Hi. Recently my son found this beautiful bug near our house in Glendale, AZ. I’m attaching a picture. It has a bright red head, and it’s back is yellow with a black pattern dividing it into 4 parts. It’s the first and only time we’ve seen one.
Any idea?
Thanks–
Wes

Dear Wes,
I contacted our sources at the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles, and he provided the following information.

Thanks for sending the beetle photo. It is in the Blister Beetle family: Meloidae. You can probably look it up on the internet…try under the genus name Lytta. Some of these beetles exude a toxic liquid which can cause blisters on the skin. I’m not sure this one does that.
Hope this helps you!
Take care. Brian Harris Entomology Section
Natural History Museum LA Co.

A web search did not turn up a more exact identification, but there is this site which has a photo of a close relative Lytta magister http://www.solpugid.com/gallery/Gallery3.htm which also has a red head and legs. I do have some interesting background information on the genus however. A blue-green colored European relative Lytta vesicatoria, is known by the common name Spanish fly: Perhaps the most famous `aphrodisiac’ of folk lore is `Spanish Fly’ made from the dried beetle _Cantharis_ (Lytta) _vesicatoria_, which is widely found in areas of southern Europe. The active ingredient of the prepared insect is cantharidin, and the powdered product contains around 0.6 percent of the substance. Sometimes a tincture of cantharidin is made, and the fatal d
ose is usually reckoned at 1.5 to 3 grams of the powder, or about 200 millilitres of the tincture. I have not given up entirely on the identification. I will be making a trip to the insect museum in Riverside in the near future. Thanks again for the awesome photo which is currently on my desktop at work.
Have a great day.
Daniel

Editor’s Note: Continued research has identified this little beauty as a member of the Blister Beetle Family known as Soldier Beetles, Tegrodera erosa Lec. or Tegrodera latecincta Horn. "They are 17-30 mm. long; the head red; the prothorax dusky red; the antennae, legs, and remainder of the body shining black; and the elytra golden yellow, reticulated, and with black margi
ns, a black median belt, and black apices. In the former specioes the black markings of the elytra are very obscure, while on the latter they are strongly pronounced. The beetles ordinarily feed upon the native sage brush, artemisia, and other plants, but frequently invade alfalfa fields and do much damage." according to Essig in Insects and Mites of Western North America.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Looking through almost 20 years of memory distortion, my wife and I were confronted by the strangest looking bug we had ever seen. We were living in Glendale and this "tinker toy" bug had somehow gotten into the house, seemed to be nesting in the pile of our rug near the patio sliding glass doors. It was about 2 inches long, and looked like it had been assembled out of brown plastic parts, big round shiny head with two smaller black dot eyes, antennae, a shiny cylindrical body and six legs. We even captured it into a jar where it clicked away at the sides trying to escape. Eventually it was released but we never have seen it pictured in any reference books. The name, Vinegaroon, was mentioned but it hasn’t really satisfied. Any ideas?
Richard Leppig

We’ve lost our original reply to Richard which included a photo, but we correctly identified his visitor as a Potato Bug.

I’m hoping you can help me out with a bug identification. We live in York, PA, in a brick house that’s about 150 years old. We have these "creatures" that emerge in various places… I’ve seen them in the basement laundry room– usually when I pick something up off the floor– but also in the living room and dining room, scurrying across the floors or up the walls. They look kind of like the silverfish drawing, but they are longer and thinner, probably a little less than a half inch wide. They range in size from 2-3 inches long, but once I swear I saw one that was at least 4 inches long one time in the basement. They are gray in color, very flat, very fast, with lots of legs, but they don’t seem to have the tentacles off the front and back like the silverfish drawing. I wish could get a picture of one– unfortunately when I see one I’m so darn startled that I end up crushing it to an unidentifiable pulp!!! Any help available? Tricia

Dear Tricia,
You have house centipedes (Scutigera coleoptrata). They are harmless, and actually eat other tiny pests that enter your house. We have some nice photos on our site www.whatsthatbug.com which you can view by clicking the centipede button.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Your web site appears to be serious but when I clicked on the luna moth the picture does not appear right. Before I share your site with others please checkout the photo. Maybe someone hacked into your site.
G. Roberts

Dear G.
If you go to the cryptozoology.com site, you will understand why we had some fun with this one.

Hi! When I lived in Alabama as a child there was a bug that lived in the ground that we call a "doodlebug" or a "pinchin bug" because of the big pinchers it had…..it would burrow straw sized holes and back into it…..we as kids would put broom straw in the hole and wait until it started to wiggle then jerk the straw out and hanging from it by it’s pinchers would be the ugliest meanest looking little bug/worm thing less than an inch long. What was it?
Stacey

Hi Stacey,
Your Doodle Bugs are the larvae of Ant Lions, Family Myrmeleontidae, winged insects that resemble Lacewings.

Dear Mr. Bugman,
A couple years ago when I was a courier in Philadelphia I found a Praying Mantis in an office building elevator, so I took her outside and let her go. Then a couple days later I found another one in a different building’s elevator ! This has been keeping me awake nights ever since. Should I worry about some ancient chinese curse or expect some munificent blessing ?
Colin Barclay

We have lost the original reply to Colin’s letter, but we assured him that he would fall victim to no curse, and helping the poor Mantids could only result in blessings.