From the monthly archives: "June 2012"

June 25, 2012
Location:  Mt Washington, Los Angeles, CA
We are indulging ourselves because we took some photos of insects while gardening over the weekend and on Monday, and though we have numerous letters provided by readers needing identifications, we decided to post some of our own sightings.

Mating Walnut Husk Flies

These Fruit Flies were putting on quite a show on the unripe peaches, and we suspected they might be up to no good.  The three individuals in this series of photos were getting busy and they seemed oblivious to the camera.  It appears that two males are vying for the females attention, and they formed quite a huddle for several minutes until their frenzied activity caused them to fall to the ground.  There were at least five individuals in the immediate vicinity of the six or so peaches on our very young tree, but the main mating activity was confined to the three individuals in the photos.  Upon doing the research today, we learned that these are Walnut Husk Flies, Rhagoletis completa, a species native to the eastern parts of North America that has become established in California.  According to BugGuide, they feed upon:  “Walnut husks primarily. It can attack other plants, such as peaches” and it “Damages walnuts, serious pest of walnut orchards.”  In Mt Washington, one of our local endangered treasures is the California Black Walnut, Juglans californica, which is endangered due to habitat loss caused by development in the hillsides as well as a new threat, the 1000 Cankers Disease.  We can’t help but to wonder if the Walnut Husk Fly might pose a new threat to the survival of the California Black Walnut.  We are postdating this entry to go live during the few days we will be out of the office.

Mating Walnut Husk Flies

Subject: boxelder bugs?
Location: Charleston, South Carolina
June 25, 2012 9:40 pm
I was wondering if you could identify this. There were about 35 of them in a cluster on a barkless tree, eating lichen growth. Very small, about a quarter inch long each. I thought they might be young boxelder bugs, but the color and markings are wrong. Now I’m thinking some variety of plant bug. They resemble fireflies as well, and seem to have a whitish abdomen (or are those white wing markings? hmmm), but the ant-shaped head is throwing me off. Any help would be appreciated.
Signature: Scott Matheson

Bark Lice

Hi Scott,
These are Bark Lice in the genus
Cerastipsocus, commonly called Tree Cattle.  They are benign creatures that feed on lichens and they do not harm the trees even though their mass aggregation would tend to imply otherwise.  See BugGuide for a matching photo of Bark Lice.

June 26, 2012
Location:  Mt Washington, Los Angeles, CA
We are always thrilled when the Great Golden Digger Wasps,
 Sphex ichneumoneus, appear in our garden in early summer.

Great Golden Digger Wasp

Their appearance seems to coincide with the bloom season of the onions we plant each year.  Though we grow onions because we love pulling out a few fresh green onions to add to the salad or to eat with a bit of salt, and we also enjoy the mature onions that we dig out after the bulbs get to a large size, but the added attraction of blooms that are frequented by bees, wasps, pollinating flies and even a few butterflies is a wonderful addition to a vegetable garden that is also decorative.  We watched as a larger Great Golden Digger Wasp was buzzed by a smaller one, and we can’t help but to wonder if this was some type of courtship behavior. 

Great Golden Digger Wasp

The female Great Golden Digger Wasp provisions her nest with paralyzed Crickets and Katydids.  We also have a healthy Katydid population, so there is ample food supply.  Parts of the garden are more wild in nature, and there is adequate habitat for a nest to remain undisturbed throughout the winter.  Great Golden Digger Wasps can be found in all 48 lower United States, and they are quite adaptable to a range of climate conditions.  Great Golden Digger Wasps are not aggressive and we hope that our readers will learn to tolerate them and not succumb to the impulse to eradicate all potentially stinging insects they happen to encounter.  See BugGuide for additional information on the Great Golden Digger Wasp.  We are postdating a few entries to go live during the few days this week we will be out of the office for a short roadtrip.

Great Golden Digger Wasp (the smaller individual)

Subject: Bug with 2 yellow bands and blue end
Location: Oldenzaal, The Netherlands
June 27, 2012 8:21 am
I would be happy if anyone could tell me the name of this insect.
Signature: Hi,

Wasp Mimic Moth

This is a wasp mimic moth, either Sesiidae or Arctinae.  No time to research.  We’re skipping town.


