From the yearly archives: "2004"

Black widow picture + "bee" question
A friend told me about your site – it’s great!! I’ve been reading with a mixture of the creeps and fascination. Thank you for the informative site and terrific pictures. Speaking of pictures, attached is one of a black widow if you’d like more for your collection. We found this one on our outdoor grill (hence the “ Kenmore” logo) – much bigger than we had expected.
I also have a question – unfortunately no picture since we have moved recently. At our old house in San Jose , we used to have “bees” visiting our flowers – except these were so big and lumbering we called them “Bee-52s.” Their bodies were huge and shiny black (guessing an inch long?). They were so large their buzz sounded amplified and when they landed on flowers the whole limb would sag down. They seemed to be solitary – if another one came along they’d lumber over and chase them. Was this a bee and if so what kind? It was definitely interested in flowers (it loved the ones on our potato bush).
Thanks very much!

Hi Jennifer,
Thanks for the Black Widow Photo and also your kind letter. We believe your bee is a female Carpenter Bee.

Beetle infested!!
Dear Whats that Bug,
Hi there, I was hoping you could tell me what this beetle is and why this year all of a sudden they appeared. They started about a month ago invading the house coming thru the cracks around the windows (we have a very old house not bug proof we live with spiders and bugs) and they were outside waiting for their opportunity to come in ! The really weird part is when you pick them up or try and get them outside they put off a very potent smell almost chemical like. They actually come in two different colors there’s this one that is kind of reddish and then there is a grey and blackish with same markings as the red ones. I have lived here my whole life and have never seen them like this. We live in Northern CA in the Redwood country its about 9 miles inland from the coast. Thank you so much for your help if you can identify these.

Hi Melissa,
You don’t have beetles, but Western Conifer Seed Bugs, Leptoglossus occidentalis. They often seek shelter indoors to hibernate.

Texas Spider
First, let me compliment your website. Since I’ve moved to the South (I’m from California), I’ve seen some crazy bugs that are HUGE and your website has helped. This past summer we’ve moved from Louisiana to College Station, TX, and this spider was ready to welcome us on our apartment balcony. It was frighteningly huge. Is it the Golden Orb Weaving spider? It is a picture of the belly, I think. I didn’t have the heart (or nerves) to try and flip it over to get a picture to see the other side of it. Thanks!

Hi Marissa,
Your spider is definitely one of the Orb-Weaving Argiopes, probably Argiope aurantia which sometimes goes by the common names Black and Yellow Argiope or Golden Orb Weaver, and occasionally Orange Orb-Weaver which gives some indication of the variability of the coloration and markings of individual specimens. They are distributed throughout the U.S. including California. They are truly impressive spiders.

better picture of mysterious fly
Can you help identify this fly?
I have a fly in my home with bright yellow stripes across it’s back like a yellow jacket it also has a stinger attached to her rear end I took some pictures of it with the digital camera. Or at least I believe she is a fly, she has the head and wings of the other three house flies in the house just not the same body. Not the best but I can take more she’s just been sitting there looking at me all day in the exact same spot. I don’t know if this is of interest to you or not but three regular house flies that flew in with her, two as you can see from one of the pictures I have attached keep attacking her head. The other one I think was breeding with her. Can you help identify this one? For now since I am not sure what she is I’m just leaving her alone. Besides she’s been so patient with me trying to get a good picture of her shes just sat there and posed. Seems to be as fascinated with me as I am with her. If you need more pictures i can try and get more maybe use a chair if she is still here. When my husband got home last night he said he had seen one before but doesn’t know what it is. she’s back sitting in the exact same spot almost not moving again. I think that’s strange behavior for a fly. My husband also said they look like flies but he believes they are some sort of bee. I don’t think I told you where I live either it’s Riverside, CA. Also she is just a little over half the size to 3/4 the size of the house flies that will not leave her alone.
Thanks! Diana

Hi Diana,
Your photo is of a Hover Fly from the Family Syrphidae. They are called Hover Flies because of the way they can hover in the air above flowers. They are sometimes called Flower Flies because they eat nectar from flowers. Their coloration which mimics bees and wasps is thought to be protective. Your fly is harmless and will not sting you.

He’s pretty fancy
But what is he?
Any help is appreciated.
Thank you

Hi Jo-Ann,
You have a photo of a type of Shield Bug or Stink Bug from the Family Pentatomidae. Sorry I can’t tell you the exact species.

Ed. Note: Jo-Ann later wrote back to us that she located her Two Spotted Stink Bug, Perillus bioculatus, on this website. The species has two color variations, light and dark, and is one of the predatory Stink Bugs which feeds on the dreaded insect pest, the Colorado Potato Beetle.

What is this caterpillar?
I emailed earlier this month and not long after your site went down for a while so I don’t know if it went through. We found the caterpillar wandering on the ground and although he resembles the Heterocampa that someone sent from MO, ours is quite a shocking shade of hot pink. We are in Hempstead, TX. in the middle of the Post Oak belt. The caterpillar has formed a chrysalis and we will wait and see if it transforms. But I would really like to know what we are looking for.
Thanks in advance,
Joy Sebastian-Hall

Hi Joy,
Yes, you have a caterpillar from the genus Heterocampa. Somewhere I remember reading that they change color just before pupating. There is much color variation in the green, brown and pink range. The moths are a grey color.