From the monthly archives: "August 2018"

Subject:  Caterpillar stripping leaves on apple trees
Geographic location of the bug:  N. central NH
Date: 08/27/2018
Time: 04:26 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hi, I found my apple trees being stripped of leaves and these critters seem to be the obvious culprits. Can you identify it for me?
How you want your letter signed:  David

Banded Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Dear David,
This is a Banded Tussock Moth Caterpillar,
Halysidota tessellaris, and according to BugGuide:  “Larvae feed on alder, ash, birch, elm, hazel, hickory, oak, poplar, tulip tree, walnut, willow.”  BugGuide does have a posting of an individual found under an apple tree.

Subject:  Creepy security camera footage
Geographic location of the bug:  Seattle, Washington
Date: 08/27/2018
Time: 11:53 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Dear Bugman,
My parents recently invested in a security camera for their front porch which starts recording whenever it detects motion. While most of the footage is of deer, rabbits, and birds, we couldn’t help but be a bit creeped out by this one. It only has 6 legs, so it’s not a spider, but no antennae?  Seems strange. It probably looks a lot more ominous than it actually is, but what it looks like is the stuff of nightmares, so seriously… what the hell is it???
How you want your letter signed:  More curious than concerned

Security Camera Bug

Dear More curious than concerned,
Security cameras have wide angle lenses, meaning they distort perspective by making objects closer to the camera appear disproportionately larger than they actually are.  There is not enough detail for us to be able to provide you with a definitive identification, but our initial guess is possibly an Assassin Bug in the genus
Zelus.  We can think of a few other possibilities, but we thought it might be fun for our readers to write in and take a guess, either by posting a comment or writing back to us using the subject line “Security Camera Bug”.

Subject:  Moth Outside Our Classroom Door
Geographic location of the bug:  Orlando, FL 32803
Date: 08/27/2018
Time: 04:31 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hi!
We found this amazing moth outside our classroom and we would love to find out which species it is.  This is our fifth grade class at Orlando Gifted Academy.
Thank you
How you want your letter signed:  Mrs. Kuerzi’s and Mr. Burnett’s Sudents

Female Io Moth

Dear Mrs. Keurzi’s and Mr. Burnett’s Students,
This impressive moth is a female Io Moth, but she has hidden her most dramatic feature while resting.  If disturbed by a predator like a bird, the Io Moth opens its wings, revealing the colorful eyespots on its underwings, often startling the predator into perceiving a threat that might eat it.

Subject:  Large Black smooth beetle
Geographic location of the bug:  Oklahoma City
Date: 08/27/2018
Time: 11:54 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  I am 41 and first time I have ever seen this beetle. Was not able to locate a match for Oklahoma or Texas. Was about an inch long. Looked like very strong pinchers and was trying to come in front door. It is mid August late morning
How you want your letter signed:  Very curious

Pedunculate Ground Beetle

Dear Very curious,
This is a Pedunculate Ground Beetle in the genus
Pasimachus, and according to BugGuide:  “Large, extra-robust, flightless ground beetles (elytra fused into rigid shell). Huge jaws, head, pronotum. Some have blue margins. Typically run about under or on leaf litter in forests.”  They are beneficial predators that are harmless to humans.

Subject:  Bug (moth?) identification
Geographic location of the bug:  SE Pennsylvania
Date: 08/27/2018
Time: 11:39 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  I have never seen this bug before in our yard and I would appreciate if you can identify it.
Thank you
How you want your letter signed:  Andrei N.

Spotted Lanternfly

Dear Andrei,
This is an invasive Spotted Lanternfly,
Lycorma delicatula, a species introduced to Pennsylvania from Asia several years ago.  According to BugGuide:  “Native to China, India, Japan and Vietnam; invasive in Korea and in our area. Currently (2018) known from 6 counties in PA; also found in DE, NY, VA” and “SIGHTING REPORTS WANTED: Experts are working to delimit the current population and find new infestations of this species. Please report sightings on the Pennsylvania Dept. of Agriculture website.  earliest NA record: PA 2014.”  This is a winged adult.  Nymphs are wingless and may have bright red coloration.  You should report your sighting to help prevent the Spotted Lanternfly from spreading further in North America.  

Spotted Lanternfly

Hello Daniel,
Thank you. I will alert the PA Dept. of Agriculture.

