From the monthly archives: "April 2004"
What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Hummingbird Moth
When we first spotted this moth, we thought we were watching a baby hummingbird. I was curious about the legs and antennae and started doing some research. I still have not been able to locate a species that matches this one yet. Perhaps you can help identify. Moth was photographed feeding on creeping phlox in Granite Falls , North Carolina.
Greg Good

Dear Greg Good,
It looks to me like a Nessus Sphinx, Amphion nessus. The indicating features are the small head, and plump body. Also the two white stripes on the abdomen and the tuft at the tip. According to Holland: “It ranges from Canada to Georgia and westward to Wyoming. It flies in the daytime on cloudy days and in the late afternoon before sunset. The caterpillar feeds on Ampelopsis and the wild grape.”

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Thanks for your article identifying the “fuzzy blonde bees” that have been patrolling our hillside for the last week. I’m so glad my Yahoo search came up with your page. It was very hard to find any info on anything but black carpenter bees, even in our 3 or 4 insect field guides only one mentioned that carpenter bees could be coloured differently.
We have a current troop of about 5 “blonde boys” and as of yet, no sign of their black female counterparts.
I’ve attached a jpg of a larvae we have found here lately. Have never seen it before in 7 years… Now we’ve seen two, both striped with anal horns. One, in the creek, was much darker than this one, but on both the horn and the mouthparts are gold. We have very few domestic plants around our cabin in the National Forest, but tons of nightshade. Could these be hornworms of some type? They are quite lovely to behold, but a very odd find here.
V Novo

Dear V Novo,
The male Valley Carpenter Bees, Xylocopa varipuncta, are much shorter lived than the females. I have been seeing female bees this spring, visiting my Honey Suckle as well as the Wisteria.
Your caterpillar is a White Lined Sphinx or Striped Morning Sphinx, Hyles lineata, a beautiful moth with a three inch wingspan. I have been seeing adult moths on the USC campus, resting in the eaves of the outdoor hallways near the art building. They have an almost infinite list of food plants, but are very fond of fuschia.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Hi Bugman,
Big delimma here. We live in Las Vegas, NV close to the Red Rock Mountains, which is just high desert and red rock, but in the warmer months, we get these GIANT , solid black flying bugs that make a buzzing noise while in flight, they are about the size of a baby humming bird, and they have very round full bodies. We are at a complete loss as to what family these monsters belong to. Could they be some sort of giant fly, bee, or buzzard? We have actually been chased (or so it seemed at the time) by these things. Please give some sort of clue as to where we might be able to even start to identify these awful things. Because of these and their size, my poor children are afraid to go out doors to play. Please email back
as soon as humanly possible.
Thank you so very much

Hi Blondi,
My first guess would be a Carpenter Bee. the females are black and buzz. They burrow into telephone poles to nest. While large and loud, they are not aggressive and rarely sting.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Hi Mr. Bugman,
I’ve just visited your website for the first time and thought that I’d submit a critter for identification.
I found these little red and black "beetle" looking critters on my Arbiacola plants out in the back yard in the shade. There were about 20 or so of them sort of hearded together. Later I went back and took this photo in hopes of identifying them. They’re poised on my Pentas that are near the Arbiacola plants and surrounded with ferns. These little bugs are about the size of the tip of my finger…not to big at all. I don’t believe them to be the typical "Lady Bug" though they do somewhat resemble them.
I really enjoyed my visit on your site….thanks for sharing your wealth of knowledge with us "buggies" …you’ve got "buggies" instead of "groupies" 😉 I’m a musician.

