Creepy-Crawlies in Your Backyard: A Halloween Guide to Arthropods & More!

Do you know what lives in your backyard? Chances are, there are all sorts of creatures lurking in the bushes and trees that you never even knew existed! Let’s explore the world of backyard biodiversity in a slightly spookier fashion.

Together we’ll focus on the creepier, crawlier side of Halloween. From spiders to caterpillars, many species play a vital role in our ecosystem. Most of the creepy-crawly creatures we’ll talk about are from the phylum Arthropoda, which means that they have segmented bodies. This is a guide to a few species of the most common backyard (and indoor!) bugs along with tips on managing your backyard ecosystem!

What kind of bugs can I find in my backyard?

You might not think that your backyard is home to many different types of insects and spiders, but you’d be surprised at the variety of critters that call your yard home. From bees and beetles to ants and wasps, there are many different types of bugs that you can find in your backyard. Some of these bugs are helpful, while others can be pests. However, all of them play an important role in the ecosystem.

If you take a closer look, you might see bees busy collecting pollen from flowers. These bees are important pollinators, and they help ensure that plants can make fruits and vegetables. You might also see beetles crawling on the ground or flying through the air. These beetles feed on other insects, which helps to keep populations under control. Additionally, you might see ants scurrying around looking for food. While ants can be nuisances, they also help to aerate the soil and recycle nutrients back into the ecosystem.

Since it’s Spooky Season, let’s go through a few of our favorite types of creepy-crawly creatures that live in and around our houses and explore what makes them so cool. Who knows, maybe you’ll even find them slightly less creepy after reading about them!

Centipedes

Centipedes are arthropods that have long, flat bodies and many legs. Their name comes from the Latin word for “hundred” because they usually have lots and lots of legs. Centipedes are predators, and they use their long legs to run quickly to catch their prey. They also have poison claws that they use to kill their prey. Some centipedes can grow to be over a foot long! Many different species of centipedes are found all over the world.

You can tell the difference between a centipede and a millipede by looking at the number of legs per body segment. If there’s just one pair of legs, it’s a centipede. They tend to be faster, more agile, and predatory. In contrast, two pairs per body segment means that it’s a millipede. They tend to be herbivorous. They can also release small amounts of cyanide as a defense chemical, so be careful!

House Centipedes

The house centipede is a common type of centipede that you might find in your home. House centipedes are brown or yellowish-gray, and they have long legs with black stripes. They like to live in dark, moist places, such as under sinks or in basements. House centipedes are harmless to humans, but their presence can indicate that there is another pest problem in your home, like an infestation of cockroaches or silverfish. Or, they could just be wanderers. Either way, I can’t make them look less creepy. Sorry!

Cockroaches

Most people think of cockroaches as dirty, disease-ridden pests. However, there are actually many different types of cockroaches, and not all of them are harmful to humans. Several cockroach species are pests and try to live in our houses with us. But most cockroaches are considered beneficial for the environment.

Cockroaches undergo “incomplete” metamorphosis, which means that the cockroach nymphs (babies) look very similar to the adults. Some female cockroaches can undergo “parthenogenesis” which means that they don’t need a male to produce offspring. How cool!

Wood cockroaches, for example, help to break down dead insects, wood, and leaves. This enriches the soil and makes it easier for new plants to take root, so wood cockroaches play an important role in the ecosystem. Although they may not be the most popular insects, cockroaches are fascinating creatures that play a vital role in our world.

Wolf Spiders

Wolf spiders are one of the many types of cool spiders that you can find in your backyard. There are over 200 different species of wolf spider, and they can be found on every continent except for Antarctica. Most wolf spiders are brown or gray with dark markings on their backs. They range in size from about 1/2 an inch to 2 inches in length. Unlike other spiders, wolf spiders don’t usually make webs.

Wolf spiders are hunting spiders, which means that they actively hunt down their prey rather than build webs to capture it. They are also very fast runners, and they have excellent eyesight. When they’re not hunting, wolf spiders spend most of their time hiding in burrows or under rocks. If you’re lucky enough to spot a wolf spider in your backyard, you’ll be able to see why these amazing creatures are so named!

Wheel Bugs

Wheel bugs are one of the many types of cool insects that you can find in your backyard. They get their name from the wheel-shaped crest on their backs. Wheel bugs are predators and prefer to eat soft-bodied insects like caterpillars. They use their long, curved beak to puncture their prey and inject them with a paralyzing toxin. Wheel bugs are relatively large compared to other bugs, and adults can grow up to 1 inch in length.

They are brown or black in color and have a distinctive pattern of yellow and black markings on their abdomens. They can be beneficial because they help to control pest populations. Better to look and not touch because wheel bugs can defensively bite you, and their bites do hurt. So, the next time you see a wheel bug in your backyard, take a closer look and appreciate this amazing creature!

Silverfish

Silverfish are small, wingless insects that are often found in dark, damp places such as basements and closets. These pests are attracted to food sources such as cereals, flour, and sugar. They can also damage clothing and books. Silverfish are silver or grey in color and have a tapered body shape. They’re named for their fish-like appearance and swimming motion.

Although they do not bite or sting, silverfish can be a nuisance due to their potential to damage property. If you find a lot of silverfish in your home, removing moisture and cleaning up any food materials will help get rid of them without harmful sprays or a call to pest control.

Worms

Worms are often thought of as slimy, icky creatures that live in the mud. But did you know there are over 20,000 species of worms? They come in all shapes and sizes that can be found all over the world. Some types of worms even glow in the dark!

Worms play an important role in the ecosystem. They help to break down dead plants and animals, which helps to create nutrient-rich soil. Worms also aerate the soil, which helps plants to grow. In fact, some farmers even use worms to fertilize their crops!

So the next time you see a worm, don’t be disgusted. Take a moment to appreciate these amazing creatures that play such an important role in our world.

Zombie Ants

We all know that ants are social insects, but did you know that there are some ants that become zombies? Zombie ants are infected with a fungus called Ophiocordyceps unilateralis. This fungus causes the ant to turn into a “zombie” – abandoning its nest and ultimately dying to spread the fungus.

Zombification can happen to many different ants, and it’s one of the coolest fungal reproduction methods out there! Insects, usually ants, are infected with a parasitic fungus that takes over their minds and bodies. The fungus tells the ant to climb to the top of a blade of grass or leaf, where it will clamp down with its jaws and die. The fungus then grows out of the ant’s head and releases spores, which infect other ants. Zombie ants are pretty creepy, but they’re also fascinating creatures.

How zombie ants might be imagined for a scary movie

Final thoughts

You might not think of your backyard as a hotbed of biodiversity, but it’s actually teeming with all sorts of different insects, spiders, and other arthropods. From bees and butterflies to beetles and bugs, these creatures play an important role in our ecosystem. Unfortunately, they’re also under threat from a variety of factors, including habitat loss, pesticide use, and climate change. By taking steps to create a more hospitable environment for them, we can help to protect these essential members of our ecosystem.

Now you know there are a variety of different types of cool insects and spiders that you can find in your backyard and around your house. Each one has its own unique features and behaviors. By taking the time to learn more about these creatures, you can appreciate the many different ways that they contribute to the world around us.

And…Action!

Did you enjoy learning about these creepy Halloween-y creatures? If so, why not show us!

Share your favorite creepy-crawly picture and tag us on InstagramFacebook, or Twitter!

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Check out the other blogs in our Backyard Biodiversity series!

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