From the monthly archives: "November 2008"

Cricket
Wed, Nov 26, 2008 at 5:59 PM
I was up rock climbing at Mt. San Jacinto where i spotted this cricket near my partners foot.
Randy
Mt. San Jacinto near palm spring

Shield-Backed Katydid

Shield-Backed Katydid

Hi Randy,
We are pretty certain that this is a Shieldbacked Katydid in the subfamily Tettigoniinae, but we do not recognize the species, nor did we see a close match on BugGuide. If this is a high elevation species, and your letter did not provide this information, then it might not be a well known as species that would be encountered in civilized areas. We will check with Eric Eaton to see if he can provide us with any additional information.

Daniel,
Your ID is correct to family and subfamily (Tettigoniidae: Tettigoniinae), but I have no idea what genus, let alone species. I’ll try to get my colleagues to come take a look. Sure is distinctive (and a male, I can tell that much). Intriguing. Could be yet another new species, lots of katydids still undescribed from California.
Eric

Update: November 30, 2008
Daniel:
Here is what the world’s leading authority has to say about the first katydid you asked me about. Great, this time there isn’t even a GENUS name to give you!
Eric
Hi Eric,
This is a well-known (to the orthopterist community), but still undescribed genus of a shieldback katydid (Decticinae.) It appears to be closely related to Neduba. The last person claiming to going to describe it was Ted Cohn of U. of Michigan, but perhaps somebody else is now in charge of this.
Cheers,
Piotr Naskrecki

Unidentified Flying Bug
Wed, Nov 26, 2008 at 8:50 PM
I never started noticing these bugs before this year. I’ve killed lots of bugs in my family’s house, because I live in our basement. I first started noticing these bugs outside on my car. They were well camouflaged, flat, and every time I saw one I swore it was pentagonal. I have just recently discovered that these flat beetlish things can fly. I just killed two in under five minutes that were flying around the overhead light in our basement. They looked like large moths when they were flying, but when I smacked them down with a flyswatter they were smaller, their underbellies a yellowish-cream color. Their inside fluids smell terrible, like moldy soap scum or dull mothballs.
I’m sorry I’m only giving you a picture of a dead one. They looked greenish outside, but in the picture I discovered they were brown. I just want to know if there’s some kind of infestation going on in my house. Sorry to be so negative, but I once had a bad experience with a spider looking bug laying eggs in my hair and now want to kill all bugs.
The insides were yellow and red, if that helps.
A flustered murderer
Arlington, VA

Brochymena Carnage

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

Dear Flustered Murderer,
You have swatted a Stink Bug in the genus Brochymena, commonly called Tree Stink Bugs. Stink Bugs and other Hemipterans like the Western Conifer Seed Bug often enter homes for shelter when cool weather sets in. They will not damage your home and they pose no threat to you except for the annoyance they may cause. Brochymena species are predatory on other insects, most notably caterpillars.

Ed. Note: 30 November 2008
Since we heard about other Southern Californians noticing the swarming Western Subterranean Termites over the past few days, we decided they would make an excellent Bug of the Month for December 2008

27 November 2008
Today while splitting wood at our Mount Washington, Los Angeles offices, we noticed the Western Subterranean Termites, Reticulitermes hesperus, emerging from the logs at the bottom of the wood pile. After two days of heavy rain, the late autumn sun triggered the nuptial flight. With the sun so low in the sky, the feeble flying swarm filled the air for several hours, emerging from nearby properties as well as our own. Charles Hogue has written in his wonderful book, Insects of the Los Angeles Basin: “on warm sunny days following the first autumn rains, swarms of the winged adult forms of this termite are commonly noticed emerging from frame houses, fence posts, and other wooden structures that touch soil. The species has a high humidity requirement, which forces it to maintain contact with the ground, traveling up and down between its subterranean galleries and the wood through protected cracks in mortar or concrete foundations, or through earthen tubes that it constructs from soil, saliva, and chewed bits of wood. In Los Angeles and much of the West, this is the species that causes the greatest damage. It is probably safe to say that the majority of older houses in the Los Angeles area are infested to some degree with this termite. In general, however, damage is not noticeable until tunneling activity has proceeded to the point of weakening structural members in stressed areas, such as flooring and stairways. Severe damage requires a period of years to develop: our termites do not reduce a house to a pile of sawdust overnight! Homeowners are urged to have periodic inspections to determine the presence of termites. This is simply good insurance and should be done regardless of how many preventative methods were employed in the original construction. This species is distinguished from others that are prevalent in the basin by the black heads of its sexual forms, its earthen tubes, and the fact that it does not make pellet piles. Its tunneling pattern is also different: the workers attack wood only in the soft spring growth region of the annual rings. Thus a cross-section of an infested timber shows a characteristic pattern of concentric circles or arcs.”

