Which are the most common bugs of Florida? Florida has at least 12,500 insect species. They all eat something, and whether humans call them “pests” depends on how they impact our lives.
Some of them eat the plants we consider important, and some of them bite, sting, or try to feed on us. Many insects are considered invasive species that arrived in Florida by accident or were intentionally introduced. Many of the invaders affect Florida residents and its environment in a negative way.
The following is a sampling of the 30 insect species most common to our state.
Palmetto Bug. Scientific name: Eurycotis floridana. This large cockroach grows to a length of 30–40 mm (1.2–1.6 in). It is found mostly outdoors, where it eats detritus and leaf-litter, but occasionally will sneak into houses.
‘No-See-Um’. These are the biting midges of the genus Culicoides; 47 species of which are known to occur in Florida. They are so small that you can’t see them (hence the nickname ‘No-See-Um’). They are a nuisance to people outdoors who might spend time near shorelines or wetland areas when winds are calm. They leave small red welts where they bite.
Yellow Fly. Scientific name: Diachlorus ferrugatus. Yellow flies are ferocious biters, with female flies needing a blood meal in order to develop their eggs after mating. Their peak season in Florida is April through June.
Stable Fly (Dog Fly). Scientific name: Stomoxys calcitrans. This biting fly originated in Asia, but now can be found worldwide. It mostly attacks dogs and cattle, but will also bite humans. In northwest Florida, stable flies will conglomerate in large numbers in seaweed washed-up on the shoreline and attack humans who venture too close. The small flies are affected by wind currents, and how the winds blow can determine how bad the biting will become. The flies can become so bad that it affects tourism.
Carolina wolf spider. Scientific name: Hogna carolinensis. These large spiders can reach 25 mm (0.98 in) in size. Though they look ferocious, they shy away from humans. They are beneficial in that they consume insect pests for food. Females are noted for carrying their young on their back.
Red Fire Ant. Scientific name: Solenopsis invicta. The fire ant is native to South America, but has become a pest in the southern United States. Fire ant mounds can be found in back yards all over Florida. Fire ants give a painful sting that often leaves a swollen pustule on the skin.
Formosan Subterranean Termite. Scientific name: Coptotermes formosanus. An invasive species from Asia, which arrived in Florida around 1980. It is often nicknamed the ‘super-termite’ because of its destructive habits. These termites can seriously damage a wooden structure in as little as 3 months.
Citrus Leafminer. Scientific name: Phyllocnistis citrella. This moth is an invasive species from Asia that first entered Florida in 1993. The moth’s larvae mines the leaves of citrus trees, severely impacting the Florida citrus industry.
Southern Mole Cricket. Scientific name: Scapteriscus borellii. This insect is an invasive species from South America. It is fairly large—about 3–5 cm (1.2–2.0 in) long, and can be found in yards all over Florida where turf-grass is planted. Mole crickets burrow beneath the turf, feeding on the roots of the grass, causing damage to lawns.
Yellow Fever Mosquito. Scientific name: Aedes aegypti. This mosquito is an invader from Africa which hitched a ride to the New World with the slave trade. It can spread the dengue fever, chikungunya, and yellow fever viruses, along with other diseases. Yellow fever became a scourge of the tropics and neotropics until effective mosquito control was instituted after about 1900. A yellow fever vaccine was developed by 1937.
Eastern Velvet Ant. Scientific name: Dasymutilla occidentalis. This insect is actually a wingless species of wasp, attaining an approximate length of 0.75 in (1.9 cm). Females are capable of an extremely painful sting, hence the ant’s nick-name “cow killer”.
Eastern Carpenter Bee. Scientific name: Xylocopa virginica. It is often mistaken for a large bumblebee, as they are similar in size and appearance. They sometimes bore holes in wood dwellings, becoming minor pests. Only females can sting.
American Dog Tick. Scientific name: Dermacentor variabilis. This tick is common throughout the eastern and southern United States, to include Florida. It is one of the most well-known hard ticks and is a vector for Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia.
