Maria Gagliano, Daniel’s editor at Penguin/Perigee, just provided a blog posting that contextualizes the book writing process from the beginning.  Get a peek behind the scenes by visiting:

The Curious World of Bugs

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Location: philippines
November 8, 2010 5:10 am
Hi bugman!
im from on our country,some people catch spiders in the shrubs and trees.then they put two spiders in a stick and let them fight each other.i wonder what kind of spiders they are.please help me…thank you..
Signature: correct

Spider Fight

Dear Correct,
We are curious about this custom.  Is this just casual behavior? or is it more organized?  Do people bet on the outcome like cock fights or Siamese fighting fish matches?  Are there spider champions?  Please provide us with additional information.  The spiders in the tiny images you have attached appear to be Orbweavers.


Ed. Note:  WTB? does not endorse Spider Fighting, but in the interest of documenting this custom, we are including the following links.
Not content to wait for additional information, we did some web searching.  Here is a 1998 article posted on Arachnophiliac.  We also found a Philippine Spider fighting blog post blogspot though it contains much of the same information used on the earlier post.  Guide To also has a posting on Spider fighting.  Finally Hub Pages also has a Spider fight account.

Bugs chilling in a circle on a tree
Location: Chichen Itza, Mexico (2hrs from Cancun)
November 7, 2010 5:16 pm
I am really curious to learn what these bugs are. I was at the ruins of Chichen Itza in Mexico and I saw them on a tree. We took video of them because they would react to noise by twitching slightly. I am sending a still from that video. Let me know if you want me to send it also.
Signature: Jessika Canizalez

Ruby Spotted Swallowtail Caterpillar Aggregation

Hi Jessica,
Many Caterpillars, and indeed a goodly number of tropical Caterpillars, for aggregations because there is safety in numbers.  We do not recognize this species, but their social formation is intriguing.  Many
Morpho Butterflies have caterpillars that form aggregations.  We may try to contact Keith Wolfe who has identified several Morpho species for us in the past.  We hope to be able to provide you with a species identification soon.

Update from David Gracer
Caterpillar Aggregation from Honduras: Arsenura armida”
A.armida: very edible!
I tried this species in 4/10 at an international conference on entomophagy; one of the presenters had brought them from Mexico, and said that they’re farmed in the southern part of the country.  Fascinating.
They were also exceedingly tasty, if rather unusual.  They were fried or rather sauteed, and tasted like a cross between bacon and jerky.  Quite yummy, actually.

Thanks for the edibility update Dave.  We located a photo of the adult Arsenura armida on God of Insects and learned it is a Giant Silkmoth.  We have posted other images of Arsenura armida in the past, though the coloration seemed different and we never received images of this circular “stage coach” defense.

Correction Courtesy of Karl
November 8, 2010
Hi Daniel and Jessika:
I believe your caterpillars are Ruby-spotted Swallowtails (Papilio (=Heraclides) anchisiades idaeus), a species that ranges from Texas to northern South America (or Argentina, depending on the source you read). I found a cluster just like this in Belize in 2007, but was unable to identify the species. It was during my search for an ID that I came across your fabulous WTB site, and I have been addicted ever since. Somewhat ironically, my first submission to WTB was an ID request for this very creature, but my submission was unfortunately lost in your avalanche of email. Compare this photo to a nearly identical one that appeared in Jim Conrad’s Naturalist Newsletter, with identification by social caterpillar specialist Dr. Terrence Fitzgerald. You can check out the Butterflies of America website for pictures of adults and other life stages. Regarding the caterpillars I saw in Belize, I was able to observe them over a five-day period and was struck by their tenacious site fidelity. They spent every day gathered at the exact same spot, low to the ground on the sunny side of a tree trunk. Then every night they disappeared, presumably into the treetop somewhere, but I was never able to find them there. I somehow managed to miss the actual processions, which would have been the really interesting part. When I passed my hand close to them they would raise their heads and wave them vigorously side to side, a gesture no doubt intended to intimidate me. Regards.  Karl

Confirmation from Keith Wolfe
NOvember 8, 2010
Daniel, assuming their good fortune continues, this molting aggregation of caterpillars (chillin’ almost certainly on a rutaceous tree) will metamorphose NOT into moths or morphos, but rather Papilio anchisiades or something very closely related.  Here is the same gregarious swallowtail species from the same famous Mayan site . . . (click the link under “Amazing caterpillar picture”*)
. . . and a lesser number of cohorts from elsewhere: (the progeny of at least two females)
Best wishes,
* In my experience, P. anchisiades larvae are not processionary.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Location: Auburn, CA
November 7, 2010 2:20 pm
We found this guy on our Serrano pepper plant a couple months ago, then he disappeared (thought he might have been a spicy treat for a bird), but yesterday we found him and a friend on our adjacent Jalapeno and Anaheim plants. They are 5-6” long. Interested to see what they become. Love your site. Thank you.
Signature: Auburn Jeff

Tobacco Hornworm

Hi Jeff,
Your caterpillar is a Tobacco Hornworm,
Manduca sexta, also known as the Carolina Sphinx.  These caterpillars are most frequently found feeding on the leaves of tomato plants, but they will also feed on related plants in the nightshade family including pepper.  The individual you found several months ago may have gone underground and metamorphosed and we feel the current caterpillars are different individuals.

Bug in Southeast Georgia
Location: Southeast Georgia north Florida
November 7, 2010 5:25 pm
I moved to Camden county GA I work in Charlton County there is a Bug that no one can tell me the name of.
It looks like a big Roach the smallest one I have seen is about 1-1/2 inch to about 3 inch long about 1/2 inch to 1 inch wide with these big grabbers or claws in front sorry i am not a artist but it looks something like this
Signature: dove

Toe-Biter we presume

Dear dove,
There is little doubt in our mind that you have drawn a Toe-Biter or Giant Water Bug.  We are posting a photograph with your drawing and linking to the Bug of the Month posting of the Toe-Biter from 2008.


Costa Rican Scary Bug!!
Location: Mal Pais, Costa Rica
November 7, 2010 3:18 pm
Just got back from Costa Rica. This bug was crawling at night above the door to our bungalow in Mal Pais. I would have liked to get a photo with some sort of size reference, but honestly, this thing scared the heck out of me and I didn’t want to get close. It looks like some sort of spider/scorpion/grasshopper beast. I called it ”Black Death.” What do you call it?
Signature: Ben, Chicago, IL

Tailless Whipscorpion

Hi Ben,
Though it might look scary, the Tailless Whipscorpion is perfectly harmless.  Unlike other venomous Arachnids like spiders and scorpions, the Tailless Whipscorpion does not possess venom.  It is a shy nocturnal hunter that will keep the Cockroach population down as it patrols rooms at night.