[photo, Wall mural, Aliceanna St., Baltimore, Maryland]

Wall mural, Aliceanna St., Baltimore, Maryland, October 2011. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.

[photo, American Lady butterfly (Vanessa virginiensis) on chrysanthemum, Monkton (Baltimore County), Maryland] Insect as a general term most commonly refers to the arthropod subphylem Hexapoda. Over sixty percent of all known species on earth are classified within this subphylem, with beetles comprising more than a third of these. Cold-blooded, and possessing a consolidated thorax and six legs, this subphylem encompasses the classes Entognatha, and Insecta, as well as the subclassses Apterygota, and Pterygota.

American Lady butterfly (Vanessa virginiensis) on chrysanthemum, Monkton (Baltimore County), Maryland, October 2014. Photo by Sarah A. Hanks.



[photo, Blue Dasher Dragonfly (Pachydiplax lonipennis), Baltimore, Maryland] In Maryland are found thousands of individual species. Commonly, they are grouped into families. A grouping of similar families is known as an order.

All insects noted below are native to Maryland.

Blue Dasher Dragonfly (Pachydiplax lonipennis), Baltimore, Maryland, July 2014. Photo by Sarah A. Hanks.

Ants (family Formicidae)
Ants form colonies consisting of drones, workers, soldiers, and a single queen. This specialized class system allows for cohesive social interaction to achieve colony goals. Sometimes confused with termites due to their overall similar size and build, ants possess antennae that are wider at the tip than at the base near the head, and are bent at an angle.

Also members of the superfamily Vespoidea, wasps are close biological cousins to ants.

One member of the Formicidae family, the Red Imported Fire Ant (Solenopsis invica) from South America, is an invasive species in Maryland.

Assassin Bug (Family Reduviidae)
Assassin Bugs are "true" bugs, meaning that they have needle-like mouth parts or beaks and two pairs of wings. Assassin Bugs have long, narrow bodies, long legs, and thin wings. Some can be colorful, even bright red, while others are camouflaged in brown and black. Their size depends on the particular species, but they can be 0.3 to 1.5 inches in length. Usually found on plants or among leaves, they attack other insects, including aphids, caterpillars, and bees, hold them with their front legs and stab them with their curved beak in order to inject a toxic saliva and liquify the prey's tissue. While most species are not aggressive towards people and only will bite if disturbed, some are parasitic to people and can transmit disease. Also see: Wheel Bugs.

Bedbugs (family Cimicidae)
Like fleas, or ticks (class Arachnida), bedbugs are parasites, and feed by attaching to a host. Unlike fleas or ticks, however, bedbugs are not known to transmit diseases. Their name derives from the habit of infesting beds and other common areas where host bodies sleep.

[photo, Bumblebee on coneflower, Annapolis, Maryland] Bees (family Apidae)
Part of the superfamily Apoidea, the family Apidae includes honeybees, bumblebees, carpenter bees, and other less known cousins.

Bumblebee on coneflower, Annapolis, Maryland, June 2011. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.

[photo, Honeybees in a honeycomb, Crownsville, Maryland] While some bees are helpful (honeybees), others are pests (carpenter bees). Allergic or hypersensitive reactions to bee stings generally only affect one or two people in a thousand.

Nearly 40% of our food is pollinated by honeybees and, in Maryland, that includes around $40 million of agricultural crops. There are over 14,300 honeybee colonies in Maryland that are maintained by about 1,800 beekeepers. The Apiary Program of the Department of Agriculture offers services, such as inspections and technical help, to help beekeepers maintain healthy honeybees and hives.

Honeybees in a honeycomb, Crownsville, Maryland, September 2014. Photo by Sarah A. Hanks.

Beetles (order Coleoptera)
Contains more described species than any other order (25% of all known life; 40% of known insects). Beetles can be found in almost any environment, and can be detrimental (false potato beetle [Leptinotarsa juncta]) or beneficial (lady bug [Coccinella septempunctata]). They easily are identified by their distinct shelled appearance, comprised of exoskeleton and plate-like forewings. Though all beetles possess wings, not all species can fly. Some are aquatic, either possessing gill-like organs, or surfacing to absorb oxygen.

[photo, Firefly (Lampyridae) beetle, Baltimore, Maryland] Fireflies, or lightning bugs, are winged beetles that generally are nocturnal. They have bioluminescent organs under their abdomens which contain luciferin that produces the light for which they are known and named. Each species of firefly emits a unique flashing light pattern, which can help to attract mates or prey or warn off predators.

