Friday, July 4, 2014

They're driving me buggy


Or How I Learned To Love My Six Legs

There are millions and million of insects in the world and we never even see the vast majority of them.  Each has a specific niche to fill in the balance of nature.  This post has an assortment of "bugs" that are called insects because they have six legs.  The technical definition as found in the Random House Dictionary is, 

"any animal of the class Insecta, comprising small, air-breathing arthropods having the body divided into three parts (head, thorax, and abdomen), and having three pairs of legs and usually two pairs of wings."

There is a second definition that reads, to paraphrase it, a contemptible or low person.  Today we deal only with the six-legged kind of insect.

Aside from chocolate-covered ants, fried grasshoppers and the like, Americans don't generally eat insects even though they are a remarkably good source of protein.  Many other parts of the world depend on them for a part of their food options.  I prefer to look at them and enjoy them "as is where is".  I dislike killing them, but there are times when it must be done and I don't feel too terribly bad about squishing a fly or mosquito or drowning a tick in alcohol.  Fleas don't thrill me either, or lice, even though my Dad wrote his PHD thesis on them.  Any bug that bites me is libel to be punished!

I found a great site for you folks in Australia - I;m loving this one!

Here are a some images of insects, and I've included a few that are arthropods.  Enjoy:>)

Annual cicadas mating.   They sing us to sleep in the heat of the summer; some folks might say it sounds more like a cacauphony - LOL!

The husk of an Annual Cicada after leaving the ground, splitting it's larval skin, and emerging as an adult.  You can learn a lot more if you wish by visiting this web site:

This is a large ground beetle about 1-1/2 inches long (not counting the ovipositor).  She is seeking a good place to lay her eggs and what you see sticking out of her backside is the "ovipositor" she puts into the ground.  The eggs are passed through this organ and placed in the soil.  It cannot hurt people.  Her jaws are strong, however, and she should be pocked up with care.  The young larvae are white grubs and help to aerate the soil.

I don't have names for a number of these insects and I'll tell you truly it can be difficult to find proper identifications.  Don't let this stop you from trying.  The internet is a magnificent resource, and one of my favorite places to search is Bug Guide.  This is a site manned by people who try to help beginners get names for their finds.  Sometime when you have a couple minutes, go visit them and see what it's all about.

I'm thinking grasshopper?????  Isn't it strange looking!

Wooly Alder Aphids  (  )  Aphids, in general, are considered pests, especially to gardeners.  There are many, many types pf aphids and they all suck plant juices.  Too many aphids weaken a plant and leave it prone to diseases.  These particular aphids like alder and silver maple trees.

Another grasshopper!  They come in numerous colors, shapes, and sizes.  "Grasshopper" is a general term for Caelifera insects.  Here is a bit more info:

I believe this is a carpenter bee - we have loads of them - and I want to show you the long tongue they use to get inside a flower.  Also please note the antennae.  Bees have jointed antennae that have on bend in their relatively long length.  When looking at what you think is a bee, you can usually tell by the antennae.  Mimics are flies and have short antennae, no bends, and blobs at the ends.

What made me think this is a carpenter bee id the bald spot on the back.

These interesting insects can walk on water.  They have specially designed feet and legs that keep them on top of the surface.  I like how their little feet make needle marks on the water, and I think it looks a bit like a quilt.  Food for the bugs is other bugs that fall on the water and become dinner.  When it is not mating season, Water Striders live in friendly communal groups and even share food.

More info here:

Crane Fly - Tipulidae  There are hundreds of kinds of crane flies and they can be found at all times of the year.  They are anywhere from tiny to large and look like giant mosquitoes but they don't bite people and they don't sting - totally harmless.  Here is a page from Bug Guide showing general information.  If you click on different tabs you can see range, and other images, etc.   (  )           


Walking Stick Insect - It looks just like a stick.  They like sitting with the two front legs pointing out front (the greenish looking things facing right).  The body on this one was, I'll guess, about three inches long and the legs are extra - LOL.  You can hold them.  There are some in other countries that grow to more than a foot long and kids love to keep them as pets.  More info here:
Six-spotted Tiger Beetle hunting for a meal.  These guys are gorgeous all dressed up in their iridescent colors.  They have big, strong jaws to help them hold on to prey, and long legs for very fast running.  They can fly and do so readily of they sense danger.

Six-spotted Tiger Beetles mating

Another view of the fierce Tiger Beetle.  These lovely, iridescent beetles are ferocious predators.  They are fast runners with huge jaws and hunt on the ground.  They can fly, and do so at any sign of something getting too close which makes them the very dickens to photograph.  I am an excellent sneak, however, and sometimes I luck out:>).  I actually got a shot of a mating pair (see above); they were occupied and didn't notice me as quickly - LOL.

This picture was taken May 25, 2012, in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, USA.

These are beneficial as they eat other insects, and there are a number of species.  For homework, please read: 

These flies are nectar feeders and usually brightly colored.  The hind legs show a feathery-like shape which gives them their name.  The dark tip on the abdomen means this is a female, and she's the size of a large house fly.  Take a look at the antennae - short with blobs on the ends:>)

These insects are used in pest control; they parasitize leaf-footed bugs, squash bugs, and green stink bugs by laying eggs on the host.  The eggs hatch and the larvae make a meal of the host, pupate, then emerge to mate.

This picture was taken September 8, 2009, at Green Lane Reservoir in Pennsburg, PA.

