From the monthly archives: "May 2008"

This worm is destroying my evergreen shrub
Hi Bugman!
My son found these tiny inchworm-like things on our evergreen shrub today (We live in Michigan). They were in a tight cluster of about 100 worms, each about an inch long. They have tiny, shiny black ball-like heads. In the photo they look hairy, but they aren’t. They are smooth and green all over, with no other markings at all. Upon further inspection, we found several branches of the shrub covered with these things. Several areas of the shrub have been stripped clean of needles, and there are several dying branches as well. At regular intervals (about every 10 seconds) EVERY SINGLE worm on the branch bends straight up, very quickly and in UNISON. It’s quite bizarre to watch. I did check out all of the caterpillar photos on your site, and as a result I ended up looking at Giant Gypsy Moths, Army Worms and Eastern Tent Worms, but none of those look quite like these. I’d say they look most like the Eastern Tent Worm, but there is absolutely no evidence of any tenting or any other type of shelter being formed. Perhaps I just caught them at a very early stage, prior to tent construction? Sorry, these were the best photos I could get. What do I do? They are making short work of my large shrub, and I fear that they will move onto the flowers and vegetables next… Many thanks,

I think I found it! I believe them to be European Pine Sawflies. Now how to get them away from my pine…?

hi Terri,
Once we darkened and sharpened your image, we believe you are correct in your identification of the European Pine Sawfly, Neodiprion sertifer. Your excellent verbal description of their behavior supports the identification. There is an excellent image on BugGuide. There is no danger of them moving to your other plants as most insects are somewhat host specific. You can try hand picking the culprits.

Tanzanian Butterfly
Hi, I took this picture of a feeding butterfly in Tanzania last year and was wondering what it was? Iv also included photos of a different butterfly (though I think of the same species) being eaten by what I think is a golden orb spider Many Thanks

Your butterfly is a Swallowtail, probably in the genus Papilio. The spider is a Golden Silk Spider in the genus Nephila. We did some cursory research to try to identify the species, but we didn’t have much luck. That could take hours. Perhaps one of our readers can supply the information. At any rate, the shots of the Golden Silk Spider capturing and feeding on the Swallowtail are phenomenal.

Update: (05/27/2008)
I think the African butterfly caught by the silk spider may be a milkweed butterfly rather than a swallowtail. I’ll try to get a positive ID at some point later today.
Eric Eaton

Updated Update: (05/28/2008)
Wow, I owe you a big apology! You were correct, the butterfly victim of the Nephila spider really is a swallowtail, likely a subspecies of Graphium angolanus. It is likely a mimic of one of the milkweed butterflies, hence my confusion:-) I think you’d better let Julian do all the leps from now on! Eric

What’s that bug?!
Dear bugman,
Hello! I must say I really love looking at your site and checking out all the strange bugs in the world. This site has helped me on many occasions! I am writing because I have found a strange bug myself. I saw this in my backyard of Tacoma, WA. Can you help me? I was wondering if this was some kind of wasp perhaps? I’m sorry it’s a bit blurry, my camera seemed to want to focus on the leaves more than the bug! Thank you so much!
Ilona Hoffstaedter

Hi Ilona,
This is a Crane Fly, but we are uncertain of the exact species.

Update: (05/27/2008)
Daniel: The crane fly from Tacoma, Washington is a wood-boring tipulid, Ctenophora angustipennis, and appears to be a female. Males have comb-like antennae and a bulbous tip to the abdomen. This species is harmless, if not a valuable decomposer of rotting wood.

Black Beetle with Red Markings on Head
I live on the West Coast of British Columbia. This bug is sitting on my bird bath at the moment. It’s about half an inch long. Is he a goodie or a baddie?

Hi Wendy,
BugGuide indicates that this is a Diurnal Firefly in the genus Ellychnia. They lack the light-producing organs of other Lightning Bugs. Since the larvae prey on small animals including snails, we will let you decide if they are good or bad. Snail lovers might have issues with Fireflies. We will make a correction to the anatomical references in your letter. The red markings are not on the head which is hidden from view in your photograph. The pronotum has the markings and it is considered part of the thorax. BugGuide indicates that the shape of the pronotum is critical in the classification of beetles and other insects.

Eastern Hercules Beetle?
I saw this photo on your site, so I am reasonably certain that I have now identified my bug. However, I thought I would send you a couple of additional photos… We found this insect on the side of our house in Kempner, Texas, (zipcode 76539 if you want to Mapquest it, for reference), in central Texas. I’ve never seen one of these around here before. Hubby spotted this beauty. I thought it was gorgeous, and I am NOT a bug person. LOL The speckling, on the body, was quite pretty. These night shots do not do it justice. As you can see, from the photos, it measured in at about 2 inches in total length. It was very docile and didn’t seem to be frightened of us, in the least. After its impromptu photo shoot, we left it to continue enjoying its night. If you have time to answer a question — your photo stated that the beetle that was pictured was a female. I was curious — how do you know the sex?

Hi Cyndi,
Your identification of an Eastern Hercules Beetle, Dynastes tityus, is correct. Your specimen is a female. The males have very prominent horns and are larger.

Nessus Sphinx Moth ?
Hi there,
I saw this little guy buzzing around my garden this morning until it landed on a dwarf spruce tree and stayed in the same spot for about 4 hours letting me take numerous pictures of him. Was he tired? I live 20 feet from the open water of Lake St. Clair, Michigan in New Baltimore, Michigan which is about 35 miles northeast of Detroit. I believe to be a Nessus Sphinx moth. I have attached some pictures. Can you confirm? Thanks.
Linda Schmitt

Hi Linda,
Your identification of the Nessus Sphinx, Amphion floridensis, is correct. The best place to identify sphinx moths is Bill Oehlke’s wonderful website.