrations.
The acetate pages are intriguing and help explain complicated notions such as mimicry and metamorphosis. In detail, the interior talks about individual insects such as bees, dragonflies, horseflies, termites and much more. We found it very informative!
Considering that you learn with your head, but also with your hands, we have chosen a book that allows you to build (and play) with insect models. Build Edibimbo's Insects, is a nice necklace that allows children to build objects and animals of various kinds.
Strangely, the book dedicated to insects also includes a spider, which instead belongs to the arachnid family. However, we found the book useful, mainly for simple, easy-to-build paper models.
The only contraindication I warn you is that then you will have children at home who invent stories whose protagonists are buzzing around the house !!
Now enough books and have fun observing and seeing that the best science laboratory is precisely the context in which we live, we decided to share (me a little reluctantly) a small corner of our garden with our insect friends.
A little house for them, and a lot of new studio for my children.
Ants are small insects found all over the world, belonging to the family of the order of the Hymenoptera. Each of us will have had the opportunity to know the annoyance that can cause us to see these small insects, wandering around near our home. We specify that the Italian ant is not dangerous either for humans or for warm-blooded animals. It is a small insect, but considered the most evolved form, the most complex and organized of the entire animal genus.
If you have ended up on this article, it is because you have surely noticed that ants can be found everywhere, so as well as in the garden also on our ornamental plants on the terrace. The questions you are asking yourself is: why? Are they harmful to vegetation?
Not the ant itself, but wherever we find them there is always an ulterior motive, which is the presence of the fundamental elements for their survival. They are animals capable of collaborating with each other, but also with other insects. For these reasons they reach our plants in the garden or on the balcony. But let's go on and get to know this little animal better, what damage it can cause to the vegetation and how to remove them.
The first answer you were looking for, so the first thing you need to know, is that ants do not feed on leaves or woody parts, so they do not feed on vegetation, at least all the species of Italian ants. They feed on insects, even dead ones, on seeds, collect food rich in carbohydrates or sugars, such as bread, flour and more, moreover they are greedy for honeydew produced by some insects.
It is precisely for the honeydew that the ants arrive in large numbers on our plants, from the nearest nest, where in addition to feeding, they do a real job. Which? They breed Aphids and Cochineals, producers of this sugary substance, with which they will smear the leaves. Ants love it, so they create a symbiotic relationship with them. Think that during the winter they shelter these tiny insects in the anthill, and then transport them back to the plants closest to spring. The ants will continue to keep Aphids and Cochineals throughout the season, at least until our intervention.
We then come to the painful notes, the damage that this set of animals can cause to our vegetation, whether in the garden or on the balcony. Obviously, Aphids and Cochineal are parasites of plants that feed on sap, causing weakening and diseases, sometimes even quite serious for the plant itself. So before wanting to eliminate the ants, the primary goal is to fight these parasites, before the infestation becomes serious. By eliminating these little insects, we will also keep the ants away. With what to intervene?
We strongly advise against chemical and toxic products, which pollute the environment and eliminate other beneficial insects. Instead, many products are allowed in organic farming, here are which we can use and useful for the case.
PYRETHRUM: Rather incisive product, both for Aphids but also for the ants themselves, less so for the Cochineal. It is available either as a spray or as a powder to be diluted. You can also find the Pyrethrum on Amazon.
NEEM OIL AND SOFT SOAP: They can be used separately or mixed together, ATTENTION: (knowing the right dosages). They must be diluted with water and are both useful for preventing and fighting both Aphids and Cochineal, also removing ants from the plant. You can read how to dose these two products, obtaining a natural killer in this article: Neem oil and soft soap, how to use them together. Natural insecticide.
Otherwise a very good insecticide, with natural extracts is the Compo that you can see here up Amazon. The solution is ready for use. Personally I know the product and I recommend it, useful and effective against Aphids and Cochineal but it is also useful against other harmful parasites.
Read also the article on Spittoon
You probably don't know some curious details about the sleep of these bees. As Brandon Hopkins, a researcher at Washington State University:
Refurbished is better! The best products that should be purchased regenerated (for you and the environment)
Circular fashion: sell the things you don't wear and adopt a sustainable behavior
Like having a green lawn that is always in order, to make the whole neighborhood envious
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Learn more about pests and diseases that could appear in the garden, in terrace o in the garden is a good first step to develop a plan to control and counter them. For example, what are the potential problems that will arise, will depend on which plants you have in the garden, of course but also in which geographical region you will garden, the Tuscany, rather than the Aosta Valley or the Sicily. Some pests and diseases are widespread in many non-similar environments, while others are more problematic only in some areas. Knowing what to look for and when makes it easier to understand which problem is present and what are the reasons why it is present. There are many sources of information on plant pests and diseases online and in books, but be careful to select only sources that are reliable and relevant to the country and region you live in.
Mosquitoes (Culicidae) are a family of insects of the order Diptera. To be clear, Diptera constitute the order of insects to which the common housefly also belongs and are characterized by having only one pair of functional front wings. The rear ones (rocker arms) are reduced in size to a stump that performs balance adjustment functions. One of the peculiarities of mosquitoes is certainly that of being able to pierce the human skin and suck blood through a mouth apparatus present only in female individuals. In fact, the blood contains those nutrients necessary for the correct development of the eggs. Male mosquitoes, on the other hand, feed only on plant substances. They live on average 10-15 days, and their biological purpose is essentially aimed at mating with the female and reproducing.
