From the monthly archives: "February 2004"

Hi Bugman-
In 1980, I lived in Sausalito, California. One night as I watched theevening news a fairly large creature crawled across my kitchen floor. It was dark, jointed, I believe it had what appeared to be pinchers, and I swear it hissed at me when I swept it out onto the deck. The Giant Vinegaroon looks very much like what I remember. My question is are they found in the San Francisco Bay Area?
Phil Nast

Dear Phil,
24 years is a long time to wait for an answer. The Vinegaroon or Giant Whip Scorpion, Mastigoproctus giganteus, is listed as ranging in the South and SouthWest. I would say it is entirely possible that one could have been in Sausalito, especially since they are often kept as pets and pets escape. This is one of the ways that natural ranges are extended to include new locations with hospitable climates. I have gotten reports of tarantulas and scorpions hissing, and it is possible that the Vinegaroon can also stridulate, defined as the rubbing together of body parts which produces a hissing type sound. Hope that answers your questions.

Thanks for the answer. I have searched insect books over those 24 years without much luck. I saw many tarantulas in Southern California, but the scorpions I saw were all small. I remember this being 3-4 inches, of course time and my horror might have added to its length.

Hi Phil,
Our sources state that the Giant Vinegaroon can reach five inches in length, so yours was a small one.

My daugter found a bug about 5/16" long and 1/4" wide. It is blue (like a torguoise), 6 legs, semi hard shell looking. Don’t have a photo. They found it in their bathroom which is on the upper floor of a 3 story apartment bldg, all cement. Wish you cuold help identify. They still have it in a baggy. It is now dead. Maybe I can get a photo and email it this week.

I’m guessing you have a Masked Hunter, Reduvius personatus, a type of Assassin Bug from the family Reduviidae. These are True Bugs and they they are predatory. They are often found indoors where they prey on Bedbugs, but they are fully capable of delivering a painful bite to people who carelessly handle them. They get their common name because they have the habit of accumulating lint on their heads and bodies, and hence become masked. It looks like your daughter’s specimen has accumulated turquoise lint, possibly from a carpet.

I THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR RESPONDING. I have just never seen anything like it in all my years, but it makes sense. thanks again.

Mystery Beetle with Cute Antennae
Could you identify this beetle that I found in our backyard this morning? I am attaching a picture – the antennae are so unusual – and I have to say it – cute. We live in Pembroke Pines, FL – south Florida just south of Ft. Lauderdale.

Dear Suze,
I must say I admire that you polish your nails before digging in the dirt. You have a magnificent photograph of a female Rainbow Scarab, Phanaues vindex, which is relatively common in Florida. These are scarab beetles further classified as Dung Beetles or Tumblebugs. The male Rainbow Scarab has a single long curved horn which arises from his head. These insects are unusual in that they work in pairs, rolling a ball of animal dung which is buried with a single egg. The dung is the food source for the developing grub. They are important in that they help clear away and break down the animal excrement, making for a more beautiful environment as well as more fertile soil. This type of beetle is the scarab of Egyptian heiroglyphics and jewelry. The ancient Egyptians were fascinated by the appearance of the beetles rolling a ball of dung in the sand and likened the ball to the orb of the sun.

Dear What’s That Bug:
Thanks for your informative web site. I had the misfortune of moving into an apartment that was infested with German cockroaches about a month ago. On average I see around 10 of the critters a day throughout the unit, sometimes more. After negotiations with my landlord, I’m planning to move out in the next few weeks but I’m terrified of taking these pests with me. I took very few clothes to the apartment and never used two of the closets nor did I ever use the kitchen normally. Most of my belongings are in lidded plastic bins and anything that has remained in a box I plan to re-pack in a plastic bin. I plan to get rid of my dresser drawers as I often saw roaches on them. How worried should I be about taking these things with me? Can you recommend anything else I can do in terms of my furniture to help prevent them coming with me? Any advice would be appreciated.
Thank you bug man!
Nervous in Virginia

Dear Nervous,
You have every cause to be concerned. These roaches are insidious. Unfortunately, you can never be positive that you are not transporting tiny immature roaches to your new apartment. I don’t normally endorse fumigation, but it would be wise to find some way of poisoning the stowaways who might be infesting your belongings. You might want to take your clothes to the laundermat and wash them before going to your new place. Do not return them to the site of the infestation or you may get new hitch-hikers. Good luck.


Dear Silverchicken,
I think your sister was pulling your leg. Earwigs, on the other hand, have a reputation for seeking
refuge in ears, hence their name. Earwigs will not burrow or do any permanent damage, they are just
seeking shelter. No need to fear silverfish or earwigs.

I live in the Northeast and I having a problem with these black bugs in my basement. I always thought they were called potato bugs but when I looked for a picture of potato bugs on the net, I realized that the bugs in my basement are something else. I would like to know what they are called. The are black. They have a shell-like back. They roll into a perfect ball when they are touched. They don’t bite. I use to play with them as a child. I have not seen them in the winter months. However, somehow, they find there way in my home when the weather breaks. Do you know if they have a name?

Dear Connie,
It sounds like you are describing Sow Bugs or Pill Bugs. These are not insects but Isopods, a group of Crustaceans. They are often numerous in damp places including basements and gardens. They are called Pill Bugs because of their habit of rolling into a ball. The Common Pill Bug, Armadillidium vulgare, is dark in color, often approaching black. They are omniverous, and feed on young and decaying plant material. Unless very numerous, they do not make significant damage. They have few predators because of a distasteful secretion, but a spider, the Sow Bug Killer, is a natural enemy. Here is a photo we just took in our garden.