Bug o’the Week – Stirrings of Summer

Bug o’the Week
by Kate Redmond

Stirrings of Summer

Greetings, BugFans

Here are some of the bugs that the BugLady found in June, which was, overall, a hot and wet month (7.97” of rain at the BugLady’s cottage).

LIZARD BEETLE – the BugLady doesn’t know why these striking beetles are called Lizard beetles, unless it’s a nod to their long, slender shapes.  She usually sees them in the prairie on Indian Plantain plants.  The adults eat various parts of the plant, including pollen, while their larvae feed within the plant stems (the Clover stem borer is persona non grata in commercial clover fields). 

According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, many species of Lizard beetles “make squeaking sounds using well-developed stridulatory organs on top of the head.

Two (counterintuitively-named) ORANGE BLUETS, ensuring the next generation.  He “contact guards” her as she oviposits in submerged vegetation, lest a rival male come along and swipe her.  When the eggs hatch, the naiads can swim right out into the water.

BALTIMORE CHECKERSPOT – the BugLady has seen more of these spectacular butterflies than usual this year.  The caterpillars https://bugguide.net/node/view/206383 feed in fall on a late-blooming wildflower called Turtlehead (and sometimes broad-leaved plantain); turtlehead leaves (and plantain, to a lesser extent) contain growth-enhancing chemicals called iridoid glycosides that also discourage birds.  The caterpillars tuck in for the winter and emerge the next year into a landscape empty of Turtlehead. 

In spring, Baltimore Checkerspot caterpillars 2.0 feed on leaves of a variety of flowers and shrubs – the BugLady has seen them on goldenrod and on wood betony – and especially on leaves of the (doomed) white ash. 

CRAYFISH – the BugLady came across this crayfish and its companion when all three of us were negotiating a muddy trail (so many muddy trails this year!).  It waved its pincers at her to make sure she was terrified.

DOODLEBUGS (aka antlions) got going early this year – the BugLady found more than 100 excavations (pits) at the southeast corner of her house at the end of April, and more along the path leading to the beach.  They’ve had a rough go of it – it doesn’t take much rain to ruin a pit, and it takes a day or so to repair one.  

Doodlebug watchers sometimes catch a glimpse of pincers at the bottom of a pit, or of a doodlebug tossing sand around.  The BugLady witnessed an ant going to its final reward, and found a pit with a small beetle in it, one with a box elder bug, and one with a beetle and a small jumping spider.  She will look for the adults, which look kind of like damselflies, in August.

DONACIA – a golden beetle https://bugguide.net/node/view/2309637/bgimage on a golden flower.

COMMON SPRING MOTH – the BugLady loves finding bugs she’s never seen before, especially when she doesn’t have to leave home to do it!!  (She does get a little bewildered, though, when the “new” insect is named the “Common something” and she’s never seen it before).  The occurrence of this one should be no surprise – its caterpillars feed on Black locust leaves. 

PETROPHILA MOTHS are dainty moths that are tied to water.  The BugLady and BugFan Joan spotted mobs of moths on milkweed (yes, there’s a milkweed under there) on the bank of the Milwaukee River.  “Petrophila” means “rock lover” – for that story, see this BOTW about a (probably) different species https://uwm.edu/field-station/bug-of-the-week/two-banded-petrophila/.  

GREEN LACEWING EGGS – the BugLady wrote about Green lacewings and their eggs a few months ago, and she recently found this amazing bunch of tiny, glistening eggs.  She has always associated Green lacewings with the end of summer.  Guess not.

EIGHT-SPOTTED FORESTER MOTHS are small, spiffy, day-flying moths that are often mistaken for butterflies.  The one that the BugLady found recently was not as gaudy as most – most have brilliant orange leg scales https://bugguide.net/node/view/2300226/bgimage.  There’s a saying among Lepidopterists – the plainer the caterpillar, the more spectacular the adult.  Forester moths seem to be an exception https://bugguide.net/node/view/156406

POWDERED DANCERS oviposit at this time of year in the slightly-submerged stems of aquatic vegetation, especially Potamogeton https://bugguide.net/node/view/737371/bgimage.  They’ve been pictured here before.  This year, the river is running high and fast – there are no mats of Potamogeton leaves with Ebony Jewelwings, American Rubyspots, Stream Bluets, and Powdered Dancers flickering above them.  Do they have a Plan B?