In Italy there are about 60 species of mosquitoes which are represented by 3 large families: the Culex, the and the Aedes. The Culex are the common sedentary type mosquitoes, they do not move away from the place where they live and lay their eggs. They are most active at dawn and during twilight. The Anopheles are also active mainly during the night and sedentary hours like the Culex. Finally, the Aedes, the most fearsome, of which they seem to be the tiger mosquito and the latest arrival, the Korean mosquito. They are very aggressive, can travel long distances, and are also active during the day. Mosquitoes are confused with other insects, which are basically harmless. These are generally the Tipulids, commonly called "zanzaroni" due to their large size and the Chironomids, of the same size as the mosquitoes.
In nature, each element has its role, and mosquitoes also play their part in the ecosystem. Male mosquitoes for example are pollinators just like bees, in their continuous search for food, they participate in the pollination of plants, thus allowing fruit to develop. Let's not forget that mosquitoes represent an important source of food for other animals such as amphibians, fish, birds and small reptiles. Even with a relatively short life cycle, they are endowed with an enormous reproductive capacity and are able to generate millions of individuals in a short time that contribute to the diet of numerous species.
Despite its size, today the mosquito is considered the deadliest animal in the world. Every year, this insect causes millions of deaths due to the diseases it transmits. Of all the species, mosquitoes are the main culprits of human disease Anopheles which transmit malaria and those of the genus Aedes. Suffice it to say that the latter alone, in addition to being one of the main annoyances of summer afternoons, can potentially transmit more than 20 viruses. Other dangerous mosquito-borne diseases include Dengue, Chikungunya and Zika.
Mosquitoes, like other insects, have great reproductive potential and are able to adapt to multiple types of environments. Some species, such as the tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus), have shown great adaptability to the urban environment, so much so that they have almost supplanted the other mosquito species present in this environment. The biological cycle of the mosquito is linked to the presence of water and, although it prefers marshy and stagnant waters of streams and canals, the development of these insects can also occur in artificial basins, wastewater, water accumulation points rain, grooves in trees, gutters, swimming pools, etc ..
Overall, every type of water stagnation represents a favorable place for the proliferation of mosquitoes, also because the larvae can only develop in an aquatic environment, although even small amounts of water are sufficient. But their diffusion must also be attributed to the drastic demographic reduction of their natural predators (amphibians, fish, birds and small insectivorous mammals).
There are very few animals in nature that arouse as much antipathy as mosquitoes. Mosquito bites are in fact irritating and itchy to the point that they are able to make it unbearable to stay in areas densely populated by this insect. Goodbye to beautiful evenings in the garden with friends or any relaxing situation. When a mosquito lands on our skin, in addition to introducing a small proboscite with serrated edges, it injects saliva that contains enzymes with a dual function: to anesthetize the skin area and keep the blood fluid in order to be able to aspirate it. The itching, redness and swelling of the affected part is essentially due to these enzymes. Our body recognizes them as foreign elements that represent a threat and consequently mast cells release histamine, a substance that also causes blood vessels to dilate. The amount of histamine released varies from person to person, which is why there are people more or less sensitive to mosquito bites. In general, the release of histamine results in swelling of the area around the sting, redness and itching.
Those who own a garden and a green area around their home should take care of implementing the right tools to prevent the massive development of these insects. Limit the presence of stagnant water and wetlands of any kind. To eliminate the outbreaks in particular, the following measures are useful:
If it is true that mosquitoes are attracted to the Co2 released by our body, it is equally true that certain smells can be unwelcome to these insects. Many fragrances of aromatic plants are particularly effective against mosquitoes and among them especially those of lemongrass, rosemary, lemon balm, lavender, mint, eucalyptus, basil and thyme. The essential oils of lavender, lemon, geranium and tea tree can also be very useful. Among the natural remedies against mosquitoes there are also some vegetable oils such as sesame seed oil and neem oil, with eudermic, insect repellent, antiparasitic and antifungal properties. Last but not least, it is right to remember Ledum palustre, small shrub of the Ericaceae family. The mother tincture is obtained from the leaves of the latter, rich in active ingredients such as quercin, coumarins, sesquitriterpene alcohols and aliphatic monoterpenes, and a precious essential oil. These molecules have a pleasant scent for humans and, at the same time, repulsive for insects, especially mosquitoes.
To relieve the itching, discomfort and burning that occurs following mosquito bites, it is possible to resort to natural remedies with an emollient, soothing, anti-itching and anti-inflammatory action. These certainly include aloe vera, rich in mucilage, hypericum ointment and oil, and some essential oils such as lavender, bergamot, lemon, chamomile, helichrysum, tea tree, mint, rosemary and eucalyptus. Finally, we must mention the calendula which, in addition to being endowed with emollient, soothing and calming properties, also has anti-inflammatory and healing properties attributable to the terpene compounds and carotenoids present in the plant.
The web of life
In the "mosquito problem" the conditioning factors are different and among these there is certainly also the intolerance of the modern citizen, willing to accept any form of pollution, but absolutely not willing to tolerate insect bites. As already mentioned, there are useful tools to limit the spread and proliferation of mosquitoes, as well as excellent natural remedies able to ward off these insects and soothe their bites. However, it is not likely to think of being able to exterminate an entire species, rather it is desirable to attempt a reduction in the number of individuals through the conservation of an environment where several species that control each other live. Let's defend ourselves from mosquitoes in a natural and respectful way, but above all let's defend our environment and protect all species, especially those particularly effective in controlling insects, such as bats. Let us respect the web of life and realize that "our survival will depend on our degree of ecological competence, on our ability to understand the principles of ecology and to live in conformity with them". As beautifully expressed by the studies of Fritjof Capra in La web of life.
The poet Giovan Francesco Maia Materdona dedicated a poem to her, which infuse perfectly interprets our feelings about the mosquito.
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