From the monthly archives: "August 2008"

Crazy Spider in San Diego
Hi Bugman,
Here’s a unique spider I found in my yard in San Diego California about 10 miles inland from the coast. Serra Mesa to be exact area code 92123. I’ve never seen anything like it with the bumps or ridges on its abdomen. What is this and is it poisonous? Thanks,

Hi Chris,
Your spider is a Silver Garden Spider, Argiope argentata. This species can be found in California, the gulf states and the southern U.S. as well as points south into Mexico, Central and South America. All spiders have poison, but the vast majority of them pose no threat to humans. Either the spiders are too small, their jaws will not puncture the skin, or the poison is too weak to cause more than a local reaction similar to a mosquito bite. The Silver Garden Spider is not considered to be a threat to humans. According to Wikipedia: “The bite can be stingy and itchy during the first approximate hour, then the pain usually passes away. However, it may have several health repercussions on children, seniors and physically weak people. “

Moth Mates
I saw a bunch of these bright moths swarming the garage at work. This picture was taken in July. These guys were hanging from a roof. I imagine the little one is the male? Thanks,
Benton Harbor, MI

Hi Katie,
These are mating Oakworm Moths in the genus Anisota. The World’s Largest Saturniidae Site lists three members of the genus in Michigan and they can be difficult to tell apart. We believe these are either Anisota senatoria, the Orange-Tipped Oakworm Moth or Anisota virginiensis, the Pink-Striped Oakworm Moth. More information on this genus can be located on BugGuide. Yes, the smaller darker moth is the male.

Spiders, Cicada Killers, Oh My!
First, thank you so much for your site. It’s helped me several times and is a great reference for my bug enthusiast 7-year-old. I’ve got four pictures for you. First two are of a spider that was on my gutter above the garage and had spun silk across the driveway to a tree branch 10 feet away. I accidentally walked through the silk and disturbed her. I can’t identify her. She was in shade and kept balling herself up so these were hard shots to get. Hopefully they can be of use to identify. When her legs were open I’d say she could straddle a quarter and we live just outside Atlanta, GA. The second two shots were of a cicada killer wasp we saw this evening. Thanks to your site we were able to identify these beauties earlier in the summer and knew not to be afraid. We were even able to educate our neighbors on them this evening and capture two shots of the female carrying the cicada down her burrow. Thought you might find the shots of interest. Thanks for your time and even if you don’t have time to identify our spider; I hope you enjoy the images. We really appreciate your site. Keep up the good work!
Resa in Duluth, GA

Hi Resa,
We are nearly certain your spider is one of the Araneus Orbweavers, though several other genera are similar. What we are really excited about is your photo of a female Cicada Killer disappearing headfirst into her burrow with a Cicada for her progeny.

wheel bug
You have a great site! I was shooting some pictures of our new terminal at the Indianapolis airport and saw this very weird bug. It turns out it was 3 bugs in one, I hope you can use the pictures. Thanks for helping me ID this thing.
Martin Edwards

Hi Martin,
We really love your image of Wheel Bugs mating and eating simultaneously.

Greetings from Topeka, Kansas,
I have a couple pics here of a hover fly, sort of a hornet mimic. Handsome little fellow. (OK I have no idea about it’s gender) It was very patient too, as I had to keep nudging him/her with my finger to get a face shot. Peace! –
Jeff Volpert

Hi Jeff,
This lovely Hover Fly is probably Spilomyia longicornis, or a closely related species. This fly mimics Polistes Wasps or Yellowjackets. According to BugGuide, this is a widespread species in the eastern states.

A pine-tree-loving sphinx caterpillar?
Just found your site today–it’s brilliant! This little guy came down with a bunch of pine branches courtesy of tropical storm Fay when it swept past Jacksonville, Florida. After glancing through your caterpillar pages, I’d guess it’s some sort of sphinx caterpillar. We have lots of lantana in our yard so we see quite a few butterflies and moths– wonder if this guy likes lantana, too. Do you recognize him? Thanks for your help.
Anne Craig

Hi Anne,
Your caterpillar is a Southern Pine Sphinx, Lapara coniferarum. According to Bill Oehlke’s wonderful website, “Larvae feed upon various pine species, including loblolly pine ( Pinus taeda ) and longleaf pine ( P. pinaster )” but there is no mention of lantana. As Sphinx caterpillars go, the Southern Pine Sphinx is unusual in that it is lacking in the caudal horn.