From the yearly archives: "2002"

Hello Bug Person,
I saw your site and thought maybe you could help me and my roommate out. We have creatures. That’s what we call them, because they are unlike anything we’ve ever seen. In the last three places we’ve lived, we have seen the Creatures in our basement. They are similar to centipedes in that they are long, have many legs, and are creepy. But that’s where the similarities end. Centipedes are flattened with legs that look like this ^ with one joint, but these Creatures have 2 joints, like spider legs. They don’t have as many as a centipede but definitely more than 8. The legs are generally the same size too, not different lengths like a house centipede. they don’t have the front "fangs" like a centipede but a mandible similar to a spider’s – no antenae no little butt feelers. And they come in 3 different colors. I’ve seen very large ones (4-5 inches), black with white spots; others were just as big but dark brown; and just the other day, in our new duplex, we found a little one maybe 2-3 inches long and light brown. They are very fast and i even hit one with a book, cutting off its lower half, and the rest of it got away. Yeah, these things are evil. Nobody knows what these things are. We’ve had hunters, floridians, Arizonians, and other self-proclaimed bug experts, but we always get the same thing: a hideous blank stare and lonely nights in our basement. Can you tell me what the creatures are?

Be afraid. Be very afraid. Scream Alex, scream for your life. You have Tinglers living in your basement. Barring the possibility that the horrific monster from the 50’s horror flick starring Vincent Price is in your basement, following you from house to house, I can think of several additional possibilities, though none seems to exactly fit your description.
Possibility #1 is the hellgrammite, the larval form of the dobson fly. These four inch long creepy crawlies normally live in or near streams, but we have heard reports of them being found in basements. Check out this website to see if the hellgrammite is your culprit.

Possibility #2 would be a sun spider or wind scorpion from the family Solpugidae. They move quickly, and can be found in basements, though I haven’t heard of any American species quite as large as the creature you describe. They are closely related to other arthropods called vinegaroons.
Possibility #3 would be a different type of centipede. Scolopendra polymorpha is a six inch long species of centipede that resides within the continental U.S. You can locate a photo of it and of the sun spider on this website.

I shudder to think that we here at What’s That Bug have entered the ranks of hunters, floridians or Arizonians with blank stares, but without more concrete information, perhaps a photograph or a drawing, and some hint of your coordinates on the globe, we’ve run out of possible id’s.

Several months back, this column tried to identify a bug based on an inquiry from Deb. Here is her letter:
I almost had a heart attack last week as I saw the biggest bug I have ever seen! I work as a therapist in an upstate New York School. My office is in the basement. As I rounded the corner to answer the phone, something huge
was slowly crawling across the doorway on the floor. It was blackish grey, about 4 inches long with a flattish body. The head looked as large as my thumbnail. It appeared to have short spikey hairs on its body, and 6 legs protruding from its middle segment. The abdomen was very large and trailed behind the legs. I didn’t notice any antennae, but it may have had pincers on the mouth. Thank God for a brave custodial worker!!! Later in the day, another co-worker said that he collected those bugs for trout bait, and that they sprout wings and fly around. Please! That was the stuff of nightmares!!!!!!!! I swear that I have seen miniscule versions of this bug in my own yard and want to know if they are the same. Could I have these prehistoric monsters flying in my back yard???!!!

Embarassingly, I misidentified the culpret as a large roach. It turned out, in fact, to be a hellgrammite, the larval form of the dobsonfly, which you have photographed. Locally, the California Dobsonfly (Neohermes californicus) can be found near streams, generally at higher elevations, hence the frequent use of the larva as trout bait. The hellgrammites are aquatic and are found in swift streams where they prey on other insects, but they can pass dry spells under rocks and debris in the damp stream beds.
Dobsonflies are members of a primitive order of insects known as nerve-winged insects, which includes other oddities like the ant lion and lacewings. All adult nerve-winged insects, including the dobsonfly, are feeble fliers and are predaceous upon insect pests, so they are beneficial.