Western Subterranean Termites Swarming

Western Subterranean Termites Swarming

Specific recluse
Wed, Nov 26, 2008 at 10:56 PM
Hi, I found this presumed reclusa spider in my house in Tucson, AZ. I know browns aren’t thought to be native here, but this is the fourth one I’ve found. This is the second one inside the house, and the other two were in the garage and back porch. Would this be a desert recluse, an arizona recluse, a brown recluse, or another species??
Thanks,
Clay
Tucson, Arizona

Recluse Spider

Male Southern House Spider

Hi Clay,
We too are unsure exactly which species of Recluse Spider in the genus Loxosceles you have photographed.  Exact identification may take a spider expert and may require actual examination of the specimen.  BugGuide posts a map with species distribution, and it seems Loxosceles apachea, Loxosceles arizonica, Loxosceles deserta, Loxosceles kaiba and Loxosceles sabina can all be found in Arizona, but there are no photographs identifying the differences between the species.  Both
Loxosceles apachea and Loxosceles arizonica have ranges near the Tucson area. BugGuide also indicates of the Loxosceles:  “Brown spiders will not bite unless provoked. Little is known about the venom and bite of the lesser-known species of brown spiders. ‘Although there are suspected variations in virulence among the species, all Loxosceles spiders should be considered potentially capable of producing dermonecrosis to some extent.’ (Arachnids Submitted as Suspected Brown Recluse Spiders (Araneae: Sicariidae): Loxosceles Spiders Are Virtually Restricted to Their Known Distributions but Are Perceived to Exist Throughout the United States by Rick Vetter). Loxosceles venom is cytotoxic to humans. “

Update with Correction:  July 23, 2012
Thanks to a comment, we have corrected this posting.  This is actually a male Southern House Spider,
Kukulcania hibernalis.  See BugGuide for additional information.

mexican honey wasp
Wed, Nov 26, 2008 at 1:56 PM
i am in southern mexico. these wasps make honey. they do not sting, i know this because my worker moved the hive with his bare hand and not one “ouch” or “chinga” as they say here.
wikipedia shows a different type, with yellow bands and say they sting. are these the same?
mark grossman
Oaxaca, Mexico

Mexican Honey Wasps

Mexican Honey Wasps

Hi Mark,
The information we have been able to locate online, including on the Texan Entomology page and on  BugGuide, identifies the Mexican Honey Wasp as Brachygastra mellifica.  According to BugGuide, the Mexican Honey Wasp is :  “Eusocial, that is, completely social, with worker and reproductive castes.  More than one queen per hive, and there are females present with ovaries intermediate in size between workers and queens. Form large colonies by swarming (coordinated groups of queens and workers). Store honey, but do not cap cells, as do bees. Nests are perennial, built in low trees, with as many as 50,000 cells. Remarks One of the very few insects other than bees to produce and store honey.”  It is possible this is a color variation, a subspecies, or a different species in the same genus.

Mexican Honey Wasps

Mexican Honey Wasps

sci-fi insect monster
Wed, Nov 26, 2008 at 11:00 AM
We just found this bug in the southeastern part of Brazil, just outside of Sao Paulo city. It was about five inches long (including those huge pincers). It entered the house late at night flying around, and looked like it had two sets of wings. It can bend the top part of its body backwards to use those pincers. Can you tell us what it is?
Creeped out in Brazil
Juquitiba, SP, Brazil

Male Dobsonfly

Male Dobsonfly

Dear Creeped Out,
This is a male Dobsonfly.  Though those mandibles look quite formidable, he is actually quite harmless.  The female Dobsonfly has much less impressive mandibles, yet she can and will bite a hapless human, but since she has no venom, she too is harmless.  We have read that the male Dobsonfly uses his pincers in the mating process, and we eagerly long for proof of this in a photograph.