From the monthly archives: "March 2011"

Location: Fairfield, California
March 28, 2011 7:09 pm
Every spring and summer I find these in our garden and would love to know what type of insect it is. Most recent find was on 3-26-11 on a Japanese maple, but I have found them on Lantana and also just hanging out on on the fence. I never see any feeding damage on the plants the looper is on. Thanks!
Signature: Sharon


Dear Sharon,
At the moment, we are only going to be able to provide you with a very general Family identification, which you may already know.  This is an Inchworm or Spanworm or Measuringworm in the family Geometridae, and browsing through BugGuide will reveal many similar looking caterpillars.  Inchworms are also sometimes called Loopers, though not all Loopers are in the family Geometridae.  The Inchworm gets its common name because of its manner of locomotion, which your photo beautifully illustrates.  Most caterpillars have five pairs of prolegs, but Inchworms have only two pairs, which results in the caterpillar walking forward with the fore part of the body in a typical manner, and then looping the rear portion of the body to catch up, causing the larva to appear as though it is measuring distance as it moves.  Your second photo demonstrates the marvelous camouflage ability these caterpillars have for mimicking small twigs.  We are not certain what species of Inchworm you have submitted, but we suspect the species found on the Lantana might be different from the individual you found on the maple.  Many Inchworms look very similar and they are difficult to distinguish from other members of the family.  Since it is the end of March, it is time for us to select a Bug of the Month for April, and we love your photos so much, we have decided to give your Inchworm that honor.  With the dormant trees beginning to produce tender leaves in many parts of the country, young caterpillars will start appearing as well to feed on those leaves.  The vast majority of our caterpillar submissions occur in the fall when large fully developed Caterpillars leave their host plants to find places to pupate, but sharp eyed observers will be able to find Caterpillars in the spring as well.

Inchworm camouflaged as twig

Hi Daniel!
I am absolutely thrilled (can’t stop smiling) that you have chosen my submission as worthy for BOM! I am a “wannabe” entomologist, to the point that I lead the introduction to entomology for my county’s Master Gardener training class. I am a certified Master Gardener and photography is another of my hobbies. I hope to culture this inchworm through to its adult stage (to help in the identification). I have tried before, but my captive conditions do not seem suitable for success. Perhaps a larger terrarium with native soil will help.
And thank you for the lesson on inchworm definition (vs. caterpillar), I will share this information with my Master Gardener peers and trainees! Thank you, again!
Sharon Leos

Caterpillars from Costa Rica
Location: about 30 km north of San Ramon at a rural area with an elevation of 700m
March 28, 2011 8:24 pm
These guys were growing on a citrus tree leaf (pic 1). They changed their appearance quit dramatically after a few days (pic 2), and then left the leaf and disappeared.
Signature: Hagit

Ruby Spotted Swallowtail Caterpillars

Dear Hagit,
We don’t recognize your caterpillars and we plan to try to begin researching this tomorrow.  We are contacting Keith Wolfe to see if he recognizes this species.  Thanks for sending two different instar photos.  We believe they are Brush Footed Butterfly Caterpillars in the family Nymphalidae.

Later Instar of Ruby Spotted Swallowtail Caterpillars

Hi Hagit and Daniel,
As earlier from Mexico . . .
. . . these Costa Rican caterpillars are Papilio anchisiades (or a very close relative).  This abundant and widespread swallowtail is commonly found in areas disturbed by human activities.
Best wishes,

Thank you Keith,
These butterflies are indeed abundant and widespread where I shot the pictures.   A place which is sadly very much disturbed by human activities.

Ruby Spotted Swallowtail

Hi Hagit,
Thanks for sending us your beautiful photo of the adult Ruby Spotted Swallowtail to accompany the caterpillar images you sent earlier.


March 28, 2011
Boris and Medea Luna chose a fortuitous time to spawn.  Yesterday I took 24 small angelfish to Tropical Imports and traded them for food and two Rummy Nose Tetras.  I then moved 52 Angel Fry from Boris and Medea Luna’s last successful spawning, the first in 2 and a half years, into the grow out aquarium.  I kept the smallest of the previous brood, that of Lefty and Digitalis, to raise with the newcomers.  Lefty and Digitalis laid eggs a few days ago and I cannot find them.  I’m not certain if they are gone or if they are hidden.

