Possible Robber Fly?
August 6, 2009
Photos taken today, 8-6-09, of our latest Prehistoric Pet in Coryell County, Central Texas. Is it a Robber Fly? BZZZZT!
It can keep the gigantic Tarantula Hawks company. So nice to have (Huge. Black. Flying.) insects buzzing from tree to tree. Makes a nice change from bird watching. :o)
Ellen
Coryell County, Central Texas, semi arid scrub country with oaks, mesquite, limestone and clay soil

Belzebul Bee Eater

Belzebul Bee Eater

Hi Ellen,
There are several insects with common names that are associated with the devil, like the Devil’s Coach Horse and the Hickory Horned Devil, but few have the distinction that your Robber Fly has.  According to BugGuide, your Mallophora leschenaulti is the Belzebul Bee Eater. Flies have had a long association with Satan in writing and this has been further communicated in numerous Hollywood films as well as foreign films like the Dario Argento classic Suspiria.  If ever a fly’s appearance warranted such an association, it is the huge and hairy Mallophora leschenaulti, though it is worth noting that this frightening predator has no interest in biting humans.  That said, we would not try to carelessly handle a living specimen for fear that the captive might bite out of self defense.  The Belzebul Bee Eater is one of the large hairy Robber Flies in the genus known as Bee Killers, and members of this genus can be distinguished by the thin terminal segment of the antennae.  BugGuide reports that “Eggs of M. leschenaulti laid on upright stems but the larva are soil living. Sometimes concentrated in animal pens with dung and decay or in compost heaps.
”  We would surmise that the larvae do not feed on decaying matter, but that they are predatory and feed upon other insects attracted to this foul environment. BugGuide lists the geographical range of the Belzebul Bee Eater as Texas and Mexico.

Belzebul Bee Eater

Belzebul Bee Eater

Thank you, Daniel. Having a decent sense of self preservation, I kept my distance from our visitor as far as possible, hence the not-quite-in-focus photos. It did not like the yardstick and buzzed around the yard for awhile, kind of like a cargo plane, before alighting again. I shamelessly ran for cover while it was flying. In one photo you can see it eyeing me. Yikes.
I appreciate your speedy and interesting reply!
Sadly, we do not have many bees this year, although we do have some visiting our crepe myrtle trees, which is where the Belzebul Bee Eater was hanging out.
Take care.

Thanks for the follow-up information Ellen.  Though the photo with the yardstick did not make it to our site as it did not have as much detail as the other photos, it did appear that the abdomen of the Belzebul Bee Eater was in contact with the branch.  We wonder, perhaps, if the fly was ovipositing as indicated on BugGuide.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination
mantis_unidentified_south_africa

Spiny Flower Mantis

Spikey Purple Bug
August 6, 2009
All I know about this bug is that it is from South Africa. The person who took it thought it was a Preying Mantis, but I’m not so sure. Also, it appears to be standing on some sort of equally strange-looking plant.
Chris
South Africa

Dear Chris,
This photo is significantly lacking in the type of details that would enable us to determine if the insect is a Mantis, but our first impression is that it is a Mantis.  That is a guess and we could not locate any unusual Mantids from South Africa that match this image.  We did find a photo on the Animal Photo Album Website that appears to be this Mantis and it is labeled a Pink Flower Praying Mantis, but there is no information as to its origins or scientific name.   Can you provide any information as to its size?  Perhaps one of our readers can supply us with an identification.

