From the monthly archives: "July 2003"

I live in Rock Hill, SC and came across this insect while I was weeding the monkey grass. It was about about inch long, had three body sections like an ant but it’s body was fuzzy like a bumble bee. It was bright red with black stripes like a bee, no wings but had six black legs. It didn’t move very fast but crawled along the monkey grass and yard. Can you tell me what this was?

Sounds like a Velvet Ant, (Dasymutilla occidentalis) a female flightless wasp, capable of delivering quite a sting. They are sometimes known as cow-killers or mule-killers, and are feared by tobacco farmers who often get stung. See if this photo matches.

Hi bug man!
My name is Stephanie, and I live in a suburban neighborhood in Birmingham, Alabama. I have a question about a bug that I have noticed sitting at my front door every night for the past week. It only comes out at night, and boy is it hideous looking. For starters, this thing is huge. It appears to be black on its back, yet when turned over, seems to have a lighter-colored abdomen. Also, to make it even uglier, it has two long siphon-like extensions that come out of its (i guess) “head,” and these appear to be a color similar to its (?) abdomen. I have not yet been able to approach it, for I have a fear of strange insects (and some not-so-strange ones!)…so my details are few. It apparently likes our porch light, for, as I’ve said, it only comes out at night. A few nights ago, my fiance drove me home so he could take a look at it. He attempted to kill it, spraying it with Raid. It got very upset and flew all around my front porch, banging into the door and anything in its path. (sidenote: when it hit the door, it made a very “hard” sound, as if it were a rock) After about 5 minutes, it stopped flying around and landed by our front door mat, appearing to be dead. Wanting to investigate exactly what this strange bug was, I told my fiance not to pick it up and said that I would take a look at it the next day, when it would be light outside. So, the next day, I went down….and no bug. I assumed that possibly another animal of some sort had taken it and had it for supper, and that was that. Yet, tonight, again, as I returned home at around 1am, it was back in the EXACT same place that it had been the past 5 nights. I am so terrified of it, that I will not enter my parents’ house through the front door as long as this thing is there, guarding the door….so I go around to the back (where it’s dark) and enter there! If you could, please, please, please, tell me any information that you might have regarding what the heck this nasty-looking thing is. Thanks a bunch,
Dear Stephanie,
You have written such an amazing letter, I only hope I can help you. The siphon, as well the habit of being attracted to lights leads me to think it might be a Giant Water Bug,
Lethocerus americanus, sometimes called an Electric Light Bug. We have been getting several letters about them, especially from the South. They have a common name, “Toe Biters” due to their habit of biting the toes of swimmers. They are aquatic, and equally at home in the air or water. Here is a photo:

I’m in Sacramento, CA and saw a bug I’ve never seen before in the almost 40 years I’ve lived here. At first I thought it was a bumblebee, it was about the size of an overgrown bumblebee. It was orange-red however and from about 8 feet away it didn’t appear that it was a bumblebee covered in pollen. The orange-red color seemed to be its own. What was also different than a bumble
is that it flew smoothly, not the kind of haphazard way bumbles fly like they’re out of control. The wings were transparent and just behind the head. His body appeared heavy. He wasn’t shiny, he was fuzzy or hairy. The back portion of his body was large and elongated, and hung from his head in the shape of a comma. I’d estimate his body size to be about 1-1/2 inches long, and a good 1/2 inch wide. He didn’t seem to have any trouble flying, but he wasn’t super fast. It was about 8:00 pm in late July, and it was hovering around apple tree shoots coming from the old stump in my yard. I only wish I had a picture to show you. Any idea what it is? Thanks for your time.

Dear Dawn,
My guess is a Sphinx Moth, maybe the Snowberry Clearwing Moth, (Hemaris diffinis) which is sometimes called a Bumble Bee Moth. This image is of a preserved specimen,
and the colors appear faded.

Hi Bugman,
I read through your website and still am not able to find what this creature is!!! I spent last night surfing the web, trying to find out more information, but still no luck. You’re my last resort, Bugman! My husband and I came home to find 2 of these on our garage floor. It’s by far the largest bug I’ve ever seen! It measures about 1.5 inches long (see picture). I thought it was some sort of beetle or cockroach, but apparently not. My friend did more research and thought it was the (rare?) Stag Beetle. But it doesn’t match the description. We live in Massachusetts. I’m not sure how common this bug is, or if it’s even harmful at all. I know you’re busy right now, what with summer and all, but I’d appreciate any help you can give us! Great website, by the way!
Freaked out in Massachusetts.

Dear Freaked Out,
It is a Stag Beetle. I know there are reddish varieties, but I have only seen black ones. Perhaps the red beetles you found are a subspecies of Pseudoleucanus capreolus. The photos are beautiful. They are not harmful, though can deliver a mild pinch with those formidable jaws on the male beetle. The grubs eat rotting wood. One of the few items in our gift shop right now is a stag beetle t-shirt.

The other day i saw this bug ,it was one that no one there ever saw before.It was a bettle or bug not sure.About 1 to 1 1/2 inches long. It had shell back with wings it look like underneath.It was a shiny blue with a orange strip across its back. It also had two antannas which look like small cone shapes pieces,one fitting into one another making up the antannas.It would be great if you could tell me what it is or where to find more on this bug.And a picture would be great to see if we will talking about the same bug.
Thanks, Kerwin
Dear Kerwin,
It sounds just like an Elder Borer. The elder borer, Desmocerus palliatus, is a striking,
bluish-purple beetle with a yellow band across the front part of its wing covers. Its head is
quite small compared to the body, having antennae which are 1/2-2/3 of the total body length
(2 cm or larger). These beetles infest all types of elder, Sa
mbucus spp., causing galls at the
base of the stem, tunnelling in and weakening of the canes, or outright death of the plants.
See if this image looks correct.