Dear What’s that Bug,
I live in Chicago in a two-flat. My husband and I are moving in two weeks and I’m worried because we have noticed some new bugs appearing in our bathroom. We have lived here for a year and have never seen these bugs prior to last week. Now they are showing up every other night in our bathtub, five at a time. They are little tiny black bugs (about 1/4") and they don’t move. I thought they were dead, but upon further inspection I realized that they were just still & when prodded they moved their legs a little. They didn’t look like roaches, but I can’t help but panic. The only other bugs we’ve ever seen here are silverfish. Could they be baby silverfish?? So far I’ve found about 20 of them over the past week, mostly in the bathtub, though one was in the sink, five on the floor and one made it to the kitchen floor (near the sink). Any words of advice? Anything we can do to keep them from coming with us when we move in 2 weeks?
Thanks, C&J

Dear C&J,
Sounds like pantry beetles which seem to be very plentiful everywhere right now. clean out the pantry.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination


Hi, y’all….I just got back from a trip to Big Bend National Park in Texas, where I saw a fox, deer, javalinas, hawks and other assorted wildlife…..including this bug in a rest stop bathroom somewhere near Ozona TX. What’s that bug, Daniel?
I also visited the Chinati Foundation…home of Donald Judd sculptures and other delights. I took a very short boat ride over to Mexico for some beer and tacos, and went to a "star party" at the McDonald Observatory too.
Now I’m back, but I’m still wondering….what’s that bug?
Peace, Jonathan

Hi Jonathan,
This appears to be an adult Antlion

To whom it may concern:
I am in desperate need of assistance in identifying mosquitoes. I am doing a Science Fair Project and have created a new trap to capture mosquitoes. But I would like to know what I cought. I cannot tell for sure if they are all mosquitoes, or also midges, possibly Punkies/ "no-see-ums".
I have done a lot of research and am unable to find how to identify them and would greatly appreciate some expert advice. I went to the International Science Fair last year and know that good research and information is critical.
Also, if you know of, or how I could find what kind of mosquitoes are in my area please let me know. I live in Louisville (northern) Kentucky. From my research I know that the 2 main types of mosquitoes around here are Aedes and Culex, but I don’t know specifically if it is Aedes Aegypti or Culex molestus, etc.
Please respond quickly so that I can continue my research. I would sincerely appreciate any help offered.
Thank you,
Margaret Ann Stewart

Dear Margaret,
I am going to quote directly from Field Book of Insects by Frank E. Lutz. pp 239-240 since he is the real expert.
Culicidae
Everyone knows a Mosquito, or thinks that he does. The proboscis of the female is fitted for sucking but the male’s mouthparts are so rudimentary that he cannot "bite." His antennae are very plumose. The larvae are aquatic. They are the "Wrigglers" such as most of us have seen in standing water. Owing to the medical interest in mosquitoes they have been extensively studied. The following, among other, subfamilies ( or families) have been recognized.

1.–Proboscis, even of females, short, not fitted for piercing. Wings hairy, scaled only at margin. Mesosternum without ridge. Sternopleura divided by transverse suture. Corethrinae. The transparent, predacious larvae use their antennae in capturing prey. They get their oxygen by absorption from the water. The eyes of these Phantom Larvae are dark. The two other pairs of dark spots are "air sacs." I do not know how the air, if it be real air, gets into them. The pupae float upright and have respiratory trumpets on their heads.
Proboscis much longer than head; the female’s fitted for piercing. Wings fully scaled. Mesosternum ridged.

2.–Palpi of female at least a third longer than the proboscis. Abdomen sometimes without scales. Scutellum crescent shaped, with marginal bristles evenly distributed. –Anophelinae.
Not so.

3.–Scutellum evenly rounded. Clypeua much broader than long. Calypteres not ciliated. Day-flying, not biting Megarhininae.

Scutellum trilobed, with marginal bristles only on the lobes.

