From the yearly archives: "2002"

yucky bugs
Surely you can help!?!
There are about 2000 of these living on my tree. Half of them seem to have just "hatched", half are mature. They don’t appear to be harming anything, just hanging out, migrating from the tree to the lawn and back again . Do you know what they are? Cause for concern?
Don and Elke (and Anna now too)

Dear Don, Elke and Anna
Your insect is a box elder bug (Leptocoris trivittatus) which is known to live in colonies of both adults which have wings and the nymph stage which is wingless. We at What’s That Bug? have gotten questions about this garden pest in the past. Here is an excerpt from a recent reply which should also apply to your situation.
On it says, "When present in large enough numbers Box Elder Bugs can do damage to Manitoba Maple trees. Most people call us in the fall because they are curious about the large numbers on the walls of their houses or concerned about the numbers that are getting in the houses. Washing them off the walls of the house with a blast of cold water from a hose may help. The only way to ensure that they do not get inside the house is to fill in all cracks where they could be getting in, a rather daunting and expensive task."

I found this freaky looking crittur waddling across the floor of a laundromat in Pocatello, Idaho. She has eight legs like a spider, gigantic feelers (antennae), and a huge rear end, along with a very vicious-looking mouth. It is 1 inch long (not counting legs), walks fairly slow (maybe two feet a minute), and looks pregnant. I had to flip it over so you could see its mouth. It’s a little hard to see the third leg up from the back. Those appendages in the front are the feelers. I’ve never seen any bug like this before. Do you know what it is? Also, is it dangerous?

We’re cleaning house here at What’s That Bug? and have been posting letters which slipped through the cracks earlier. Solpugids are not dangerous. Looks like David shot this dead specimen on some laundry.

I have little worms in my home. They generally appear on the floor; however I have found a few in the bathtub, and one in my bed! It seems that there are more everyday throughout my home, and I cannot find the source of where they are coming from. They look like your average worm that you would find outside after it rains, however they are only about an inch long. They are brownish black, with a black end on one side. One of the larger ones even appeared to maybe have legs like a caterpillar. I know they are not millipedes, centipedes, wax worms, or weevils. I have never seen anything like them before. They started to appear about one month ago, but it seems that there are more each day! They do move around, and seems to travel fairly quickly! They do not have any hair, and they are textured, and look, like a normal worm. Help!

Dear Sheri,
All insects that go through complete metamorphosis have a larval form that could be considered worm-like. Some are more worm-like than others. The real question here is which of these larvae are most likely to be found in the home. My guess is the Mealworm (Tenebrio molitor) the largest of the pantry beetles. The larvae are worm-like, pigmented, and very smooth. They are sometimes sold as fishing bait and as food for pets under the name Li-Cut worms. They and the adults are fond of flour products found in the pantry, but that does not explain how they wandered into the bed. Another suspect could be the larva of the Click Beetle (family Elateradae) which are known as wireworms. The adults are often attracted to lights which will get them into the house, and the larvae live primarily in the soil where they feed on herbaceous plant roots, tubers and stems. Other types of beetles have larvae that bore into wood, like the Nautical Borer (Xylotrechus nauticus) which often appears mysteriously indoors after hitching a ride in firewood. The larva is about 3/4 inch long when mature and pale dirty brown with an enlargement just behind the head. It bores into the heartwood of dead oak and other hardwoods.

