From the monthly archives: "August 2009"

KY: Black wasp with showy yellow antennae
August 26, 2009
This wasp has been around my house for the past few weeks, but its the first time I’ve ever seen this species anywhere. It looks significantly larger than the common red wasp here. Reminds me of a tarantula hawk but maybe slightly smaller. I looked through pictures of the local spider wasps but couldn’t find a match–looks more similar to that one from Australia except the wings look darker. Has very quick, jerky movement and exhibits wing shaking or flickering. It appears to be foraging for possibly other insects the way it is crawling all over these vines in the picture. It is very aggressive and has chased and pursued me hundreds of yards–so I’m lucky to have finally snapped these pictures at a safe distance. Body is completely black, Wings are black and s hiny with brown terminal ends, and the antennae are slightly mustard yellow and can curl. The passionflower with the posterior view is exactly 1″ from base to top (excluding the spikes on top of the bud) for scale, but I can’t tell if the wasp is forshortened by perspective due to its angle because it “looks” longer than that to me. It’s a different bud than the one with the side view of the wasp–I wasn’t able to find that bud again.
I’m not too crazy about this thing because of its aggressiveness, but I’d like to know more. If it is invasive or dangerous I might try to eradicate it, but if it is something rare or less dangerous that it looks, I might try to leave it be!
Jeff
Louisa, KY, USA

Spider Wasp: Entypus unifasciatus

Spider Wasp: Entypus unifasciatus

Dear Jeff,
We are excited to be getting photos of a magnificent new species for our website.  You are correct that this is a Spider Wasp in the family Pompilidae.  The species is Entypus unifasciatus and it doesn’t have a common name.  BugGuide has a considerable amount of information on this species.

Spider Wasp: Entypus unifasciatus

Spider Wasp: Entypus unifasciatus

BugGuide indicates: Life Cycle There is one generation per year. Males emerge first. By late August/early September most females are worn. By mid- to late September most female are very worn, with most of the apical area of the wing being tattered away. Life cycle probably more drawn out in far south, but there is very little difference. Most individuals do not persist into October. … Parasitoid of spiders, including wolf spiders (Lycosidae). … Females dig a burrow that ends in a terminal chamber off of the side of a mammal burrow or large crack in the ground. The serrations on the hind tibiae are used to aid the movement of soil out of the burrow entrance. The position in which the egg is laid is unknown. Larvae feed on one large spider and, as in all Pompilids that have one generation per year, overwinter as pupae.” We hope knowing a bit about this magnificent wasp will keep you from trying to eradicate it.

Spider Wasp: Entypus unifasciatus

Spider Wasp: Entypus unifasciatus

Mystery Fly
August 26, 2009
Hi, I’ve noticed some mysterious flies around my yard, and I’ve been unable to identify them. They don’t seem interested in the normal waste and rot that many regular flies like, and seem to be solitary. They have ferocious looking piercing mouthparts, and their overall shape reminds me of a military helicopter. Maybe that’s just me, though. I’ve been trying for weeks to get a picture, and they’ve eluded me — until this morning, when I found a dead one tangled in an old spider web. It’s slightly dessicated, but I believe there’s enough detail for an ID. I hope.
Chrissy
Trenton, NJ

Picture Winged Fly

Picture Winged Fly

Hi Chrissy,
We are happy your perseverance paid off.  According to BugGuide, the Picture Winged Fly, Delphinia picta:  “Breeds in decaying organic matter, such as compost.

Green Walking Stick?
August 25, 2009
I found this “little” bugger by a pool in the DFW area of Texas. He very calmly sat there for 10 minutes while I went to fetch my camera. It was about 6 inches long.
Katie F.
Texas

Brunner's Mantis

Brunner’s Mantis

Hi Katie,
We are quite excited to have received your letter at this point in time as we are currently working on the Bug Love section of our book that is devoted to mating insects.  This is a female Brunner’s Mantis, Brunneria borealis. We first posted a photo of a Brunner’s Mantis in September 2005.  According to BugGuide, it is also known as a Walkingstick Mantis (hence your question) or a Northern Grass Mantid which is a bit odd since it ranges in:  “Southeastern United States: North Carolina west to Texas.
”  The reason your letter has us excited is that BugGuide indicates Brunner’s Mantis:  “reproduces by parthanogenesis; males are unknown.”  This of course demands considerable more research on our part.  Parthenogenesis is virgin birth, and a female Brunner’s Mantis is able to produce an ootheca with viable eggs without ever contacting another member of her species.  There was a study on Brunner’s Mantis in 1948 by Michael James Denham White entitled The Chromosomes of the Parthenogenetic Mantid Brunneria borealis in Evolution, vol. 2 (1948), pp. 90-3 and we are trying to get a copy of that paper.   White’s interest in parthenogenesis continued in his study of a South African grasshopper, Moraba (later Warramaba) virgo.  An online biography on MJD White states:  “In an earlier study in Austin on the mantid Brunneria borealis White had described an exclusive parthenogenetic reproduction system and had pondered on the genetic consequences of parthenogenesis for a number of years. He sent off a short note to the Australian Journal of Science about his discovery, which was published in August 1962. White enthusiastically took Ken Key, his taxonomist colleague, to look at the all-female population. Key was initially skeptical that this would prove to be a valid species. However, he was soon convinced that no males were present and provided a suitable taxonomic place for the species, with a joint publication in the Australian Journal of Zoology in 1963.”  The biography makes a point about White’s pronunciation of the word “femalllllllllle” during his lectures.

