From the daily archives: "Monday, December 9, 2013"

Subject: What kind of beetle is this?
Location: Second growth hardwood forest, Cortland, N.Y.
December 2, 2013 10:31 am
Durning a wind storm the top of a big black cherry tree splintered and fell down. The center of the tree was mostly hollow. When cutting up the tree for fire wood this beetle was found. There were more beetles and tunnels through the rotten wood. Are they opportunistic or did they cause the death of the tree? Do I have to worry about them attacking my house?
Signature: M. Fortin

we cannot view your attachment.  Please resend and attach a photo or jpg.

Sorry-I don’t know how to attach a photo from iPhoto so I just copied it to this e-mail.
I live in the Finger Lakes area of New York state.  A black cherry tree on my property splintered about 20 feet up the trunk and fell over in a high wind.  The inside of the trunk was totally rotten with tunnels through the soft bits.
There were beetles in the tunnels.  They were approx. 1/4 inch long.  Did they cause the death of the tree or were they just opportunistically feeding on the dead wood?  Should I be concerned about them destroying my house?
Thanks for your time.
M. Fortin


Darkling Beetle

Dear M. Fortin,
We managed to view and convert your attachment into a jpg.  This appears to be a type of Darkling Beetle.  We do not believe you need to worry about them infesting your home.  We are going to request a more knowledgeable opinion on this matter.

Eric Eaton  confirms.
You are absolutely right, it is some kind of darkling beetle, on the order of a mealworm.  No threat to structures at all.  It is likely scavenging the dead wood, eating fungus, or something else related to the rotting wood.

You are so kind!
Thank you for taking the time!
Were you able to see the picture I sent on your last e-mail?

Subject: What’s That Scorpion
Location: Edenvale, Gauteng, South Africa
December 9, 2013 1:00 am
Hi What’s That Bug,
I’ve got another one for you. This time a scorpion.
Would you know what kind of scorpion this is? We get quite a few of them in the house during summer. Fattish tail, thin pincers. Not especially aggressive. They come in mostly at night and walk across the floor. They sometimes make their way upstairs.
Again, not fantastic pictures; my phone’s camera doesn’t seem to behave well at night. But the color you see in the pics is pretty much the color these scorpions are.
Thanks a lot.
Signature: Warren



Hi Warren,
We do not recognize your Scorpion.  We have read as a generalization that Scorpions with small pincers depend more upon their venom, and they tend to have more poisonous stings.

Subject: Cool bug, no clue what it is!
Location: Virginia
December 9, 2013 3:57 am
Hey Mr. Bug man!
I teach third grade science in rural southeastern VA. One day we were coming in from the playground and saw this cool little thing on the brick building. The ground was pretty wet that day, and it was chilly if I remember correctly. My students were wondering what this critter might be. We left it alone, but I haven’t seen it again.
Signature: Stumped

Wheel Bug

Wheel Bug

Dear Stumped,
Your students encountered a Wheel Bug, the largest North American Assassin Bug.  This is a beneficial hunter, but they have mouths designed for piercing the exoskeleton and sucking the nutrients from prey, and they can deliver a painful bite if carelessly handled.

Subject: fungus/spider
December 6, 2013 11:56 am
Hi, I am so glad to be introduced to this website!  We’ve been finding the cellar spiders with “pom-pom” fungus (in our cellar) for several years.  It’s awful to think they might still be alive when the fungus first moves in.  Ours have each been found dead. I wondered if the fungus is feeding on proteins in the joints (and body) of the spider.   Any ideas?
Is this a “new” fungus?  We expect to learn that it might be. Our investigations of biowarfare  (especially regarding so-called Lyme) have led us to components of that disease which are “new” (and patented….) but I do digress :-).
Thanks again!
We are in eastern New York State (near the Vermont border.
Signature: Bonnie

Spider attacked by Fungus

Spider attacked by Fungus

Dear Bonnie,
We are illustrating your comment with a photo from our archives since you did not provide one.  We don’t have much additional information on this phenomenon.  According to BugGuide:  “Cellar spiders with
Torrubiella pulvinata. The online book Tracks & Sign of Insects & Other Invertebrates:  A Guide to North American Species by Charley Eiseman and Noah Charney states:  “Many insects and spiders meet their end as a result of infection by pathogenic fungi, which are often highly host-specific.  Infection generally begins with a fungal spore simply landing on the host.  The spore germinates, and the fungus grows internally until it kills the host, at which point spore-bearing structures usually emerge from the corpse.  There are many unrelated groups of pathogenic fungi, and they come in a variety of forms, but the few that are described here account for the majority of the conspicuous and commonly seen types. …  A related but very different-looking fungus, Torrubiella pulvinata, kills cellar spiders (Pholcidae).  It first appears as white, fluffy spheres surrounding the body and each of the leg joints, eventually forming a complete covering of white fuzz.”  So the spider is alive when it is first attacked and it is eventually killed by the fungus.

Thank you, Daniel.
I don’t have the means to take photo and get it to you.  Or rather, I have the means but don’t quite know how to do it.  Sorry.  I am a Luddite at heart. That said, I also have a podcast I call Landslide, on and  I use the name Bonfire.
In my Lyme disease investigation it is the mycoplasma fermentans that makes me  wonder about the Torrubiella pulvinata’s origins, especially given that it is a fungus.  Pathogenic mycoplasma, one of the Lyme components I am researching, is a patented disease, derived from AIDS and ARC patients and sometimes found in the blood of Lyme patients.
Thanks for responding.