En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Wednesday - April 10, 2013

From: Houston, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Pests, Shrubs
Title: Doodlebugs in dead area of Coral Bean from Houston
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have a Firemans coralbean tree about 5 years old. I discovered yesterday in the middle of the tree there is some deadwood where we have pruned out branches. A couple of the branches were filled with doodlebugs eating the inside soft wood. Will those damage the tree? What do I need to do to control/eradicate them? Thanks,

ANSWER:

The closest we could come to the plant name you gave us is Coral Bean 'Fireman's Cap', Erythrina which is a hybrid Erythrina herbacea x Erythrinia crista-galli. Erythrina herbacea (Coralbean) is native to North America and to Texas, so it is within our area of expertise, which is plants native to North America and to the area in which those plants are being grown; in your case, Harris County. 

From Wikipedia: "Erythrina crista-galli is a flowering tree in the family Fabaceae, native to Argentina, Uruguay, southern Brazil and Paraguay." According to our research, that non-native plant is considered a tree, while we consider the native Coralbean to be a shrub, but they are closely related. This USDA Plant Profile Map does not show the non-native growing in Texas at all, this  USDA Plant Profile Map does show Erythrina herbacea (Coralbean) growing natively in Harris County.

All that actually is neither here nor there, you want to know about the "doodle bugs," which we used to call "pill bugs." We found descriptions of two different bugs that sounded like what you have:  

The first is Armadillidium. From Wikipedia: Armadillidiidae is a family of woodlice, a terrestrial crustacean group in the order Isopoda. Unlike members of other woodlouse families, members of this family can roll into a ball, an ability they share with the outwardly similar but unrelated pill millipedes and other animals. It is this ability which gives woodlice in this family their common name of pill bugs, roly polies, chiggy-wigs or potato bugs. The best known species in the family is Armadillidium vulgare, the common pill bug..

The second, Pill Bugs: this is an article from Northern State University in Aberdeen, SD. Note particularly this last paragraph in that article, which explains why neither of these bugs are damaging but perform a useful service in an ecology:

"Pillbugs form an important component of the larger decomposer fauna, along with earthworms, snails, and millipedes. All of these animals return organic matter to the soil where it is further digested by fungi, protozoans, and bacteria, hence making
nitrates, phosphates, and other vital nutrients available to plants. Although they may occasionally feed on roots, pillbugs do minimal damage to live vegetation and should not be regarded as pests."

What we took away from all this is that the bugs are attracted by moisture in the dead area. You may be sprinkling the plant too much, contributing to a certain amount of rot in the center of the plant.

 

 

From the Image Gallery


Coralbean
Erythrina herbacea

More Non-Natives Questions

Pruning non-native Chinese fringe flower from Austin
June 24, 2013 - When is the best time of year to prune Plum Delight? And how severely can it be cut back?
view the full question and answer

Identity of mint impersonator in California
May 20, 2012 - Is there such a thing as a mint "impersonator"? There are random 'sprigs' of purple-stemmed, bright green leaf plants in my front yard. We just moved in to the house and I don't want to assume ...
view the full question and answer

Problems with non-native Indian hawthorn
April 18, 2009 - We have some Indian Hawthorns that were planted for us by a landscape company. The first year we got a little bit of bloom. Since then the shrubs don't bloom at all. They are in a flower bed up aga...
view the full question and answer

Yellow bands around edges of leaves in Whitney TX
July 20, 2009 - How can you tell whether esperanzas are getting too much water or not enough - ours have a small yellow band around the edges of the leaves - crape myrtles - same question
view the full question and answer

Transplanting non-native mimosas in Braintree MA
August 10, 2010 - I want to transplant some baby mimosa trees. Have tried in past and they just die.
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center