4.–Base of hind coxae in line with upper margin of lateral metastenal sclerite, a small triangular piece between bases of middle and hind coxae. Day-fliers.–Sabethinae. The larvae of Wyeomiyis smithii live in the water in pitcher plant leaves.
Not so.–Chiefly Culicinae (anal vein extending well beyond fork of cubitus) but also Uranotaeniinae.
The eggs of Anopheles are laid singly, each having a lateral "float." The larvae are rarely found in foul or brackish water. Unlike Culicinae, the breathing siphon on the end of the abdomen is very short and a resting larva floats horizontally. Adults usually have spotted wings. They are to be feared because they may be carrying malarial "germs" which they sucked in along with the blood of a former victim. If so and if the malarial organism had worked its way from the mosquito’s stomach to its salivary glands, the mosquito biting us is likely to infect us with malaria.
The many species of Culicinae have been divided into genera on technical characters. Most of what we called Culex are now Aedes. The tropical A. aegypti (also called Stegomyia fasciata) carries yellow fever and dengue. Such Tropical diseases as dengue and filariasis are carried also by other Culicine females. The eggs of Culex are laid in a floating, raft-like mass; those of Aedes singly. The salt-marsh mosquitoes with banded legs are Aedes. The larva of Taeniorhynchus (=Mansonia) perturbans sticks its breathing siphon into the air-chambers of aquatic plants instead of coming to the surface to breathe.
So Margaret, as you can see, taxonomy is rather complicated, and I didn’t even get into midges and punkies. Good luck with your science project.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Dear Mr. Marlos,
Having recently moved from an apartment on the mean sidewalks of Beverly Hills to a guest house in the rural splendor of Van Nuys, I have had plenty of opportunities to observe the local wildlife: Specifically in my new home. Just the other night, my cat (The Princess of Piss) directed my attention to my kitchen floor. Imagine my surprise when I found the object of her fascination crawling sluggishly across it: a long, black bug with multiple tiny legs. It looked like a cross between a cockroach and a caterpillar. Any idea what it could have been?

Yours in Insectia,
Susan Ehrlich


Hi Susie,
Just how long is long? In bug identification, size does matter. I am guessing that the long, black bug with multiple tiny legs was a millipede, which translates as “thousand feet” from Latin. Though a thousand is something of an exaggeration, they are in possession of many appendages, nevertheless, they move remarkably slowly, and sluggish is a very appropriate description. Several small species live in the Los Angeles basin, but two closely related species, Hiltonius pulchrus and Tylobolus claremontus, sometimes exceed three inches in length. A third species, Atopetholus californicus is slightly smaller. Millepedes are arthropods. Local species have shiny, cylindrical, segmented bodies that are black, dark grey or brown in color. When disturbed, millepedes will curl up like a watch spring. They often exude foul smelling fluids as a repelling defense mechanism. Some can even produce cyanide fumes. They prefer moist conditions and are prone to nocturnal wandering. They eat humus, rotting leaves and rotting wood, and are not a threat to life, limb nor property.

Dear What’s that Bug?
My house is being overrun by millipedes… they are 1 to 3 inches long and red to reddish brown in color. There are hundreds of them which I find crawling all over my counters, up and down my walls, and covering my floors. I was assuming that they were coming in through the cracks around windows and doors but I think they may be getting into my home through my A/C vents. I’ve been finding them in small rooms and closets that are nowhere near a door or window. Please help me rid my home of these and prevent further infestation!!!
—Amy

Dear Amy,
Where is your house? Do you live stateside, Southern California in particular, or in some faraway exotic place?
Millipedes belong to the class Diplopoda which means double footed, referring to the two close-set pairs of legs on each apparent segment (each segment actually consists of two coalesced true segments) of these worm-like arthropods. Millipedes prefer moist conditions, and they abound in damp litter and under rocks, logs, and loose bark, however, in their nocturnal wandering, they may wander into your cool, dark home, especially if the conditions outdoors are dry and hot. They are common after rains. Though they are harmless and nonaggressive, they have the ability to exude noxious fumes and fluids as a defense mechanism. The odor has been compared to iodine, quinine and chlorine, and some species are reputed to produce cyanide fumes. I would suggest a dehumifier for your home and shutting off the air conditioner, both of which will make your home less hospitable for the unwanted guests. One final thought: Certain years see a preponderance of certain species, whose life cycle peaks and then declines. This will go down in your diary as "the year of the millipedes," and can perhaps fuel your literary endeavors. Make the most of a bad situation.
signed,
Daniel Marlos
What’s That Bug?

