From the monthly archives: "October 2007"

What’s This Bug
I can’t find this it any of my insect books or searching internet with description. It’s about 3/4″ long and no more than 3/16″ wide. I shot it at night, near my porch light. Can you help me out? Thanks.
Robert Zimlich

Hi Robert,
This little moth is known as an Ailanthus Webworm Moth, Atteva punctella, one of the Ermine Moths. We are curious about the national origin of this moth since its common host plant is a pest tree native to China. We located this information on the TrekNature site: “There is some uncertainty about the origin of the Ailanthus webworm, but it is thought to be native to South Florida and the American tropics, with the original larval host plant, the Paradise Tree (Simarouba glauca). Tree-of-Heaven (Ailanthus altissima), a tree originally from China, has been widely introduced and Atteva punctella has jumped to this new host plant (giving it its common name, Ailanthus webworm).” In our opinion, the Ailanthus Tree or Tree of Heaven is one of the biggest threats to sensitive native forests in the U.S., and we wish that the Ailanthus Webworm posed more of a threat to the survival of the tree. If only biological agents could be imported that would target the seeds and roots of the Ailanthus Tree and not pose a threat to any native species, we might be rid of the scurge.

Caterpillar Photos
I am an avid insect, bug and caterpillar photographer and I really enjoy your sight. I have a 13 month old son who also loves to help me with my pictures. He is fascinated with bugs and is really the reason I began photographing them. Well, I live in San Antonio Texas and have seen most everything but this caterpillar is a new one and I really hope that you can identify it. Unfortunately in our bug exploration, my son was stung by this critter leaving a nasty mark. It was swollena dn nasty for a few days but started getting better until this morning and it’s getting angry red again. I’m afraid it’s some spines trying to work their way out. The doctor said he was fine but I’d like to do some research myself. Any info you may have regarding this fuzzy little guy would be greatly appreciated. As you can see, this one is right next to the door handle of my front door so they are definitely a presence in and around our home so they have me a little worried. I never kill them but would love to know and warnings to assist in my relocation efforts. Thank you in advance for any info you may have. Respectfully,
DanCee Bowers
San Antonio, Texas

Hi DanCee,
We believe this is a Sycamore Tussock Moth Caterpillar, Halysidota harrisii. It matches images found on BugGuide, but there is no mention of it being a stinging caterpillar. We do not have time right now to research its reputation as a stinging caterpillar, but perhaps knowing its name will lead you to the information you desire.

Update: (11/03/2007) Regarding Sycamore Tussock Moth Caterpillar — stinging?
Hi Daniel and Lisa,
In the post you have on the Sycamore Tussock Moth caterpillar from 10/30, Ms. Bowers asks about the caterpillar stinging because it caused some irritation to her son. I’ve found this fairly informative page from Auburn University Entomology Department that gives some very good general information on how caterpillars sting and then lists both stinging and non-stinging caterpillars that can be found in Alabama. Obviously many of the ones cited can also be found elsewhere. Interestingly, the Sycamore Tussock is listed as one of the non-stinging ones. Here’s the webpage: /bulletins/caterpillar/caterpillar.htm#the%20sycamore Best regards,
Stefanie Graves
Paducah, KY

unknown caterpillar
Here is an interesting caterpillar that was crawling across a friend’s patio on Sanibel Island, FL. Never have seen one like it. Looks similar in shape to some of the Sphinx moth caterpillars on your site, but different in color. Not sure what it feed upon since it was on a concrete slab, and with all of our exotic species that have escaped into our environment in FL was curious as to what it was: (Ruler is in Inches) Thanks for any help!
Barry P. Ruta
Sun City, Florida

Hi Barry,
The Tetrio Sphinx is a mostly tropical species that is occasionally found in the southern parts of Florida, Mississippi, Texas and Arizona. The caterpillar feeds on plumeria, a widely cultivated tropical plant with fragrant flowers. This fully grown caterpillar was probably looking for a nice place to burrow and form its pupa. The strong flying moths have been found as far north as Nebraska and Pennsylvania, according to Bill Oehlke’s wonderful website.

Hi, Daniel!
Thanks so much for helping us to identify this spectacular caterpillar! And it makes sense – the yard is full of Plumeria and other members of the Apocynaceae family members! I appreciate your help. Kind Regards,

Dung Beetle
This beetle hit my wife in the head while she was letting our dog in. I learned from your site that it is a dung beetle. I have lived in Southeastern Indiana all my life, and I have never seen one around here before. Are they common, or is this rare? Thanks,
Ed Scholle
Milan, IN

Hi Ed,
This is not an uncommon beetle, but perhaps the Rainbow Scarab is more common in isolated populations.

Tropical Assassin bug?
Greetings: Can you help with the Genus and species ID of these bugs? Photo taken near Nassau, Bahamas in October 2007. Thanks

This is the Saint Andrews Cotton Stainer Bug, Dysdercus andreae. It is not an Assassin Bug, but a True Bug in the Red Bug family Pyrrhocoridae.