From the monthly archives: "July 2009"
What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Question about Unnecessary Carnage
July 29, 2009
Hello WTB!
My kids and I are huge fans of your site. One of my kids decided at the tender of age of three that he wants to become an entomologist someday and spends hours each day out searching for bugs. For a five year old he’s pretty amazing at identifying what he finds, but when he isn’t sure we check your site.
Sometimes, we still have questions and would like to send a photo for an ID, but hesitate because we don’t want to be chastised for unnecessary carnage. See, my son decided this year to start an official collection of specimens like he’s seen in museums. When he finds an insect he does not have, he puts it into the freezer and then later (with my help), pins it into his collection display box. I help him label his specimens correctly, and he always lets insects go if that species is already represented in his collection. If someone were to email you a photo of an insect that is part of a specimen collection of this nature, would you classify it as unnecessary carnage? I think I could handle the criticism, but your biggest almost-six-year-old fan would be crushed.
Whatever the outcome of this question, we love your site and will continue to use it daily. Even though we walk away from the computer with severe bug envy, we just can’t stay away.
Susanne

Hi Susanne,
We do not consider starting an insect collection to be Unnecessary Carnage.  We believe strongly in education, and beginning a collection of insects is an excellent educational tool.  Thank your for your very sweet letter, though we are a bit troubled that you would even entertain the thought that we would chastise an enthusiastic and curious child and crush his spirits for doing something that he loves.

Another point of View
Comment on insect collection/ carnage
July 30, 2009
As a naturalist who presents educational insect programs to thousands of children a year, I’d like to comment on the insect collection question. I agree with the answer that WTB provided about encouraging young entomologists. I do, however, think that insect collections are a relic of the kill-and-study age of nature discovery. Thanks to digital photography, kids can create a record of their discovery that is far superior to a box full of dead insects. Some inexpensive digital cameras can capture great close-ups. You can crop images to highlight interesting features of different insects. You can display magnified images that show things they would never see on a dead insect in a box.
Can you capture these images without killing the insect? WTB is filled with proof that you can.
Vince
Northern Indiana

Thank you for your input Vince,
Of course, we agree with you on this matter, but we must reiterate that we still do not consider creating an insect collection to be Unnecessary Carnage.  Is photography an alternative that we endorse?  It certainly is, and it will help to prolong our careers as photography instructors.

Suzanne Responds
Thank you for the wonderful response.  My son’s entomological pursuits have taught him patience, observational skills, and vocabulary words that astound his teachers.  He’s gotten our entire family interested in bugs, and we are all constantly on the lookout for interesting speciments.  The look on his face when he found a green tiger beetle or saw the first monarch of the summer is something I will never forget.
Vince from Indiana (the state I lived in for most of my life!) has a very good point.  In fact, we do photograph many of the insects we see.  I am always amazed by the photos of insects other people are able to take.  Sadly, I lack both the knowledge and the equipment for taking detailed close-up shots of insects.  In spite of that, my son’s room is decorated with enlarged photos of some bigger bugs he’s found in the past.  Purchasing an entomology kit designed for a child was much more economical for us than investing in a nicer camera with a macro lens.  Because of his young age, it is also more feasible for him to catch the insects with a net than an expensive camera.  His collection is much more than a box of dead bugs, as the attached photo will show.  We spend a lot of time together mounting things properly, making sure the toe biter’s rostrum is extended or the large rove beetle’s jaws are open wide.  Yes, this could be done with photographs, and maybe as my son gets older (and gets a job) he will move in that direction.
Again, thank you for the reply!

Budding Entomologist

Budding Entomologist

Hi again Suzanne,
Your son’s collection is quite impressive.  Make sure you take the necessary measures to protect it from Dermestid Beetles by placing moth crystals or whatever the latest suggestion is in the case with the specimens.

Input from Eric Eaton
August 4, 2009
Hi, Daniel:
… I liked the exchange of opinions on the insect collection started by the young boy.  First, the image depicts one of the finest private collections I’ve ever seen for someone that young, and he should rightly be proud of himself.  Second, digital imaging takes you only so far in terms of identification.  An average ichneumon wasp, for example, simply cannot be identified to species, genus, even subfamily, by images of a living specimen alone.  Preserving a dead specimen is often the only way to document a record, and is certainly the only type of record recognized by science as irrefutable.
What I find a bit more troubling is the current trend toward molecular analysis of specimens that requires specimens to be reduced to the equivalent of a smoothie, run through electrophoresis (or whatever DNA analysis method is used currently), and then determined to species identification.  I understand the need to do this work, and it is revealing far more species than previous external morphological studies have, but it is certainly a lot less aesthetically pleasing than an image, or even a nicely-prepared whole specimen.  Just my two cents, from someone who has numerous specimens representing state records, and two species new to science.
Keep up the great job, Daniel:-)
Eric

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

What’s this fly?
July 29, 2009
I found this fly in our back garden. While it was flying, it appeared to be a black colored moth, but when it was still, it appears to be a fly with oily-colored wings with clear-ish patches. Seen in late July, sunny mid-afternoon. There are lots of blooming hyssop, garden phlox and echinacea in the vicinity of the bug sighting, but when it generally landed on the ground. That’s wood mulch in the picture.
The Guy Who Walks Around His Garden With a Camera Just In Case He Sees a Bug He Thinks Looks Cool
Sun Prairie, Wisconsin (just northest of Madison)

