From the yearly archives: "2003"
What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Hi!
Years ago we brought a bug into our house in some paper products. It had three stages – the egg, the moth, and what looks like the cocoon after the moth leaves it. (I’m kinda remembering that there was a worm stage, too?) It infested every area of our house and took drastic measures to get rid of.
The moths seemed to like dark places and this is the stage we are seeing now in our house. I purchased a different brand of toilet paper and found some strange hump-like places in one of the rolls and little pieces of the paper fell out. Our first infestation was in Oregon and we live in Montana now.
I was hoping to see a picture of the moth on your website but did not find it. Is what I am describing possibly called something different? If you can’t answer my questions, do you know of who I could go to for help?
Thank You and Blessed Holidays,
Pat

Hi Pat,
Webbing Clothes Moths (Family Tineidae) can be found wherever organic textiles are stored. They are the moths famous for destroying fine wool sweaters and suits. They will also eat cotton, but prefer wool. It is the caterpillar stage that does the damage.
There is a another moth called the Case-Bearing Clothes Moth, Tinea pellionella, that can be identified by the case it carries. The structure is an elongate flattened sac that is made of silk and is slightly splayed at the open end. The larvae carry this case about with them and eventually pupate within. They are often found is wool and silk, but they could possibly feed off of cotton products.
The Indian Meal Moth, on the other hand, is just one of several Pyralid or Pantry Moths that infest stored food products. The adults resemble small generic moths that can be found on the inside of cupboard doors as well as fluttering aroung lights in the house at night. The larval form is a small white caterpillar that infests the food products. One species, the Meal Moth, Pyralis farinalis, has larvae that build silken tubes or cases that are mixed with food debris. I once had a disgusting box of cornmeal that was totally infested. The Indian Meal Moth lives in the food source within masses of webbing.
Sorry we have no photos since our readers to send them in. Usually a description will suffice in the case of these destructive house pests.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

I have a juvenile Southern Black Widow in a jar at my house. She’s very small and has striped legs, a red stripe down the topside of her abdomen and of course, the tell tale hourglass on the underside of her abdomen. I’ve had her now for approximately 3 weeks. I would very much like to keep her but since I have a 10 year old daughter I cannot just let her roam about freely. I don’t want to put her outside because I live in Oklahoma and the temperature is decreasing daily. The jar that I have her in is a gallon glass jar with a metal lid. We’ve poked holes in the lid so she can breathe and put dirt, rocks, leaves and plenty of sticks in the jar. She seems to be content because she has spun a very nice web in there. We’ve fed her a variety of things including flies, little bees and other spiders. She liked all of those just fine but now that the weather is turning much colder it is getting harder to find suitable bugs for her. So, I went to the pet store and bought her some crickets. There is only one problem, the crickets are much bigger than she is and she won’t eat them! Last night she was hanging upside down in her web as she always does and one of the crickets walked right up to her (via a stick) and she retreated. The cricket then stomped all over her web and went back to the bottom of the jar. I have a few questions concerning this amazing spider of mine.
First of all, will she eat the cricket if she’s hungry or is he just too big for her?
Will the cricket eat her?
How often do Black Widows need to eat?
Does she need a fresh supply of water or does she get this from her prey?
If she does need a fresh supply of water, how much?
When will she molt?
When she does, how long afterwards should I wait to feed her again?
I very much adore this spider and want her to live through the winter. Please let me know what I can do to keep this truly wonderful creature alive and well. Thank you!
Misty McClain

Dear Misty,
Thank you for your sensitive letter. I will try to answer all your questions. First, while it is possible for your juvenile spider to feed off of the crickets, the size differential might be a problem. Find out from your pet store what their source of crickets is. You might be able to contact the breeder and get juvenile crickets. Another solution which might be fun for your daughter as well is to raise Drosophila, fruit flies, which can be obtained from a biological supply house for schools, or you can just try to attract the flies to an overripe banana in your kitchen. The fruit flies are very easy to raise as any home maker who has forgotten to remove fruit from the kitchen or fogotten to take the garbage to the compost pile. I always have some fruit flies swarming in my kitchen. Crickets are omniverous, and they might try to eat your spider. Not to be evasive, but your spider will eat when hungry. In the wild, they do not eat daily, but rather when they catch prey. Sometimes this happens several times a day, and at other times it might be weeks between meals. The spiders are resilient. Black Widows are fond of damp dark places but they will not drink water. They get their water from the life giving juices sucked out of their prey. She will molt when she has outgrown her current skin. This happens several times over the course of her life. At her final moult she will achieve the glossy black color that typifies her species. it is also possible that you have a male spider which is colored similarly to the juvenile. I hope this answers your questions, and good luck.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Yellow-green worm
Dear What’s That Bug,
We live out in the country in central Texas (30 minutes northeast of College
Station). When I went to change the sheets on my extra bed last night, I
discovered HUNDREDS of tiny yellow-green worms that had reproduced there
since I last changed the sheets (1-2 months ago). They were about about an
inch long (inch worm?). We hang our sheets outside in a wooded area and are assuming they came in with the sheets and multiplied like crazy. Do you know what they are. There were little caccoons in the bed folds, pillows, etc. Could they still be in the mattress!?! Being a city girl myself, I’ve adapted to the wide variety of spiders and roaches surrounding our house, but this has made me reach my limit! Your help would be greatly appreciated. What a great service you have!
Thanks!
Caren George