Saturday July 21, 2012.
Gates open at 7.
Elyria Canyon Park,

Mark your calendars now for an evening of nocturnal adventure as lepidopterist Julian Donahue [read Jack Smith’s LA Time article on Julian]  and “What’s That Bug?” Web host and author Daniel Marlos talk about the moths and other insects that come to the black and mercury vapor lights around the Red Barn in Elyria Canyon.

This special program is one of many events scheduled during National Moth Week, a worldwide week of activities to celebrate moths and biodiversity. Large or small, drab or colorful, beneficial or harmful, moths comprise one of the largest groups of insects: there are 15 times as many species of moths as there are of butterflies! The vast majority live obscure but highly beneficial lives—their caterpillars are a major source of food for birds.

Sponsored by the Mount Washington Homeowners Alliance, in cooperation with the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (SMMC) and Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority (MRCA).

Who: Open to the general public.
When: Saturday, July 21; gate opens at 7 p.m., event begins 7:30 p.m., sunset at 8:02 p.m. Event ends by 11 p.m.
Where: Elyria Canyon Park. Enter the park at the southern end of Bridgeport Drive, preferably by walking; limited parking along Bridgeport and inside the gate. “Mothing” will be around the Red Barn. Map
Notes: No restroom facilities. Bring a flashlight, your insect questions, and curiosity about the natural world.
For updated information visit Moth Night in Elyria Canyon on the Alliance website.

Underwing Moth

Join us in Elyria Canyon Park for a night of Moth Watching!!!
The Mt Washington Beautification Committee is thrilled to be participating in a National Moth Week event, albeit a few days early to accommodate the busy schedules of the folks involved.  Retired lepidopterist from the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, Julian Donahue, will be leading the event on the evening of July 21, 2012 in Elyria Canyon Park.  Julian plans to use a black light and other light sources to attract moths that can be identified, counted and released.  Julian will also provide insight into the life cycles of those moths and how they fit into the ecological environments of the native Black Walnut woodland and coastal sage ecosystems found in Elyria Canyon Park.  Join us for a fun evening.

Subject: shiny blue beetle
Location: portland oregon
June 26, 2012 5:15 pm
I am a preschool teacher in Portland Oregon. I found some of the kids on the playground playing with this beetle a few weeks ago. we kept it for a few days in a small aquarium with some of the plants we had found it around. since we let it go we have found several more of these around the playground some of them dead or injured. we would like to know what kind of beetle they are and what they eat so if we find ones that are injured the children can try to keep and take care of them.
Signature: sara s.

Longhorned Borer Beetle

Hi Sara,
This is one of the Longhorned Borer Beetles in the family Cerambycidae, however, we were not familiar with this beauty.  We quickly found what we believe is a correct identification as
Semanotus amythstinum on BugGuide.  We want to get a second opinion from Eric Eaton.  If we are correct, the host tree is Incense Cedar.   If we are correct, there are not many photos online and very little information on the species.  The host plant would provide the larval food source and we are not certain what the adults eat.

Eric Eaton confirms identification.
Yes it is!  One of my favorite beetles from there 🙂
When it comes to wood-boring beetles, timing is everything.  If you are not in the right place at the right time, you would never know such animals even existed.  They tend to be locally-common, too, because as larvae they develop only in wood of a certain age and condition.  So yes, they are uncommon unless you know where and when to look.

I can see why its one of your favorites. It was the most adorable and sociable bugs I have ever met. When we would take her out of the enclosure she would walk up and down our arms then fly around the kitchen then land back on one of us. She would sometimes crawl right to the edge of my husbands hand and seem to look him right in the face almost like she was communicating.
I have a strange question. Does it spin silk. I ask because it was hanging from its ovipositor and a strange sticky substance was on the side of the aquarium. I made certain there were no other bugs in the enclosure.

To the best of our knowledge, they do not spin silk.