Fireflies live in temperate and tropical habitats, preferably in damp or humid areas. While some eat pollen or nectar, others eat insects or nothing at all.

Firefly (Lampyridae) beetle, Baltimore, Maryland, July 2015. Photo by Sarah A. Hanks.

Maryland is home to the rare Puritan Tiger Beetle (Cicindela puritana), which is classifed as endangered, and can be found in Southern Maryland along the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Convened in 2010 by the Department of Natural Resources, the Cliff Erosion Steering Committee examines ways by which to aid residents whose homes lie on eroding cliffs where the Puritan Tiger Beetle lives. The Committee particularly is concerned with the inhabited cliffs in Calvert, Cecil and Kent counties.

[photo, Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus), Annapolis, Maryland] Butterflies & Moths (order Lepidoptera)

Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus), Annapolis, Maryland, October 2011. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.

[photo, Cicada (Auchenorrhyncha), Baltimore, Maryland] Cicadas (family Cicadidae)
Most cicada species resemble each other, with black body, transparent wings, and an approx. length of 1.5 inches. They do not bite or sting, although pets may suffer gastric distress if allowed to eat too many during a swarm.

Cicada (Auchenorrhyncha), Baltimore, Maryland, August 2015. Photo by Sarah A. Hanks.

Swarms of cicadas (also known as periodical cicadas) appear in Maryland at verying intervals and last about six weeks. During this period, cicada youth, known as nymphs, mature, mate, and then die. Six individual species of cicadas are found in Maryland, falling into a 13- or 17-year hibernation cycle. Upon maturity, they emerge from the ground, and begin to swarm. Prior to emerging, cicadas largely feed on tree sap from the roots of deciduous tree.

Eggs laid during a swarm are classified as Broods and given a number. For example, all species of cicadas born in 1998 belong to Brood XIX, whereas those born in 2004 belong to Brood X. There are twelve recorded 17-year cicada broods and three 13-year broods. Of the broods found in Maryland, Brood X is the largest. Brood XIX is the only 13-year brood in Maryland, and in 2004 was only recorded in St. Mary's County. Each swarm can reach billions of insects in a given area, with numbers climbing even higher when multiple broods emerge in the same year. Specific 13- and 17-year broods only will swarm together once every 221 years. Brood X and XIX are expected to next swarm together in 2089. Though vunerable during a swarm to the usual insect predators, such as frogs and birds, the species greatest threat may be the Eastern Cicada Killer (Sphecius speciosus), a wasp that burrows underground to prey on the dormant creatures between swarms.

Cockroaches (order Blattaria)
Although there are approximately 4,500 individual species of cockroach, only four species generally are encountered in Maryland. The most common of these is the American Cockroach (Periplaneta americana). Despite its name, it is not native to the Americas. Introduced from Africa to the colonies in the 1600s, this species is found throughout the world. Nocturnal, the American cockroach is one of the largest species of cockroach, capable of reaching more than two inches in length. It has also been classified as one of the fastest land insects in the world, reaching a speed of 3.4 mph, or 50 body lengths per second.

Crickets (superfamily Grylloidea)
Member of order Orthoptera, suborder Ensifera, crickets are close biological cousins to grasshoppers, and often mistaken for them. Crickets possess long antennae compared to their body length. Unlike grasshoppers, crickets are primarily nocturnal. Eggs are laid in fall, with females using their abdomen to bury the eggs. Usually buried in loose soil, some species of crickets are known to cut niches into trees or other plants to lay their eggs. Once hatching from their egg in the spring, crickets experience a series of molts. Known for its distinctive call, only the males chirp. This is done by rubbing wings together, not their legs, as is the common belief.

A distinctly unique member of suborder Ensifera, Camel crickets (family Rhaphidophoridae) visably resemble spiders. Known for their distinct humped back, Camel crickets range in color from bronze to dark brown, with patterns of spots or stripes of similar color. They possess long legs as well as antennae (the legs comprising over half their total length). Although there are larger species, Camel crickets generally do not exceed two inches in Maryland. Unlike other members of order Orthoptera, Camel crickets do not make chirping noises or possess wings. Instead, they are a jumping insect that often leaps towards its attacker as its defense mechanism. Also known as Cave crickets, this family is drawn to dark, damp areas, and needs a moist environment to reproduce. Though found in any dark, damp location, Camel crickets frequently nest in basements, garages, or even inside walls. Though menacing in appearance, Camel crickets do not pose a threat to humans or pets.

