From the monthly archives: "August 2012"

Subject: chosen over a toad
Location: Central Adirondacks
August 27, 2012 8:29 pm
At an outlet of a stream into Lake Honnedaga in the Adirondacks on August 25, I met this fellow while trying to photograph a toad. Naturally this beauty captured my attention. It measured about 2-4 mmm in length.
Is it a flea?
Signature: salvatore ja sclafani md

Unknown Nymph

Hi Salvatore,
Your subject line really caught our attention, but sadly, we don’t recognize this nymph.  It does
appear to be an immature insect, but it is not a Flea.  Perhaps one of our readers will be able to assist in the identification.

Ed. NOte:  When this was originally posted, we wrote that “It does not appear to be an immature insect” but that was a typographical error.  We do believe it is an immature insect, and most likely in the insect order Hemiptera.

Monday August 27, 2012
Hi Daniel,
Ran across this article about a perceived decline in firefly populations, and thought you might be interested.
Farther down in the story is a link to a guy in Texas who has a website devoted to all things firefly that you might find useful.
Julian P. Donahue

Firefly from our archive

Thanks Julian,
We will post this troubling information for our readers.  We certainly noticed fewer Fireflies in Ohio in June.

Subject: Hermaphroditic Orb Weaver?
Location: Towanda, Bradford County, PA
August 26, 2012 10:26 am
These photos are of orb weaver spiders I saw in Bradford County in NE Pennsylvania in late July and August 2012. They appear to be female, in all respects except that they have large bulbs on the ends of their pedipalps. Needless to say, I was very excited when I found these little creatures, and very curious to find out more about them.
In a small area, there were a few of these hermaphrodites, as well as many ”true” males and females that appeared to be of the same species. I took several photos of the males and females for comparison with the hermaphroditic ones, and would be happy to send those photos to you. The hermaphroditic spiders seem to have slightly smaller abdomens than the females, but their abdomens are larger than those of the males. Their legs seem to be the length of the females’ legs. Also, their behavior seems more female than male – hanging still in their webs with their legs held relatively close to their bodies.
I have since found a few references online of people reporting that they have found hermaphroditic spiders (including a photo of a wolf spider that appears to be male on one side of its body and female on the other). Any help you can give would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
Signature: Sarah from Philadelphia, PA

Seemingly Hermaphroditic Orbweaver

Hi Sarah,
We are very impressed with your thought provoking submission to our site, which is why we are going to devote more than the average amount of time to posting it and we are also going to feature it.  Additionally, we are strapped for time this morning as our staff needs to get to work for the first day of fall semester, so this will be our only posting this morning.  The boundary between the sexes is often blurred in the natural world.  We suspect this might be a genetic trait that can be inherited, which could explain the unusual population of Orbweavers in your vicinity.  First, we cannot say for certain which species of Orbweaver this is, and we also are reluctant to commit to a genus. 
Araneus seems possible, as does NeosconaWe do not feel qualified to provide a scientific response to your submission, however, we are more than comfortable speculating on a few matters.

Male, Female or Other, you decide!!!

We would love one additional photo of a female and one of a male to add to this posting in the future.  Please choose representative images for us.  We would also like if you could supply us with the links you discovered during your research.  The bilateral Wolf Spider hermaphrodite you describe is a phenomenon occasionally seen in insects, and the most dramatic example we have on our website is an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail with the female half also exhibiting the less common dark coloration found in a small percentage of female Tiger Swallowtails.  This bilateral hermaphrodite is called a gynandromorp.  We suspect your spiders are more likely true males or females that exhibit some physical characteristics of the other sex, like the Transvestite Rove Beetle in our archive.  Perhaps there is some advantage to mimicking the other sex.  When time allows, we will try to contact a few folks with better credentials that might be able to shed some light on this unusual mystery.

Gray Cross Spider with Exuvia

Eric Eaton provides an excellent explanation.
I strongly suspect that the “hermaphrodites” are simply penultimate (one molt away from adulthood) males.  I just learned recently that after the last molt, adult male orb weavers not only lose interest in spinning webs, they actually lose the ability to do so.  They have only one mission as adults:  find females to mate with.  Because they are not capturing prey (at best they are catching far fewer insects), and are roaming long distances looking for mates, adult male web-spinning spiders become quickly emaciated, with shrunken abdomens.  Their legs then look proportionately longer (their legs *are* longer to begin with, but the effect is magnified by the shrinking abdomen).
The images do not show anything unusual in this species, which is the Gray Cross Spider, Larinioides sclopetarius, family Araneidae.

