From the monthly archives: "May 2006"

polka-dot wasp moth
Hi Bugman,
I found a polka-dot wasp moth caterpillars on my desert rose. Should I be concern? Also, I’ve attached a picture of a swallow tail taken outside my window.

Hi Joanna,
The caterpillars will eat the leaves and the leaves will grow back. Unless the plant is infested, we would leave the caterpillars. Your Giant Swallowtail is beautiful.

Bumble Bee
Dear Bugman:
I’m very fond of your site. I love the beautiful photos your readers send in, and I love the way your writing both demystifies and celebrates our insect friends. I took this picture the other day in my garden. I was rather lazily weeding when I heard a very loud buzzing. This fellow (male? female?) was trying to collect from the columbine flowers, without much success since he was so big and heavy, and the flowers are on weak, nodding stems. I’m anthropomorphizing, but I swear the buzzing sounded grumpier and grumpier the more times he flopped off. I followed him (?) around with my camera for about five minutes before he stayed still long enough for me to get this pretty decent shot. I thought you might enjoy it, as well as confirm that this is indeed a bumble bee?
Stephanie Bowker
Des Plaines, IL

Hi Stephanie,
Thank you so much for your sweet letter. There is nothing wrong with a little anthromorphization. Fabre, one of the pioneering insect authors of the 19th Century, was a master of anthromorphization. Your columbines are quite lovely. It is one of our favorite flowers. We thought this was a Bumble Bee, but Eric Eaton set us straight: “the bumble bee is actually a female carpenter bee, Xylocopa virginica.”

odd creature
I have found 3 of these little holes in my backyard, within 6 inches of each other. There is a little creature inside each one, but they are very cautious little things! I had to sneak up to get this picture, and it took several tries. They are usually hidden inside but occasionally they come to the top of the hole and just sit there, like this one is doing. They’re very fast and duck back down into their holes if you get too close too fast. I put little twigs into the holes to see what they would do, and each one would push the stick out. One of them pushed the twig out with so much force that it flew a good 6 inches away from the hole! I dug away at one of the holes, and the next morning this little guy had reconstructed his tunnel and re-formed a very neat little hole. I am very curious as to what these are! Wish I had a better picture 🙁

Hi Amanda,
The larva of the Tiger Beetle is an expert in the ambush. It waits in its hole until prey passes and then it lunges and captures the unwary insect or arthropod.

Nursery Web Spiders
Love the site, though I would send these along. I’ve seen the Nursery Web Spiders on the site and they always mention protecting the eggs, but I saw no pictures of this. Here are ones I found in my yard in Leominster, MA.
Todd Hamilton

Hi Todd,
Thanks for sending your great photos of Pisaurina mira, a Nursery Web Spider.

Two moths…
Great site! My parents and I found a couple of interesting moths. I was hoping you could identify them for us. (Both were seen in Massachusetts…) My moth was about 1.5 – 2 inches long, top to tip. The body was fuzzy and BRIGHT ORANGE. Not very good for hiding in New England woodlands, I’m afraid… (Especially not on the side of a red house!) My parents’ was about twice that size. The body was also fuzzy, but more of a beige… Sorry for the blurry pic, but he was camera-shy… Regards / Met vriendelijke groet / Mit freundlichen Grüssen,
Amanda Ellsworth

Hi Amanda,
Your moth is the Virginia Oakworm, Anisota virginiensis, or a closely related species in the same genus. Your parents photographed a Polyphemus Moth. Both are Giant Silk Moths or Saturnid Moths.

Ceanothus Silk Moth
Just wanted to share the photo of the beautiful moth we found in my mom’s backyard on Sat. 5/20/06, the neighbor Dick decided to take a picture of it and he gave it to us. Isn’t it pretty.
Andrea Beutler
Santee, CA (San Diego)

Hi Andrea,
Not only is the moth beautiful, the photo is gorgeous. It is just the type of photo that appeals to our aesthetic, and if we do a calendar next year, we would love to use it.