[photo, Widow Skimmer (Libellula luctuosa) dragonfly, Monkton, Maryland] Damselflies & Dragonflies (order Odonata)
(more than 170 recorded species in MD)
Odonata are distinguished by their elongated bodies, large rounded heads, and two pairs of long, slender, transparent wings. They also possess long, dexterous legs that allow them to catch their prey while in flight.

Widow Skimmer (Libellula luctuosa) dragonfly, Monkton, Maryland, July 2015. Photo by Sarah A. Hanks.

[photo, Dragonfly, Glen Burnie, Maryland] Odonata species prefer wetlands, as their larval stage is aquatic. They are carnivorous, feeding mainly on other insects.

One species, the Gray Petaltail, is endangered.

Dragonfly, Glen Burnie, Maryland, June 2011. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.

Earwigs (order Dermaptera)
Possessing distinct pincers at the tip of their abdomens, earwigs are nocturnal insects capable of limited flight. Commonly found around humans, they prefer warm moist environments, hiding in basements or protected crevices during the day. Life expectancy is approximately one year from hatching.

Fleas (order Siphonaptera)
Wingless parasites, fleas travel by jumping from host to host. Tiny insects, they measure only 0.06 to 0.12 inches long, and can leap up to 13 inches, over sixty times their length. As with most parasites, fleas feed by attatching themselves to animals, such as dogs or birds, piercing the skin, and sucking the blood. It is through feeding that the flea acts as a vector for diseases.

Flies (family Muscidae)
In family Muscidae, the house fly (Musca domestica) is most well known. Drawn to decaying vegetation or carrion, flies may serve as vectors for numerous diseases, and can be found almost anywhere. Family Muscidae is part of order Diptera, and is cousin to mosquitoes, midges and gnats.

[photo, Grasshopper, Baltimore, Maryland] Grasshoppers (suborder Caelifera)
Member of order Orthoptera, cousin to crickets. Often mistaken for crickets, grasshoppers possess short antennae compared to their body length. Grasshoppers range between 0.75 and 1.5 inches in length. Eggs are laid in the Fall, with females using their abdomen to bury the eggs beneath the soil.

Grasshopper, Baltimore, Maryland, June 2015. Photo by Sarah A. Hanks.

In the Spring, after hatching from their eggs, grasshoppers experience a series of molts, and reach adulthood in 40 to 60 days. They live for approximately one year. Grasshoppers largely feed off field grains and, in cases of high population density, may damage crops. Mostly active during the day, they prefer areas with good exposure to sun and low-growing vegetation.

Hornets (Vespa crabro)
A member of the wasp family (Vespidae), hornets are physically the largest genus of wasp, with some species reaching over an inch long. Only one species of true hornet lives in North America, though some species of wasps outside genus Vespa bear the same name. One such example is the Bald-Faced Hornet (Dolichovespula maculata) actually is more closely related to the yellow jacket. The European Hornet (Vespa crabro), though not native to the United States, first appeared here in the mid-1800s. Now, it is common throughout eastern and midwestern states. According to the National Institutes of Health, the allergic reation rate to European Hornet stings is three times that of honeybees or yellow jackets.

Lice (order Phthiraptera)
With four primary suborders, there are over three thousand known species of lice in the world. A small scavaging insect, lice nest on a host's body, feeding on dead skin cells and other digestable particles.

[photo, Mantis on leaves of fig tree, Glen Burnie, Maryland] Mantis (order Mantodea)
The most common species of mantid found in Maryland is the Carolina Mantid (Stagmomantis carolina), although six species are commonly foundalong the eastern seaboard. Commonly found in woodlands and meadows, mantid are carnivores that are harmless to humans.

Mantis on leaves of fig tree, Glen Burnie, Maryland, August 2011. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.

[photo, Brown Mantis on screen, Glen Burnie, Maryland] North American mantid species generally range 1.5-2.75 inches, with females typically larger than males. Colors range from green to brown. Distinct features included their comparatively large head, and forearms. Also known as Praying Mantis.

Brown Mantis on screen, Glen Burnie, Maryland, October 2011. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.

