Horsehair worms are also called Gordian worms because they will often twist into a loose, ball-shaped knot. They occur in knotted masses or as single worms in water sources such as ponds, rain puddles, swimming pools, animal drinking troughs, and even domestic water supplies. Adults measure 1/25 inch in diameter and may reach 1 foot or more in length. A common misconception is that these long, thin, brown to blackish worms develop from horsehairs that fall into the water. They are parasites of invertebrates, especially certain insects and commonly found in agricultural areas having water-impoundment and irrigation facilities.
Horsehair worms are harmless to vertebrates because they cannot parasitize people, livestock, pets or birds. They also do not infect plants. If humans ingest the worms, they may encounter some mild discomfort of the intestinal tract but infection never occurs.
In conclusion, it could be said that most wild animals are beneficial. Sure, some of them do damage to the soil, eat our plants, and perform other mischief, but they are simply part of that quilt we call biodiversity. The troublesome animals like raccoons, skunks, armadillos, squirrels, and coyotes can be controlled through commonsense management. They can also be repelled with organic products--for example, those that contain hot pepper and castor oil.
Protecting and improving biodiversity is what good land management is all about. It's done by introducing many plant types and allowing insects, frogs, toads, lizards, snakes, birds, and microorganisms to repopulate and flourish. Balanced life and healthy biodiversity are encouraged by introducing beneficial animals and protecting those that exist. Use of native plants and well-adapted plants from other regions also helps. Nature doesn't allow monocultures in the wild. Why should we in gardens and on farms and ranches? If you simply stop using products and techniques that kill, biodiversity will materialize like magic. It is this biodiversity that gives us true pest control.
The insects, mites, and spiders that follow are listed alphabetically by common names and cross-referenced for easy access. Each listing includes the most used common name, other common names, scientific names, relative sizes of the insects, physical characteristics to aid in identification, biology and life cycle, habitat, feeding habits, economic importance, natural controls, and organic controls. Under each insect entry there is also an "Insight" section that gives interesting bits of information as well as real-life stories from both of us.