We have a mystery source of a thin worm or bug larvae which seem to appear from nowhere onto a localized part of the kitchen counter near a non-opening window. I couldn’t find the source so in a mad cleaning frenzy I even got into the recessed light fixtures. I found lady bug and other carcasses (ugh!) but no clear indication of the mystery creature. Perhaps if you can identify these guys I could figure out where they are coming from and then destroy the source. The worm/larva is about a half inch in length, very thin, with smooth cream/tan color skin. It has rings around the body which are either a slightly darker color or textured depressions (I was too grossed out to look with a magnifying glass). They appear to be more larvae like rather than "caterpillarish" i.e. no hair or pretty colors. They never appear to be moving when I see them. Fortunately there have been less than a dozen sightings. Any ideas what the heck these things are? Thanks for the help! I enjoyed reading all the letters and answers.
Melody Williamson
Northern Illinois

Before WHAT’S THAT BUG? even had a chance to answer, Melody writes back:

Well, just wanted to let you know that the bugs in question were wax worms. My son (the fisherman) knew them immediately. I called the exterminator and it turns out that the Wax Moth lays eggs in bee and wasp nest! I have a nest in peak in the roof line that is infested with wax worms. Ick!
Thanks for being there!
Melody Williamson

Not to be outdone, WHAT’S THAT BUG? replies:

Dear Melody,
I am happy to hear that you had your bugs identified before we here at What’s That Bug could provide you with misinformation. My first inclination was that you had maggots, which considering the time of year and the heat were my only real suspect. Wax worms (Galleria mellonella) never even entered my mind. When we got your follow-up letter, I checked out an internet search and learned that of all the worms considered for use on the hit television show Fear Factor, wax worms were considered the most maggot-like and 30,000 of them were used in one challenge. Check out this website for more gross information about the wax worm:

Before you get that exterminator, you might want to consider reselling the larvae which are often used as fish food. This website: http://www.armstrongcric
sells 1000 wax worms for $22.

I have a recurring problem with pantry weevils. Each summer I throw out any affected rice, grain etc and clean out the cupboards but the problem will not go away. What else can I do?

Kay, London

Dear Kay,
The problem with pantry weevils is that they are small, and also capable of flight, so that each time to eradicate the infestation, new weevils can arrive and begin the life cycle anew. According to Hogue "The appearance of these pests in a tightly sealed package of dried food is a source of wonder to housekeepers. Entry is commonly by way of minute imperfections in the seal, but some species may bore through paper and cardboard containers to get at the contents. In other cases, infestations occur when the foods are stored in bulk in railroad cars, warehouses, and at other stops along the processing line." You will greatly minimize the ravages of the weevil by continuing to dispose of old grains which will prevent a self-perpetuating population explosion within your pantry, but the problem will not go away permanently unless the weevils go away permanently by becoming extinct.

And a word from MOM:
Sorry to say, I heard that those peskiy little critters often come in as teensy undetectable eggs inside your bag of flour or dry pet food (generally in packages that do not have sealed plastic inner bags) and hatch in your
warm cabinets. So tell Kay to store her flour in the refrigerator or freezer until she needs it. Apparently, you can cook it at 130 degrees for half an hour to kill anything that might be in there, but personally, although I can live with eggs I can’t see, I can’t see baking with dead bugs that may have already hatched. I
started putting my flour in the refrigerator over 25 years ago and haven’t had a bug since.

Great advice, Mom! I must have learned it from you long ago, since I have a fridge full of flour. But why bother killing the bugs in the flour before you bake? Won’t the crawling critters die anyhow once they hit that hot oven? And how could anyone refuse a little extra protein in their chocolate chip cookies??

I live in Southern California and encountered the most hideous insect I have ever seen.
Here’s a description:
Black with white covering entire body.
Length: 2-3″
Antennae: very long 2″minimum
It resembled a skeleton.
Had 4-6 legs.
Body seemed very hard.
Please advise
—Peter DiVincenzo

Dear Peter,
My original guess would have been a Eucalyptus Tree Borer (Phoracantha semipunctata) but the black and white coloring suggests a relative, the Banded Alder Borer (Rosalia funebris) instead. This is a very attractive beetle with black and white striped antennae which are longer than the body. It feeds on alder, ash and other hardwood trees, occasionally boring into the wood of laurel, live oak and eucalyptus as well. Adults are sometimes attracted to the fumes of fresh paint.

Try these sites for a photo and more information.