Amy replies:
I live in central South Carolina. Very humid weather. My apartment is a bright dry place as opposed to the humid warm weather outside. That is the reason I was confused. Seems to me that these little guys would much prefer the weather outside to that of my home. I did notice a strange smell when I returned from my short vacation last week but It wasn’t all that horrible so I just chalked it up to the place being closed up for a few days. Hope my ‘year of the millipedes’ ends soon…
—Amy

Dear Amy,
Thank you for the further clarification. The fact that you live in humid South Carolina, a temperate rain forest, would help to explain why you have vast quantities of millipedes in your immediate vicinity to begin with. Sadly, not much is known about the biology of these interesting creatures. There is a tropical species, Oxidus gracilis, which goes by the common name Greenhouse Millipede. During the warm months, enormous swarms of them may develop in beds filled with potting soil, and it is possible that your infestation could be multiplying in your potted plants. The smell you noted could also have some bearing. As the critters eat decaying organic material, namely humus, rotting leaves, wood and bark, it is possible that wood used in the construction of your building could be providing them with a food source. Encyclopaedia Britannica states that "for some unexplained reason millipedes occasionally move in large numbers, sometimes even in broad daylight. On one occasion in Alsace a train was stopped because the dead and crushed bodies of migrating diplopods made the rails slippery." On a humorous final note, the encyclopaedia also states that "no credence should be given to the occasional reports that millipedes have been found living parasitically in the human bowel." Keep us posted as to the final outcome of your Year of the Millipede.
signed
Daniel Marlos
What’s That Bug

Dear AH,
A couple of years ago I think Jerry Seinfeld did a monologue about baby pigeons. “Why don’t you ever see them?” Well I took it as a kind of challenge; similar to when I was a kid my grandfather said he’d give any of us 5 bucks if we spotted an Idaho license plate. Years later I finally saw an Idaho license plate, but my grandaddy had died by then. But I digress. I have seen baby pigeons. In fact, I now see them all the time. I also seem to see Idaho license plates all the time now too. Now I’m not sure if it’s because I know empirically that they exist that I see them all the time, or maybe I previously suffered from a blind spot; like when you’re looking for the orange juice in the fridge but you can’t fucking find it cause it’s right in front of your nose. But what I’ve been wondering for years and never verbalized until now (because you have this great forum about bugs) is: Where do those fully grown, huge flys come from? I woke up the other morning, I hadn’t opened the doors or windows, I had no trash in my garbage, no turds on the floor, but I had a dozen HUGE houseflys buzzing all around my windows trying to get out. Inga (my dog) and I went crazy–me with the New York Times, her with her deadly snapping jaws–hunting them down and squarshing them until they were dead. It took a while. We were both hot and panting. Now I’m thinking I have house hygene issues. Maybe a blind spot. I just thoroughly cleaned my house the day before the “hatching” because a writer was coming to interview me for the magazine Dwell so I’d better have a tight-assed, spotless abode. So my question is, am I missing something? I know maggots are small, so are tadpoles, but at some point they’re little frogs. So wouldn’t those fuckers be little flys before they were the huge, unhygenic, buzzing bastards? Can you explain?
—David M
Brooklyn, New York

Dear Sir,
Flies are generally thought of as one of the great scourges to afflict mankind. Though certain species deserve that reputation, many others are beneficial insects, like flower flies. I doubt that those buzzing around your windows belong to the latter group, but I am unable to make a positive I.D. on their actual species based on your description. Are they black, green or blue? My grandmother always claimed that cooking cabbage caused flies to enter the house. Have you been cooking cabbage? Not wanting to diverge from your immediate questions, I can safely tell you that all flies undergo complete metamorphosis. While they are maggots at one point in their lives, they pupate and emerge as fully grown flies, attaining whatever size is particular to their species. They often go undetected until they reach that adult buzzing phase. I once had an invasion, and a closer inspection of my rather messy cottage revealed some potatoes under the sink that had gone bad. The culprets in your house could also be carrion eating flies that as maggots had been feasting on a dead rat in the walls or perhaps your next door neighbor. When was the last time you saw your neighbor? Often after feasting on their food source, the maggots will migrate some distance to find a safe and dry refuge for pupation. The filth you seek might be a considerable distance from your infestation. The duration of the metamorphosis varies with the heat. If you didn’t succeed in dispatching all the buzzing Muscidae (hopefully they were not Sarcophagidae, the flesh flies) before a few mated and laid eggs, and the weather is warm, you can expect a reinfestation within a week or two. Be forewarned that Hogue writes in in groundbreaking book, Insects of the Los Angeles Basin, that “flies are known to accumulate around natural gas leaks. They are probably attracted by ethyl mercaptan, a smelly substance added to gas to make leaks detectable to the human nose. The odor of ethyl mercaptan is similar to that of volatile substances released during the decomposition of carrion, upon which many domestic flies oviposit and their larvae feed.” Don’t light any matches until you have sufficiently inspected your entire home.