Asian tiger mosquito. Scientific name: Aedes albopictus. This mosquito was first documented in Florida in 1986. It is a vector for several diseases, including equine encephalitis.
Tomato Hornworm. Scientific name: Manduca quinquemaculata. Tomato hornworms are large caterpillars that are the larvae of the Five-Spotted Moth. They are voracious eaters of tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant and peppers in back yard gardens and can quickly defoliate these plants.
Brown Recluse Spider. Scientific name: Loxosceles reclusa. Only the extreme northwest portion of the Florida Panhandle lies within the natural range of this spider. The brown recluse possesses a powerful venom and can give a serious bite. Luckily, bites to humans from the species are uncommon.
Two-Striped Walkingstick. Scientific name: Anisomorpha buprestoides. This is the most common stick insect in Florida, and can be found feeding on leaves of trees and shrubs.
Hieroglyphic Cicada. Scientific name: Anisomorpha buprestoides. This cicada prefers to eat the sap of oak trees. It is the first species to be heard in spring–its song starts with a sequence of progressively softer whiney bursts and ends with an even whine.
Florida Carpenter Ant. Scientific name: Camponotus floridanus. This ant is among the largest ants found in Florida. They do not sting, but can bite. They nest in soft rotting or pithy wood.
Southern Black Widow. Scientific name: Latrodectus mactans. This venomous spider is found throughout the southeastern United States. It likes to inhabit wood and rock piles, rodent burrows, and hollow tree stumps.
Thorn Bug. Scientific name: Umbonia crassicornis. The thorn bug is an occasional pest of ornamentals and fruit trees in southern Florida. The insect causes damage by piercing the plant tissue and sucking the sap and by making cuts in the plant for egg laying.
Lovebug. Scientific name: Plecia nearctica. Lovebugs swarm to mate in late spring and during the summer. Males and females will pair and remain stuck together during mating. Automobiles driving through a swarm of lovebugs will emerge covered with smashed bugs, and if not washed off soon, the insect residue can damage the paint on a car.
Florida Scorpionfly. Scientific name: Panorpa floridana. No living individuals of the Florida scorpionfly have ever been observed. Nothing is thus known about the insect’s habits and life history. It appears as if males of this species have a large stinger in their tail; however this is just a reproductive organ.
Spined Soldier Bug. Scientific name: Podisus maculiventris. This carnivorous insect is very beneficial to mankind, as it is a predator of around 90 insect species, to include several crop and garden pests.
Citrus Gall Midge. Scientific name: Prodiplosis longifila. This tiny midge lays its eggs in the buds of lime trees. The larvae when hatched feed on the flowers, damaging them, and interfering with fruit development.
Catalpa Worm. Scientific name: Ceratomia catalpae. This “worm” is actually the caterpillar of the Catalpa Sphinx Moth. These moths lay their eggs on the leaves of the southern catalpa tree, which hatch into the colorful larvae. The caterpillars are prized as bait by fishermen.
Zebra Longwing Butterfly. Scientific name: Heliconius charitonia. The zebra longwing butterfly is the state butterfly of Florida. It lays its eggs on the leaves of the passion fruit vine, and has a very colorful larval (caterpillar) stage.
Miami Blue Butterfly. Scientific name: Cyclargus thomasi bethunebakeri. A small butterfly that is native to coastal areas of southern Florida. Once very common throughout its range, it has become critically endangered because of habitat loss. It may be the rarest insect in the United States.
Florida Predatory Stinkbug. Scientific name: Euthyrhynchus floridanus. This carnivorous insect is very beneficial to mankind, because most of its prey consists of plant-damaging bugs, beetles, and caterpillars.
Gulf Coast Tick. Scientific name: Amblyomma maculatum. This tick is common throughout the southern United States, including all of Florida. It is of increasing concern because of its ability to transmit several pathogens of veterinary and medical importance.
Frank, J.H. & Thomas, M.C. (2015). Invasive Insects (Adventive Pest Insects) in Florida. Retrieved from http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/in503
IFAS. (2015). Featured Creatures. Retrieved from