Dear Caren,
I must say, this is confusing. What you are calling worms are probably the larval form of some insect. Two common household pests that will eat organic matter, including cotton, are carpet beetles and clothing moths, but neither have larvae that are yellow green. You also didn’t state that the sheets had been damaged in any way, so I am eliminating them as possible culprits. There is no way that your free-loaders grew and reproduced between the sheets without eating. I suppose it is possible that they migrated there in search of a warm place to metamorphose, but that still doesn’t give me a clue as to what they might be. I will continue to research and hopefully get back to you when I discover something. Additionally, Inchworms are actually the caterpillars of a group of moths known as geometrids, and they get their name from their curious method of locomotion which has the
appearance of measuring.
Daniel

Mystery Solved
Dear Bugman,
We came home last night to more little worms (only a handful this
time)–even though we bleached and washed the sheets and cleaned the room completely. We tore down the bed and found the nasty culprit. A storage bin of cat food my husband had put under the bed. It was COMPLETELY webbed and gross and the bin was full of little moths. Looked on your site and was able to identify Indian Meal Moths! We emptied the room, cleaned EVERYTHING and put it back together again. I’ll write again frantically if that didn’t solve the problem! Thank you so much for your service and getting back to me. This city girl needs all the help she can get!
Sincerely,
Caren George

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Ed. Note: October 5, 2010
This past weekend, we really wanted to link to this old posting, but alas, we could not locate it.  Our webmaster tracked it down and it seemed it did not make our major website migration just over two years ago.  We suspect this is not the only missing gem, but the perk that comes from resposting it is that the photo can be greatly enlarged with our new technology.

Banana Spider!
(11/10/2003) Unidentified Spider from Puerto Rico
Hi Bugman,
While staying in Puerto Rico two summers ago, my boyfriend caught this freeloader living in his apartment without paying rent. Do you know what kind it is?
Thanks,
Jennifer & Donny

Banana Spider

Dear Jennifer and Donny,
First let me say yours is one of the most beautiful photos we have ever received. Thank you for sending the image of a male Heteropoda venatoria, also called a Banana Spider. The female is a more robust spider with shorter legs. This is the spider that is responsible for the rumors that tarantulas come into the U.S. with bananas because they are often spotted emerging frrom a bunch of bananas in a fruit store in the North. This Giant Crab Spider is usually the culprit. The species is found in all tropical regions, its range extending clear around the world. It is very abundant in all tropical seaport towns, being transported in trading vessels. Its chief food is cockroaches. The female carries her eggs beneath her body. According to this site it is also called the Huntsman Spider.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

I have very small bugs in my flour products and cereals as well as gummy bears. What are they and how can I get rid of them. I cleaned my pantry and threw out all that was infected and now they are back again within weeks.

Pantry Beetles will infest many types of organic foods in the pantry. They will infest all grain products but will also get into spices and candies. The adult beetles are pollen eaters and it is the grubs that eat the food in the pantry. Though you cleaned out all the infested items, it is possible that some adult beetles remained in the house and reinfested the new food you bought. They will also get into nuts, pastas, flour, noodles, cereals, and on and on. You pretty much need to remove everything and clean thoroughly. It is also possible to buy infested food at the market.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

I came across a walking stick insect while pruning my fruitless cherry tree. I live in Maryland and was wandering what is the specific epithet and if there are any hazards with handling them ?
Below is a photo.
Thanks,
Steve Hawk

Hi steve,
We just recieved a letter from a reader in Florida who was sprayed by a Two-lined Walkingstick, Anisomorpha buprestoides. It seems this particular species has a defense mechanism that doesn’t do any permanent damage, but causes temporary vision problems and discomfort. A northern species, Diapheromera femorata, is fond of cherry as well as some other tree. Unlike some of the tropical species, it is wingless. To our knowledge, they are harmless, though they feed on the leaves of trees. Rarely are they numerous enough to cause any damage to the tree. They are slow moving herbivorous insects that are usually found on trees or shrubs. Many species are able to emit a foul smelling substance from the glands in the thorax. Unlike most insects, Walking Sticks are able to regenerate lost legs. The eggs are laid by simply scattering them to the ground, and when the egg laying females are plentiful, their group egg laying can sound like falling rain. The females are generally larger than the males.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination