From the monthly archives: "July 2005"

Our apartment has been infested by what we think are mites. The small ones are white-ish, whereas the slightly larger ones are brown. They are about the size of a period at the end of a sentence. Both of us have been bitten all over and the rash and level of itchiness, is about the same as that of a mosquito bite. We see the mites in close proximity to the windows facing the alley between our building and the next. We live in Manhattan so it is not hard to suspect we’ve become the target of either rat- or bird-mites. Could this be the case and if so – what should we do?
Andrea & Jon

Hi Andrea and Jon,
We are cleaning out the mailbox and just discovered your letter. You do have Mites and Bird Mites or Rat Mites are a good guess. It is difficult for us to tell the species based on photographs. Mites are difficult to eradicate and professional assistance is recommended.

Help identifying catepillar
We found a caterpillar that we hope we can “rehabilitate.” It is approximately 2 1/2 inches long, green and purplish brown in color with a “horn” near its tail end. I’ve attached a couple of pics. Any help you can give me on identification and what I can do to bring it back to 100% would be great.
I’ve also attached a picture or two of what we thought was a hummingbird. After doing some research it seems to be a hummingbird moth. Can you please verify?
Thank you.
Laura Stoy
Chesapeake, Virginia

Hi Laura,
Your caterpillar is a Four Horned Sphinx or Elm Sphinx, Ceratomia amyntor. The caterpillar has both a green and dark form. I am not sure what the trauma is that requires rehabilitation, but you can try feeding it elm, birch, basswood or cherry leaves. There is more information on Bill Oelhke’s site. Your moth is also a Sphinx Moth or Hawk Moth or Hummingbird Moth, probably the Tobacco Sphinx, Manduca sexta.

What type of bug is this?
Photographed in my Garden in Dorset England UK. It spent the night in a wheel borrow full of water. We put it onto a log to dry off. I took the photo on a stone, I was about to take another as it opened its wings and flew away. An idea what it could be?
Terry O’Donovan
Dorset, England

Hi Terry,
While our species are different from your species, I can assure you that this is a Burying Beetle, from the Family Silphidae, and probably the Genus Nicrophorus. These beetles are very strong and will bury a small mouse or bird after laying eggs on the future food source for the larvae.

Budding entomogist with a question
Dear Bugman,
My 9 year old daughter, who happens to be a budding entomologist, discovered these dead beetles at her grandfathers house yesterday and she can not identify them. She searched all her bug books and could not find anything that looked like it. She has been collecting bugs for the past 3 years, and this is the first time she has been stumped!! If you could lend a hand, she would be very happy! P.S. She LOVES your website! I can see her being on here for a few hours each night!
Chris Lepley

Hi Chris,
Letters like yours are truly the reason we began this site. Your daughter has assembled quite a herd of Rhinoceros Beetles, Xyloryctes species. Males have the prominent horns. Here is a link to BugGuide, a truly magnificent identification site which just might double the time your daughter spends online. We also love your photo so much we printed it twice the size we normally post. By the way, we are probably going to produce a calendar for 2006 and would love to use your image and letter.

Dragonfly Naiad species question
Hey all,
Great job with this site! I just came across it a few weeks ago when I was trying to ID several of the life forms I have in my miniature stream bank ecosystem. There’s a stream near my home in West Windsor , NJ called the Millstone River (but it’s only 20’ across). When we have a drought or heat wave each summer, the farmers overpump Millstone River in order to hydrate their crops. As a result, they lower the water level downstream several feet and kill off a majority of the life that lives in the shallow water near the banks shrouded in anacharis and Lilly pads. This year was the first in six years that I decided to ‘rescue’ about 15 gallons of life from this area. The 29-gallon tank is filled less than halfway, yet has four Northern Crayfish, five Brown Water Scorpions, at least a dozen damselfly naiads of varying species, several Common Water Striders, a couple Cherry Barb Minnows under 2”, half dozen Pumpkinseeds under 1⁄2”, one Bullfrog tadpole under 2”, a few Kirby’s Backswimmers, a dozen Water Boatman, a dozen small water beetles under 1⁄4”, a Pickerel under 2”, dozens of small shrimp-like crustaceans under 1⁄4”, about a hundred snails, a dragonfly naiad, and so much more (paramecium, planarians, hydras, etc.). I know that was a long sentence, but it emphasizes how much and at what a staggering variety life can be found in a few square yards of a stream bank. Fascinating! In the past month, the numbers have reached a balance between predator and prey and scavenger, so the tank pretty much takes care of itself. The snails do an awesome job of cleaning. So far I’ve freed about a dozen damsel flies, caddisflies, and soon a dragonfly back into the wild after metamorphosis. The dragonfly naiad is the one I have a question about. I’m pretty excited about it because I think it’s a Green Darner naiad. It’s excellent at hiding among the anacharis so I rarely see it. Fortunately it rested on a branch for just a moment and I was able to snap a few relatively clear pictures of it. In the past week it has changed color from a pair of yellow bands on a black field to a complex pattern of various greens and dark browns. I supplied a photo of each stage to aid in identification. The yellow bands are still vaguely visible now. Being that I’ve had dragonfly naiads in the past, I’m not worried at all about its survival among all those predators (fish and insect). Dragonfly naiads are BRUTAL predators! Please let me know if I’m right about this one! I’d love to hear from you. If you’d like photos of anything else I have a few decent shots, including an video created from dozens of photos of a damselfly during metamorphosis! It was awesome to watch for the whole 2 hours.
An avid fan,

Hi Ian,
This might well be my favorite letter of all time. I applaud your aquarium. I once had a Los Angeles River Aquarium, merely five gallons, for nearly five years with the original three mosquito fish providing many new generations before a racoon ate them. The aquarium was outside. Sadly, we are going to fail you with your identification. We don’t know what species of Dragonfly naiad you have.

Thanks in advance for help identifying the moths. I saw several hummingbird moth photos on your site and like many of your website visitors I was fascinated, curious and awed by it. I also felt extremely lucky to both see this moth and photograph it. Is it unusual to see them in Southern Ontario? In “The Dictionary of Butterflies and Moths” I saw several moths similar to the photograph of the orange moth I included in this email. Could it be the Argynnis Paphia or Lycaena Phlaeas? I found nothing that even comes close to the little yellow moth with pink stripes. Any help in identifying these moths would be created appreciated.
Take Care,

Hi Janet,
Certain species of Hummingbird Moths are common in Canada and we have even gotten reports from Alaska. Your other moth is a Geometric, the Chickweed Moth, Haematopsis grataria. It is often seen by roadsides where it has the habit of clinging to the stems of grasses and flying when someone approaches. It feeds on chickweed and ranges through most of the East from the Atlantic to the Mississippi and beyond.