Subject:  Large bluish beauty
Geographic location of the bug:  Outside Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada.
Date: 08/27/2018
Time: 11:38 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Walking near my parents’ trailer, I nearly stepped on this rather beautiful creature and couldn’t help but wonder what it is. It was generally inclined to stay still, but once I put it down, after lifting it for closer inspection, it was happy to race over very course gravel in order to get back to the tall grass.
How you want your letter signed:  Parker

Oil Beetle

Dear Parker,
This is a Blister Beetle in the genus
Meloe, commonly called an Oil Beetle because the iridescent surface of the beetle looks like oil on water.  Blister Beetles should be handled with caution, as many species are able to exude a compound called cantharidin that is known to cause blistering upon contact, especially in sensitive individuals.  The “crook” in the antennae indicates this is a male Oil Beetle.

Oil Beetle

Oh, my, thank you for the caution! It’s easy for me to forget about bugs (other than mosquitoes) presenting danger while vacationing up here. (Especially after an event a month or two ago where I helped a parent mud dauber rescue its young from a nest it had built on an RV. Didn’t want to bring the larvae to an inappropriate habitat.) I’ll be sure to observe from an appropriate distance from this point on.
Thank you again for your knowledge! It not only satisfied my curiosity, but also sparked some good discussions with my family.
Follow-up Questions:  I was wondering if I could get you to impart yet more knowledge; as I was cutting the grass, a saw some more of the oil beetles and developed a two general follow-up questions about the oil beetles. (Unfortunately I’d left my phone inside, so no pictures.)
First, on the pragmatic side, I believe there were several of the beetles this time, some with crooked antennae and some less so – I figure, then, that those are males and females. Do these beetles have any nesting or mating behaviors worth noting? They seemed to be congregating under my parents’ “laundry shed” (for lack of a better term – it’s a reused ocean container set on concrete blocks.) I ask because, while I assume the beetles are not aggressive towards humans from the nature of their defenses and my (very limited) observation, if they are going to be making a home there I want to make sure my dad doesn’t get blistered while doing maintenance.
My second question is out of curiosity more than anything else; I wonder how much is known about the oil beetle’s role in its ecosystem. We hadn’t seen any on previous visits up here, but now we’ve had several (my dad had seen one before me but mistook it for a large ant.) Might their presence have increased due to the land being slowly developed (i.e. addition of gravel and an ocean container and/or shorter grass)? I also got curious when I saw one beetle cross inches in front of a spider that seemed to be on a web. Admittedly, it was not a particularly strong-looking spider. I suppose I could have just mistaken a harvestman, really. Nonetheless, with their toxins, does much of anything eat them? Or do the oil beetles eat any kind of pest?
While I do get very curious about these things, I understand that you are busy and probably want to prioritize others’ questions. Thank you for all you do! It’s a great service to the world.
Hi again Parker,
Blister Beetles as a family tend to have complex life cycles.  Of the genus
Meloe, the Oil Beetles, BugGuide states:  “Larvae feed on eggs and other food in bees’ nests” and “In some species, triungulins [see definition below] aggregate and use chemical signals to attract male bees to which they attach themselves. This allows transport (and transfer) to a female bee who carries them back to her nest (Saul-Gershenz & Millar 2006).  First-instar larvae climb to the top of a plant as a group, clump together in the shape of a female solitary ground bee, exude a scent imitating the female bee pheromone. When a male bee comes and tries to mate with the clump of larvae, some of these clamp onto his hairs and eventually get to female bees when he mates for real. Impregnated female bees fly off and build nests in burrows; triungulins move to the new nests and feed on honey and pollen stocked by the bee for her own young. –Jim McClarin’s comment.”  Of the family, BugGuide notes:  “Life cycle is hypermetamorphic. Larvae are parasitoids. Eggs are laid in batches in soil near nests of hosts, sometimes in nest of bee host, or on stems, foliage, or flowers. Larvae undergo hypermetamorphosis–first instar larvae (usually called triungulins) are active, have well-developed legs and antennae. These typically search for hosts. Later instars tend to have reduced legs and be less active, having found hosts. There is a coarctate (pseudopupal) stage, which is usually how the larvae overwinter. Life cycle may be as short as 30 days, or as long as three years. It is typically one year, corresponding to that of host.

Triungulins of some meloids, e.g. in Meloe, aggregate and attract male bees with chemical signals (Saul-Gershenz & Millar 2006).”
Absolutely fascinating! Nature really is amazing. Thank you again so much!