I am needing a little guidance from you. In the last 2 nights, I have discovered 2 large shiny green bugs in my bed! They were about 3/4 of an inch long and about 1/2 inch wide and look like a beetle variety. They have long legs and do emit an odor when I was chasing it. Both times, they were crawling on my bed and I heard them flying about my room. I don’t know if they are stink bugs, since I know other bugs do emit odors. I am wondering what I can do to get rid of these pests because I don’t want to get back into bed! Please help me.

Dear April,
Though you provided no geographical information which could help in my identification of local species, I think your guess that the large shiny green bugs in your bed might be stink bugs could be correct. Here in Los Angeles, we have two species of green stink bugs belonging to the family Pentatomidae, both of the genus Chlorochroa, from the Greek chlôros which means "yellow-green". They are the same general size that you describe.
Stinkbugs are true bugs, not beetles since they undergo incomplete, not complete metamorphosis. They are not shiny like a tiger beetle, but they are a vivid green. Tiger beetles, family Cicindelidae, are often a shiny, metalic green or blue green, and have very long legs that they use to chase down their prey. They are good fliers, often being mistaken for flies, but they like sunny weather and don’t emit an offensive odor. Stink bugs, on the other hand do emit an offensive odor as a defense mechanism, and are often attracted to lights at night, which could explain how they wound up in your bed. Probably the last lights you turned off in the house before retiring were in your bedroom, luring the stink bugs to your bed. Conserving electricity by keeping fewer lights on in the home might keep unwanted visitors from your bed.

More about the aphids:
Many of you read with disgust the following account about the aphids found in a sandwich purchased from Wild Oats on Sunday. On Monday, we called the offending store and spoke to the manager, who apologized for the infestation and promised to look into the matter. Sharon and I returned to the rocky waters and ordered a couple of new sandwiches, which we got sans lettuce. And we were happy to meet Bobby, the deli counter guy who is a self-described "lettuce nazi." I hope he’s also an "aphid nazi."

April 15, 2002

Uninvited Guest
I didn’t write "What’s That Bug?," because when I discovered this critter, "What’s That Bug?" was sitting right next to me.
For those of you who didn’t hear my piercing screams last night (which carried for miles), the picture above shows the extra protein which was included in a turkey sandwich which I’d purchased from Wild Oats in Pasadena last night. The hitchhiker was immediately identified as an aphid. Also included within the two whole wheat slices was a deader version of this critter, which is what prompted a more thorough investigation of the meal in the first place.
Buff Charlie, who eats both lunch and dinner daily at this fine natural grocery store, strode powerfully to the store and got to the bottom of the infestation. He chastised the staff, and forced them to remove all lettuce from the deli section. "It’s a good idea to always look at your food before eating it," a friendly employee advised him.
That’s good advice, especially when munching on produce. Here in the AH backyard, our lettuce is home to all manner of hungry beasts. Rhonda is always out smushing slugs and grasshoppers. But once our garden produce enters the home, we are no longer playing games with the pests. They are removed, completely. None are pardoned.
I can only wonder why Wild Oats doesn’t share this philosophy of cleanliness and death. Is this what "organic" means these days?

Thanks, Daniel, for grossing me out even more! Buggy anal sugar! EWWW! This unsolicitated letter was received this morning:

Dear American Homebody,
Though no official question has been posed, I thought it was my duty to inform you of some aphid facts since your very recent experience with tainted lettuce on a store bought, organic sandwich. No one knows better than Hogue, who writes "Aphids (Family Aphidae) Aphids are notorious pests of cultivated plants. Prolific breeders, they swiftly spread over the tender growing tips of prize roses and other plants, from which they withdraw large quantities of sap. The result is a wilted, curled, and unsightly mass of leaves or a dead plant. The aphid’s harm is increased by its habit of copiously excreting from the anus a sugary solution called ‘honeydew,’ which covers the host plant with a sticky unsightly residue that often becomes blackened with a growth of sooty mold. Aphids also transmit viral diseases to plants. … Aphids are remarkable for their peculiar modes of reproduction and development, which involve polymorphism (the capability of assuming different body forms). They display life cycles so complicated and varied that they are impossible to summarize here. Parthenogenesis (the development of unfertilized eggs), viviparity (the bearing of live young), and winged and wingless generations are common reproductive phenomena."
One can only guess that the designer store in question found it too costly to clean their organic lettuce in Evian, so they neglected to do so at all to keep the harmful tap water chemicals from their chemical free produce.


