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Snowball Viburnum Denizens
Location: Trumbull, CT
August 29, 2011 6:58 pm
I tried to look up both of these insects, but I only found one. The first is an ailanthus webworm moth, but I don’t know what the second one is. I occasionally find interesting insects on the snowball viburnum bush in my front yard.
Signature: Chuck

Ailanthus Webworm Moth

Dear Chuck,
Congratulations on having successfully identified your Ailanthus Webworm Moth.  Folks of a certain age and those who think flower power was the apex of 20th Century style will likely respond to the repetitious patterns and play on scale evident in this lush photograph.  Your other insect is a Feather Legged Fly,
Trichopoda pennipes, a member of the Tachinid Fly family Tachinidae.  Tachinid Flies have larvae that are internal parasites of other insects, arachnids and certain members of other arthropod orders.  In the case of the Feather Legged Fly, the host insect is a Stink Bug.  Here is the BugGuide page on this species.

Flower Fly on Snowball Viburnum

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Bug dressed in 70s attire?
Location: Michigan
July 30, 2011 3:46 pm
Hiked the field with my son this morning in search of monarch eggs.. no luck. But did find this beautiful bug on the queens anne lace! His colors remind me of the mod clothes from the 70’s .. bold flowers that fit his environment! Question is? what is his name? Any help you can give is appreciated!
Signature: buggy in michigan

Ailanthus Webworm Moth

Dear buggy in michigan,
We keep hoping the Ailanthus Webworm Moth will eat all the Ailanthus trees, an invasive exotic species, but alas, the trees persist.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Kind of moth???
Location: Goshen Indiana
July 12, 2011 12:54 am
Dear Bugman,
I was outside with my dog and this big flew in my house. I thought the corporation was beautiful but have no idea what kind it is. It was attracted to our outside light here in Northern Indiana. It has Orange and white strips on its wings and body the underside of its wings are jet black. It has 6 black legs that have very tiny white and yellow spots. I couldn’t find anything on BugGuide but at the same time I can’t use that site well. If you have any info. please feel free to let me know thanks so much.
Signature: freaked by bugs

Ailanthus Webworm

Dear freaked by bugs,
You are correct.  The Ailanthus Webworm is a moth.  Populations of the Ailanthus Webworm appear to be benefitting because of its namesake, the introduced Ailanthus tree or Tree of Heaven, a noxious weed tree that spreads rapidly once it has been introduced to an area.

Thank you so much for identifying it for me. Now my 6 yr. old knows what to call it for show n tell (he will take a picture of course not the actual bug).
Tami Hager

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

UPDATE:  We apologize
Dear Kim,
We apologize for getting off on the wrong foot with you, and we confess that we really
did enjoy the verbal sparring just a little too much to sever our ties with you forever.  We fully understand your concern with allowing children to have access to the internet because of all the adult content.  As a peace offering, we would like to offer your son a good research project to accompany his insect collection.  Knowing the identity of an insect might be the requirement, but doing an informative ecologically inspired paper just might earn some bonus points.  The Ailanthus Webworm Moth is alleged to be native, yet its food plant is a noxious introduced weed tree, ironically known as the Tree of Heaven, Ailanthus altissima.  The Tree of Heaven is recognized nationally as a major threat to native ecosystems.  It thrives in all climates from arid to wet and from tropical to cold and occasionally freezing.  We seem to remember hearing once that the range of the Ailanthus Webworm Moth has spread from Florida to a major portion of the U.S., though we might be wrong on that point.  BugGuide has awesome distribution maps like this Ailanthus Webworm map.
We also have some strong views on insect collections as decorations, though we cannot deny their value as scientific research and learning tools.

And now, … The Homework Controversy
What kind of bug is this
Location: Burlington, North Carolina
April 10, 2011 7:48 pm
Good day folks,
My son is doing a project for his 4th grade science project. We are having trouble identifying this bug. I’ve looked in so many books and can’t find it. Can you help me?
Signature: Kim

Ailanthus Webworm Moth

Hi Kim,
We just finished sending you a quick response, and in hindsight, we decided to elaborate a bit and to create a posting for your email.  Typically, we refrain from responding to the desperate pleas we receive from college students, high school students, and the parents of grade school students needing numerous specimens identified immediately for an insect collection class project that is due in the imminent future.  The most popular posting on our site continues to be “What’s That Bug? will not do your child’s homework“.  Your email indicated that you have been attempting to ID this creature, and since there was only one requested ID, we lightened up on our stance.  This is an Ailanthus Webworm Moth and there are close to 100 images of this insect on our website.

Ed. Note: Here is our original “rude” response to Kim: Though we frown on doing homework, your letter indicates that you have been searching for a name.  This is an Ailanthus Webworm Moth.

