From the monthly archives: "September 2010"

Who is this Mantis?
Location:  Sierra Madre, Ca
September 26, 2010 7:16 pm
This mantis was on my back patio in a Sierra Madre, Ca canyon neighborhood in October of last year. Please tell me everything 🙂
Signature:  Melanie

California Mantis

Dear Melanie,
You were lucky enough to see a female California Mantis, a native species.  BugGuide has a nice image comparing the brown and green morphs of the California Mantis,
Stagomantis californica.

California Mantis

on hickory tree
Location:  northern mid TN
September 26, 2010 7:06 pm
We were cutting up a downed Hickory here in mid Tn and these bugs were a little territorial of their section of wood. They seemed to be male and female sticking the long tail end into holes in the wood. They were overall around 5-7 inches long.
Signature:  Tom

Giant Ichneumon Ovipositing

Dear Tom,
It is the female Giant Ichneumon,
Megarhyssa atrata, that sticks her ovipositor into diseased wood because her larvae parasitize the larvae of the Pigeon Horntail that are eating the wood.  The female in your photo appears to be depositing her egg into a egress tunnel bored by either the emerging Pigeon Horntail Wood Wasp or an adult Giant Ichneumon.  We suspect it is the tunnel of the Pigeon Horntail.

Orange and white spotted insect
Location:  Austin, Texas
September 26, 2010 9:11 pm
Hoping you could identify this one for me…information online seems very scarce.
Signature:  ESP.

Ailanthus Webworm

Dear ESP,
Your moth is a native species of Ermine Moth that has gotten the common name of Ailanthus Webworm.  The interesting thing about that is that the Ailanthus is not native and it might be the most dangerous weed tree in North America.  The Ailanthus can survive in all types of climates and conditions from deserts to snow to swamps.  Sadly, the Ailanthus Webworm feeds on the leaves and that will not kill the tree.  We need to find a native borer that will feed on the wood, preferably the roots, of this scourge tree.  We have gotten more requests to identify the Ailanthus Webworm this year than ever before and we suspect its numbers are increasing as its introduced host tree can be found coast to coast and border to border.

I noticed you have a lot of requests for this one…sorry to add myself to
the populous! Thanks…ESP.

No problem.  It allowed us to continue to pontificate on the pest tree that is commonly called the Tree of Heaven.

Trees of Heaven

Ailanthus comment
Ailanthus trees are nasty and they smell bad.
September 27, 2010 10:36 am
I check out your website everyday and I love it a lot, and I couldn’t do without it. When you go to your Mom’s house in Ohio ever year, I go into withdrawal until you get back. I just have to have my WTB fix.
Just a quick comment on those nasty trees in the picture.
When I lived in Detroit, they grow all over the place,in the alleys etc.
They smell bad. My friends and neighbors and I always referred to them as sewer trees because of their odor.
They’re hard to get rid of. They have a extensive root system and unless you dig them up, you can’t get rid of them.
Even when they’re small and they’re not much bigger than toothpicks, they have one heck of a root system.
Hopefully an insect will appear that would take care of that scourge, and save people a lot of time and trouble trying to dispose of them.
Signature: Sueann Juzwiak

Camo Bug
Location:  Guthrie, Oklahoma (North of OKC)
September 26, 2010 1:04 pm
Found this on the back porch behind a broom…dead.
Looks as though it might be a flying beetle.
Interesting pattern on it.
Signature:  Bugz E

Cottonwood Borer

Dear Bugz E,
The corpse you found is that of a Cottonwood Borer,
Plectrodera scalator, according to BugGuide. It is in our opinion the most distinctive beetle found in North America north of the Mexican border.

Chipmunk Caterpillar
Location:  North central West Virginia
September 26, 2010 6:52 am
My friend and I found this cute little guy on the first day of fall, September 22, crawling towards us as we sat in the shade of a sycamore tree, close to the creek bank in my horse field. When it got within a foot or so it raised the front portion of its body and kind of swayed side to side, reminiscent of a curious snake, but it really reminds us of a chipmunk (pic #1). When she agitated it with the leaf (trying to contain it while I was getting the camera) 2 horn/antennae came out but were withdrawn quickly. The black spots look just like eyes, while the smaller spots behind them look like ears. When we were trying to photograph the ”horns” she tried to pick it up and it put off an ugly odor (pic #2). Unlike other caterpillars I have seen, this one has a round mouth on the underside, (pic #3) that made me think of some kind of a sucker. Please help us with this, it was a great experience to run into this little guy but we are flashing his picture around like cops looking for a missing person to no avail. No one we know has ever seen anything like this.
Signature:  Jerri Kelley

Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar

Hi Jerri,
You encountered a Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar, and the eyespots are a very effective means for discouraging predators into thinking the bite-sized caterpillar might actually be a larger and significantly dangerous predator like a snake.  The horns are a scent organ that produced the odor you noticed and they are known as the osmetrium.  You can get more information on BugGuide.

Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar

Thank you so much for your help.  2 pages after I submitted my request I found the picture identifying the little bugger.  As many swallowtail butterflies that we have around here, it’s surprising that this was my first encounter with the caterpillar.  Again, thank you.  Jerri

Black Witch Metamorphosis
Location:  San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
September 26, 2010 11:28 am
Here are a couple images of a Black Witch moth from cocoon to maturity. Unfortunately, I can’t find an image of the caterpillar that I took to round out the whole cycle. As usual, when we were at our home in Mexico in August there were several caterpillars crawling around in anticipation of cocooning. They were fat, bird dropping mimics and about 2 inches long. You can’t tell too well from my photo, but the cats girdled themselves with a silk ”hanger” much like swallowtails, so that’s what I thought they were. Couldn’t find them online, so I asked our renters to take a picture for me after we left (August 14) so I might be able to identify the outcome. Wow, was I surprised when they sent me this photo today! Clearly a Black Witch male. The time from cocoon to emergence was about 5 – 6 weeks — early August to Sept 15.
I thought you might enjoy adding this to your files on the Black Witch. My apologies for the less than stellar images, but at least it gives you an idea.
Signature:  Stefanie

Not Black Witch Pupa

Hi Stephanie,
We are positively thrilled to post your partial documentation of a Black Witch metamorphosis.  The information on the pupa is very interesting, though it is difficult in the photo to make out the silken girdle you mention.  Should you happen upon the photo of the caterpillar, please send it at a later date.

Black Witch

UPDATE: Black Witch Metamorphosis Update
Location:  San Miguel de Allende`
September 26, 2010 12:37 pm
I sent an earlier email on this but am now questioning the veracity of the Black Witch coming from the cocoon I photographed in early August. I did some research and have found that Black Witches pupate rather than form a cocoon. So I doubt that the Black Witch in the photo my renter sent me came from the cocoon I photographed. I fear the cocoon remains a mystery.
Signature:  Stefanie

Thanks for the additional information Stephanie.  The photo does show a bare pupa, not a cocoon, so you may still be correct.  We will try to locate a photo of a Black Witch Pupa to confirm.

When I searched for images of the Black Witch lifecycle to confirm what I’d found and see other images, the pupa looked like something you find under ground. But that was only one site. On another, it talked about a cocoon. So I’ll be interested in what you or other readers have to say. Certainlly we have the right type of vegetation for Black Witch caterpillars which feed on mesquite, for one thing.

Hi Stephanie,
In attempting to research this posting more thoroughly, we found a Texas Entomology website with a page on the Life Cycle Photographs and rearing Note on the Black Witch, and it contains an image of a bare pupa.  Sadly, the quality of the image you sent of the alleged Black Witch Pupa is of low quality, but it looks more to us like a larva than a pupa, but a larva that is getting ready to pupate, meaning that the caterpillar skin has still not been shed.  The markings do somewhat resemble the markings of the Black Witch Caterpillars on the web page with the pupa image.  Sadly, there is no information on where the moth pupates.  The Texas Entomology website also has a web page entitled The Black Witch:  Its Natural and Cultural History, but again, no description of the pupa, nor have we had any luck locating an image of a Black Witch Pupa.  This posting may remain a mystery, however we are going to continue to report your observations that the caterpillar of the Black Witch may construct a silken girdle for the pupa.

Final Conclusion:  Not Black Witch Pupa
September 27, 2010
Hi Daniel,

I believe  I’ve solved the mystery and can now say that it’s NOT a Black Witch. After I began to have doubts I remembered that the pic I sent you of the “cocoon” was, as you say, still in the transformation into a pupa. I cannot find any pictures that I thought I took of the final stage but they looked like a stick and you could definitely see the silk girdle. I’ve done some more searching based on what I remember the cat and pupa looking like and found the site Interactive Listing of Mexican Butterflies (Mariposas Mexicanas) website. Based on the appearance of the cat being a bird dropping mimic and its eventual metamorphosis into a pupa that looked twiglike and was held with a girdle, I believed it must be a swallowtail of some sort and so I began looking through all the species for a picture of the cat and chrysalis. I now believe it is a Pink-spotted Swallowtail, papilio rogeri pharnaces. Here is the exact link: If you scroll to the bottom you will see both the caterpillar and the pupa, both exactly as I remember, the cat resemblling bird droppings but also slightly snakelike and the pupa looking like a twig.  Thanks for your extra research on this. My further reading tells me that the larva feed on citrus and we have a young lime tree in our yard. I only wish I could see the butterfly!

Thanks for keeping us informed Stephanie.