Subject: Huge Moth
Location: Glassel Park/Mt Washington, Los Angeles 90065
April 21, 2015 6:41 pm
I live in Glassell Park (90065) and I have been finding all kinds of creatures here. Last summer two of these (moths?) were in the garden, I havent spotted another one until today. I took a picture. It was about 2-2.5 inches long. See attached. Maybe this isnt very rare? It is to me though.
Im pretty used to the Preying Mantisses, Potato Bugs/Jerusalem Crickets and Scarabs/June Bugs when I lived 2 blocks away. Recently I found 2 legless lizards. But yesterday I saw something that Ive never seen before. It looked quite a lot like a beetle and had an all black body, but these very red wings and it flew. It was on Future Street between Isabel and Cypress. Unfortunately I didnt have a camera with me. It was pretty big and somewhat scary but incredibly beautiful. Any idea what it could be?
We will clarify the confusing geography in your email after we respond to your inquiries. The insect in your attached image is not a moth, but rather a Gray Bird Grasshopper, Schistocerca nitens, which according to BugGuide is: “most often found among rank tall herbage, trees, or shrubbery. Not as tied to damp environments as some related species.” BugGuide goes on to state: “Some adults mature in late spring, many in summer and fall. Often adults are very common in late summer and well into autumn. Some adults will survive through winter into the following spring, at which time they still seem healthy and able to reproduce. So, it is possible to see adults of this species at any time of year.”
The large flying beetle-like creature you observed on Future Street might be a Tarantula Hawk, a large wasp with a lumbering flight that is reported to have a very painful sting. Female Tarantula Hawks prey upon Tarantulas and Trapdoor Spiders, not to eat, but to feed their young, helpless larvae. We have observed Tarantula Hawks in the nearby Los Angeles River and in Barnsdell Park, and they have been reported on the Corralitas Red Car Property above Riverside Drive.
Now to the confusing geography. Unless the possible Tarantula Hawk sighting was not at your home, the location you provided of “Future Street between Isabel and Cypress” is not in Glassell Park which is North of Division Street. Future Street is a small and confusing street that begins on Division as a one-way street that looks like an alley. It then crosses Isabel Street, enters Mount Washington, curves up and around and down, crossing Isabel Street a second time before entering Cypress Park, and finally ending at San Fernando Road at an entrance to the Rio de Los Angeles State Park along the Los Angeles River. Can you please clarify if the sighting of the Gray Bird Grasshopper was Glassell Park, Cypress Park or Mount Washington?
Thanks for your fast response! I feel quite silly about that grasshopper, I realized after I sent it that of course it wasnt a moth. I was overly excited to try to solve the mystery of two very large moths in my backyard last year (when they flew they reminded me of bats). Thats obviously a grasshopper but I would not have known which kind. Im not really a bug person.
Yes the bug I saw on Future Street looked like that Tarantula Hawk. Beautiful but scary. Does this mean we have Tarantulas?
And yes you are also right, I live in Cypress Park. Many people find the boundaries of the neighborhoods here confusing or theyve heard of Glassell but not Cypress, so Im used to telling them Im in Glassell Park to make things easier. I guess its become a habit. The location I gave you: Future Street between Isabel and Cypress in 90065 is completely correct and shouldnt be confusing..? I was walking down the block and so I dont have an exact house number for you but I pulled up a map of it for you: https://goo.gl/maps/yLVCf
And here’s the exact location of where the photo of the grasshopper was taken: https://goo.gl/maps/502c0
Again thank you for your help!
The reason we knew so much about the neighborhood is that our offices are in Mount Washington, right by Elyria Canyon Park. Was the Tarantula Hawk in the same location? We have not heard any reports of Tarantulas in the neighborhood for some time, but California Trapdoor Spiders, which are also preyed upon by Tarantula Hawks, are relatively common. We are also quite curious where you found the Legless Lizards.
The first google map link I sent was the location of the Tarantula Hawk, the second google map link was the location of the grasshopper and the legless lizards. I didnt have my camera close by at the time but I got a pretty good look at them. I will send you photos if I come across them again or something else noteworthy.