Wasps in a big network of tunnels? Near a bumblebee nest?
Dear Bugman,
My husband and I just moved into our first home. Much to my surprise I noted that there were over 20 holes dug into the dry dirt of our yard around the deck. After a bit of spying I noticed that small insects were flying into them. The holes are about the width of a standard pencil, sometimes smaller. They are reopened quickly after filled with dirt. We have a number of abandoned quarter sized holes in our yard, and while watching the mystery bug I noticed that two of those appear to be entrances to a bumblebee nest which we would like to leave undisturbed as they are bee-coming rare (sorry, couldn’t help it). The closest thing I have found searching the web is a Mason Wasp or Potter Wasp, but I’m not certain by any means, and nowhere can I find information about whether they sting, or return to the same nest year after year. We would like to till and plant in the fall after the bees abandon their nest, but if there is a huge area of wasps that may not be wise. Attached is a picture of our mystery bug, a picture of him digging, a picture of the affected area, a picture of the burrows, and a picture of the nearby bee nest outlet. Thank you so much for your time and expertise.
Panicked Homeowner,
Amy White

Hi Amy,
We are happy you did not sign your letter “Desperate Housewife” and you really have no need to fear. The wasps and bees are unrelated and as you have determined a course of action for the bees, we will just address the Sand Wasps. We cannot identify the species, but your Sand Wasps appear to be in the Tribe Nyssonini, based on images posted to BugGuide. Though Sand Wasps are solitary, they do tend to nest in proximity to one another, in a communal situation rather like a housing development. They are not aggressive, and will not attack. We will contact Eric Eaton to see if he can add anything or refute our reply in any way.

Update: (07/25/2008)
The “sand wasps” are known as “beewolves” in the genus Philanthus. The females are solitary, each digging her own nest burrow. These wasps hunt and paralyze small bees (mostly “sweat bees” in the family Halictidae) which they stock in the nest as future food for their offpsring.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Suspected fishing spider with egg sac
I found this on the exterior of an old shack next to a 3 acre pond in rural west-central Georgia. (About 30 miles north of Columbus, GA) The date was 30-Jul-06. I am guessing that it is a fishing spider. I notice that her left third leg is missing, and that she is carrying an egg sac. She sure was big! Both mother and offspring were left doing fine. I haven’t been back since to see if there was a successful hatch. The first one was taken with F/3.6 at 1/50th sec., and the second F4.0 at 1/60th sec. Both were hand held. ISO was 80 (simulated–digital camera). I have reduced the photo size to decrease your bandwidth. (The full size photos are over 3 Mb each!) If you wish to put these photos on your website, you have my permission, just please make sure the copyright notice is included. Thank you for your time and attention.
Richard Snouffer, MD
Anniston, AL

Hi Richard,
Thanks so much for sending your photos of a female Fishing Spider in the genus Dolomedes with her egg sac. Losing a leg does not seem to negatively impact a spider’s ability to move around.

Scorpion like bug in New Mexico
Attached is a photo of a rather large and intimidating “bug”. It has claws like a scorpion, but not the curved tail with the stinger. Instead it has that long thin wiry tail. The tail actually looks like a long piece of wire of stiff hair. Can you tell us what it is? Is it poisonous or harmful to humans? Does it eat other insects? Thanks.
Monte and Mary Kern

Hi Monte and Mary,
This is a harmless Whipscorpion, Mastigoproctus giganteus, also called a Giant Vinegaroon or Grampus. Legend has it that the bite of a Vinegaroon will cause the person to taste vinegar for weeks. Though this is untrue, BugGuide notes that “Although its tail in unable to sting, this creature can spray an acidic mist from a scent gland at the base of the tail when disturbed. The spray is 85% concentrated acetic acid/vinegar, hence the common name “Vinegaroon.” The heavy pinching mouthparts (modified pedipalps) can also inflict a painful bite. Although very unlikely to attack humans, it can certainly defend itself if provoked.” The Vinegaroon is a nocturnal predator with poor eyesight. It feeds on insects, other arthropods, and also, probably, small vertebrates like lizards.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Goggles and purple legs – SoCal backyard visitor
Saw the guy in the attached photo in my backyard this afternoon (July 23) here in Culver City, California. He liked clinging to long stalks of overgrown grass, and never flew away very far. His legs were a dark purple-ish color, and his eyes look like big goggles. He seems like a bee of some kind, maybe a leaf cutter? Any insight you can offer would be much appreciated. Best,

Hi J,
This is a Robber Fly in the genus Mallophora, known as the Bee Killers. According to BugGuide, there is only one species in the genus in California, Mallophora fautrix. Your photo is consistant with the images of Mallophora fautrix posted on BugGuide.

Flying Beetle?
I live in Toronto, Canada and found this flying around my front porch last night once the sun had gone down. If was fairly passive and large than a June bug, about an inch long. Thanks,
Grant Foster

Hi Grant,
We have been receiving numerous inquiries daily regarding the identification of the Grapevine Beetle, Pelidnota punctata, but all of the images have been blurry. Thanks for sending us a focused photo worth posting. The coloration of this beetle ranges from pale cream to dark burnt orange, and black spots vary in size.

Dear Mr Bugman,
I received these pictures asking me if it was an Atlas moth, is it or is it a "humming bird moth"? It was found at the Umatilla Chemical Demilitaration Facility on the Umatilla Chemical Depot in Hermiston Oregon. The specimen was released after the pictures were taken. Thank You,
Don Gillis
Natural Resources Manager

Hi Don,
Your indiginous moth appears to be a Western Poplar Sphinx, Pachysphinx occidentalis, which is found from Western Canada to Baja California. We are going to seek the advice of Bill Oehlke as well as copying him on this response since he is compiling comprehensive data on species sightings.

Confirmation: from Bill Oehlke
Daniel, Pachysphinx occidentalis from Hermiston, Umatilla County, Oregon. Norte distinct am line which is blurry in modesta. Modesta also tend to have more of a blue grey colour while occidentalis is yellower. They are tricky to tell apart. Both fly in Umatilla County.