From the monthly archives: "August 2008"

beautiful caterpillar
My husband and I found this on a blueberry bush. As soon as we touched the branch, “he” assumed this defensive posture, curling up and emitting a drop of liquid from end back end. It’s a beautiful creature, but what is it? I’m sorry but I wasn’t able to place the photo into this e-mail, other than attaching it. I hope you are able to open the document. Thank you
Sarah, Rolla, MO

Hi Sarah,
Despite being named the Azalea Caterpillar, BugGuide indicates that Datana major can also be found on blueberry.

unknown caterpillar
We aren’t sure if this came out of our greenhouse or from one of the trees in our yard. It is approximately 2″ long. We live at Moose Pass, Alaska, on the Kenai Peninsula.

This is one of the Prominent Moth Caterpillars, possibly in the genus Furcula.

Moth caterpillar
The caterpillar in the attached photographs was on the boardwalk at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples, Florida, on August 26. There was no plant nearby that might have been a larval host. It was about 4 inches long and close to 1 inch in diameter. Great Batesian mimicry for a Water Moccasin, although considerably smaller. The spot on the top of the tail end (upper left in photo) would pulsate when the caterpillar was agitated — first by some ants, and then when it was moved to the side of the boardwalk so a passerby wouldn’t accidentally step on it. One person suggested an instar of the caterpillar for an Abbot’s Sphinx Moth. Can you identify?

This is a Gaudy Sphinx Caterpillar, Eumorpha labruscae, and it is quite serpentine.

Hello bug man I have a contender for the worst bug story ever from Atlanta GA
So, I do work for a pest control company, but in my own heart I am very much a live and let live person and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your site! Certain pest (German cockroaches, brown recluses, things like that) I am against, but I do believe there are many beneficial and beautiful pests in nature and in our homes. Well, when I was about 15 we lived in a small trailor in a trailor park outside of Atlanta GA. I happened to be home by myself one night and my mother had left me some money to order pizza. I ordered the pizza and ate a few slices, then left it sitting on the counter. I was sitting in the dark, watching music videos on MTV when I went to go get another slice. I grabbed one out of the box and took a bite. It tasted weird, it smelt weird and suddenly I realized there were things crawling all over my face and arms and I had no idea what it was. I ran to the sink and immediately started throwing up and trying to rinse off my face and arms, as soon as I switched the light on I saw there were millions of the little sugar ants crawling all over my pizza. They were crawling all over my face and arms and when I say millions, I mean MILLIONS!! Til this day I will accidentally smush an ant and the very familiar smell causes my stomach to dry heave. I threw the pizza in the sink and frantically tried to rinse off my face and arms, when my panic finally subsided I opened the pizza box on the counter and it was infested with ants. In a matter of an house they had completely covered my pizza. Needless to say, I never ate anything that I had left sitting on the counter without thoroughly checking it 1 st again. Thanks!!
Jacklyn D. Warren-Gregg

Hi Jacklyn,
We have our own collection of personal reasons the imported Argentine Sugar Ant is our own most reviled insect. One winter after a significant El Niño storm in the 1980s, Argentine Ants had their nest flooded by all the water and they entered the home of our editorial staff long before we began What’s That Bug?.  They moved into the box spring that was on the floor.  Starving student that we were, we slept on a twin mattress atop the box spring without any bed frame.  We awoke covered in Argentine Ants and spent the rest of the night sleepless.  The next day after the rain subsided, we took the box spring outside and waited until the ants moved out.  Argentine Ant invasions in that particular rental were the worst that we have ever encountered, however we have been troubled by Argentine Ants wherever we have lived or worked in Los Angeles.

bug identification
I sent a picture of these bugs the other day-then I read your message about location! I am in Blue Mound, IL which is in the heartland of the Midwest. THese bugs are devouring my green bean leafs and beans. In these photos, they are feeding! I would like to know what they are-are they any benefit to anything at all? Thanks,

Hi Marla,
This is a Margined Blister Beetle, Epicauta funebris. Since we are artists and not entomologists, we are permitted to have whacky theories about insects without worrying about seeming ridiculous to our peers. Many Blister Beetles are found in areas of arid climate. We have pondered the unusual life cycle of Blister Beetles for some time now. When the adult Blister Beetles appear, it is often in great numbers, and their ravenous appetites cause them to defoliate plants. The immature Blister Beetles do not compete with adults for food as the larvae of many genera feed on the eggs of grasshoppers. Grasshoppers would compete with the adult Blister Beetles for food in areas where food is scarce, so the larvae are helping to reduce the population of insects that compete for food with the adults. Thank you for writing back with your location.

Confused Conservationists
Hi there friends at What’s That Bug,
I am writing from the Niagara Region in Ontario Canada….a team of our field staff from the Conservation Authority came across this mass on a tree and even our entomologist is stumped….we tried to send it to you back in June but didn’t hear back from you….we understand that you receive a high volume. Any help with the ID of these critters would be most helpful. They are doing a lot of damage in one particular area of this forest. Thanks and we love your site!!!!

Hi Dee,
Other than suspecting that these are Beetle Larvae, we cannot provide you with any information. This type of aggregation would indicate a food source like perhaps fungus. Are you certain the larvae are responsible for the damage? It is possible something else is weakening the trees and the beetles are feeding on fungus on a damaged tree. Your letter did not really describe the damage. We will contact Eric Eaton to see if he can provide any information. We strongly recommend that you post your images to as individuals can write in an comment and there are many knowledgeable contributors.

Update: (08/30/2008)
I have no idea on the larval aggregation, though in some respects they actually resemble thrips rather than beetle larvae. I’ll be interested to learn the consensus should the images be posted to Bugguide. An indication of size would also help immensely. … If I learn anything more about the red and black “beetle” larvae, I’ll let you know.

Update: 20 September 2008
Red Tube-tailed Thrips
A fellow by the name of Ken Ramos actually tracked down the ID, from some of his own pictures of similar beasts.
See http://www.photomacrography. net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=5888 .
Hope this helps!

Thanks Rik,
We will also be linking to the BugGuide page on the family Phlaeothripidae, the Tube Tailed Thrips.

Update: Sat, Jan 10, 2009 at 9:48 AM
The Red and Black Thrips posted by the Canadians is Hoplandrothrips brunneicornis.  I intercepted specimens coming from Ontario on firewood and sent them to the Smithsonian.  The adults were black and the immatures were red.  They inhabited logs with fungal rot and fungus beetle larvae on them.  The adults had enlarged front legs almost raptorial like a predator.   However, most thrips are plant feeders.  So it’s a mystery if they were feeding on the fungus or the fungus beetle larvae.  Not much literature exists about this species.