From the monthly archives: "June 2012"

Subject: Bug bites coworker!
Location: Western PA
June 26, 2012 10:02 am
My coworker came in screaming that an alien bug with ’tentacles’ (antennae) bit her while she was outside on her lunch, it got into her short sleeves. She snapped a photo, we have been searching online to no avail. Western PA, length about an inch, 6 legs, rears up in defense when approached. kinda cool!
Signature: blonde girls

Wheel Bug Nymph

Dear blonde girls,
This is an immature Wheel Bug, and we always warn folks to handle them with caution since the bite is reported to be quite painful, though not dangerous.  Thanks for your letter that supports our warnings.  We just posted a photo of an adult Wheel Bug, the largest North American member of the Assassin Bug family.  Assassin Bugs, including Wheel Bugs, are predators that use their piercing proboscis to suck the fluids from their prey.  Hapless humans might also be bitten though this is usually an accidental encounter, like your coworker, or a case of careless handling.

thats terrific! thank you for your repsonse, I was leaning towards wheelbug for most resembles, but it didnt have all the characteristics yet!!!

Subject: Summer bug
Location: Labrador Canada
June 25, 2012 11:22 pm
hi there. I live in Labrador Canada and every summer we get this bug and no one knows what they are. I was hoping you could help identify it.
Signature: n/a

Giant Stonefly

Dear n/a,
This is a Giant Stonefly in the genus Pteronarcys and you can compare your individual to this photo from BugGuide.  Stoneflies have aquatic nymphs or naiads, so they are generally found near a source of water.  Having a healthy Stonefly population is an indication that the nearby water is relative pure and pollution free as they cannot tolerate contaminated water.

Subject: Possible Luna Moth Sighting and Question
Location: Hocking HIlls, Ohio
June 25, 2012 10:48 pm
I am pretty sure that this is a luna moth, from looking at other posts on your site. My question is that I woke up in the morning to find this moth outside the cabin I was staying in. I also saw another one dead, with its wings dismantled and spread over the porch. An hour later, I returned outside and this moth (photographed when living) had died as well. I am wondering if there are any natural predators of this moth or if you have any other explanation? I was sad to see the deceased moth in such a state!
Thanks in advance.
Signature: E

Luna Moth

Dear E,
Your email brings up many good, thought-provoking questions.  Luna Moths are in the Giant Silkmoth family Saturniidae, and like other members of the family, Luna Moths do not feed as adults.  They only live a few days to a week (that is a very old Luna Moth) and the live to mate and reproduce.  Flying takes a considerable expenditure of energy, and since the adult moths don’t feed, they must survive off the body fat they store as caterpillars.  As such, the body of a Luna Moth contains considerable fat and other nutrients, and they are a desirable prey for many insectivores including birds, bats, raccoons and other creatures.  The disembodied wings you found were most likely the result of some food chain scenario, with the predator eating the body and leaving the not very nutritious wings as evidence.  The second Luna Moth, if it was intact, most likely died of natural causes.

Subject: this insects’ got back
Location: Dallas (East), Texas
June 26, 2012 8:13 am
Went for a late evening drive to get a cheeseburger with the windows down at the drive-in Dairyette (worth a trip to Dallas). When I got home and let the dog out there it was, right where you would reach to get the seatbelt on the passenger side. I moved it and took a few pictures. There is an amazing iridescent gold shield on its lower back and a daunting spiked ridge behind its neck. What species and is it male?
Signature: Dave

Wheel Bug

Hi Dave,
Though there is no dearth to the postings on our site devoted to the Wheel Bug (it is one of our Top 10 identification requests) we have decided to post your letter for two reasons.  First and foremost, we found your email totally entertaining and informative.  Second, we don’t get many adult Wheel Bug photos this early in the season.  Most recent examples have been immature nymphs that lack wings and the signature coglike “wheel” on the thorax.  Male and female Wheel Bugs look alike, though females are generally larger.  You should exercise caution when handling a Wheel Bug.  Though they are not aggressive towards humans, they are predators and they possess a piercing beak of a proboscis.  The bite is reported to be quite painful, though not dangerous.

Subject: Female Widow Skimmer Dragonfly
Location: Naperville, IL
June 25, 2012 11:21 pm
Hi Daniel~
I do believe this is a female widow skimmer, aka Libellula luctuosa, as she lacks the white bloom on the wings that characterizes the males. She rests in these photos on some Russian Sage and on delphinium.
All the best to you.
Signature: -Dori Eldridge

Widow Skimmer

Hi Dori,
We agree that this is a Widow Skimmer, but we cannot confirm that it is a female because according to BugGuide:  “Females and immature males have the same brown wing bands as the mature males, but not the whitish areas. Wings usually have a brown tip. A dorsal view of the abdomen shows a brown band at center with a yellow stripe running along each side.”

25 June 2012
Yesterday while cleaning off the patio furniture, we uncovered this Brown Widow‘s Lair under the rear right leg.  to be continued …
We did not realize she was there until a spray from the hose onto what we thought was an abandoned cobweb caused her to scuttle along a stand of silk revealing her orange hourglass marking.

Brown Widow’s Lair

The Brown Widow, Latrodectus geometricus, is also known as the Geometric Button Spider or the Brown Button Spider according to BugGuide, which lists its identifying features as:  “The brown widow is highly variable in color. It may be almost white to almost black. Typically, it is a light to medium brown, with an orange-to-yellow hourglass marking on the underside of the abdomen; the coloration of the hourglass often is a good indication of this species. The leg segments are banded, with one half of each segment lighter in color than the other half. The back often has a row of white spots (rarely orange or light blue), and there are a few white stripes on each side. Darker individuals lack these markings and are difficult to distinguish from black widows. If an eggsac is present, this is the best identifying characteristic. Brown widow eggsacs are tan, spherical, and have many small tufts of silk sticking out from them. They resemble a ‘sandspur.’ The other widows make white, smooth eggsacs that tend to be pear-shaped.”  The little lady we uncovered had several egg cases.  BugGuide also notes:  “Found around buildings in tropical climates.(1) However, it is an introduced species and is the most human-adapted of the species occurring in the South Eastern US. Its webs may occur anywhere there is sufficient space to make one. It may be extremely abundant on houses and other man-made structures (e.g., barns, fences, guard rails, bridges). It reproduces frequently and disperses rapidly, making it nearly impossible to control.”

Brown Widow

Though we see Black Widow’s with some degree of frequency around the offices, we haven’t noticed any in recent years.  We can’t help but wonder if our local species is being displaced by this recent introduction.  While the Black Widow’s bite is often regarded as potentially dangerous to sensitive individuals, the Brown Widow’s bite is generally not as serious.  Here is BugGuide‘s assessment:  “It is recognized that this particular species of widow is most likely not medically significant (not an immediate medical concern to those who are bitten). (Net Ref (4)) The brown widow produces clinical effects similar to that of the black widow but the typical symptoms and signs being milder and tending to be restricted to the bite site and surrounding tissues.”  We would still caution readers to avoid Brown Widow as the bite might still be unpleasant if not dangerous.

Brown Widow