Yard Bugs That Dig Holes
Non-flying insects that burrow and live underground include ants and earwigs. The wolf spider, though an arachnid, is part of the same invertebrate phylum as insects, called Arthropoda. This animal uses its burrow as a hunting blind.
Ants are probably the best known "burrowers" in the insect world. They tunnel under lawns, in open fields and in planting beds. The burrowing is beneficial to the soil, loosening it up and allowing water and air circulation. Ant hills serve as underground homes and nurseries and can usually be identified by single or multiple holes atop a mound of dirt. Size and shape depends on the species. Ants can be found year-round in most places but tend to be less active during cold winters.
Harvester ants (Pogonomyrmex) are found in the southeastern United States and as far west as Texas. One species found in Florida is the pogo (Pogonomyrmex badius). They have nests that average seven feet deep and have roughly 100 chambers. The main entry is usually a single hole, most easily distinguished in grass because of the dirt surrounding it. A single queen is the head of the colony and she can live up to 15 years.
The queen only produces female worker ants, except when it's time to create a new colony. At That time, the queen lays male and daughter-queen eggs. Which fly off and mate when mature. The males die and the mated females look for spot to start new nests. A new queen drops her wings, then digs a small hole and starts depositing eggs. When the larvae mature, they start digging and foraging for the colony.
The red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta Buren) and the native fire ant (Solenopsis geminata Fabricius), are found throughout the southeast. The southern fire ant (Solenopsis aurea Wheeler) lives throughout much of the southwest. Their breeding and living patterns are much the same as the harvester ants. Their burrows, disguised under low mounds of disturbed soil, can be up to 18 inches across. When disturbed, fire ants often run out from multiple holes and attack the intruder.
The bites and stings of fire ants are painful, and though not usually toxic to humans, they typically cause pus filled swellings to appear. Multiple bites might warrant a trip to a physician, especially for children and individuals who experience severe allergic reactions.
Some species of earwigs do have wings, but can only fly in short bursts. Most live their lives under the leaf litter and near moist soils or in thick vegetation, scavenging for plant and animal matter. Earwigs are easily identifiable by the pinchers on the ends of their abdomens. The name "earwig" comes from an old superstition suggesting the insects climbed into people's ears at night and dug tunnels to the brain. Not true.
The only tunneling is done by the female earwig when it's time to deposit her eggs. The burrow is small, typically using a small rock or vegetation for camouflage. The female stays with her brood until they are large enough to leave the nest. While this indicates a maternal instinct, uncommon in the insect world, motherly love goes only so far. If the young, called nymphs, don't leave soon enough, she will eat them. Females often spend the winter in the burrows, since these insects are active the year around.
Carolina Wolf Spider (Hogna Carolinensis)
Thirteen types of wolf spiders live in the United States. One of the largest is the Carolina wolf spider and it is found in nearly all regions of the country. At up to 1.5 inches long, not counting the thick, furry-looking legs, these black, white and gray spiders are hunters. They live in burrows, typically 5 to 6 inches deep, that are lined with silk. Wolf spiders do come out at night to hunt, but also sit quietly in their burrows to ambush prey. The entrances are covered with more silk and grass as camouflage and can be difficult to spot. Mature females live several years and may be seen the year around in some areas. Males die off after mating in the fall.
The wolf spider will bite if disturbed or trapped. The bite can be painful, but the venom is not usually toxic to humans.