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July 7, 2013

NOW HEAR THIS: Bugs are what routinely bug me

By LARRY M. JONES

KDFW-Fox 4 news has a regular segment covered primarily by Saul Garza entitled “What’s Bugging You?” Here he answers questions from viewers or helps to solve disputes between them and businesses or government agencies. He has phenomenal success, because almost no one wants such negative publicity aired on local television.

Being bugged or having something bug you can have more than one meaning, but most frequently we think of it as having an annoyance – like gnats or mosquitoes constantly buzzing around your face. More specifically, these “bugs” are generally of the phylum Arthropoda, and even more specifically, the class Insecta. These are the little critters with six legs, not eight like spiders, even though spiders “bug” me, too.

I’ve always been fascinated by bugs. With a heritage firmly entrenched in farming and ranching, I quickly learned as a small child that bugs, particularly insects, can have severe consequences with regard to your eating habits. Like the locust plagues cited in the Bible, grasshoppers and other insects can devastate our crops, gardens and lawns. In the past decade we seem to have had the worst grasshopper infestation that I can remember. Despite expensive applications of pesticides, they have routinely destroyed half of my coastal hay meadows and pastures, if not more.

Although I studied insects and other bugs while taking both high school and college general biology, I really didn’t get seriously interested in it until I took entomology at Texas Tech University back in the Stone Age.

Entomology is the study of insects, according to most accepted definitions. It so happens that insects are the most numerous organisms on earth, with roughly half of all species belonging to the class. That’s a lot of critters, folks. It was during this first entomology class that I found that almost every noxious insect pest could be found in abundance in Texas – or it at least seemed that way.

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