Here are some photographs of Fulgoraecia exigua, a moth that parasitizes planthoppers during its larval phase. There were dozens of these larvae in the place where I was walking, many of them hanging on silk threads, spinning in the wind. They look like miniature sheep, and are rather cute, I think. But not for planthoppers, as you can probably guess. When the larvae hatch (earlier in the season) they seek out planthoppers to latch onto, then suck their juices and eventually displace their wings as the weeks go by. I.e., the planthoppers go about their lives with a miniature, vampire sheep attached to their abdomen. When its done feeding the caterpillar lower itself to the ground on a silk thread and pupates. I’m going to go back to the spot see if I can get photographs of the pupal form, which looks like a miniature version of the Sidney Opera House, built from the waxy fluff that protected them.
Tag Archives: insect
Spiny assassin bug I found during a walk several days ago. I’m guessing this could be Sinea spinipes, but genus is challenging so that’s tentative. What I really like about this insect is its folded antennae. I’ve never noticed that before in a reduviid.
If you’re out on a nature walk today, keep your eyes peeled for snow flies. These are essentially wingless crane flies loaded with antifreeze. This one is a male Chionea scita, I believe. Not much is known about these insects, although there is speculation that at least some members of the genus hang out in rodent burrows eating feces. (Don’t judge.) Please see “The crane fly genus Chionea in North America” (Byers 1983) for more details.
You might note that it has halteres, which is interesting because these are organs used in flight (they are modified wings … which is why flies only have one pair of wings). Would be fun to figure out whether snow fly halteres still work, though that would have to be inferred by anatomy and maybe some electrophysiological tricks. Or perhaps they serve a new function. To see photographs of some flies that have lost their halteres, check out the Braulidae (bee parasites) or Hippoboscidae ovinus (sheep ked). I love wingless flies. Did a presentation on them when I took entomology during high school … and have been creeped out and impressed by them ever since.
When it’s too hot to take photographs outside, I can always go down to my basement to photograph camel crickets (“sprickets” to many). I know, lucky me. But if you have a moist basement, you probably have them, too. The ones below are the introduced species (I think), Diestrammena asynamora, from Asia. They drive me nuts. So much so that I wasted time collecting ways to get rid of them (see my page, “Getting rid of camel crickets“, if you’re interested). The list is not 100% effective, as photographs attest, but at least I don’t have thousands of them anymore.
After agonizing over the identification of hornworm larvae for years, I’ve developed two tricks that I’d like to share. Tobacco hornworm (Manduca sexta) caterpillars have stripes (seven of them), so remember that by thinking of Lucky Strikes cigarettes. Horn is usually red or red-tipped, like a cigarette. Also, tobacco gives you dark teeth and lungs … and tobacco hornworms have black shadows on their stripes. Tomato hornworms (Manduca quinquemaculata) have eight chevrons (Vs), which you can remember by thinking of V8 juice, which is primarily tomato juice. Here’s the graphic you can share with friends who might have it wrong:
If you can, please spread the word … most of the tens of thousands of tobacco hornworm photographs on the internet are misidentified as tomato hornworms. Even Wikipedia page for tomato hornworm shows tobacco hornworm larvae (I’m working on it …). The problem is that tobacco hornworm eats tomatoes, and people with fancy cameras grow a lot of tomatoes.
Photograph of tomato hornworm from Amanda Hill.