Question of the Week Number 1: July 5, 2018

“Neil, we have a very fine web on the trunks of two of our trees. Inside the webs we see thousands of tiny black insects scurrying around. Will any of this harm the trees?”

These are barklice (Archipsocus nomas), and honestly, I’d never heard about them until I started getting questions about them on my Facebook page a couple of years ago. As most of you know, we live in McKinney, and these are more of a South Texas phenomenon. However, I grew up in College Station, and I don’t remember ever seeing them.

Photo of barklice by C. Salois of New Braunfels posted recently to my Facebook page.

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So the gist of it is that they buzz around inside their fine webbing cleaning off the trunks of their host trees by removing old algae, funguses and dead bark. And most curiously, they move en masse when disturbed, leading to their alternate name of bark cattle.

No one seems to think of them as harmful. Many even call them beneficial. Here is what Galveston County Master Gardeners have to say about them.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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