Tom Turpin
Professor of
Purdue University







Our Immigrant Insects

Have you ever wondered why many pest insects have foreign names?

It sometimes appears that even insects contribute to the U.S. trade deficit. However, foreign insects began invading our shores long before Washington bureaucrats fretted about the balance of trade. Unfortunately, many of these uninvited insects have stayed here.

German and Oriental cockroaches have infested our homes for many years. Now, in some parts of the United States, the Asian roach has moved in. Many gardeners find Japanese beetles munching on their roses during the summer. Wheat farmers have to deal with Hessian flies and Russian aphids. Corn is attacked by the European corn borer, and soybeans, by the Mexican bean beetle. Apple producers battle the European red mite and the Oriental fruit moth.

American elm trees are now rare because of a disease organism carried by the European bark beetle. A11 of us have read about the Oriental and Mediterranean fruit flies. Now the African bee is headed our way from Central America.

All of these insects are named for their native areas. When mankind began to travel worldwide, insects hitched a ride. The Hessian fly probably came to the United States in straw bedding used by the Hessian troops during the Revolutionary War. Japanese beetles willingly ride airplanes -- many new infestations begin near airports. The Mediterranean fruit fly sneaks into the country concealed in fruit, which is sometimes concealed by travelers.

Some insects that cause problems were actually "imported." For instance, the African bee was introduced to Brazil in an attempt to increase honey production. Gypsy moths, pests of trees, were introduced into the United States by a scientist working on silk production.

A11 introduced insects are not bad. Some beneficial insects have been successfully introduced into the United States. One such insect is the Vedalia ladybird beetle -- a predator of a citrus insect Pest.

A few insects native to the United States have managed to find their way to other lands. The American bollworm and the Colorado potato beetle are now worrying farmers outside the U.S. When it comes to pest insects moving around the world, some might say, "share and share alike!"


Writer: Tom Turpin
Editor: Steve Cain