From the monthly archives: "July 2008"

What is this bee like insect with club antennae
Found today Doncaster UK. Is this a bee or a mimic ( has mandibles and unusual club ended antennae) ? Many thanks
Gerry Collins

Hi Gerry,
This is a Club-Horned Sawfly in the family Cimbicidae. Cimbicid Sawflies are related to both bees and wasps, and they do not sting. The larvae look like caterpillars and they are frequently mistaken for them.

Strange White Caterpillar from Oil City Pennsylvania
Hello Bugman!
I emailed you last week but just realized that you requested the location of the bugs found. I am resending this letter in hopes that you can help me identify the caterpillar we found in our backyard. First, I must say I love your website and check it regularly. Recently my fiance and I found this caterpillar (the first two pictures) on a small tree in our backyard in Oil City (Northeastern) Pennsylvania. There were 4 of them and I cannot seem to find it anywhere on your website or the rest of the Internet. I was hoping you could tell us what it is. The third picture I believe is the Gypsy Moth Caterpillar but just wanted to double check. Thank you for your help in advance. Keep up the great website!!! Thank you,
Shannon G.

Hi Shannon,
Your white caterpillar is, we believe, infected with Fungus that will probably kill it. It is difficult to determine the species of caterpillar from your photo. BugGuide has a big section on Fungus riddled Flies, but not one for caterpillars. In trying to research Fungus attacking Caterpillars, we found references to a fungus, Entomophaga maimaiga, that is host specific on Gypsy Moth Caterpillars, but it does not resemble the Fungus in the image you have provided. The Gypsy Moth Fungus, Entomophaga maimaiga, is an important biological control of this invasive species, and you can read more on the Country Gardener. The Cornell University Biological Control website has a photo of an infected Gypsy Moth Caterpillar. Your second caterpillar is a Gypsy Moth Caterpillar.

Correction: (07/29/2008) Strange White Caterpillar from Oil City Pennsylvania
This looks a lot like the “Butternut Wooly Worm” images on bugguide. Found them while trying to see if the fly/wasp I sent matches any of their sawflies.

Thanks for the correction Audrey. Seems someone on BugGuide also entertained the fungus idea. The Butternut Wooly Worm is actually a Sawfly, Eriocampa juglandis.

Stink Bug Eating Japanese Beetle
You’re site is terrific – I use it all the time. I’m always looking for ways to rid my yard of Japanese Beetles, so I thought that was wonderful: it looks like a Podisus (?) feasting on the beetle. Do they actually kill their prey or scavenge? I’ve never seen dead japanese beetles laying around like this except where I did the handiwork! It’s from Fort Wayne, Indiana. Thanks much!

Hi Adam,
You have correctly identified your Spined Soldier Bug, a Predatory Stink Bug in the genus Podisus. Predatory Stink Bugs are true predators, and not scavengers. They need a liquid diet, so they only suck the fluids from the prey, leaving behind a drained dry husk. Gardeners plagued by invasive exotic Japanese Beetles would probably love to be able to purchase Spined Soldier Bugs, and we read on BugGuide that: “P. maculiventris is sold as a biological pest control, and appears to be the most common species in the southeastern United States.”

Male Dobsonfly in NE Pennsylvania
This Dobsonfly landed on a screen window on July 26, 2008 – showing the UNDERSIDE (since it was outside the screen). I was able to identify this as a male – because of your excellent website…. It truly was a fearsome looking creature. I used to fish the Susquehanna River for bass using hellgramites, which would sometimes nip a finger as we gathered them from beneath the rocks. I never realized that they would grow up to look like this.

Thanks for providing our website with an interesting perspective on this male Dobsonfly.

California – Moth with 6-8" wingspan and headlight??
While looking for raccoons that had been eating our peaches, we saw what looked like a single eye looking back at the flashlight. As we moved in closer we thought it was some kind of fruit bat. But the wings were too straight, and it had too many legs (or appeared to – we really didn’t get that close!) My husband said it looked like some kind of moth, the boys and I thought he had to be wrong – no moth was that big – but after looking at the picture and your website, I thought he might be right. It looked like a single eye with the flash light, but the pictures looks more like some kind of reflector on the front and the eyes on the side. It’s wingspan was atleast 6”, looked more like 7 or 8”. (The peach it’s on is about 2.5”). Any ideas on what this thing is? Thanks

Hi Marti,
Your moth is a neotropical species, the Black Witch. It is now generally believed that the Black Witch does breed in Southern California, Florida and probably Southern Texas. Black Witch sightings occur from as far north as Canada. This large Noctuid moth is capable of flying great distances. The Black Witch in your photo is being opportunistic, by taking advantage of the raccoon bite in the peach which has revealed the succulent pulp. Moths cannot bite. They each have a strawlike mouthpart known as a proboscis. The headlight is a reflection of the flashlight in the eye.

polythemus moth caterpillar?
Hello there! We are such fans of your site. We looked through all of your caterpillar photos and found similar but not (I don’t think) exactly the same. It is happily munching away on our Duranta in South Florida. I only see one caterpillar. Is it a polythemus moth? Thank you so much for your help!! Sincerely,
Laura and Joe Lazzar

Hi Laura and Joe,
We believe this is a Rustic Sphinx Caterpillar, Manduca rustica. Bill Oehlke’s website has photos that support this. We are copying Bill Oehlke on this response so he can add you sighting to his comprehensive data on species distribution. Your identification of the food plant is also helpful for our readership.