Mosquitoes (family Culicidae)
A common nuisance during warmer months in Maryland, mosquitoes feed on blood, and can carry infectious diseases. While both sexes consume nectar, females also feed on animal blood to further nourish their eggs. As their larval stage is aquatic, eggs are laid on water. Thus, eliminating standing water is a primary deterrent against mosquitoes. Exceptionally short lived, mosquitoes usually only reach two-weeks old in nature. The exception to this occurs in Winter. Mosquitoes can place themselves into a suspended state, allowing them to live through colder months. Eggs also enter such a state, surviving ice and snow, hatching only when warm temperatures ensure their survival. Mosquitoes are crepuscular, active primarily at dawn and dusk. Dragonflies and Damselflies are the mosquitoes' primary predator, and the largest single factor in controlling population.

One major threat to native Maryland mosquitoes is the Asian Tiger Mosquito (Aedes albopictus).

Moths (order Lepidoptera)
see: Butterflies & Moths

Stink Bugs (family Pentatomidae)
Members of Order Hemiptera, stink bugs (also known as shield bugs) are found throughout the world. They come in many forms, although all possess certain traits. Stink bugs bear five-segmented antennae from which their scientific name derives. They also have hardened wings that protect them on the ground. With most species, wings interlock with thorax plates forming an hourglass pattern on their backs. Glands located in the thorax produce a foul odor when they are startled or killed, thus their common name. In Maryland, native species as adults average a half inch in length. Feeding on crops and vegetation, stink bugs are generally harmless. However, this family is resistant to most pesticides, making them a much more destructive pest when they arrive in great numbers. For most species, the life span is one year, and they are most active between June and October.

Also found in Maryland, the brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys) is an invasive species from Asia.

Termites (order Isoptera)
Termites feed primarily on dead plant material: wood, fallen leaves, soil, and other organic detritus. This diet makes termites a pest insect that can seriously damage crops, as well as homes and property. Members of a caste system led by the queen, termites produce overlapping generations with workers to care for the young. Unlike many other caste system hives, termite nests may hold more than one egg-laying queen at a time. Lastly, the soldier class is primarily responsible for keeping intruders out of the hive. The largest threat to the hive is ants, although other insects may enter if openings are large enough. Sometimes called white ants due to physical similarities, termites are members of the infraclass Neoptera, and are more closely related to grasshoppers and earwigs. Besides color, one of the most differentiating traits is their antennae, which resemble a string of beads, and are slightly curved. Termites are tiny, generally some 0.25 to 0.37 inches in length, although a queen’s abdomen may distend before laying eggs. During this time, a queen’s total size may increase by over ten times.

[photo, Blue-Winged Wasps (Scolia dubia), Glen Burnie, Maryland] Wasps (family Vespidae)
Only female wasps possess stingers, and may sting repeatedly, unlike bees. Both hornets and yellow jackets are classified in the wasp family. Another distinction is that wasp nests die out each year, with a single queen hibernating elsewhere over the winter to start a new colony the following Spring. Each year, a new queen is born to start the next colony. Although painful, allergic or hypersensitive reactions to wasp stings generally affect only one to two people in a thousand.

Blue-Winged Wasps (Scolia dubia), Glen Burnie, Maryland, September 2014. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.

Also members of the superfamily Vespoidea, ants are close biological cousins of wasps.

Wheel Bug (Arilus cristatus)
Wheel Bugs are large Assassin bugs which can reach up to 1.5 inches in length. They have long, dark, camouflaged bodies, with a spiked "wheel" or crest on their backs and thin wings. They have six long legs and two scent glands, orange-red in color, which can produce a strong odor if disturbed. Their larvae, once hatched, have dark bodies, but red abdomens and antenna tips. Usually found on plants or among leaves, Wheel Bugs are predatory, attacking other insects, including caterpillars, grasshoppers, and stink bugs, and stabbing them with their beak in order to inject its toxic saliva and liquify the prey's tissue. While they are not generally aggressive towards people, if mishandled, they have an extremely painful bite. Also see: Assassin Bugs.

Yellow Jackets (genus vespula, Dolichovespula)
Two genus within the wasp family (Vespidae) are collectively known as yellow jackets. Though each possesses differing traits and habits, both bear similar abdomen coloration and patterns. In Maryland, the most common species is the Eastern Yellowjacket (Vespula maculifrons). Approximately half an inch in length, these yellow jackets prefer nesting in the ground, but also may be found inside attics, basements, garages, or any other protected area where they can gain acces.

Another species native to Maryland, the Bald-Faced Hornet (Dolichovespula maculata), despite its name, actually is a yellow jacket. This species differs from most yellow jackets in that its patterns are very light yellow, bordering on white, and are only found on its face and at the tip of its abdomen. This distinction led to its name.

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