From the monthly archives: "July 2008"

“Tarantula wasp”?
While on vacation in Arizona, we were hiking in the desert and came to an area where we were almost being chased off by this flying insect, the we saw why, attached photos we took very carefully, but what am amazing sight to see, I know the “T” was paralyzed, but that’s a big arachnid to be carried away by a bug. Anyway my question is, what’s that Bug?

Hi Melissa,
Your wasp is a Tarantula Hawk, a Spider Wasp in the genus Pepsis. The female Tarantula Hawk will drag the paralyzed Tarantula to a burrow and lay an egg on it. Adult Tarantula Hawks are frequently found drinking nectar on Milkweed and other desert flowers. We are lamenting that your photo isn’t of a higher resolution because we would have loved to crop and enlarge it.

Fly Picture
I captured this beautiful looking fly in late July in Dublin, Ohio. Please could you identify. Thank you.

Hi Andrea,
Collectively, the flies in the family Syrphidae are known as Hover Flies, Flower Flies or Syrphid Flies. Your species is a real beauty, Spilomyia interrupta.

monarch love
Hi Bugman,
I just took these photos of a pair of mating monarchs in Ann Arbor, MI. I looked through the Bug Love pages and didn’t see any monarchs, so I hope these are a useful addition to your site. One question: one of these butterflies has been patrolling my garden for the past week or more, chasing away all the other monarchs until tonight. I’m assuming that’s the male? Just curious.
Martha H.

Hi Martha,
We actually do have other mating Monarch Butterflies buried in the archives of our numerous Bug Love pages, but your beautiful image is still a welcome addition to our site. The behavior you describe is consistant with that of a territorial male butterfly trying to attract a mate. The male Monarch butterfly, like the open winged individual in your photo, can be identified by the conspicuous black scent glands on his lower wings. According to a Monarch website we found: “Males use the pheromones produced by this gland to make themselves attractive to females.” This is a bit of a role reversal among Lepidopterans. Most female moths release pheromones to attract the male, and the male has bushier antennae to better sense the pheromones. In the case of the Monarch, based on your description, we would deduce that the male located a likely food source and staked out the territory. He then released his pheromones and attracted a mate. Thanks for the wonderful account of your observation.

Big Caterpillar
We’ve looked all through the Luna moth pictures, and searched around the web, but haven’t found a picture just like the guy in this one. He is 5 inches long and living on a small beautyberry bush in our central Florida yard. The bush is currently flowering and he seems to prefer eating the flowers, with leaves as a side. So far he has stayed on one bush, so we’ve been able to take several photos. Very interesting critter as he seems to be aware of our movements even when we are 2-3 feet away. He will stop feeding and turn toward us, as if watching. Do you have any idea what it might be?
Karen and Denny

Hi Karen and Denny,
This appears to be a Rustic Sphinx Caterpillar, Manduca rustica. According to the website link you provided, beautybush is in the Vervain family, and according to Bill Oehlke’s excellent website, the Rustic Sphinx Caterpillar feeds on plants in the Vervain family. We really like the classic “Sphinx” pose your caterpillar has assumed. We are copying Bill Oehlke on this response so he may add your sighting to the compresensive data he is amassing on species distribution.

Two photos of a Leafy Spurge Hawkmoth
Hi, I am from Zehner, Sask. Canada, 3 miles from the North America Leafy Spurge original origin point, and we now have encountered the Leafy Spurge Hawkmoth here even though our province has not released any. I have two t close up pics of this caterpillar, a yellow, and a red variant. You may use these on your page if you like, just credit me please . Thanks,
Dave Fries

Hi Dave,
Thanks for your great images of Leafy Spurge Hawkmoth Caterpillars, Hyles euphorbiae, a European species introduced to help control the Leafy Spurge. We suspect that Bill Oehlke will be interested in this sighting if you are accurate that the moths have not been released in your area, so we are copying him on this response. Fresh off from our lecture at the Getty on Maria Sibylla Merian, we are now curious if she drew this species in her caterpillar books and if she documented the various color morphs of the caterpillar.

what is this caterpillar
Found about 7 of these cuties on a plant out back , in Beaverton ,OR. Looked through the internet with no luck. thought you would be a great place to look. thank you for you attn:
Helen Ferguson

Hi Helen,
Your caterpillars are Cinnabar Moth Caterpillars, Tyria jacobaeae, a species, that according to BugGuide, was “Introduced from Europe as a control for introduced weedy Ragwort, the host plant for its caterpillars, which is toxic to livestock.” The Cinnabar Moth is now well established in Oregon and Washington.