Sphodros rufpes
My 7 year old son, and my wife found a great specimen of a Red-legged Purse Spider in our neighborhood here in Mt Juliet, TN. It is a text-book example. I noted on your site that this spider has been found in only 4 locations in Tennesee. I am wondering if Mt Juliet or the Nashville vicinity is one of those areas. Here is the photo of the little critter. He was found next to a scrub at my neighbors front door. I had my 7 year old son put him back and took opportunity to explain about extinction and endangerment….a nice life lesson !! I’ll bug off for now. Hope the photo is helpful.
Bruce, Nathan, and Kathi McLaughlin
Mt Juliet, TN

Hi Bruce,
Your photo is just beautiful. We have been getting many letters regarding this species lately which we originally identified under the scientific name Sphodros rufipes. We have found information in old texts under the scientific name Atypus bicolor. It might be rare and endangered or it might not, depending upon the source. At any rate, it is an awesome spider and your photo is great as well. We have actually devoted an entire page to the Red Legged Purseweb Spider thanks to your letter and image. We have read that June is the month when males leave their webs and search for a June bride.

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Dear Sir
My son has today brought in what we believe to be a purse web spider. It is exactly like the one photographed on your site, sent in by “Bruce”. After further research on the internet however, we failed to find any mention of or find any photographs of purse webs with red legs. This one we have has very distinctive red legs and black body. My 11 yr old son who reads nature books constantly, suggests that this may be a female and that it is the males who have the black legs. Could this be true? Other sites state that it is not threatened or on any conservation list. Is this accurate? Also, we read that it is most commonly found in England which is ironic as I am from England & we are in fact visiting next week and so will be carefully looking for more of these little spiders whilst there! Maybe we unwittingly brought one back with us last year! What would you advise us to do with it? Of course if it is not endangered then we will release it, but if there is anything we can do or anyone we should contact here if it is in the spider’s interest, then we will be glad to help. A few years ago, I found a northern brown recluse & after contacting a university in California, mailed it to a researcher. It thankfully arrived alive and well! He was researching how far south the northern recluse was progressing & confirmed that our identification was correct. We will await with anticipation any further information you are able to give us about this spider and in the meantime my son is keeping it safe and well fed! Regards,
Janice Barner
Newnan, Georgia, USA

Hi Janice,
We are getting numerous reports of sitings recently. Our Comstock book identifies this spider as Atypus bicolor and writes: “The male is a very striking spider with black carapace, abdomen and palpi, and the legs carmine-red.” He also says the females average an inch or more in length and are colored dark brown with a black margin on the cephalothorax. There are Atypus species in Europe. Gertsch writes extensively on Atypus bicolor: “This species occurs from Maryland south into western Florida, and westward into Mississippi. They live for the most part in mesophytic woods. … The tube of Atypus takes form in a characteristic manner. the female spins a small, horizontal funnel or cell on the surface of the soil, and from this base works both upward to lay out the aerial tube, and downward into the soil. The funnel is pierced above, and a two inch section of vertical tube is set up against a tree. This design is accomplished by laying down many single lines and spinning the whole together into a strong fabric. The spider then begins excavating and spinning the subterranean part of her habitation. she molds the soil into small pellets, which she disposes of through the opening at the top of the aerial web. The covering of debris over the surface of the tube comes, surprisingly, form within the burrow — instead of being laid on from the outside: the sand and small particles are pressed outward through the web until the whole surface is evenly covered. After the first section of aerial tube is completed, another length is spun and coated with sand. Thus by sections the web moves up the side of the tree, until it attains the full length for the species. Like an iceberg, the finished tube penetrates the ground much farther than the length of its visible, aerial portion. It is heavily lined with silk, which becomes stronger day by day as the spinnerets constantly lay down their dense bands. … The Purse-Web Spider remains just inside the subterranean portion of her nest while waiting for prey, but at the slightest notice of a passing insect she moves into the aerial web. Her course is charted by the movement of the tube, and when the insect crawls over the surface, she rushes to the proper point and strikes her long fangs through the web, around or into the body of her prey. Holding it until completely subdued, she at the same time cuts the tube and pulls it inside. A slight rent is left in the silk, which will later be sewed together, and in due time covered over with sand so evenly that no sign of the break is evident. A tidy housekeeper, Atypus when through feeding brings the shrunken remnant of her prey to the opening at the top of her web ande casts it out. In the same way, she voids her milky white, liquid fecal material through the opening — with such force that it is shot several inches away. In June the males become adult and leave their webs to wander in dearch of a mate. Until the time they become fully adult they live in nests that are to all appearances identical with those of the females, and occasionally in season they can still be found in the tubes. … Females of all the American species are predominantly brown in color, shining, and only very sparsely set with covering hairs. The robust body is provided with quite short legs and long chelicerae, and runs about half an inch in length — although bicolor, the largest known species is often an inch in length. The males are similar to the females in most respects, but have longer legs. … Atypus bicolor has carmine legs, which, contrasting with its deep-black carapace and abdomen, make it the most striking of all our species.”

luna moth
I live in Dutchess County, NY, and today I spotted my first Luna Moth (a male), hanging out on my screen door. I tried to relocate it to a nearby tree, but it wanted none of that. In fact, when I approached it with my camera, it got so scared it started shaking. Nonetheless, I managed a few pictures of it anyway, albeit with my cameraphone, and thought I’d share them with you since I just discovered your wonderful site. I should start one for birds, although it’d be far less challenging!
P.S. There are two images in this zip file: one is of the moth on the woodchips under the bush and the other is when it was on the concrete step in front of my door.

Hi Liz,
Thanks for the photo.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Please identify these bugs!
Hello Again,
I am very anxious to ask you what are the bugs that I’ve attached. For me, but I am almost too upset to go into the full story of how and how many of these bugs I’ve found in my NYC apartment. I fear that they may be bad for my health. Can you please help me identify, or tell me what they are not. No one’s been able to help me.
Russell Cowans

Hi Russell,
You have Spider Beetles, Mezium species. According to the Audubon Guide: “These minute, pear-shaped beetles superficially resemble spiders because of their long, thin legs and long threadlike antennae. Most are brownish and less than 1/4 inch long. … Both adults and their C-shaped larvae are scavengers, feeding on dried organic matter, including wook, museum specimens, desiccated animals,l dung, plants, stored seeds, and dried fruits. … Continuous generations as long as food remains available.” So, you had better find the food source. They will not harm you except for your sanity. The larva is a Dermestid, possibly a Carpet Beetle. Good luck.

My Friend Fred
I work on the 29th floor of a huge building in the middle of downtown Portland Oregon. I found this little guy barely alive in my windowsill one day and have no idea where he came from. His appearance did coincide with an orchid that was donated to my office though, so he might have come in with that. Anyway, I poured a couple drops of water onto the ledge before I left that night and the next morning he was walking all over the place…on the window, on the sill, over my books. He has been my office mate for 4 days now. I though he might be a box elder bug or a milkweed bug, but haven’t found any pictures that look like him and I’ve never seen him fly. He is about half an inch long. Could you let me know what my new friend is?
Well, perhaps his life span was short, or maybe he just did what we all feel like doing stuck in a skyscraper day after day…curled up and died of claustrophobia. I haven’t heard anything though and am still interested to know what he was.
Leah Woodard
Springbrook Software

Hi Leah,
I’m not sure why we never got your original letter. Fred was a Checkered Beetle from the Family Cleridae. Checkered Beetles are brightly patterned with red, orange, yellow and blue and they have bulging eyes. Adults visit flowers and rest on foliage and trunks of dying or dead trees and they prey on the larva of wood boring insects. Larva of some species prey on bark beetle larva while others feed on grasshopper eggs. Our California species, Aulicus terrestris, feeds on caterpillars. We contacted Eric Eaton to try to get an exact species name. Here is his response:
“I grew up in Portland and never saw anything like this! It is indeed a checkered beetle (family Cleridae), but I wonder if it might even be exotic, and came in on produce or something. Jacques Rifkind runs a wonderful website with LOADS of images of Cleridae, so maybe someone should try searching that site for a match. These kinds of clerids are not pests, BTW, but prey on bark beetles and other pest insects. Eric”

Update: (06/27/2007) Eric Eaton pursued the following identification.
Daniel: At last we have an ID on that checkered beetle: Enoclerus eximius according to Jacques Rifkind! Please see attached, and make sure he gets the credit for BOTH identifications. I was merely mediator here. Thanks. Eric

Dear Eric, Jpeg came through fine. That one is indeed Enoclerus eximius (Mannerheim). Have a good weekend! Cheers, J

What is this bug???
Someone posted a picture of this bug on an online forum I am part of and I’m so intrigued with it, I have to know what it is. It is on a door and looks to be quite big, possibly 6-8 inches long. I’ve searched on the net for a while, but not knowing anything other than it is an insect, hasn’t helped me find anything on it. Hopefully you can lend some insight as to what it is. I believe it was found in Buffalo, NY. Doing a little more investigation, I guess the bug in the picture is the size of a quarter (just a really big zoom). I’d still like to know what it is if you could. Thanks.
Jordan Pulaski

Hi Jordan,
Your beetle is a Round-Headed Apple Borer, Saperda candida, from the Family Cerambycidae. In the larval stage this species is very destructive to apple trees, quince and a few other species.