Bee Fly

Bee Fly

Dear Guy with Camera,
This is a Bee Fly and we believe it is Exoprosopa decora based on images posted to BugGuide.  It does not have a common name other than the generic Bee Fly.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Not a Bed Bug
July 29, 2009
Over the past week, I’ve been subjected to a series of mysterious and painfully swollen bites. I never felt the bites when they occurred but after noticing them they would itch and swell up to a size a bit larger than a golfball.
Unable to find any other source I took my bed apart and discovered this lurking between the mattress and springs. I captured it with a tissue intending to transfer it to a jar for identification, but my grandmother asked to see it and then promptly crushed it when it moved.
When I asked her why she said “It had blood in it, it must be what bit you.” I am not quite so ready to assign guilt based on largely circumstantial evidence, so I was hoping you could provide an identification.
David
Missouri, North of Kansas City, My Bed

Eastern Blood-Sucking Conenose Bug

Eastern Blood-Sucking Conenose Bug

Hi David,
In this case, Grandma was right.  This is an Eastern Blood-Sucking Conenose Bug, Triatoma sanguisuga.
According to BugGuide:  “Blood of mammals, especially Eastern Wood Rat, Neotoma floridana. Also feeds on bed bugs and other insects. Feeds at night” and “Sometimes bites humans, and the bite may be severe, causing an allergic reaction. See guide page for genus.” The genus page on BugGuide indicates:  “Bite causes severe allergic reaction in many humans. Bite and defecation into bite can transmit Chagas disease, caused by Trypanosoma cruzi, a protozoan. The most notorious vector is T. infestans, found in South America. The North American species are not normally thought to transmit the disease, though they can carry the parasite. (The North American species do not normally defecate at the site of the bite, which is what actually transmits the parasite–see Kissing bugs (Triatoma) and the skin. The CDC page on Chagas’ Disease says that ‘Rare vectorborne cases of Chagas disease have been noted in the southern United States.'”  We have an Unnecessary Carnage section of our site devoted to harmless insects that were killed unnecessarily.  This killing was justified and does not warrent posting on our Unnecessary Carnage section.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Carpenter Ants Devour Emerging Cicada
July 29, 2009
Dear Bug Man:
Thought you might be able to use one of these photos in your “food chain’ category. My son called me over to an old oak tree, to see a group of carpenter ants eating what he thought was a large caterpillar. When I got there, I could see it was an emerging cicada. I don’t know if the cicada died as a result of not being able to emerge fully from it’s nymphal skin, and the ants were just scavenging the carcass. Or, if the ants started attacking it shortly after it crawled up the tree. No idea what type of cicade this one is, but parts of it were a lovely turquoise green. This was the only cicada on the whole tree–no other shells or nymphs were around. Was this cicada’s biological clock working OK?
Chris O.
Wildwood Park, near Toledo, OH

Carpenter Ants devour emergent Cicada

Carpenter Ants devour emergent Cicada

Hi Chris,
Thanks so much for sending us your wonderful food chain documentation of Carpenter Ants devouring an Annual Cicada that was in the process of metamorphosis.  We suspect the Carpenter Ants attacked the Cicada while it was helpless and unable to escape.  The Cicada’s biological clock was right on time, as they emerge during the summer.  This is an Annual Cicada, and unlike the Periodical Cicadas that emerge every 14 or 17 years, the Annual Cicadas emerge each year.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

praise!
July 29, 2009
WTB folks:
Just discovered you, and went right for the ‘Unnecessary carnage’ page. I am an  insect lover, technician for several entomology labs here at Nova Scotia Agricultural College. Great sense of humour and so right about  unnecessary killing. Only critisim would be to get away from narrow column pages..fill up the’ empty margins.
Anna Fitzgerald
NSAC, Truro, Canada

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

gigantic bee/ wasp. Makes a hornet look small
July 29, 2009
Hi, heres a good one for you,
I do a lot of macro insect photography and have seen lots of bugs over the years, but after a single sighting whilst on holiday in italy (I’m from the UK) and hours of fruitless internet digging I’ve had no luck identifying this beast.
It had a body length of over 2″ (no kidding!) and distinctive markings (see pictures). It made the local european hornets (plently of them) look small. It spent most of its time on the ground with short flights between plants.
I dont have any extreme closeups since I didnt want my head any closer to it!! Shots with canon 100mm f2.8 macro and 5D MKII.
Hopefully you can shed some light on this!
David Lewis
Tuscany, Italy

Mammoth Wasp

Mammoth Wasp

Hi David,
We have just secured the funding to purchase several Canon 5D cameras for our photography program at LACC.  We were struck by the similarities between your wasp and a North American species, Scolia nobilitata which may be viewed on BugGuide.  Armed with that information, we searched Scolia and Italy and were led to a photo of Scolia flavifrons, the Mammoth Wasp, on TrekNature.  Then we found more images with the name Megascolia maculata flavifrons, obviously a synonym.  Continued searching led ut to the Wildside Holidays website that includes this information:  “This is a very large solitary wasp, the female reaching up to 4.5cm whereas the male is a little smaller. This species appears in warm weather during late May, June, July and August. They hold no danger to humans despite their size and black / yellow warning colours. They feed eagerly on flower nectar and this is the best time to view them.  The larger female can be told apart by her yellow face and short antennae. The male has a black head and longer antennae. Both have two yellow bands on their abdomens which can sometimes be divided to form 4 spots, which is more evident on the female in these pictures.  You may see several of these wasps flying around decaying tree stumps, they have a purpose here. They are searching for larvae of a particular beetle. Inside the rotten wood may be young of the Rhinoceros beetle (Oryctes nasicornis) [See image below]. The female Mammoth wasp once she has discovered the huge larvae will sting one to paralyze it and then lay her egg on the outer skin. On hatching, the larvae of the Mammoth wasp will eat into its host thereby killing it. The larva of the wasp then creates a cocoon near to the meal remains. It will stay in this cocoon over winter and hatch out once the spring weather warms sufficiently.
”  Because of the yellow face, your specimen is a female.

Mammoth Wasp

Mammoth Wasp


What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination