Category Archives: Bugs

Spider Sleuthing in the San Juans – Day 11 – Arachnid Advocates Needed

I had to take the weekend off! Fatigue is setting in from the smoke and the yellow haze cast over the island isn’t helping. I’m weary of viewing responses from folks about how they want to “kill” any poor hapless spider that makes its way into their home. Arachnophobia is tough, but thousands of innocent creatures could escape a horrible death (stomping, squishing, flushing) as a result of human hysteria if only….if ONLY…that human might take a moment to educate themselves about the poor soul they just MURDERED. If you are guilty of this and you’re feeling badly, GOOD! It means there is hope for you to change your ways. Become an arachnid A-D-V-O-C-A-T-E!

A friend of mine shared the article linked below on Facebook today. It’s timely in that it speaks to the over sensationalized media reports that cast a negative light on spiders…and other insects. We need to change how we think of them! Check it out.

https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/pan3.10143?fbclid=IwAR3UA5nTITpw_x404VtlT-F2-Z-dqG1uVzYko5Tq1mM5kCBIWvW9R64w4qA

For today, please don’t relocate your little (or big) house spider outdoors! Leave it in the corner to do its thing. It’s going to wander a bit, but it isn’t going to bite you or harm your pets. Be curious about it. If you name it, it can become part of your family! If you want an ID for that spider, send me a message or post a photo on my Facebook Page (Bugs of the San Juan Islands).

https://www.facebook.com/buggingyoufromSJI

Thanks for reading!

p.s. Here are some neat spidee links to check out! It’s time to advocate for your eight-legged friends

https://www.bbc.com/news/av/uk-england-nottinghamshire-49804294

https://www.ranker.com/list/cute-spider-pictures/eric-vega

https://www.facebook.com/RosieTheSpood

Second Post in the Series: “NOT A MURDERER! JUST BECAUSE WE WEAR STRIPES, WE DIDN’T ESCAPE FROM PRISON AND WE AREN’T OUT TO KILL YOU!” I’m not BAAAAd, I’m A Wool Carder BEE 🐝

Meet Woolly Wool Carder. Woolly gets a bad rep because Woolly LOOKS like a Yellowjacket Wasp. All Woolly wants to do is find that patch of Lambswool in your garden or flower bed and take enough to make a nice cozy bed for its babies.

Wool Carder Bee (Anthidium manicatum) on Nepeta spp. (Catmint)

The European Wool Carder Bee (Anthidium manicatum) at first glance, looks like a somewhat chubby Yellowjacket. While these stouter and hairy-bodied bees mimic the barbed stingers everyone wants to avoid, they aren’t going to harm you at all. They don’t even have stingers, though the males do have some spines at the end of their abdomen they can use defensively against other flying insects that might be perceived as a threat to their food source or territory.

Wool Carders are smaller than most Yellowjackets. They are about the size of honey bees or between 11 and 17 mm. They are very brightly colored with yellow and black markings, but again, the distinguishing features to differentiate them from Yellowjackets are 1) they’re hairy and 2) they’re stout!

Other than sipping nectar from flowers, these solitary, cavity nesters are all about finding wool to make a cozy bed for their babies. Actually, aside from the uhm…deed, the female is the one doing all the provisioning for a nest. She will card “wool,” using her mandibles to scrape bits of trichomes (or hairs) from lambs ears or other fuzzy plants (especially those in the mint family) to make a cushioned bed on which to lay her egg. Each egg is provisioned with enough nectar and pollen to supply the developing larva with nutrients to reach pupation.

Wool Carder Bee nest – Illustration by Samantha Gallagher, University of Florida

The European Wool Carder Bee is native to Europe, Northern Africa, and Western Asia, but has become cosmopolitan in distribution. While non-native, it has become widely adapted to various habitats in North America. These bees are not dangerous to humans or pets. They are effective pollinators, but sometimes outcompete native bees for resources.

Human or Pet Risk factor NONE

References and Additional Reading:

  1. Species Anthidium manicatum – European Woolcarder http://Species Anthidium manicatum – European Woolcarder

2. Featured Creatures http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/MISC/BEES/Anthidium_manicatum.html

3. Campion, A. European Wool Carder Bees: Likable Bullies The World’s Best Gardening Blog

4. Bumblebee Conservation Trust Wool carder bee (Anthidium manicatum) https://www.bumblebeeconservation.org/woolcarderbee/

Long-horned Leaf Beetle (Plateumaris germari)

I really enjoy the days when I have an opportunity to go over insect images I’ve taken, but haven’t yet had the chance to identify. This small (approx 7-8mm), metallic beetle is a leaf beetle in the family Chrysomelidae. It’s a Long-horned Leaf Beetle (Plateumaris germari). They are associated with aquatic habitats and this specimen was found near a wetland habitat on San Juan Island, WA., May 12, 2015. Yes. I’m slow at getting around to sorting things, but was happy to share this one today.

Long-horned Leaf Beetle
Plateumaris germari
San Juan Island, WA
May 12, 2015
photo by Cynthia Brast
Long-horned Leaf Beetle
Plateumaris germari
Long-horned Leaf Beetle
Plateumaris germari
Long-horned Leaf Beetle
Plateumaris germari
Long-horned Leaf Beetle
Plateumaris germari

References: https://bugguide.net/node/view/601794

Happy Hour and Bug Beer!

For all you foodies out there, here’s a new one for you. Beer brewers are isolating yeast from insects, including bees, wasps, and even crickets. Don’t worry, no actual bug parts are going to be in your drink. Drink up and enjoy the buzz!

https://www.foodandwine.com/drinks/researchers-brewing-beer-bug-yeast

Biston betularia cognataria (Pepper and Salt Moth)

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Last September, I found this little caterpillar on a fruitless cherry tree outside our home.   I may have spent a few hours watching it munch on leaves as I searched through literature and images in order to identify it.  The twig-like larva is in the Geometridae moth family.  Sometimes coming to a conclusion about a species takes a bit longer…and having an adult specimen can help, so I kept my caterpillar fed with an assortment of cherry, willow, maple, and alder leaves, watched it as it grew, then pupated…and waited over the winter months to see what would emerge.

Biston betalaria larva

Bilobed head of Biston betularia larva

I noticed last night when I went to brush my teeth that there was a little moth against the window of my insect habitat, watching me…and probably wanting out.  It’s good to check the critter-keeper (that’s what I call my bug house) daily because otherwise you might leave the poor soul stuck inside and that never ends very well.  In this moth’s case, I took a few pictures and then released him outside to fly away into the night.

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Biston betularia (newly-emerged adult)

Biston betalaria cognataria

Newly-emerged adult (male) Biston betularia cognataria

This is a quick post, since I am always short on time, but please enjoy my photos.  I do love the ones of the caterpillar most.  The little cat ears are quite distinct!

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Little “cat” ears

I’ve enlarged one to show you the spiracles, the little breathing holes that are along the sides of the caterpillar body.

Biston betularia larva

Biston betularia cognataria

 

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Showing spiracles near bi-lobed head

 

Many insecticides work by clogging up these holes with oils or soaps that are sprayed on the tree.  Although the caterpillars do eat leaves, the aren’t really an economic pest at all.  In fact, this species is quite remarkable in that it represents the fascinating study of natural selection and industrial melanism.  Widely distributed across the world, Biston betularia or Pepper and Salt Moths became recognized for their adaptation of darkening pigment, allowing them to become more cryptic on trees in woodlands in Britain polluted by soot around the turn of the century.  Check out my references for more information!

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Newly-emerged adult with pupal case (on left)

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Enlarged view of newly-emerged adult Biston betularia cognataria and pupal case

 

 

For further reading: 

Asami, T. and Grant, B. 1995. Melanism has not evolved in Japanese Biston betularia (Geometridae). Journal of the Lepidopterists’ Society, 49: 88-91. https://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/page/41142188#page/94/mode/1up
Furniss, R.L. and Carolin, V.M. 1977. U.S.D.A. Forest Service Misc. Publ. 1339, 1977. 
GRANT, B. and HOWLETT, R. J. (1988), Background selection by the peppered  moth (Biston betularia Linn.): individual differences. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 33: 217-232. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8312.1988.tb00809.x

 

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Sheep Moth Larvae (Hemileuca eglanterina)

These were on the trail at American Camp, San Juan Island National Historical Park. One had unfortunately been stepped on. I recommend looking down at the trail when you’re on a hike as lots of insects seem to travel along it too! These are larvae of the Sheep Moth (Hemileuca eglanterina). Check out this link if you’d like to see what they’ll be as adults! http://pnwmoths.biol.wwu.edu/…/hemil…/hemileuca-eglanterina/Photos taken 08-VII-2017.

Image may contain: plant, outdoor and nature

Sheep Moth larva (Hemileuca eglanterina)

Sheep Moth Larva (Hemileuca eglanterina)

Sheep moth larva (Hemileuca eglanterina), American Camp, San Juan Island National Historical Park. This one had unfortunately been stepped on. I recommend looking down at the trail when you’re on a hike as lots of insects seem to travel along it too! Check out this link if you’d like to see what they’ll be as adults! http://pnwmoths.biol.wwu.edu/…/hemil…/hemileuca-eglanterina/ Photos taken 08-VII-2017. Image may contain: plant, outdoor and nature

Western Conifer Seed Bug (Leptoglossus occidentalis)

I’ve been stuck in the house all week with the flu…a BAD case of the flu. You don’t want it! Trust me. So, what does the very bored, sniffling, coughing entomologist do to pass the time when she’s sick? Why play with bugs of course!

My honey brought me this from the back deck…(such a thoughtful man!). fullsizeoutput_184b.jpeg

I wonder if he knew that had he not been more careful, our house could have been filled with “le pew de le bug,” a very unpleasant odor! While I probably wouldn’t have suffered (since I’m all stopped up), he certainly would have noticed.