Dear Stat,
Without more concrete information regarding size and orientation of the stripes, vertical versus horizontal, it would be difficult to identify your bug. Wood boring beetles are often of the longhorn variety, and though they are not true beetles, the box elder bug (Leptocoris trivittatus) might be your culprit, but they eat leaves, not rotting wood. Rove beetles look like fireflies, but their wings are hidden. They might lurk around rotting wood, searching for soft succulent prey. Can you send a photo?

I live in a bi-level home, and have been there for 7 years now. All of a sudden this year I have a new bug aprox 3/16 long with 6 legs and 2 antenna, 1 on each side of what looks like an anteater’s snout. I have a coal stove in my finished basement so it is warm there. These bugs seem to be mostly on one of two white throw rugs in the middle of the floor, or can be found on the concrete floor next to any white dry wall. They appear to have a short life span, crawl only, no jumping, and so far have not been found upstairs. What are they and how do I get rid of them? Oh yeah. they are brown in color.
thank you
Bob Whitford

Dear Bob,
Based on your description, I suspect you may have a weevil infestation. Weevils are the world’s largest family of animals, numbering in excess of 35,000 members worldwide, so exact identification based on a verbal description is nearly impossible. They are small beetles with the front part of the head elongated into a snout or proboscis. Members of the family include pantry beetles which find their way into grain products, munching happily and unnoticed, and reproducing in vast quantities. Here is the frightening part. Hogue states that "several species act as intermediate hosts and vectors of the human tapeworms Hymenopepis nana and H. diminuta. People acquire infections by ingesting beetles containing the larval (or cysticercoid) stages of the tapeworm, which will often remain viable in infested corn meal and wheat flour that is undercooked."

Robert responds:
You are correct, I was just visited today by our local exterminator. In the fall I put a bag of scratch grain that was given to me in my
basement so I could feed the spring turkeys. Well, looks like I get to see more than just turkeys around my house. His solution is to remove the grain & clean the area. This should stop the bug problem. Do you agree?

To which "What’s That Bug?" replies:
Congratulations Robert.
Cleaning out the grain in the basement is a good start. Hopefully, the pantry beetles did not get as far as the kitchen. They can foul even the best homemaker’s flour and other grain products. I have even found weevils in the dry mushrooms.
Have a nice day.

My name is Andrew Gable. I have a question to ask about the possible identification of an apparent bee or wasp I saw. In October-November of the year (can’t remember the exact time, but approximately 1997 or ’98), while attending Lock Haven University in northern Pennsylvania, I saw a strange insect lying on the ground. I rememebr it was quite late in the year, and I thought it was awfully cool out to be seeing a bug of any sort. The insect appeared to resemble a yellow jacket or wasp, and had the typical yellow-and-black pattern though it was quite large (approximately an inch and a half to two inches in length). Its abdomen and thorax appeared somewhat flattened, though whether this was due to injury or natural appearance I can’t be certain. It didn’t appear injured, however. It was winged (its wings were long, and ‘clear’ like a fly’s). It also appeared to be somewhat glossy. It was, to the best of my judgment, near death. There was a vacant lot nearby, as well as a fairly large garden, so I don’t discount the possibility that it could have been a burrowing insect of some sort (I believe many of the stinging insects live in burrows).
When I returned via the same path fifteen or twenty minutes later, the insect was gone, and I can only assume that it somehow found the strength to fly off. I’ve often tried to determine what this thing may have been to no avail, and would appreciate any help.
Thanks in advance.
Andrew D. Gable

We suspect Andrew saw a Ci cada Killer, and his measurements were closer to the actual size, a thing many of our readers tend to exaggerate.