For more information see:

This is a Soldier Beetle, a relative of Fireflies but they cannot make light.  These are mostly out and about during the day, and they eat pollen, nectar, and other insects - beneficial to gardeners!  There are a number of kinds of Soldier Beetles.  Here is a Bug Guide page for you to visit:

It's some sort of fly, I guess.  It was pretty and I'd never seen one before so I grabbed a picture for future reference as I research it.  This was on Cape Cod in Massachusetts - early summer.
Green Stink Bug - also called a Shield Bug  These are pests and like to eat garden crops.  They come into the house for the winter and are generally annoying.  There are a couple kinds of stink bugs and all have a pungent, musty odor they release when bothered or crushed.

Green Stink Bug Nymph (Baby)

Leaf-footed bug.  These are sometimes called squash bugs and can be pesty on those crops.  As with everything in nature, there are a number of types, and some have a flattened, leaf-looking part on the hind legs.  Some kinds carry their eggs until they hatch; this helps prevent parasitism.  Once again, go visit Bug Guide for a wonderful way to learn about these bugs.

WARNING!  Scarlet Lily Leaf Beetle - Lilioceris lilii.This serious pest of lilies was first found in Canada in 1945, and by the 1990s was not uncommon in New England, USA.  They probably came in on bulbs from Europe where they are native, but they are also found naturally in Asia.  The UK is now battling these pests, too.

The beetle eats lily leaves, stems, flowers, and buds and will decimate a garden.  We have no natural enemies to keep them in check although work is being done in that area.  Right now, picking them off by hand is the most effective means of organically controlling them.

You can get more information at:

Get a nice, short PDF with pictures

Reddish-brown Stag Beetle  -  These are fairly large and their mandibles are strong, but if you pick them up carefully behind the head you'll be fine.  They are called Reddish-brown Stag Beetles (Lucanus capreolus).  These beetles feed on sap when adults, and the larvae eat decaying stumps and such.   They are night flying insects and are attracted to lights.  Their range is wide with a span of roughly the eastern portion of North America.

This picture was taken in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, on June 3, 2011.

You can learn more at:

Reduviid, or Wheel Bug, or Assassin Bug  This description is paraphrased from Wikipedia;

Wheel bugs are one of the largest bugs in North America, and can reach 1-1/2 inches length. What people usually recognize is the wheel-shaped pronotal (in the area of the first legs) armor. They hunt and eat soft-bodied insects like caterpillars, Japanese beetles, etc., which they pierce with their beak to inject salivary fluids that dissolve soft tissue. Because most of their prey are pests, wheel bugs are considered beneficial insects, although they can inflict a painful bite if handled carelessly.

Wheel bugs are common in eastern North America, although many people in the region have never seen them. They are camouflaged and very shy, hiding whenever possible. They have membranous wings, allowing for clumsy, noisy flight which can easily be mistaken for the flight of a large grasshopper. The adult is gray to brownish gray in color and black shortly after molting, but the nymphs (which do not yet have the wheel-shaped structure) have bright red or orange abdomens.

On a personal note, I enjoy their "personalities".  When unsure if I am a threat, they hide on the far side of a branch or stem and peek around to see if I've left yet.  Their faces are expressive (to my anthropomorphic mind) and this one didn't run and hide because I was speaking softly to it the whole time I was photographing - or maybe it thought it was already hidden in the flowers, who knows?

 Now for a few arthropods that are not insects.  You may very well have seen these before, but I hope you can view them here with an eye to their beauty.

House Centipede - These were originally from the Mediterranean region of the world but have found their way to most other continents and acclimated very well, thank you:>)  They do like houses to live in, are active more at night, and they can have up to 15 pairs of these long, delicate legs.  They are very fast and can run along the floor, up walls, and across ceilings.  They are hunters and their food is insects, other arthropods, especially spiders - yummy.  The babies are tiny versions of the adults with less legs, each instar (shedding of the skin) can add legs.  A quote from Wikipedia - "Young centipedes have four pairs of legs when they are hatched. They gain a new pair with the first molting, and two pairs with each of their five subsequent moltings."  Here is a write up from Penn State University.

Woodland snail on Black Cohosh - lousy picture but you can see it:>)

Millipede - Orthoporus texicolens - scientific name is to separate it from the next millipede.  Unlike the centipede, millipedes have two pairs of legs on most body segments.  They rarely come into the house, are pretty fast but not really if compared to centipedes.  Centipedes are hunters and eat other arthropods and insects (and can bite people), but millipedes are gentle creatures, often kept as pets and used in schools for science class.  They curl into this shape when scared.  The female encases her eggs in dung and mud (if I remember correctly) then stays with the eggs until they hatch.  Babies look like the parents but smaller and must go through a number of molts (shedding of skin) as they grow.  I've seen them up to 4 inches long and I know they can grow up to 6 inches long.  They can excrete awful smelling stuff as a protective move when threatened.

Millipede Polydesmida (Sigmoria aberrans) - Latin name to separate it from the above millipede.  These live in the leaf litter on the forest floor.

Unlike centipedes which are soft-bodied and mainly carnivorous, millipedes have an exoskeleton and generally eat decomposing plant matter.  Centipedes have only one pair of legs per body segment while millipedes have two.  If you look closely at this guy, all rolled up in fear of me, you'll see the legs.

Centipedes can bite; millipedes won't but they do have a noxious excretion.

Neither centipedes nor millipedes are insects; they are arthropods.

Here is more info for you if you're curious:

Have a wonderful, fun, and especially safe weekend!  Thanks for visiting and I'll be back next week.