Thank you for your response.  I will surely not bother you again.  If you ‘frown upon’ what you call “doing children’s homework” and answering these questions, then you shouldn’t allow a contact form for people TO ask the question.  When a parent or student (no matter what age he or she is) looks for something and you are a resource then you shouldn’t be replying in such a rude manner.  This is NOT at all professional.  I had three more bugs to ID and cannot find them on your website or any other website for that matter.  It is very frustrating for someone who is NOT an entomologist to look through hundreds of resources and references and come up empty.  Those of us who seek your professional assistance should not be answered with such rudeness.   I was going to make a substantial donation but because of your rude reply I will not.  I will also be telling the other mothers in my sons class NOT to seek out your assistance since it is such a bother for you.  I do appreciate the ID of this bug, thank you once again for your reply.

With all due respect, we did not consider our response to be rude.  If that is your interpretation, you are more than entitled to have an opinion, just as you are free to choose not to ever again visit our website.  We thought we clarified our stance a bit with our second response to you.  For the record, there are no entomologists on our staff, nor does anyone on our staff have even the slightest background in entomology.  Research is research, and taking a science class should encourage research rather than to demand correct answers.  We cannot speak for you child’s instructor, but we imagine that merely attempting to find a correct answer is a valuable skill that all students need to learn.  That is a far greater benefit than having someone else, be it a parent or an online consultant, provide a correct identification for a child.  It is interesting that you write:  “
I had three more bugs to ID and cannot find them on your website or any other website for that matter.”  We thought this was your child’s homework assignment.  It is also interesting to us to learn that you will be telling the other mothers in your son’s class not to seek out our assistance.  Thanks for passing on that information because ethically, as college instructors, we continue to have major issues with the ownership of intellectual property.  At the end of the day, taking credit for work done by someone else, even a well intentioned parent, is cheating.  We can’t help but to wonder how the fourth grade students at your son’s school will benefit by having all of the mothers doing the internet research.  At least the mothers will be learning something, perhaps even the things they didn’t learn in school because their own parents did their homework for them.  Will you also be taking your child’s standardized tests?

There are other sites and other sources of reference to which we have been able to seek out and get our answers from.  You’re not the “only game in town” and you certainly don’t have such a great site.  The other parents and I have found several other sites for our children to utilize.  We have all been able to find the bugs identifications that we needed.
You shouldn’t assume that you would be doing a “child’s homework assignment” or that the child is cheating.  Learning how to answer questions with respect and tact is something you learn as you grow, perhaps you haven’t learned that yet.  Being a college professor you should have learned that lesson by now.
There was no ‘second e-mail’, but perhaps you should have contemplated an answer before hitting send.  It’s not right for you to assume that a child is cheating when a parent is merely HELPING their child when they are having trouble.  My child is an A student and has never once cheated a day in his life.  He is in no way taking credit for work that I am doing for him because I am not doing the work for him.  Cheating is cheating, but parental help is something entirely different.  The parents of my son’s school HELP their children with all research if it’s needed.  We closely monitor when our children do research on the internet.  Even WITH child filters on there’s a chance of something getting through.
If you are college professors you should be aware of how you are answering questions.  Just because you’re a college professor doesn’t mean you know it all.  I guess it’s true what they say about the smarter people not always having the most common sense.  I feel for the students that you teach!!  Hopefully they have common sense and have already learned how to answer questions with respect, tact and not assume things about people.  You’ve got a lot to learn about being respectful towards people.  You are not mightier because you are a professor, remember that!!  And as far as Standardized testing, he’s already taken it and is at the TOP of his class!!!!
Thank you again for your answer.  We will not be bothering you again.

A Reader Comments
I was just reading this conversation on your site and found it very interesting. I am about to graduate with my masters in library and information studies, and also have four children, three of whom are still in primary education.

I do bemoan the information literacy (or lack thereof) of kids these days, including my own, though I try to help them learn how to search and to vet what they find. You are right when you say that kids often don’t have any idea how to search the Internet for good information and they NEED to learn how to do this. I applaud you for this wonderful site, especially considering your non-entomological backgrounds. I also love how you’ve broken out the left hand index into further facets. It can be very difficult to search this particular kind of site because of the difficulty in indexing things that many users don’t even know how to “name” – either Latin or common.

I have to say I understand the parent’s frustration in helping a fourth grader try to find information on the Internet. If you leave it totally up to them, they often end up very frustrated. I have had to find a list of sites for my kids to use, just to narrow the field, of course explaining how I found and then chose those sites and why they are reliable sources of information. It is a learning experience and you have to sometimes hold their hand all the way down to the “item” level, especially at age 9 or 10. Time doesn’t always allow this (It’s due tomorrow and I haven’t started – time management lecture instead of info lecture here!). We don’t just let them flounder all over the Web and we help them when we can and hope they learn how to do it on their own next time. Again, “bugs” can be hard for us to find and ID online as we don’t even know how to name them or classify them into some sort of group to get going, so I have to say I understand a parent finally just drilling into your site to figure out what they heck they have.