Dear Michelle,
They are not beetles, but True Bugs, Hemipterans. We couldn’t give you an exact identification, so I contacted Weiping at the Museum of Natural History in Los Angeles. He wrote this reply: “Sorry to answer you late. The picture you attached should be immature Hemiptera. It is hard to identify the specimen in immature stage. Probably, you ask the sender to pay attention on the bugs. I am sure the adults should be coming soon.” I actually thought I might be able to give you something more concrete. There is a Family of True Bugs known as Red Bugs or Stainers, Pyrrhocoridae. They are described by Borror and Delong as “elongate oval bugs that are usually brightly marked with red and black. … They are phytophagous and gregarious.” In other words, they are ravenous plant pests. They are common in the South and it appears as though you are from Florida.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

To the staff,
Shame on you for perpetuating the myth that camel spiders are nasty vicious insects that inflict painful bites on humans. I can’t believe you would give a “best photo ever” prize to that infamous “GIs with 3-ft long camel spider” photo. More like most misleading photo ever. Any bug expert worth his or her salt would take a few minutes (even seconds) to look up the facts instead of posting the letter from “Ron Larson, Pilot Army Missile Command” which is chock full of urban myths. Please, next time get the straight dope Or the plain facts.
Sorry to come down hard on you, but I applaud your efforts to inform the public about insects and arachnids so I just want to see you inform them well.
Alice Ringer

Dear Alice Ringer,
While I applaud your efforts to debunk our credibility, I think your angry letter poses more questions than it answers. Ron Larson sent the original letter last November along with an amazing close-up photo. He went on to relay his experiences using colorful language, and his letter contains many first hand observations that have not been disproved by the “straight dope” (a questionable domain name with stoner connotations) or “plain facts”. He writes “The Camel Spider can grow to the size of a coffee cup saucer , it can run upwards of 5 miles an hour and jump several feet into the air ” all of which are substantiated. He also states they are not venomous. According to renound expert Charles L. Hogue in his landmark book Insects of the Los Angeles Basin, our local species which only attain 2 inches in length “possess a formidable pair of jaws (chelicerae) and can pinch with some force” but are harmless. He goes on to describe their eating habits: “They are extremely voracious carnivores and crush and tear captive organisms to shreds with their huge jaws.” The Middle Eastern species are larger and have potentially stronger jaws which might be able to pierce human skin. Granted, saliva may be a stretch and ripping faces might be an exaggeration, but it is also possible that healing in the desert might be compounded by lack of sanitation and adverse conditions. Let’s just say that I wouldn’t want to be bitten by a Middle Eastern Solpugid which would be, at the very least, painful.

I also believe Ron Larson is accurate in saying “I honestly believe if these evil creatures were the size of a German Shepard, they would rule the earth! “

Now on to the, in your words, “infamous ‘GIs with 3-ft long camel spider’ photo.” I ask you, why is it infamous? Has it appeared elsewhere without my knowledge? How do you know they are three feet long? Because they look 3 feet long? Cameras equiped with wide angle lenses are known to distort perspective, making objects closer to the lens appear to seem larger than they are. While it is possible that the image was altered, I prefer to believe it is the result of optics and not designed to perpetuate a hoax. I did send the image to an arachnid expert at the Museum of Natural History in Los Angeles and am awaiting his reply.

I also am curious, Alice, have you ever been to the Middle East and seen a Camel Spider for yourself? We are always telling our readers that the eye can be fooled into thinking that things are bigger than they actually are.

On a final note, regarding your comment “Any bug expert worth his or her salt would take a few minutes (even seconds) to look up the facts instead of posting the letter from ‘Ron Larson, Pilot Army Missile Command’ which is chock full of urban myths,” I would liike to respond that we do not take the liberties of altering our readers letters. We print them verbatim with all of their grammatical and factual errors. Just as in your case, we let the readership decide. We do have our own scorpion and solpugid page with local specimens and factual information, but when we recieve a photo like the “infamous ‘GIs with 3-ft long camel spider’ photo,” how can we help but be in awe? It seems you are attributing malicious intent to deceive on a genuine letter and a photo I still maintain is amazing. Daniel,
I’m sorry I was harsh on you. I do agree my letter does pose questions, and it should. That’s what makes the natural world interesting, all the questions. To answer where I’ve seen the photo, it’s been circulated in emails (forwarded from unknown sources), and a chatty message board (which linked the photo to All 3 times, the forwarded text would include various exaggerations, misinformation, and/or vague references like "my brother’s friend is in Iraq and has seen one of these things".

