From the monthly archives: "April 2006"

Insect Question
I found this strange looking insect in the back garden. I am living in Galway, Ireland. I was wondering if you might be able to identify it ? I found it in the dogs food bowl. When I lifted it out of the bowl its back end lifted up into the air like a scorpion. Is it a harmful insect or is it a friendly. From looking at other sites it seems to be of the "Devils Coach Horse" family or could it be a Rove Beetle "platydracus stercorarius". I looked at some web site photo’s but none of them would have the colours like the one I found. Please find attached some photo’s of this insect. (note-I have cut the pictures from the original)
Thanking you in advance,
Jimmy Clancy
PS- What a great Site !!!

Hi Jimmy,
We agree that this is one of the Rove Beetles in the family Staphylinidae. The Devil’s Coach Horse, Ocypus olens (formerly Staphylinus olens), is a species of Rove Beetle introduced to the U.S. from Europe, but it is all black. In an effort to locate your species we did a google search of Rove Beetle Ireland and keep finding information about the endangered and possibly extinct Stenus palposus, but we cannot find a photo or description. If you properly identify your Rove Beetle or find an image of Stenus palposus, please provide us with a link.

Update: (04/29/2006)
Just to let you know I have spent the 12 hours or so trying to get more information on this Rove Beetle. From browsing all the different sites I now believe it is a STAPHYLINUS CAESAREUS BEETLE. There is at least 3 beetles that look very alike but when you closely look at the details they are all slightly different. The 3 different beetles are the Staphylinus Caesareus, Staphylinus Dimididiaticornis and the Staphylinus Erythropterus. I believe the match is the Staphylinus Caesareus ??? I have found several web sites with some very good photo’s and to be honest they seem to be very alike. I have also e-mailed some other government nature web sites etc..In Ireland & the UK to see if they can provide some information. I have also asked them if they can provide a photo of a Stenus palposus. I will let you know if they reply. If this is indeed a STAPHYLINUS CAESAREUS BEETLE can you tell me if this is also an Endangered Species ? From some of the UK web sites it classes it as a RDBI class ..Meaning “Probably extinct in Britain”. Please find attached some of the links I have found. I would be grateful if you might let me know what you think. Thanking you in advance
Jimmy Clancy

Hi Jimmy,
Wow, you did an amazing research job. Sadly, we aren’t prepared to give you a definitive answer, but we suspect your suspicion that this is probably Staphylinus caesareus is probably correct. Thank you for providing the site with common UK beetles that is labled National Insect Week. Now we are curious about the UK National Insect Week. Let us know what you find out from the government agency.

Swaziland Mantis
The mantis with an unusual pattern on its back is Pseudocreobotra wahlbergii, I raise them myself. Attached is a L4 nymph of the same species in its threat pose. Feel free to crop the image.

Thank you so much Ian,
You have single-handedly identified all of our unidentified exotic Mantids. Next time we get one that stumps us, we plant to contact you. Thanks again.

Larry the Luna Moth
Hi folks at whatsthatbug! We wanted to show you our friend Larry, who finally emerged from his crysalis yesterday. We bought the crysalis at Butterfly World in South Florida. After it emerged we thought Larry was lonesome and needed to mate for his short life as a Luna Moth. We took him back to Butterfly World today to release him.
Alex and Lori Bale

Hi Alex and Lori,
Thank you for your wonderful story. We are sure you made Larry’s life short and sweet.

I saw a strange type of moth in the garden hanging upside down on my acer tree. I looked in a book and think it is a humming bird hawk moth. However all those I have seen in the pictures have antenna and mine doesn’t. It has the same legs and a furry body and the humming bird front and the two eyes on the side but not antenna. Is mine a humming bird species or not, I will attach it to this. It was taken looking at its underside because it was hanging upside down. I do hope that you can help me… I would be very grateful if you could help me.

Hi Barbara,
Your photo is such an unusual angle. This is not a hummingbird hawk moth. It is a Bee Fly in the family Bombyliidae. Since you did not provide a location, we are reluctant to try to give you a species.

Poe story featuring a Sphinx Moth
Dear Bugman,
I came across your wonderful site while looking for information about the "Death’s-Head" Sphinx moth. Are you familiar with Edgar Allan Poe’s story "The Sphinx"? Every sphinx moth fan should read it (it’s short, and great fun):
Having been intrigued by the story, I wanted to learn more about the moth, and was lucky enough to stumble upon your site. Although none of the postings mentioned the death’s head markings that Poe describes in his story, the photo dated 6/25/2005 of a snowberry clearwing in flight looks just right (see attached photo pulled from your site). Is the skull-like form we see in the photo particular to this kind of sphinx, or do they all have these markings when seen from this angle? Is there, in fact, a particular sphinx moth that’s commonly called the "Death’s-Head?" Presumably the moth that Poe represents would have been common in the Hudson River Valley in the 1840s. Thanks! I’m so glad to have stumbled, in this roundabout way, upon your site.
Jennifer L. Roberts
Assistant Professor
Department of History of Art and Architecture
Harvard University

Hi Jennifer,
Please say hello to our dear friend and mentor, Stephen Prina and tell him Daniel and Lisa Anne miss him in Los Angeles. In answer to your question, we read The Sphinx many years ago but should give it a re-read. We are also terribly fond of The Gold Bug. The Death’s Head Hawkmoth is an old world species, Acherontia atropos. The thoracic markings do look remarkably like a skull. The moth has been prominently featured in several films including Silence of the Lambs and Angels and Insects, the fabulous A.S. Byatt adaptation. Because of its iconography, it has a long history of appearances in literature. Here is a link with images and some information.

Dear Daniel and Lisa Anne,
Thanks so much! I will say hello to Stephen just as soon as I’m back within range (I’m currently on sabbatical up at Stanford, so I won’t see him until the fall). I’m sure we must have a few other mutual acquaintances — I specialize in post-wwII stuff (recent book on Robert Smithson) and try to keep up with the various critical personalities in LA. I’ve seen neither of the Death’s Head Hawkmoth movies (although I have /read/ Byatt’s Angels and Insects). Sounds like a good excuse for an Acherontia Atropos Film Festival. Keep up the great work on the site!

What’s this bug?
Can’t find anything like this by searching online, perhaps you can help. It was feeding on what appeared to be a giant stinging nettle, secreting what I guess is nettle venom from its thorny spines. Length: approx 2 1/4″

Hi Paul,
We originally thought this might be the caterpillar of the Question Mark, Polygonia interrogationis. But, the following letter just arrived.

(04/10/2007) Caterpillar Identifications
Hello WTB,
Having reared and photographed several hundred species of butterflies (no time for moths) for the past 25+ years, I thought you’d appreciate knowing two IDs that I noticed while quickly scanning your caterpillar pages last night . . .
? Caterpillar (04/27/2006) — “Yellow coster”, Acraea issoria (Nymphalidae, Heliconiinae, Acraeini); larval foodplant: many Urticaceae, e.g., non-stinging Boehmeria and Debregeasia in Taiwan and India. See pix of caterpillars and chrysalis at < > (accompanying text in Chinese). I hope this information is helpful and of some interest. Best wishes,
Keith Wolfe
Antioch, CA