Parthenogenic reproduction, though rare in insects, is not unique to the Brunner’s Mantis.  Many Aphids undergo both sexual and asexual reproduction at certain seasons and under certain conditions, but the fact that there are no known male Brunner’s Mantis specimens brings up some unusual questions.  We wonder if DNA analysis would reveal that all individuals are identical and originating with an Eve, much the way the DNA of plants started from cuttings are all identical.  Every single Sterling Silver rose is genetically identical since they have all been started from cuttings of the original specimen hybridized in 1957 by Gladys Fisher when she crossed Peace with an unnamed seedling.  The interesting case of the Brunner’s Mantis begs the question if there were ever males of the species.  It is possible that once the females developed the ability to reproduce without insemination, the then useless males vanished.  Without males to change the DNA with each generation, there can be no natural evolution or variation.

Strange bug on my Porch in AZ
August 26, 2009
Hello, I live in south eastern Arizona, and we recently bought this house. We have these strange bugs coming around the back porch when we turn the light on. I have no idea what they are and thought you might be able to help. We are wondering if there is anything to worry about with these. Thanks, Chris
Chris in AZ
Sierra Vista Arizona

Mesquite Girdler

Mesquite Girdler

Hi Chris,
We absolutely love our new server which we just started using this week.  It was a fine investment.  It enabled us to quickly search our own archive to identify your Mesquite Girdler, Oncideres rhodosticta.  We recall spending quite a bit of time in the past trying to identify this beetle, and we eventually requested assistance from Eric Eaton.
We quickly located our September 2007 posting, and now that we have the scientific name, we can link to the BugGuide page as well.  Here is the information Eric Eaton provided us in the past:  “Females climb out on a mesquite twig and chew a deep groove around the diameter. Each female then lays an egg beyond the scar. The girdling kills the twig beyond the scar and the larval offspring bores in that dying wood. This, and other species of longhorned beetles, effectively prune trees and shrubs in this manner, literally shaping the forests and woodlands where they live. Eric

What type of moth is this? Found in Texas
August 25, 2009
I found this moth clinging to the inside of my door. I put it gently outside, later it found its way back into the house. I have never seen anything like it. It did not seem to want to fly.
Yvonne , Jeremy and Isla
Texas

Giant Leopard Moth

Giant Leopard Moth

Hi Yvonne, Jeremy and Isla,
This is a Giant Leopard Moth or Eyed Tiger Moth, Hypercompe scribonia.  Many Tiger Moths do not eat as adults and they are attracted to lights.  Though we don’t get Eyed Tiger Moths at our Los Angeles offices, we do get a relative known as the Painted Arachnis.  Each year they are attracted to the porch lights and lay eggs on the wooden siding.  The furry caterpillars, known as Woolly Bears, hatch and disperse where they are general feeders.  According to BugGuide, Giant Leopard Moth “larvae feed on a great variety of broad-leaved plants, including banana, cabbage, cherry, dandelion, maple, orange, sunflower, violet, willow.

Female Diana Fritillary Butterfly
August 25, 2009
Hi Daniel,
My property abuts Cocke County in East Tennessee on one side and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the other.  I have to consider myself a lucky person in that for the past several years I’ve been able to enjoy this lovely beauty and her male counterpart each summer.  They, and many other butterflies (Pipevine Swallowtail and Great Spangled Fritillary also photographed this month), so enjoy the ironweed in my backyard.  In the spring my backyard is full of a variety of wild violets.
The attached article may be of some interest to you.  I was lucky enough to get this photo just a few minutes ago.
http://www.tennessee.gov/environment/tn_consv/archive/teinsects.pdf
Thank you so much for all your help over the years,
R.G. Marion

Female Diana Fritillary

Female Diana Fritillary

Dear R.G.,
In our humble opinion, the Diana Fritillary is one of the most beautiful North American butterflies.  We have also read that it is endangered, probably due to habitat loss.  The sexual dimorphism is especially marked in this species.

female Diane Fritillary
August 26, 2009
It never falis, I see a new isnect in my yard, and it shows up on your site! I am 99 % sure I caught and released a female Diana Fritillary yesterday. She was stuck in our garage, trying to “get out” of the window. I put a cup over her, and slid some paper underneath. She was healthy and seemed very robust. The BUT in all of this is we are in southeastern PA. According to the info on the internet, this is not her range. But I got a close look at her, and she was a Diana Fritillary. We have tons of wild violets in our yard, which may provide her with a food source.
Lee Weber

Hi Lee,
We are very happy to hear we don’t fail you.  According to BugGuide, the Diana Fritillary is found in “Souther [sic] Appalachian region, also Ozark Mountains in Arkansas, Missouri. Rather local and rare.
BugGuide has reports from Virginia.  As we have stated in Mitigated Negative Declaration comment letters in our own Mount Washington, Los Angeles neighborhood, wildlife does not recognize arbitrary boundaries between properties, and the same goes for state and international borders.  You are in the Southern portion of Pennsylvania.  We are linking to a page with nice photos and a distribution map showing West Virginia, Virgina and the Carolinas.  It is entirely possible there is an undocumented population in your area, though you did not indicate if you live in a wooded area.  Dare we even entertain the possibility that global warming could be contributing to range expansion? or that Hurricane Bill storms may have blown your specimen off course?  We wish you had supplied us with a photograph.  Though we do not want to doubt your powers of observation, you might also compare images of Red Spotted Purples to see if that could be what you saw.

female Diane Fritillary
First, sorry for the typos. Second- darn, you could be right. The funny thing is, I almost let her beat against the window so I could get my camera!! Sad, huh? The reason I didn’t is because there are quite a few spiders in the windows of the garage. One lucky bugger snagged a cicada. I didn’t want her to get trapped. Anyway, it could have been the Red Spotted Purple. It did seem to be a bit larger than the little orange fritillaries around here. And the storms that have ripped through here lately would certainly blown a butterfly off course. Thanks for the response. Love your site!