Subject: Black Flying Insect
Location: West Texas, Lubbock County
July 28, 2014 9:16 am
We have seen these very pretty black insects just this summer in our yard and have tried to use on-line searches to identify them, but to no avail. I would like to know whether or not they are harmless, as I have had one land on me several times. They seem to flutter around and also do not seem to be very stable in the wind. Thank you for your help!
Signature: A. Melugin
Dear A. Melugin,
We suspect you may have grapes growing nearby. This is one of the Grapeleaf Skeletonizers, a moth in the genus Harrisina. According to bugGuide, there are three species in Texas, and we can eliminate the Eastern Grapeleaf Skeletonizer as it has an orange collar behind the head. The other two species, Harrisina coracina and Harrisina metallica which is commonly called the Western Grapeleaf Skeletonizer, look quite similar. Caterpillars feed on the leaves of grapes, and according to BugGuide: “Larvae are a major defoliating pest of grapes – Vitis spp., and also feed on creeper – Parthenocissus spp. (Vitaceae).”
Thank you so much! We do not have grape vines, butI looked it up, and found they also feast on Virginia Creeper, which you mentioned and we have. When I went to inspect the plant, sure enough they have been eating the leaves! I really appreciate your help. Thanks again!