Signed,
Daniel Marlos

Dear What’s That Bug (or should I say What’s That Maggot?!)
It’s true! The worst homebody kitchen nightmare is occurring in the UK. Maggot-y larvae-like creatures that sloth their way onto my kitchen floor late at night when no one is around. Seven the other night!
Before casting dispersions on the quality of home-maintenance at my flatshare, I must assert that despite my previous track record, cleanliness is next to both god and the queen mum here in my house now, and there are no bits on the floor or on any cabinet surfaces to attrack the offputting vermin. High standards have been maintained. And though I have visited the countryside in the last two weeks, there seems to be no sign of foot and mouth infection either. We have conducted a cursory sniff test and have no evidence of dead rotting flesh behind the cupboards, though they seem to gather in the floor corner and appear to be coming from behind the floor cabinets. What are the possible causes? and cures, short of yanking out all the cupboards and seeing what may lurk behind door number one. help!
Staying out of the kitchen at night in London,
Kate

Dear Kate,
Once again pestilence rears its ugly head. The house fly and its larval form, the maggot, is a truly domestic insect, so closely adapted to life in manmade environments that it is rarely found away from human habitations. The species, Musca domestica, is found throughout the world and is our worst pest among the flies. All kinds of decaying and fermenting organic material — commonly decomposing lawn clippings, gargage, and feces of dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, and poultry — provide breeding places for the larvae. The larvae migrate to drier places for pupation to occur, and it is possible that your clean flat is on their migration route. Maggots are also commonly found on dead and decaying animals. Due to the meat embargo, there are probably huge caches of decaying livestock scattered about the country. Is it possible that your flat is in close proximity to one of these toxic dumps? My other thought is that though you called the creepy-crawlies "maggot-y larvae-like creatures," you never gave me any other description regarding size and coloration. Most insect larvae are generic in form, hence the lumping of many species under the umbrella term. More specifics could be helpful. A caterpillar is a larva, but with true and pseudolegs to aid in locomotion. Beetle grubs are also "maggot-y" and many beetles bore into wood. Certain kinds of moths and beetles have larvae that are fond of flour products and often infest sacks of flour or oatmeal, or even spices that are stored away in dark cupboards. The last time I tried to use my imported Hungarian paprika, I discovered it to be ground zero for the meal moths that have been fluttering about my incandescent lamps at night, and promptly disposed of the tainted (and expensive) spice lest the infestation spread.
Good luck.

Daniel Marlos
What’s That Bug?

I’d love info on these delightful little visitors as we seem to have a family who lives/visits our yard every spring. I cannot leave the house.
—Annie

Hi Annie,
The Cicada Killers, Specius speciosus and Sphecius grandis, are large solitary wasps that often live in colonies, hence your comment about the family situation. They produce one generation a year, and you are being visited by the offspring of the previous year’s visitors. The wasps are large, nearly 1 2/3 inches in body length, with a much larger wingspan, and they feed on nectar and pollen. Mating males are sometimes aggressive, and females will deliver a nasty sting if provoked. It is the female who kills the cicadas. She hunts for them on tree trunks after digging a burrow. She stings the cicada, paralyzing it, then flies back to her burrow with the now immobile, yet living food source for her brood. Each burrow contains one or two cicadas, and when the solitary egg hatches, the larva has a fresh food supply.
Ckeck out the Cicada Killer Thriller Page at http://www.showmejoe.com /thriller/thriller.htm

Thank you so much!! My exterminator was totally clueless (so I had to capture one and look online to find out about it – that’s how I knew it’s name) but I’ve now that I’ve seen them in my yard I’ve seen them around a lot more – don’t know if it’s a case of knowing what I’m looking for or if they’re really settling in around South Orange, NJ, but I do appreciate your great information on them. Poor cicadas – darn that must hurt! I’d noticed how aggressive the males are – especially if you fill up their burrow and they can’t get back in ;)Best,
Annie Modesitt
Craft Writer / Knitting Designer
South Orange, NJ