From the monthly archives: "June 2008"

strange insect in my garden
My sons were in the garden and noticed this "yellow headed monster" – it seemed to have a long proboscis inserted into the base of our maple tree, and its abdomen slowly started turning from black to white, as if it were emptying itself into the tree. I used a stick and "encouraged" it to remove this from the tree, and the abdomen went back to black. There were actually three long black probosces coming from the end of the abdomen. Any ideas? Thank you very much. p.s. Is there anything I can or should do about this? a friend suggested injecting vinegar into the site where the eggs were likely laid. Would this work? Thank you.

Hi Tara,
We love your letter on so many levels, but especially for the interesting way you described the oviposition of a female Giant Ichneumon, Megarhyssa atrata. This is actually a beneficial insect. She is laying eggs in wood that has wood boring grubs. Her larva will consume the grubs and not harm your trees. She has an ovipositor, not a proboscis. We are also intrigued with the vinegar suggestion. Not sure, but is sounds as if vinegar might be effective in controlling some insect pests.

Love your site
Dear Bug Guys,
I’ve been using your site for a little while now. I’ve even sent in a few pictures of some unknown eggs on Acer platanoides, but received no response. I’m not surprised though you guys seem so busy. I wanted to let you know how much your site helps me with my job. I work on a tree farm in Southern Ontario and it’s my job (among other things) to ID pests and disease on our trees at the farms. Your site has come in handy many times and I’ve been able to identify most ‘bugs’. I decided to grow on some Mourning Cloak Caterpillars that were destroying our Hackberry trees. Unfortunately due to my job requirements I had to destroy quite a few, but I saved some and in 10-15 days I should have some butterflies as they have just begun to develop into their chrysalis. I’ll try to send you a few pictures when they emerge. I used to grow caterpillars when I was a little girl just to see what they would turn into. Your site has re-inspired me to take up my childhood hobby. So thanks for having a wonderful site, keep up the good work. Not only do you make my job easier, you also make exploring the bug world fun. Thanks again,

Hi Diane,
It makes us feel quite guilty when we hear how disappointed people get when we can’t answer all of our mail. Hearing about disappointed children, sometimes entire classrooms of them, makes us wish we could hire a staff, but sadly, we cannot. We are intrigued with the re-inspiration of your childhood hobby of raising caterpillars, especially as we have researching the life of Maria Sibylla Merian in preparation for our lecture at the Getty. Merian used to collect caterpillars from throughout her hometown of Frankfurt and raise them so she could draw the various phases of metamorphosis. We are posting your letter to our third fanmail page.

is it a snaker a moth?
I saw this amazing creature one afternoon along the coast just north of Tulum Mexico. Fortunately she was busy laying her eggs so she stayed for her portrait. Can you tell me what she is? I didn’t get the whole snake face camo impact until I viewed her on my computer. Thank you
Wendy Morrow
Calgary, Alberta

Hi Wendy,
This is an Owl Butterfly in the genus Caligo. There is a nice Wikipedia page on Owl Butterflies. The markings mimic the face of an owl to startle predators.

What’s this red & grey moth(?)?
Please, what is this lovely creature? You are seeing the forewings, almost clasped around the grassblade. The hindwing is rounded and the same brilliant red. It moves quickly and does not like being approached. I live on the northeast coast of Nova Scotia, among wet-to-damp grasslands on the shoreline of Antigonish Harbour. This creature avoids flowers and always lights on grass. It is small (not tiny). Especially, this creature is uncommon. Two years ago I saw a few near some alfalfa. Last year I saw one only, in grass under alders right on the water. This year I’ve also seen only one, among the grasses and mixed wildflowers (which it ignores) over our septic drainage field, in the open. They stay close to one spot; you can find presumably the same one there day after day in early summer. I’d love to hear from you– Thanks–
Tila Kellman

Hi Tila,
Your moth is a Cinnabar Moth, Tyria jacobaeae. It was introduced from Europe to help control ragweed, a larval food plant.

I just love your site. You have helped me identify dozens of bugs. I believe the picture I sent is of mating tiger beetles. We came across a bunch of them running around on a trail through a State Park in central Florida. Pic was taken in mid June of 2008. I’m just sending it for your buglove pages, as I don’t think I saw any there.
Jim from Everett, PA

Hi Jim,
We believe your mating Tiger Beetles are Cicindela hirtilabris, as pictured on BugGuide which states that it ranges in: “Peninsular Florida and extreme southeastern Georgia” and that it is “found commonly in dry white sand areas including trails, road edges, and open areas with sparse vegetation.” Another similar species found in the panhandle of Florida is Cicindela gratiosa, the Whitish Tiger Beetle.

Bug Love picture from Georgia
I snapped a couple of pics of two moths mating yesterday. I really like this one: underneath this one isn’t as dynamic: topside I included links to the flickr photostream too. They look like Cerisy Sphinxes from what I saw on your site. Feel free to use this pictures if you’d like. Thanks for running a great site,
Casey Willis

Hi Casey,
Bill Oehlke’s website doesn’t list Cerisy’s Sphinx in Georgia. These are Blinded Sphinxes, Paonias excaecata. You can also read about the Blinded Sphinx on Bill Oehlke’s website.