Sorry for going on so long here, but it’s a fascinating topic. I love your website (used it as a model in one of my info studies classes) and thank you for all your hard work in making these resources available to the public. Users often don’t understand the work required to keep up a site like this and since you are providing it, they expect that you have to provide it, that you have a duty to provide it, even if it’s just something you love and there is no compulsion beyond that for continuing. I sense this is a labor of love rather than a means to that lovely vacation home or comfy retirement (ha!) and I recommend it to anyone and everyone I can.

That’s it – I love bugs, am fascinated by them if not sometimes a tiny bit freaked out by them. It’s a shame if that person disparages your site to other parents. It’s a fantastic source of information.  From the librarian point of view, have you ever considered adding any social interaction to the site, like tagging or commenting on posts? Any other sort of facets to make searching easier, like by colors, sizes, etc. – only in addition to what you already have set up. Don’t you love this kind of inquiry? Like you have the time to do this. But it’s such an awesome agglomeration of good information. Making it more searchable would open up the content even more.

Thanks for reading this far, if indeed you have.
Ann Graf

Hi Ann,
Thanks for your comment, which alas we are unable to address fully at the moment since we need to leave for work.  We do have a comment option on posts and our search engine works magnificently.  Our tiny staff frequently uses our own site to locate previous postings of certain insects and that would be impossible in our vast and confusing archives were it not for the search engine.
P.S.  We are also a bit sad that Kim hasn’t written back to accept our apology.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Orange and white spotted insect
Location:  Austin, Texas
September 26, 2010 9:11 pm
Hoping you could identify this one for me…information online seems very scarce.
Signature:  ESP.

Ailanthus Webworm

Dear ESP,
Your moth is a native species of Ermine Moth that has gotten the common name of Ailanthus Webworm.  The interesting thing about that is that the Ailanthus is not native and it might be the most dangerous weed tree in North America.  The Ailanthus can survive in all types of climates and conditions from deserts to snow to swamps.  Sadly, the Ailanthus Webworm feeds on the leaves and that will not kill the tree.  We need to find a native borer that will feed on the wood, preferably the roots, of this scourge tree.  We have gotten more requests to identify the Ailanthus Webworm this year than ever before and we suspect its numbers are increasing as its introduced host tree can be found coast to coast and border to border.

I noticed you have a lot of requests for this one…sorry to add myself to
the populous! Thanks…ESP.

No problem.  It allowed us to continue to pontificate on the pest tree that is commonly called the Tree of Heaven.

Trees of Heaven

Ailanthus comment
Ailanthus trees are nasty and they smell bad.
September 27, 2010 10:36 am
I check out your website everyday and I love it a lot, and I couldn’t do without it. When you go to your Mom’s house in Ohio ever year, I go into withdrawal until you get back. I just have to have my WTB fix.
Just a quick comment on those nasty trees in the picture.
When I lived in Detroit, they grow all over the place,in the alleys etc.
They smell bad. My friends and neighbors and I always referred to them as sewer trees because of their odor.
They’re hard to get rid of. They have a extensive root system and unless you dig them up, you can’t get rid of them.
Even when they’re small and they’re not much bigger than toothpicks, they have one heck of a root system.
Hopefully an insect will appear that would take care of that scourge, and save people a lot of time and trouble trying to dispose of them.
Signature: Sueann Juzwiak

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Almost artful display
August 24, 2009
Me and my wife were on the way to the hospital to get some metal stitches pulled from me tummy from a hernia surgery, and seeing as we had the nikon tagging along with us in the backpack, decided to go by the fountain situated in front of BLDG 2 at the Bill Hefner VA Hospital in Salisbury, NC. We truly couldn’t have come at a better time as as soon as we arrived there was also a pair of grasshoppers prolonging the species as it were. I almost thought it necessary to recommend a hotel, LOL! I will be probably be adding another post here since I truly don’t know where this other insect I found falls into the category. Several Butterflies (Swallowtails and others) were showing off before us along with the random wood boring bee.
This insect is approximately 9/16″ to 5/8″ in length and was kinda slow in moving selectively extracting pollen, and almost playing dead when we got too close. It has some markings that almost look as if someone had attempted to paint small flowers on each side… Absolutely stunning when you can zoom in. Let me know what this litter bugger is, me and my wife are dying to know!!!
Amateur Photographer, Can you tell?
VA Hospital, Salisbury, NC Next to waterfall

Ailanthus Webworm Moth

Ailanthus Webworm Moth

Dear Amateur Photographer,
This moth is known as an Ailanthus Webworm, but sadly, it only eats the leaves of the Ailanthus, or Tree of Heaven, and it doesn’t do much to remove this scourge from North America.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination