Currently viewing the tag: "Buggy Vocabulary Words"

Subject: Tobacco Hornworm “Eyeballs”
Location: Silver Lake
September 19, 2014 3:13 pm
Hi Bugman,
There was only one of these giant hornworm caterpillars on the now dying tomato plant. I was quite surprised by the row of “eyeballs” on either side of the beast. I imagine they are solely for camouflage. Or do they serve another purpose?
Signature: Diane E

Spiracles of a Tobacco Hornworm

Spiracles of a Tobacco Hornworm

Dear Diane,
The organs to which you refer are known a spiracles, and they enable the Tobacco Hornworm,
Manduca sexta, to breathe.  Spiracles are not unique to the Tobacco Hornworm (see BugGuide).  We are unable to do additional research at this time as our search engine keeps crashing our server.

Subject: Large brown chirping beetle?
Location: Albuquerque, NM
July 1, 2012 11:10 am
This big guy flew into the side of my head during a drum circle in the woods that follow the Rio Grande as it runs through Albuquerque. It made a very audible chirp or squeak, in the dark I actually thought it was a bat at first. Others at the circle had seen them before, but we couldn’t find a name for it.
Signature: Raian

Root Borer

Hi Raian,
This is a Root Borer in the subfamily Prioninae and you can see many North American examples on Bugguide.  We believe your individual is in the genus
Prionus.  The sound you heard is caused by the beetle rubbing parts of its body together, an action known as Stridulation.  The Free Dictionary online has a nice definition of Stridulation. 

Subject: Beetle with Mite Infestation
Location: Wheatland, IN
June 19, 2012 2:37 pm
Hello –
I found this bug in the grass of my in-laws farm in Wheatland, IN. This photo was taken May 12th (warm and humid). Not too sure what kind of beetle this is, or what type of little bug is infesting it. We let the beetle go about his business, but he seemed worse for the wear. Kept trying to fly off, but his wings seemed to be crinkled up and he couldn’t straighten them. He finally rolled over and laid there for awhile. Came back later and he was gone.
Any info is appreciated. Thanks!
Signature: Mountain Mama

Dung Beetle

Dear Mountain Mama,
These are photos of a Dung Beetle, a group of Scarab Beetles in the subfamily Scarabaeinae (see BugGuide) that collect fresh animal excrement and roll it in a ball prior to burying it and laying an egg.  We are uncertain of the species.  The dung is the food source for the hatched larva.  Dung Beetles are especially common in areas where there is livestock and Dung Beetles help the decomposition process that returns nutrients and minerals back into the soil in a usable form.  The crumpled wings you mentioned are actually the flight wings of the beetle.  The first set of wings, called the ELYTRA are hardened and they protect the flight wings that are folded while the beetle is at rest.  Though the Dung Beetle did not go airborne while you were watching, your photo does not indicate that there is any physical problem.  Your photo is a perfect photo to illustrate the vocabulary word ELYTRA.  Originally we were going to use your submission to illustrate PHORESY, but there are a dearth of good images on our site showing a beetle in flight, so we changed our minds at the eleventh hour.  This image of an Eyed Elater from our archives is also a nice illustration of the ELYTRA.

Dung Beetle showing ELYTRA

The mites on the underside of the Dung Beetle are most likely Phoretic Mites, meaning that they do not parasitize the beetle, but rather use the beetle as a means of transportation.  Phoresy is a term used for hitchhiking on another species.  By hitching a ride on a flying species, the mites are able to be transported to a new food supply.

Dung Beetle with Phoretic Mites



Ed. Note:  Announcing a new tag:  Buggy Vocabulary Words
In an attempt to better educate our readership, we have created a new tag that will better explain some important Buggy Vocabulary Words, beginning with Ovipositor
Here is what the online Webster has to relay:  “a specialized organ (as of an insect) for depositing eggs”.  Future Buggy Vocabulary Words postings will include Phoresy, Metamorphosis and the ever popular Exuvia. 

Location: Monmouth County, NJ
June 13, 2012 6:37 pm
I found this beetle on a juniper shrub in my garden. Not used to seeing such large arthropods in this area. Wondering if it is dining on my shrubs and control measures if that is the case.
Signature: JK

Broad Necked Root Borer

Ed. Note:  This conversation was rescued from the trash.  We will use this to create a new tag for Buggy Vocabulary Words
female root borer, not generally plentiful enough to be a problem.

Dear JK,
This is a female Broad Necked Root Borer,
Prionus laticollis (See BugGuide), and what appears to be a stinger is her ovipositor, an organ adapted to facilitate in the egg laying process.  Generally, the longer the ovipositor, the further the female must bury her eggs. A Stump Stabber, a totally unrelated member of the wasp family might have the longest ovipositor in the insect world, and some female Stump Stabbers in the genus Megarhyssa have ovipositors as long as five inches.  It is believed that in stinging insects like wasps and bees, the ovipositor has evolved into a stinger that the female may use if she is threatened.  It has caused to wildly speculate about the dual purpose of the ovipositor in wasps, and we can’t help but to wonder if a wasp deposits an egg each time she stings and if her venom might somehow serve some other purpose that benefits the egg.  Wouldn’t it be the craziest thing if when a female Tarantula Hawk stings and paralyzes her prey, she might deposit an egg during the stinging process?  That is most likely a crazy thought, but it gives us a reason to link to the Tarantula Hawk as an insect whose sting caused by a modified ovipositor is reported to be among the most painful in the insect world.  We even put the Tarantula Hawk in the coveted first position when we created The Big 5 tag last summer and promptly forgot to inform the webmaster we had a new tag.