Update from Karl
I believe your mantid is a Spiny Flower Mantis nymph in the genus Pseudocreobotra (Mantodea: Hymenopodidae). It is either P. ocellata (my guess) or P. wahlbergii. The two species are very similar so I can’t say with certainty.  Coloration among nymphs seems quite variable, ranging from white to brilliant pink, but there are always some areas with a greenish tinge. The adults look quite different, but are as or even  more spectacular. Both species are popular among mantis breeding enthusiasts so there are a lot of photos on the internet. If you type the genus name into the “What’s that Bug” search engine you will find at least four previous postings showing both nymphs and adults. Regards.  K

Chris:
I forgot to add this link to a photo that looks pretty much identical to the one you posted (just a different perspective). You can see that the “spines” are mostly located on the underside of the abdomen which is folded up and over the rest of the body (a common posture for mantids). It does present a confusing image. Cheers.  K

E-gads, what’s this? Bucks County, PA
August 6, 2009
Hi Mr. Bugman. I’m a mom of 2 and had just strapped my kids into their seats today – August 6th – when I noticed this who-knows-what-kinda-bug on my dashboard. It was a little less than an inch long and was near my a/c vent. It didn’t appear to want to fly anywhere and didn’t seem agitated but the close-up of it made me think of the movie, “The Fly”!
I drove home and had forgotten about it. Now I’m wondering 3 things: What is it? How did the poor thing get in our minivan (and how can it get out?!) ? And is it at all harmful?
Thanks so much! LOVE your site! And best of luck on the book :)
Sharon
Bucks County, PA (35 miles north of Philadelphia)

Hanging Thief

Hanging Thief

Hi Sharon,
This awesome Robber Fly is known as a Hanging Thief.  It probably entered your minivan the same way you did, through the door, or perhaps through an open window.  It can leave the same way.  We haven’t heard any reports of people being bitten by Hanging Thieves or other Robber Flies, but they do bite their prey and it is entirely possible if a person mishandles one of them, the person may be bitten.  There is a big difference between “will it bite” and “can it bite” and we would say that it is not inclined to bite, but it might bite.  Your photos are amazingly wonderful.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Unidentified insect found in Umbria, central Italy.
August 6, 2009
Bug was on an 8 cm plank in Umbria Italy. `no-one in the area has seen one like it before. See attached pictures. Although the pictures have the title spider 1 and spider 2 it may not be a spider as it appears to have 6 legs
Ruth
Todi, Umbria, Italy

unknown Robber Fly from Italy

Robber Fly from Italy

Dear Ruth,
This really is a spectacular Robber Fly in the family Asilidae, but we are uncertain of the species.  We have a vague recollection of having identified a very similar looking Robber Fly once, but we haven’t the time right now to research that.  Perhaps one of our readers will be able to assist in a species identification.

Update from Karl
Hi Daniel:
It looks like Pogonosoma maroccanum, which occurs in Italy, France, Austria and probably other parts of Europe as well. Regards.
Karl

Bee eating another bee
August 6, 2009
We saw a bee catch another bee in midair. It then flew away with it’s prey in mouth only to get eaten by a bird in midair. Food chain in action!
Jonathan Bergado
Santa Fe Springs, CA

Bee Killer Kills Bee

Bee Killer Kills Bee

Hi Jonathan,
The predator in your photo is not a Bee, but rather a Robber Fly known as a Bee Killer.  It is Mallophora fautrix, the only member of the genus in California according to BugGuide.
The prey is a Honey Bee.

Bee KIller Kills Bee

Bee KIller Kills Bee

Giant Lady Beetle?
August 5, 2009
Is there such a thing as a Giant Lady Beetle? I found this beetle this morning on a milkweed plant (a typical lady beetle would be the size of the flower buds around this creature). The coloring didn’t seem right for a hercules or harlequin beetle.
Tim Doyle
Memphis, TN

Swamp Milkweed Leaf Beetle

Swamp Milkweed Leaf Beetle

Hi Tim,
Though it looks like a Ladybird Beetle, this is actually a Swamp Milkweed Beetle, Labidomera clivicollis.  They feed on the flowers and leaves of milkweed, and BugGuide has this interesting bit of information posted:  “Both larvae and adults of this species cut several side-veins of a milkweed leaf prior to feeding, to reduce the sticky latex that would otherwise be produced at their feeding sites.