Being curious of course, I google’d for more info on camel spiders, and read a couple of websites, including the two I mentioned to you. One of the google results led me to, and I was dismayed to see that the only reply you gave to the sender of the photo was Ron Larson’s letter. I was wrong to assume that Ron Larson was a play on the name Gary Larson (our favorite bug-friendly cartoonist) and I apologize to Ron if he does exist and does have first-hand knowledge of camel spiders.

As to my calling the photo the infamous "GIs with 3-foot long camel spider" I was not saying I know they’re 3 feet long, I was using words from a subject line of one of the mass emails floating around. I was trying to say the same thing you said in your reply to me: that the photo is misleading and these camel spiders are not 3 feet long. I’m sorry my sarcasm by calling them 3 feet long wasn’t clear.

I just wanted to close by saying you run or help run a great website, and I thank you for taking the time to get further information from others when you replied to me.
Alice Ringer

Hi again Alice,
I think in the interest of remedying this situation, we are going to re-reply to Chas with some factual information. I am still waiting for the reply from the Museum of Natural History. The poor Camel Spider has been much maligned online as you point out, and sadly, we here at What’s That Bug have inadvertently added to the myth by reposting Ron Larson’s colorful letter with a genuine, though brief, request for information. I’m glad your original letter brought this to our attention.

Never having seen a Camel Spider ourselves, except the small local Solpugids which go by common names like Sun Spider and Wind Scorpion, we go on record saying they are harmless, but can deliver a painful bite. The Middle Eastern Camel Spiders probably do have jaws strong enough to pierce skin. There is no venom or saliva to prevent healing, but adverse conditions and poor sanitation might lead to infection and scarring. Camel Spiders are shy. They will not attack humans, but are reported to snip hair from dead and sleeping animals and humans to build their nests. They are fast and they do jump far. Reports vary as to their speed: Ron Larson says 5 miles per hour, another website clocks them at 10 MPH and claims they are the fastest terrestial arthropod, but claims of 25MPH clocked running along side a Humvie are probably an exaggeration. They are predatory and fierce hunters, but their prey is limited to scorpions, insects, small lizards and rodents and anything else they can catch. Considering their size, they are one of the fiercest hunters alive, but thankfully, humans are too large to be considered lunch.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

I love your web site!
We recently moved into a new house in the Phoenix, AZ area and we are seeing a lot of small (1/4 to 1/2 inch) bugs in the house that look a little bit like the silverfish that I used to see back in Virginia. They are very fast runners and they like to sit high up on the walls – particularly in the corners. They are beige with 3-4 brown stripes running from side to side and they have long thin antennae and what looks like antennae off the rear of the bug as well. They are extremely soft-bodied and, when threatened, their first response is to try to crawl deeper into the corner rather than simply run.
My camera will not let me zoom in close enough to get a decent photo, so I hope my description is adequate.
Peoria, AZ

Ed. Note: Several hours later, Bob sent this email.
After reading more about silverfish and firebrats, I suspect that these are the latter. Oddly enough, we don’t find them in the damp areas of the home as much as in the dry. We do not find them in sinks or drains or in greater quantities in the bathrooms or kitchen. Right now, I can find 2 or 3 of them in the living room and each bedroom, parked at the ceilings. The house stays pretty dry (<30% humidity most of the time) and there are no signs of moisture anywhere. They do not seem to be more active at night and they do not seem to hide during the day. The body is less carrot shaped than indicated in the drawings and photos I’ve seen on the web, with a slightly more rounded rear. My wife calls them “trilobites” because of their prehistoric appearance.

Hi Bob,
I am inclined to agree that you probably have Firebrats. They are very primitive insects and your wife likening them to trilobytes is interesting.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination