From the monthly archives: "July 2006"

Red and black Ant? Or ????
We just moved from Florida to Georgia. Now in Florida we do have a lot of extreme bugs, but this is one that we have NEVER seen. It looks like a red and black ant, but it’s fuzzy and huge!!!!!!! It doesn’t look like it has any wings at all, we thought maybe they fell off or the bug was injured. We live in South Georgia about an hour out of Atlanta. Any help identifying this bug and letting us know if it is harmful to us or plant or any info would be helpful!!! Thanks
Flustered in Georgia

Hi Peggy,
This flightless female wasp is commonly known as a Velvet Ant or Cow Killer. She is not harmful, but has a very painful sting. Don’t bother her and she won’t bother you.

large moth
This was found on our window this morning in St Charles Missouri. Can anyone help me identify this moth its about 3" long ?
Thanks John

Hi John,
We first identified this as a Northern Apple Sphinx, Sphinx poecila, but a kind reader set us straight.

(07/31/2006) Hello to everyone at Whats That Bug,
First, I would like to commend you on your great website. I visit your site often, and I enjoy reading all the letters you receive. I also have my co-workers and friends checking out your website. Keep up the good work. Now, you received a letter titled “Northern Apple Sphinx” (07/30/2006) large moth in St Charles Missouri from John. The moth was identified as Northern Apple Sphinx but the moth in the photo is actually the Five Spotted Hawk moth (Manduca quinquemaculata) the adult of the Tomato Hornworm. I hope this information is helpful. Again, keep up the good work. Sincerely,
Norman Myszkowski from Baltimore, MD.

katydid far from home?
Last summer two male katydids courted a female above my front door for a couple of weeks, which was really exciting because I live in Vancouver, Canada – not exactly prime katydid territory. I spent hours trying to identify their species, researching them online, using taxonomic keys, and comparing ovipositors, but I kept getting stumped when it came down to species’ range maps. Based on anatomy alone, I was 99% sure that our visitors were drumming katydids (Meconema thalassinum), despite the fact that all the information I’d found on the species puts their range about 3500km east of here. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a clear enough photo to submit to you (unless you can id blurry green blobs) and so the best I could do was to reassure myself that I’d identified them correctly. Well, lo and behold, a lone male has appeared in the same spot again this year and I have a brand new zoom lens for my camera. I’d be really grateful if you could confirm that this IS a drumming katydid and if so, how rare the species is out here. I mean, should I be calling up the local entomology department to have them document the find? Or is the info I’ve found totally out of date & these guys are really common in BC? Thanks so much! You guys rock!

Dear C.S.,
We also believe your identification of the Drumming Katydid is correct. There is a near identical match on BugGuide and the range is listed as Southern New England. Why is it in Vancouver? Global Warming? Possible accidental introduction? We think you should check with local experts and we will inquire with Eric Eaton if he has an opinion on the matter. Thanks for sending in your photo and story. Eric Eaton has verified the identification: “Yes, it is a drumming katydid (male), and its occurence should probably be reported to provincial agriculture authorities, eh? Seriously, it may be of interest to BC entomologists.”

a picture for you
I saw this wasp dragging the spider through my backyard. I live in
central NJ. The spider’s body was about an inch long and in think it’s called a Rabid Wolf Spider. Do you know what kind of wasp this is? Is the wasp going to eat the spider?

Hi Pete,
This Spider Wasp is Tachypompilus ferrugineus. It is not going to eat the Rabid Wolf Spider. The spider will be a food source for the larval wasps.

Anise Swallowtails and their larva
It might be unusual for you guys to receive pics of already-identified beasties, but I do actually have a question for you. We were delighted to encounter a pair of Anise Swallowtail larva in a jar at a store in Berkeley (called The Bone Room), and so we acquired them (for $2 each). The furry, attractive guys chewed away at their sprig of anise with great rapidity. We went on an expedition to locate additional food sources. A gigantic open parking lot at the hospital up the street was overgrown with anise. There we harvested fresh food… and looked for more caterpillars. After a while we began to spot them, and came back with a couple more. A few days later we went for more anise, and noticed that the hospital was engaging in a campaign of brush-clearing… several stands were now eradicated, chewed up and temporarily stored in plastic garbage bags (we hope they were at least headed for composting, but even that seemed unlikely). At that point we realized any caterpillars anywhere in the lot that we failed to rescue were doomed. Over the next three weeks we eventually accumulated 19 caterpillars. We found them in each of their five instars, although the majority were noticed in second instar. They are gorgeous and we enjoyed them greatly. I have very large (32 oz) plastic cups with special lids which I use for fruit fly cultures, so those were repurposed as caterpillar enclosures. They seemed to work well. Eventually we had 19 chrysalises. After less than two weeks, the first chrysalis opened, and we had our first Anise Swallowtail! When we found it, its wings were still crumpled up. We moved it outside, putting it on some moss in the shade. After running errands, we found it still there hours later – its wings fully erect, but not moving much. It was gently relocated to the Nasty Urshums (so my mother calls Nasturtiums) in the sunshine, and I captured a few pics… it flexed its wings several times in the warm sun, and then flew off! I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to see that. Hand-raised swallowtails! We have since had five adults emerge, all within two weeks of the first. Here is the question: it’s now been around 7 or 8 weeks since the last one emerged… we still have over a dozen chrysalises. Some are bright green, and some are a dull brown woody color – this seems not to matter, as both kinds had successful adults before. So, what gives? Why are these ones not hatching? Are they dead? We did have one that was definitely dead – it didn’t succesfully attach to a stem or the wall or roof of the cups, and we found it blackened and rotting a couple weeks ago in some accumulated moisture at the bottom of the cups. This has not happened to the rest though. Looking at the browner chrysalises, it’s hard to imagine there is still alive insect inside… but I know well that looks can be decieving. We have had much warmer weather lately. Could this be a factor? (our house is not air conditioned, so it has gotten just as warm inside as outside). Could some be hibernating? If so, why would some hibernate while others seemed perfectly satisfied to emerge in the normal alotted time? I thank you for whatever help you can provide… and attach a scan of my best photo of the first adult as a reward. I took this with my Canon AE-1, with Kodak 400, in bright sunlight at around 250 or 500 shutter speed in shutter-priority program mode. I used my Vivitar 28-105mm (f2.8-3.8) zoom lens in macro mode. The pic has been level-corrected, color-corrected, and the contrast adjusted in Photoshop, as well as reduced in size for suitable e-mailing and webposting. Thanks

Hi Josh,
All we can suggest is to be patient. Nature has a way of ensuring survival by not having all plants sprout at the same time, and this might also apply to metamorphosis.