From the monthly archives: "May 2003"

I’m hoping you can help me out with a bug identification. We live in York, PA, in a brick house that’s about 150 years old. We have these "creatures" that emerge in various places… I’ve seen them in the basement laundry room– usually when I pick something up off the floor– but also in the living room and dining room, scurrying across the floors or up the walls. They look kind of like the silverfish drawing, but they are longer and thinner, probably a little less than a half inch wide. They range in size from 2-3 inches long, but once I swear I saw one that was at least 4 inches long one time in the basement. They are gray in color, very flat, very fast, with lots of legs, but they don’t seem to have the tentacles off the front and back like the silverfish drawing. I wish could get a picture of one– unfortunately when I see one I’m so darn startled that I end up crushing it to an unidentifiable pulp!!! Any help available? Tricia

Dear Tricia,
You have house centipedes (Scutigera coleoptrata). They are harmless, and actually eat other tiny pests that enter your house. We have some nice photos on our site which you can view by clicking the centipede button.

Hi! When I lived in Alabama as a child there was a bug that lived in the ground that we call a "doodlebug" or a "pinchin bug" because of the big pinchers it had… would burrow straw sized holes and back into it…..we as kids would put broom straw in the hole and wait until it started to wiggle then jerk the straw out and hanging from it by it’s pinchers would be the ugliest meanest looking little bug/worm thing less than an inch long. What was it?

Hi Stacey,
Your Doodle Bugs are the larvae of Ant Lions, Family Myrmeleontidae, winged insects that resemble Lacewings.

Dear Mr. Bugman,
A couple years ago when I was a courier in Philadelphia I found a Praying Mantis in an office building elevator, so I took her outside and let her go. Then a couple days later I found another one in a different building’s elevator ! This has been keeping me awake nights ever since. Should I worry about some ancient chinese curse or expect some munificent blessing ?
Colin Barclay

We have lost the original reply to Colin’s letter, but we assured him that he would fall victim to no curse, and helping the poor Mantids could only result in blessings.

Found bug crawling out from a crack in my wall, the house it like 50 or so years old….. Live in Kentucky it is light brown six legs antennas and pinchers on the back, it can curl up and when it flips over its lighter brown torwards the front of it. Thanks

Dear Kentucky,
I believe you have an earwig which can get quite plentiful in damp locations. We have additional information on our site.

We have this weird bug in the house that I have not been able to identify in any of the "household pest" lists, so maybe you can help.
It’s a warm weather bug, starts out small (1/2 inch) at the beginning of the season and now is an inch to an inch and half. They seem to come out mostly at night, but we have seen a few during the day. The body has 2 segments, blackish brown with lighter colored legs on each side and can crawl fairly fast across the carpet or up on the walls. The weirdest part is a tail that looks kind of like a crab claw or a pincher that’s the same color of the legs. It can be up or down, open or closed. I believe they originally came from the outside like the lady bugs and the box-elder bugs, but once they got in, they haven’t left. We don’t see them in the winter, but I don’t think they’ve actually left; they’re probably just dormant then. Any info would be helpful. Thank you for your time and attention,

Hi Julie,
You have earwigs. We at What’s That Bug have gotten many questions about earwigs since beginning this column. They belong to the order Dermaptera.
They frequent debris piles, stacks of lumber, compost piles and rocks that can be overturned. It is believed that their common name originates from the Anglo-Saxon word earwicga (ear worm) since they often found their way into the ears of sleepers on straw mattresses in sod huts. Their outstanding physical characteristic is the forcep pincers on the rear end of the abdomen. Earwigs are active a night. They can be attracted to lights and one species in particular, the European Earwig (Forficula auricularia), which has wings that are hidden under wing shields, is often a nuisance indoors. Despite having wings, they rarely fly, preferring to keep the wings hidden from view and to scuttle about in the dark. Though earwigs have an undeserved reputation for being garden pests since they sometimes chew tender young plants, they prefer to eat other insects, and are, in fact, beneficial. I think an internet search for earwig will provide you with photos that support my identification.

Lately I have been seeing some of the large mosquito-like creatures and am wondering: Do they really eat mosquitos? I’m talking about the ones that look just like mosquitos but are much lagers and fly with their legs dangling in an almost comical way. They never bother us excpt for an occasional tickle as they brush over an arm, and we are careful to not kill them, ushering them outside if the cat hasn’t already gotten them… Thanks. I just occasioned upon your web page thanks to google…

Dear Lou,
I’m so happy that search engine is doing what it is supposed to do, direct the curious to our site. You are talking about crane flies which though they are known locally in some areas as mosquito hawks, do not really feed on mosquitos. They have soft mouthparts incapable of biting. The Giant Crane Fly, Holorusia hespera, is one of the world’s largest flies with a 3 inch wing span. I’m also happy to hear we have a reader who knows how to cope with insect visitors in a kind and logical manner instead of just bombarding the entire environment with pesticides to no avail.

Thanks! I found a corroborative answer in further searching, Crane Flies! Never heard the name but known the interesting creatures all my life. And Mosquito Hawks are also names for dragonflies and Damsel flies. Fascinating photo article on Damsel flies in National Geographic recently, too.
Thanks, Bugman!