Fuzzy Black bug from the Alps
October 19, 2009
I have always wondered what this bug is. My husband and I encountered it a few years ago when we were hiking in the mountains in Switzerland. We were taking a lunch break just above the tree line and this little guy just floated onto my arm and hung out there for a while. You can see from the scale of the picture that it was small, about the size of a fly but covered with a fine fuzz, and it had feathery antenna where its eyes should have been. Have you seen this before?
Dear Hiking Girl,
WE are going to enlist our readership for assistance with your insect. We believe it is a Homopteran, a group of insects that includes Aphids. Your specimen bears a striking resemblance to a Woolly Aphid, but it is black instead of white. Please check back on our site to see if any of our readers have provided comments that correctly identify this minute creature.
Hi, thanks for posting my bug! One thing I remember; when I first saw it I thought it was a mutated form of a fly or some other bug because it didn’t have eyes or a typical head or mouth that I could see, just the fine fur everywhere. The antenna were actually in place of the eyes. There were no eyes on this bug that I could see. It looks like the other woolly aphids on your site have eyes. So, maybe they are not the same exact species.
Comment from Eric Eaton
I think the “woolly aphid” thing from the alps is actually a moth in the family Heterogynidae, but I can’t find an image of anything identical to what is posted at WTB. Try Julian Donahue, he might be able to at least verify or correct the family I’m giving you.
Comment from Karl
Hi Hiking Girl:What a lovely and curious looking creature! It’s an excellent photo but the details are still a little difficult to see with all the dark fuzz. It appears to have four, slightly hairy wings and long bipectinate or plume-like antennae poking out of all that hair. I believe this is a Bagworm or Case Moth (family Psychidae). It looks very much like a male Ptilocephala plumifera (Oiketicinae: Oreopsychini), a species that occurs throughout most of Europe south of the British Isles and Scandinavia. Bagworms get their name because the larvae construct cases out of silk and any handy materials they can find (sticks, sand, plant material, etc.). They drag their cases around with them and anchor them to a surface when they pupate. For comparison you can link to:
Great bug – thanks for sharing. K
Comment from Julian Donahue
October 23, 2009
Good call by Eric, but I can’t confirm it. I don’t think heterogynid wings are that scaleless (photos on the Web show fully scaled wings)–if it’s a moth, the lack of wing scales make it look more like a psychid.
But without having the specimen in hand I can’t even confirm what order it’s in!
Comment from Eric Eaton
Wow, I think Karl nailed it! What a wonderful insect.
I have learned just as much from WTB as I’ve brought to it. Thanks, guys, for networking to solve mysteries like this.