So, what is this bug? Well, it’s not a “bug,” it’s an INSECT. You know….6 legs, chitinous exoskeleton, antennae, three main body parts (head, thorax, and abdomen).  More specifically, THIS INSECT is a Western Conifer Seed Bug (Leptoglossus occidentalis).  It is classified in the order Hemiptera, family Coreidae (Leaf-footed Bugs and Squash Bugs).

No….please don’t take that literally.  I’m certain this fella (or femme) would not like to be “squashed!”  I don’t advocate squashing any insect.  They’re ALL interesting…in one way or another.

The Coreidae or Squash Bugs are medium to large in size.  They are usually brownish colored.  This one has what I would describe as the beautiful color, Bronze! Please also note the leaf-like hind tibia, a feature characteristic of some species in this particular family. img_1869-2

What does it eat? It feeds on vegetation.  Check out the very long, piercing Rostrum or Proboscis tucked carefully along the underside of this one’s body.  western-conifer-seed-bug-leptoglossus-occidentalis

The Rostrum is used like a straw to suck the juices from conifers including Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and Lodgepole Pine (Pinus contorta).  Other species are vegetable pests.  Hence the “Squash Bug” moniker.  It also has the characteristic SCENT GLANDS that will secrete the particularly stinky odor if you poke it too much when you are trying to get it to pose for a picture!  “Le pew de le bug!”

 

Suit of Armor

Ironclad beetle - Zopheridae

Ironclad beetle Phellopsis porcata

Yesterday’s “Word of the Day” on my new Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/buggingyoufromSJI was “ Thanatosis.”  Thanatosis is a behavior otherwise known as “playing dead!” Here’s an insect I found on the roadside the other evening, doing exactly that. Only about 15mm long, it was amazing to even recognize it as something other than a piece of bark.

What is it? This beetle is in the family of Ironclad beetles known as the Zopheridae. It is a species called Phellopsis porcata, one of only two North American species in the genus Phellopsis. Little is known about this cryptic beetle, a bumpy, and bark-like “armored soldier.” It is camouflaged from view in what remains of our old-growth forests. This beetle does not fly, so as habitat disappears, so will the beetle. We may never know the entire scope of its role in our forest ecosystems unless these areas are protected.

What do we know about P. porcata? Researchers have documented the behavior of thanatois or playing dead to escape predation, and in the Pacific Northwest, this species feeds on fungi and is associated with western hemlock trees (Tsuga heterophylla).

 

Ironclad beetle - Zopheridae

Here’s a great online diagnostic tool that can help with identifying Ironclad beetles. This links to the page I used to help with the genus Phellopsis: http://coleopterasystematics.com/ironcladid/IroncladID-Phellopsis.html .   Look for these cool beetles when you take your next walk in the forest!

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The Fainting Bug! Enoclerus sphegeus

IMG_0997I like beetles. There are interesting ones all over the place…and they do REALLY interesting things. Some can cry like babies. Some like to pat poo into nice little balls and roll them back to their home. Some hang around to take care of their offspring and even “play music” to call them to breakfast…or lunch…or dinner! Some do “bad” things like eat your plants …or your trees…or your house! Some wear really cool suits of shiny armor. They can look like miniature versions of dinosaurs or imaginary space aliens! Some have really cool names…like this one I found the other day…with many friends…hanging out on a dead fir tree. Its name? The FAINTING beetle! That’s exactly what it did when I walked up….fainted right over onto the ground! Stayed that way too…for about 30 seconds with its bright red (aposmatically colored) abdomen warning me it would taste VERY bad if I decided to eat it. No worries there little bug. I was only going to take your photo. Now the scientific name of this fella (or maybe it was a “she”) is Enoclerus sphegeus. It eats the bark beetles that eat fir and pine trees. Check out the photos and next time you see a beetle, take a moment to “admire and inquire” before you automatically stomp it! Not all bugs are bad.

Interested to know more.  Check out some of these references for further reading:

Boone, C., Six, D., and K. Raffa. 2008. The enemy of my enemy is still my enemy: competitors add to predator load of a tree-killing bark beetle. Agricultural and Forest Entomology, 10(4), 411-421.

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1461-9563.2008.00402.x/full

Cowan, B., and W.P. Nagel. 1965. Predators of the Douglas Fir Beetle in Western Oregon.  Agricultural Experiment Station, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR. Technical Bulletiin 86 http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/xmlui/bitstream/handle/1957/8806/?sequence=1

Rasmussen, L. 1976.  Keys to Common Parasites and Predators of the Mountain Pine Beetle. USDA Forest Service Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. Ogden, UT. General Technical Report INT-29

Click to access 1976Rasmussen_Key%20to%20Common%20Parasites.pdf

Fainting Bug, Enoclerus sphegeus IMG_0990Enoclerus sphegeus, the Fainting Bug IMG_0992Enoclerus sphegeus, the Fainting Bug IMG_0994 IMG_0997 IMG_0999 IMG_1000 IMG_1001

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