From the monthly archives: "December 2007"

Is this a bee, a wasp, or a fly?
I thought this picture was of a "sweat" bee type bee. Someone writing on my blog suggested it’s a wasp. I tried checking it out and realized I’m not sure at all — looking at the waist, I don’t think it’s a wasp and the eyes make me wonder if it’s some sort of bee-mimicking fly. There’s no ruler, but as you can see in comparison to the bee balm, it’s a tiny whatever. Thank you.
Rob Carr

Hi Rob,
This is a Flower Fly or Hover Fly in the family Syrphidae. They are also called Syrphid Flies. Many species in the family do mimic bees and wasps, so your confusion is understandable. The adult flies do not sting or bite and are important as pollinators. The larvae, according to BugGuide, occupy a variety of habitats: “Larvae may feed on decaying vegetation, aquatic detritus, or wet wood, others are predators, especially of aphids. Some larvae are myrmecophiles , i.e., live in ant nests, and a few are associated with wasps. A few attack living plants, especially bulbs of forbs. Larvae that live in water with much decaying organic matter have a long anal breathing tube, and are called ‘rat-tailed maggots’.” The species with predatory larvae are quite important in gardens for aphid control.

strange larvae
We just got home from a ten day vacation. We have been keeping a cocoon that we found a few weeks ago so the kids can watch it develop. When we got home there are these black small larvae of some kind in the jar. Do you know what they are? How did they get in there? We have very small holes in the jar and it is in our house. Thanks if you can help us

We believe these are Tachinid Fly Pupae. Tachinid Fly larvae are internal parasites on many kinds of insects and arthropods, and they are often species specific. Caterpillars are a favorite host. We are presuming the female fly laid her eggs inside the caterpillar before it formed a cocoon and the young flies fed on the internal organs.

Giant Panamanian Leafhopper
Merry Christmas! I know it is the holiday and all, but your website has been like a Christmas present to me. So many beautiful, weird, and interesting things! And I greatly appreciate the attitude of enjoying them simply for their own sake, and not destroying them. Attached is a photo I took along the Pipeline Road in November 2007. It is about 2-inches long and looks like a leafhopper to me. It had this fuzzy stuff trailing along that appeared to be attached to the abdomen. Odd bug. Any ideas? Thanks!
Allen Chartier

Hi again Allen,
This is one of the wax producing Fulgorid Planthoppers in the family Fulgoridae. Sorry we are unable to exactly identify the species. We received another example of this species from Costa Rica in February of this year, but were unable to properly identify it.

Pink-Spotted Hawkmoth in Kea’au on Big Island of Hawai’i
I have pics I just took of a moth here in Hawaii. I didn’t know much about moths but now after researching them I like all the different types of these hawkmoths. I see them about 2-3 times a week, but never close enough to take a picture, until tonight. Enclosed are some pictures I just took tonight (12/24/07 at 8 PM) of a Pink-Spotted Hawkmoth (Agrius cingulata). The pictures were taken just outside (and inside) my jungle cabin in Orchidland (near Kea’au) in the Puna district of the Big Island of Hawai’i. Very strong flyer with wing speed that was a blur to the naked eye, and it hummed like a hummingbird. Seemed to like me and followed me inside the house and back outside. I was just researching this cool insect and thought you might want to use the pics. Love your website.
Frank K. Ward
Kea’au, Hawai’i

Hi Frank
Thanks for sending your lovely image of a Pink Spotted Hawkmoth to our site.

Panama spider
What a great site! And so many knowledgeable experts wading in. Last month (November 2007) I photographed the spider in the attached photo along the Pipeline Road, Panama. The "stalk" it is sitting on is about the size of my index finger, so it is fairly large. We have spiders in Michigan that ambush prey on goldenrod and asters, but they’re much smaller and shaped quite differently. Any ideas? Thanks!
Allen Chartier

Hi Allen,
The spider from Michigan you mentioned is the a Crab Spider, Misumena vatia, also known as a Flower Spider or Goldenrod Spider. We agree that this gorgeous Panamanian species is in the same family, Thomisidae. We will try to properly identify the exact species, but that might be difficult. Right now we will post your letter and image in the hopes that someone can identify the species. Meanwhile, we really need to plant our sugar snap peas and prepare for Christmas Eve dinner.

Thanks very much! Yes, I am familiar with Misumena vatia, as well as Misumenops asperatus, which both occur in Michigan (and I have photos of both). The abdomen of this Panamanian spider also reminds me of our Micrathena gracilis and M. sagittata, but they are smaller and in the orbweaver family (Araneidae), definitely not related. I have many photos on my website, including a lot of insects but so far it is mainly butterflies, dragonflies, and beetles. I haven’t found time yet to put up any of my spiders and other insects.
Allen Chartier
Michigan HummerNet:

big guy in the kitchen
I found this guy on the kitchen floor in the middle of the night last night. He was already on his last legs, apparently (pun intended, and lame). I thought it was a beautiful bug, matte black with a huge abdomen (ready to lay eggs?). Anyway, I’ve browsed your site and others, and am still not sure what I’m looking at. Any ideas? We’re in Northern Kentucky, and it has been pretty warm for this time of year. Thanks.

Hi Matt,
This Short Winged Blister Beetle in the genus Meloe is also known as an Oil Beetle because of the oily substance that it exudes from its joints. The oily substance may cause blisters.