From the monthly archives: "January 2014"

Subject: our caterpillar
Location: Pringle Bay, W. Cape, South Africa
January 29, 2014 12:28 am
Please help us identify our caterpillar! What will it become?
Signature: Jo

Hornworm, possibly Hippotion species

Hornworm:  Theretra cajus

Dear Jo,
We can tell you for certain that this is a Hornworm, the caterpillar of a Sphinx Moth or Hawkmoth in the family Sphingidae, but we are having a bit of difficulty narrowing the identification down to a species.  Your caterpillar bears a striking resemblance to the Hornworms in the genus
Hippotion that are pictured on ISpot, however, we cannot find an example that is a perfect match that is identified to the species.  This individual on ISpot looks identical to your caterpillar, and it is identified as an Arum Sphinx.  We dug a bit more and found many photos of a green variation on this caterpillar, also on ISpot, and it is identified as probably Hippotion eson.  This image on Inmagine supports that identification, but we would like confirmation on a website with more scientific credibility.  The adult Hippotion eson is pictured on African Moths, and the distribution includes South Africa.  We would not rule out the possibility that this is Hippotion celerio, the Silver-Striped Hawkmoth, based on this image on ISpot.  We are relatively confident that the genus Hippotion is correct, but do to variability within the species and similarities between species, we cannot be certain of an exact identification.

Update:  November 4, 2016
We just received a comment identifying this Hornworm as
Theretra cajus.

Subject: Red Bugs in my new Garden
Location: South Africa
January 29, 2014 5:52 am
Hi! I’ve just moved into a new house and these mysterious red bugs are all over the garden. They don’t seem to be “dangerous” since they’ve crawled over me many times without biting me. They nest in crevices in the wall and the pavement and in shrubs. I can be wrong, but Im sure I’ve seen that they eat some of the plants. I have also seen them eat old figs that have fallen from the tree. It’s summer now, and I’ve only lived here since the beginning of summer – so I don’t know how prevalent they are during winter months. Thanks so much!
Signature: Philip

Aggregation of Red Bugs

Aggregation of Soapberry Bugs

Hi Philip,
Interestingly, these really are Red Bugs or Cotton Stainers in the family Pyrrhocoridae, and we believe they are both winged adults and wingless nymphs of 
Cenaeus carnifex.  You may verify that on South African Photographs.

Close up of Red Bugs

Close up of Soapberry Bugs

Correction:  Soapberry Bugs, not Red Bugs
May 3, 2014
We just received a comment from Scott Carroll correcting this identification.  It seems Soapberry Bug is a subfamily Serinethinae that includes our North American Boxelder Bugs and Red Shouldered Bugs.  We even located the Soapberry Bugs of the World website.

Cenaeus carnifex

Leptocoris mutilatus


Subject: Unknown Spider
Location: Torrance, California
January 28, 2014 4:39 pm
Hello Bugman,
I need some help identifying this recently deceased spider. My 6-year-old son found it in a corner of my house after we came back from a long vacation. It was shiny brown, with white stripes on its back, and about a penny size. It had made a small, irregular web, and was living just a few feet away from a Brown Widow (also deceased, sorry). I have never seen this kind of spider before, and have not been able to find a match on the Internet.
Signature: Daniel

Immature Brown Widow

Immature Brown Widow

Hi Daniel,
This looks to us like an immature Brown Widow.  See BugGuide for a comparison image.

Subject: Moth or Butterfly?
Location: Zimbabwe
January 29, 2014 7:00 am
Hey there,
Can you tell me what this is? Found in Zimbabwe, I’ve seen a few around, but can’t find them in any books.
Signature: Kate

Possibly Diurnal Tiger Moth

Astute Tiger

Dear Kate,
We believe this is a diurnal Tiger Moth in the subfamily Arctiinae, but we are unable to verify that speculation with any documentation online.  We will try contacting our friend and Arctiid specialist Julian Donahue, however he is currently traveling and we are not certain when he will return.

Julian Donahue Provides a Correction and a lead to an Identification:  February 6, 2014
Hi Daniel,
Just returned from India yesterday.
The moth is indeed a beauty, but I suspect that it’s either a geometrid or maybe an agaristine noctuid.
Try checking with LepSoc Africa for help with this one. You can post the photo to their Facebook page for an ID ( Their website is at:
The President is Steve Woodhall: send the photo to him if you don’t want to go through Facebook.

Dear Steve,
Julian Donahue suggested I contact you regarding this identification which I thought might be an Arctiid.  Do you recognize this lovely moth from Zimbabwe?  I run a pop culture website called What’s That Bug? and this image was sent in last week.  You can also view the posting if you want additional details.
Thank you for any help you are able to provide.
Daniel Marlos

Steve Woodall provides the identification:  Astute Tiger
Hi Daniel
This is Phaegorista agaristoides, the Astute Tiger (Noctuidae – Aganainae). It resembles the False Tiger moths that are in the Arctiinae (now a subfamily of Erebidae, in the Noctuoidea). Lepidopteran taxonomy and phylogeny is undergoing somewhat of a revolution right now and we can’t use the old families in Pinhey any more!
Kind regards

Thanks Steve.  Goodness, a revolution sounds so bellicose.

Subject: Florida land snails
Location: Florida
January 25, 2014 2:35 pm
My sister was given two land snails to care for. She said that they were collected in Florida. That’s all I know. I want to be sure these are not pest species, and secondly, if she decides to care for them I need to know what they might eat. Thanks.
Signature: Bruce

Snail From Florida

Snail From Florida

Hi Bruce,
We can post this request this morning, but we haven’t the time to research it right now, but we will try to identify your Snails later.  We have to confess that we don’t know much about Molluscs, but we do have a reader, Susan J. Hewitt, who frequently identifies Snails for us.  Perhaps she will read the posting and provide a comment.

Snail From Florida

Snail From Florida

Another Snail from Florida

Another Snail from Florida

Subject: Green June Beetle Grubs
Location: Rose Hills
January 27, 2014 12:21 pm
Happy New Year Daniel,
I hope all is well on the other side of the hill.
I wanted to share & get your thoughts on my morning find. I lifted a board in the back yard known to harbor a variety of chicken treats and much to my shock founds grubs the size of fingers! I diligently fought off 5 chickens & saved them for their photo shoot.
A little internet research tells me they are Green June Beetle Larvae. (I used this site:
One telltale trademark is that they flip over onto their back to crawl away. They are pretty fast at doing that too. Gave me a hard time photographing them.
I am pretty sure this is what I have. My conundrum is, now what do I do with them? I imagine I should just put them back and make the girls wait for when they emerge to fly and they can chase them around the yard. We had a lot last year and a repeat would be nice… for the chickens. I’m just not sure how much of a pest they really are in greater Los Angeles nor do I feel right intervening in the circle of life.
Here are the photos I managed to get.
Kind regards
Signature: joAnn Ortiz


Crawly Back

Hi joAnn,
Thank you so much for your kind greeting and wonderful contribution.  We love the common names Crawly Back for the larva and Figeater for the adult Green Fruit Beetles,
 Cotinis mutabilis.  Crawly Back is a reference to the manner in which the larvae move through substrate, which you noted in your letter.  Our initial inspection of the link you provided did not indicate the home base for the blogger, and there are other Green June Beetles in the genus, but our western species is Cotinis mutabilis.  In our opinion, Crawly Backs are beneficial as they help to break down materials in the compost pile, and though your letter did not mention a compost pile, we suspect that if you have chickens, you also have a compost pile.  We would release the Crawly Backs into the compost pile.

Crawly Backs

Crawly Backs

Close Up of a Crawly Back

Close Up of a Crawly Back