Update from Sarah
31 August 2012
Thanks so much for posting (and featuring!) my photos and question.  Thanks also for the fascinating and enlightening information Daniel and Eric provided in response.  I was surprised that the male spiders would not have undergone their final molt by the date on which I took the photos (Aug. 23), that their abdomens shrink after that final molt, and that they spin webs like females before adulthood.  Do their legs actually grow longer upon their final molt?
You asked me for photos of the female and adult male that were in the same location as (what I now know are) the penultimate males.  I have attached them to this message.  These photos were taken the first couple days of August, when I first saw this particular group of spiders.
You also asked for the resources I found about hermaphroditic spiders.  Here is a link to a posting and photos of a gynandromorph wolf spider I found on
The same photos were posted on  That posting includes links to a couple articles on gynandromorphic spiders.  Here’s the link to the page:
Lastly, your website is wonderful!  It never fails to interest and amaze me.

Female Gray Cross Spider

Thanks for the update and links Sarah.  Contributions like your submission make our website possible.

Male Gray Cross Spider




Subject: Twelve-spotted cucumber beetle
Location: Naperville, IL
August 26, 2012 8:26 am
Hi Daniel~
These spotted cucumber beetles took up residence the first year I planted my vegetable garden and nearly defoliated every concurbit they came into contact with: cucumbers, naturally, watermelon, squash, canteloupe, as well as mammoth sunflowers. Then I read (on the internet, so it must be true :)) that inter-planting radishes will discourage their presence. The next spring, I may have gone a little wild and scattered radish seeds all over the garden, but sure enough, the radishes now self seed each year in acceptable numbers, and the cucumber beetles are just passing visitors. Other than my little anecdote, I have no idea if the two are related. All the best!
Signature: -Dori Eldridge

Twelve Spotted Cucumber Beetle

Hi Dori,
New gardeners are always writing to us wanting to know how to control garden pests.  We haven’t received many identification requests for Twelve Spotted Cucumber Beetles,
Diabrotica undecimpunctata, but we find your radish tip quite fascinating.  Your photos are also quite beautiful.

Twelve Spotted Cucumber Beetle

Thank you, Daniel.  Our small neighborhood borders on two sides what is now prairie preserve but used to be corn fields a few decades ago.  I have often wondered if the decline I have experienced in spotted cucumber beetles (Diabrotica undecimpunctata) was due to the radish trick (I looked again this morning, and by Googling the the key words, came up with quite a number of such tips) or simply the reverting to nature of the former corn fields, which I understand is a favored feeding ground of their larvae, aka corn rootworms.  I hope you have a successful start to your new semester.  All the best to you.

Hi Dori,
The demise of the corn fields is most likely a factor.


Subject: Metalic green bug
Location: Southern Illinois and Eastern Kentucky
August 25, 2012 3:59 pm
I find the bug world very facinating. But now I find myself with an ever growing collection of unidentified bugs. I ”shop” around your site, but sometimes I don’t even know where to start. I am not sure if this one is a beetle, or another kind of bug. It was located in Southern Illinois in the late spring. I have seen the same bugs in our area of Eastern Kentucky. It is about 1/2 inch long and can fly. They are very fast and hard to capture on film. I hope this picture is clear enough for an identification.
Signature: Janet Fox

Six Spotted Tiger Beetle

Hi Janet,
Originally we just sent you a quick identification as we are not able to post all the submissions we receive.  Actually, our tiny staff cannot even respond to most requests.  We really love the enthusiasm of your letter and the photo is also quite beautiful, so we are giving it a chattier response and posting it.  This is a Six Spotted Tiger Beetle.  They are fast running predators that will quickly take flight if they feel threatened. 

Subject: bocce bug
Location: Surrey, British Columbia
August 26, 2012 12:33 am
Thanks for your time… I have description below that I also gave on the bug id request for bug guide.
Surrey, Metro Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
August 25, 2012
Size: 1”, body only 3/8th”
We were playing bocce in the backyard with friends and noticed that when we walked through a bit of grass these flying insects would arise. We honed in on where they were coming from and noticed that they were crawling out of a small hole in the earth scrambling over each other sometimes 4 at a time. We watched for a few minutes then went to the front of the house to wave our friends off. When we returned it appeared that the earth had cracked open and masses of the bugs were crawling out of the ground from numerous holes. They would walk or flop around for a bit before taking flight. The ground they were coming from used to house a large tree (unknown variety) we had the stump ground down several years ago but there are sure to be rotting roots still there… At one point we saw a dragon fly come and eat one of the flying insects. What are these? Wasps? Why so many?
Signature: Henderson

Termite Alates

Hi Henderson,
These are Termite Alates, the reproductive caste that will mate and form new colonies.