From the monthly archives: "August 2012"

Subject: Leaf-eating mutant?
Location: Knox County, near Oak Ridge, TN
August 28, 2012 9:53 pm
A colleague and friend has watched this creature destroy a small tree for the last few days. Her home is in north Knox County in East Tennessee, near the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). I’ve exhausted my attempts to identify this tiny monster. Please help?
Signature: EconProfLikesBugs

Caterpillar of Viceroy or Admiral???

Dear EconProfLikesBugs,
This caterpillar will metamorphose into a beautiful butterfly in the genus
Limenitis, but we are uncertain of the species.  According to BugGuide:  “Caterpillars and pupae are very distinctive, and not easily confused with anything else in North America. They are roughened by many small tubercles and a few pairs of large bumps and “horns”; they also have a more obvious pair of long studded horns, almost looking like “antlers” just back of the head. They tend to hold their bodies so as to look hunch-backed at the thorax, and they are colored to resemble bird droppings in shades of dark dull brown or green with white to cream colored patches. Some Swallowtail Caterpillars are similar in shape and coloring, but don’t have the studded appendages of Limenitis caterpillars.  Telling the caterpillars of the various species of Limenitis from one another is very difficult. Typically only two (occasionally three) species are found in any given area, and this helps, especially since one is usually the Viceroy. Viceroy caterpillars tend to be found, almost always, on Willows or Cottonwoods near water. They average more spiny at each stage of development (except the first instar, which isn’t very spiny in any of the species). They also have the pair of humps near the front of the abdomen smaller with more noticeable spines on top. Generally the long pair of spines behind the head is relatively light in color in Viceroy caterpillars, but more often much darker in other species. There are often color differences between species, but they vary from region to region. So, for instance, Viceroy caterpillars in the West have much less white coloring than other species, but in the Southeast they actually tend to have more. The remaining species and subspecies of Limenitis have caterpillars that are extremely similar, and there may be no reliable way to tell them apart. Luckily, they mostly occur in separate regions.”  Our best guesses are that it might become a Viceroy, the mimic of the Monarch, or it might metamorphose into a Red Spotted Purple, which we consider to be the most beautiful butterfly in North America.

Possibly Red Spotted Purple Caterpillar

Subject: Brown/black beetle with yellow/gold markings
Location: Pennsylvania
August 29, 2012 12:00 am
Took this picture in mid August in Pennsylvania near the Delaware River. (Beach Lake) I was struck by how the markings were so precisely ”drawn.” To my eye they appeared gold, though in the picture they seem more yellow.
I’ve spent a good bit of time looking at images online and while it seems similar to a number of long horned borer beetles, the segmentation of its body seems different, and I’ve not seen one marked with this pattern.
I’m sorry there is nothing in the pic that serves to reference its size, but I believe the body was approximately 1.5 inches long.
I would love to know what it might be. Many thanks.
Signature: Laura

Longhorned Borer Beetle

Dear Laura,
This Longhorned Borer Beetle (congratulations on getting the family correct) does not have a common name.  In our opinion, it is
Neoclytus scutellaris, based on photos posted to BugGuide which states:  “Larvae feed in sapwood of (dead?) oaks, hickories, also grape.”

Subject: really bizarre bug found on hibiscus in PA
Location: Mercersburg, PA
August 28, 2012 10:32 pm
A friend posted the attached photo on Google+, and peaked my curiosity. I can’t track this insect down – know what it is?
Signature: BJ Denenberg

Scentless Plant Bug Nymph

Dear BJ,
This is a True Bug nymph in the suborder Heteroptera.  This photo is getting to be a little too far removed from its origin to make us comfortable.  Since you did not actually take the photo, we are assuming you have permission from your friend to submit it to our site.  If this insect was actually photographed on a hibiscus in Pennsylvania, then we suspect that it is an exotic import from some overseas nursery.  We do not believe this insect is native to North America.  It should be reported to local authorities.  If exotic Hemipterans become established in a new location, they can become especially troublesome.

Dear Daniel –
Thank you so much for that quick reply. Actually, I told my online friend that I would research the bug for her, but didn’t specifically get permission to submit the photo to you. I spent about an hour trying to identify it myself, and finally gave up and contacted you. I’m guessing she will be okay with it, but I will confirm. Please don’t re-post the photo until I am sure that she grants permission for that.
I will pass on your response to her immediately, and follow up with you. Thanks very much for getting back to me so quickly!

Hi BJ,
We already posted the photo.  If she wants it removed, let us know.  She can also provide a comment to the posting indicating firsthand observations.  We would really like to identify this Hemipteran which we suspect is an invasive exotic species.   Since it is immature, correct identification may be more difficult without a country of origin.

Eric Eaton Responds
That is the nymph of a rhopalid (family Rhopalidae), most likely Niesthrea louisianica.  Not recorded for Pennsylvania in, however:
Still, the range information suggests it should occur there.  Great image!

Thanks for correcting our error Eric.
Here is the species page from BugGuide.

Subject: Mexican bug!
Location: Yucatán, Mexico
August 28, 2012 2:38 pm
Hello, I was wondering if you could identify this insect my friends found in their hotel while on honeymoon in Yucatán, Mexico. They said the stinger visible on its end was about an inch long so I suppose it was 4-5 inches in total. Any light shed on its identity would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
Signature: Jo

Shieldback Katydid

Dear Jo,
This poor creature is a Shieldback Katydid, and for some reason, she has lost most of her long antennae, sensory organs that characterize her suborder, Ensifera, the Longhorned Orthopterans.  What your friend has mistaken for a stinger is actually an ovipositor, an organ associated with egg laying.  We will see if we can get assistance from Piotr Naskrecki, a Katydid expert, with regards to her species.

Subject: Ugly bug
Location: North Goergia
August 27, 2012 7:39 pm
Hey my name is Kirby, and I found this thorny larvae, I’m guessing, while i was camping and never seen one before. They were every where, I didn’t kill it cause I didn’t know what it is, but I did relocate it far way from our tent.
Signature: Kirby


Hi Kirby,
We have never been able to trace the origin of the name Hellgrammite which is given to this larval Dobsonfly.  The large numbers you witnessed might be one reason the Hellgrammite is a popular bait for freshwater fishermen.

Subject: Amazing Spider from Panama
Location: Panama, Central America
August 27, 2012 10:40 pm
Hello, My family and I just returned from a two week vacation in Panama, Central America. We spotted this beauty while on a hike near a town called El Valle. I was wondering if you could help ID it for us. Would his bite have been dangerous?
Signature: Fred

Spiny Orbweaver:  Micrathena schreibersi

Hi Fred,
This is a Spiny Orbweaver from the genus
Micrathena.  We will try to determine the species.  That appears as though it might be a smaller male of the species in the upper right corner of the photo.  There is often a hugely significant size difference between the sexes in Orbweavers.  Orbweavers are not considered dangerous spiders, but some of the larger species might bite.  Spiny Orbweavers are smaller spiders.  We have identified your spider as Micrathena schreibersi thanks to the very reliable Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute website.