Boris (bottom) and Medea Luna with the spawing from earlier today

Is this a spider?
Location: Machakos, Kenya
March 26, 2011 10:27 pm
Hi, I found this guy trying to get under our front door. When I tried to sweep him out he grabbed hold of the bristles of our broom. Is he a spider and do you think he’s poisonous?
Signature: Marc

Tailless Whipscorpion

Hi Marc,
This is a Tailless Whipscorpion.  Like Spiders and Scorpions, the Tailless Whipscorpion is an Arachnid, but unlike Spiders and Scorpions which are venomous, the Tailless Whipscorpion lacks venom.  It is possible that they might bite if carelessly handled, but the bite does not contain poison.  This Tailless Whipscorpion grasped the broom with its modified pedipalps.  Like Scorpions, the pedipalps of the Tailless Whipscorpion are modified into grasping appendages, unlike the pedipalps of spiders.  Tailless Whipscorpions are shy nocturnal hunters that prey upon Cockroaches and other arthropods that are generally not welcomed in the home.

Tailless Whipscorpion grasps broom

Big Beetle in FL
Location: Tampa, Fl
March 27, 2011 4:13 pm
Hi Bugman,
I’ve been living in Florida the last 8 years and never seen this kind of bug. Maybe it’s the size that has me flustered as it’s rather large at over 1 inch long. It scared my wife in the garage and we are in The Tampa Bay area.
Signature: CT

Caterpillar Hunter

Dear CT,
This is one of the Caterpillar Hunters in the genus
Calosoma.  They are important predators that help to control caterpillar populations.

I’m glad I asked and the Calasoma will come in handy. We’ve had a a very horrible webworm problem in the Tampa area this year (pictures attached). That accumulation of worms on the trunk is from one and a half days of worms.
Thank you, Cesar Tioseco

Oak Leaf Roller Outbreak

Hi Cesar,
Thanks for writing back with your images of the Caterpillar infestation.  We believe these are probably the same Caterpillars that we have received several letters regarding thus far this year from Florida.  Our first letter arrived March 7 and the caterpillars were identified as Oak Leaf Rollers,
Argyrotaenia quercifoliana.  The Texas A&M University website has information on these Caterpillars.  For various reasons, there are periodic outbreaks of certain insects that create media attention and cause concern, and then all is forgotten until the creatures reappear several years later in prodigious numbers again.  We are curious about the control method that is documented in your photographs.  Is this a sticky tape product specifically designed to control insects on trees?

Brown/tan lady beetle?
Location: North Carolina
March 28, 2011 11:00 am
Hi! My daughter found a tan/brown beetle curled up ”playing dead” on our kitchen floor this morning and I’ve been searching online for almost an hour trying to identify it. We live in NC and though it is freezing/rainy today, the weather has been warm and pleasant and even into the 80’s in the past week.
Signature: Heather Taylor

Leaf Beetle

Carpet Beetle

Really? I didn’t think it really looked enough like any of the ones I saw online. That’s a bad thing, right? Should I be panicking….
Thanks for your help!
Heather Taylor

Hi Heather,
Thanks for writing back and questioning our quickly returned, but incorrect response that this was a Carpet Beetle.  It is not a Carpet Beetle, but rather a Leaf Beetle in the genus
Calligrapha (see BugGuide).  Sometimes in our attempts to answer as many identification requests as possible, we cut corners.  We saw your first blurry image and read your letter and Carpet Beetle seemed correct.  Enlarging your second image revealed our error.  Please accept our apology.  You do not need to panic that this outdoor dweller found its way into your home, however, when these Leaf Beetles are especially numerous, they might defoliate the host plants.

Well, I feel good that I asked, then. Thanks so much for writing back again. My daughter will be excited that she has located yet another different type of bug. It can definitely be very challenging to identify some of them as it takes me pouring over the internet sites to find pix. No worries! I appreciate all your help, especially the link to the Bug Guide.