From the monthly archives: "January 2006"

Bugman! Help! She/he’s a beauty! What is it?!
Bugman (or woman):
My girlfriend and I came across this (pic attached) amazing orange creature while hiking around the Little Grand Canyon in the Shawnee National Forest, which is located in Jackson County, Illinois. It sort of ambled about in a friendly way on the ground while we took pix and followed. I didn’t touch him; I just held my finger there in the photo for scale. This really was a gorgeous bug — his orange and black hairs were amazing! Later that day, while out on a rock outcropping overlooking the canyon, we also saw GIGANTIC wasp with a pretty cool, long, drape-y ovipositor. Is that what it’s called? She gave us a bit of a start, coming out of nowhere and heading straight for us! Anyway, can you help us identify this little orange fuzzy friend? Thanks a lot!
Dillon and Claudia

Hi Dillon and Claudia,
She is a Velvet Ant, a flightless female wasp reputed to have a painful sting, hence the common name of Cow Killer as the sting is supposedly painful enough to kill a cow. The other wasp you saw may have been a Giant Ichneumon.

These Are In My House! Assassin Bug?
This is the 4th beetle like this I’ve found in my house in the past 2 weeks. I just find them in random places, though thy seem to be curiously close to windows (and one was on the floor in front of the fire place). I live in South Texas, is mildly cool right now, and these guys have never come in before now. I have a cat and a bird and I don’t want either getting stung by something that could hurt them. Could you puh-LEEZE tell me what these guys are? Thank a million!

Hi Maury,
This is a predatory stink bug known as a Brochymena. Stink Bugs often seek shelter indoors in fall and winter.

Big Moth
Hi, I found this large (~5" wingspan) moth in our beach hotel in Playa del
Carmen, Mexico in late December. I’m guessing it’s a saturniid but can’t find any pictures to narrow it down. Can you help? I’ve been searching the Web for hours! Gracias,
Liz Gerson

Hi Liz,
The reason you couldn’t find the Black Witch, Ascalapha odorata, is because it isn’t a Saturnid, but a Noctuid, one of the Owlet Moths.

Wow, thank you so much! It was really “bugging” me that I couldn’t find it. Now I am finding there’s some scary mythology about this moth in Mexico. It’s an interesting critter.
Mythology from
“The Black Witch has a fascinating cultural as well as natural history. Known in Mexico by the Indians since Aztec times as mariposa de la muerte (butterfly of death). When there is sickness in a house and this moth enters, the sick person dies. (Hoffmann 1918) A variation on this theme heard in the lower Rio Grande Valley (Southmost Texas) is that death only occurs if the moth flies in and visits all four corners of one’s house. Merlmn & Vasquez (2002) point out that the number four is important in Mesoamerica because of its relationship with the four cardinal directions (east, west, north and south). The moth was known among the Mexicans as Micpapalotl, the butterfly of death. In Mesoamerica, from the prehispanic era until the present time nocturnal butterflies have been associated with death and the number four. In some parts of Mexico, people joke that if one flies over someone’s head, the person will lose his hair. Still another myth: seeing one means that someone has put a curse on you! In Hawaii, Black Witch mythology, though associated with death, has a happier note in that if a loved one has just died, the moth is an embodiment of the person’s soul returning to say goodbye. On Cat Island, Bahamas, they are locally known as Money Moths or Moneybats, and the legend is that if they land on you, you will come into money. Similarly in South Texas if a Black Witch lands above your door and stays there for a while you would win the lottery! Note: the Black Witch moth does not bite, sting, nor carry diseases. It has only a straw-like proboscis or tongue to drink flower nectar through. It is perfectly harmless though it might cause one to be quite startled if flushed from its daytime hiding place.”
Thanks again,

Moth identification
Attached are pics of two moths. Please help me with the identification.
Cory Walters
Grissom ARB, IN

Hi Cory,
When we read your message, we didn’t realize the moths were attached to each other. These mating moths are Yellow Collared Scape Moths, Cisseps fulvicollis. The moths are wasp mimics. BugGuide has additional information.

Hi there. My wife won’t squash most bugs; she captures the critters and tosses them outside. Yesterday she thought she was saving a crane fly, but when she cupped it in her hand, whatever it was gave her a nice sting. Later in the day I found it and took its picture. Unfortunately, the process seems to have sent it to its final reward. I’m attaching the mugshots. Can you identify it? Thanks.
Topanga, CA

Hi Russ,
We thought this looked like an Ichneumon, but had never heard of them stinging. So, we wrote to Eric Eaton and he wrote back with this surprising reply: “Yes to both! It IS an ichneumon, probably in the Ophionini tribe, and they are among the few ichneumons capable of stinging. I had been under the impression that NO ichneumons could sting, but that is WRONG. Some apparently paralyze their host caterpillars long enough to drive an egg into them. Goes to show that I’m still learning basic information myself. Eric”

baby mantis
Hey, i just got this beauty the other day. I am so excited i started looking all over the place for more pictures and info on other matis! your website is incredible and the mantis pics are awsome! my friend took this picture of my baby eating a ant from the recycling bin. He just tore that thing in half! I also heard that if you take them out periodiically and let them walk on you they become more used to it as they get older, but the other day when i tried it jumped a good six inches to my other hand and i freaked out. Its so small, i dont want to loose it. Will they always jump like that and how should i keep it under control next time? Also, is there any way to tell what kind of mantis it is, or what it might look like when it matures?

Hi Sam,
Mantises cannot be truly tamed. They will jump and when they mature and grow wings, they will fly away. We cannot tell exactly what species you have at this point. Thanks for the great image.