These two BRILLIANT JUMPING SPIDERS (aka Red & Black jumping spiders), a male and a female, were perched a respectful distance from each other on the prairie.  Jumping spiders, as their name suggests, jump, and depending on species, can cover from 10 to 50 times their body length.  They don’t spin trap webs, but they do spin a drag line while jumping to guard against mishaps.  They hunt by day.

The great MObugs website (Missouri’s Majority) says that “By late July or August mating is on their mind. Males begin to compete with other males for the right to mate with nearby females. Larger males typically win these competitions which include loud vibrations and some unique footwork. Males choose the larger females to mate with as they produce the most eggs.”  She will place her egg sac in a silken nest in a leaf shelter and guard it, dying shortly after the spiderlings emerge from the sac.

ZELUS LURIDUS (aka the Pale green assassin bug) is the BugLady’s favorite Assassin bug.  They mostly wait patiently for their prey to wander by, but when it does, they reveal their super power.  Glands on their legs produce a sticky resin that they smear over the hairs on their legs.  When they grab their prey, it stays grabbed. 

They make distinctive egg masses https://bugguide.net/node/view/960067/bgimage (nice series of shots) – the BugLady has found them on the undersides of leaves, and the nymphs are pretty cool, too https://bugguide.net/node/view/1632827/bgimage

Although “lurid” now means shocking, vivid, or overly bright, it originally meant ghastly, horrifying, pale, sallow, or sickly yellow – its meaning began to change in the 1700’s.  

There – all caught up! 

Go outside – look at bugs!

Kate Redmond, The BugLady

Bug of the Week archives:

Bug o’the Week – Masked Hunter redo

Bug o’the Week
by Kate Redmond

Bug o’the Week Masked Hunter redo

Salutations, BugFans,

It’s the trough between Christmas and New Year’s – nothing but reruns.  This one, from 2009, has a few new words and pictures.  Party on!

Occasionally, one of the BugLady’s wee dust bunnies becomes a little more animated than the rest of them – a situation that is startling, momentarily, until she remembers the Masked Hunter (Reduvius personatus), an alien bug from Europe and Africa that is now found throughout the US.  The adult is a striking, shiny, black bug about ¾” long. The pale immature (nymph) has a sticky exterior that attracts lint and dust, earning it the nickname “dustbug,” and camouflaging or “masking” it from its predators.  One correspondent on www.whatsthatbug.com submitted a photo of a blue nymph that was living in a blue shag carpet; another referred to them as having a “tempura-like” coating.  Here’s an orange one https://bugguide.net/node/view/33323/bgimage.

Masked Hunters, in the Order Hemiptera (True Bugs), are in the Assassin bug family Reduvidae (and subfamily Reduviinae), a group of active and ambitious hunters that stalk primarily insect prey and will go after critters that are larger than they are.  They dispatch their prey by stabbing it with their short beak (rostrum) and injecting it with potent chemicals that both paralyze their catch and soften its innards so they may be slurped out. 

A different subfamily of Assassin bugs (not the Masked Hunter’s) includes bugs called “Kissing Bugs” https://bugguide.net/node/view/1968832/bgimage – the ultimate in image ambiguity. They feed on the blood of mammals, including humans, and a few are notorious disease vectors; their nickname derives from their targeting the thin skin on their victim’s face, especially the lips, often while said victim is asleep.  The debilitating and potentially fatal Chagas disease of Central and South America is spread by these Kissing bugs, which bear a family resemblance to the Masked Hunter.  There are a number of species of kissing bugs – mostly tropical, but one that gets into southern Illinois – and there are several kissing bug look-alikes on our landscape, but kissing bugs have not been recorded in Wisconsin. 

The good news is that Masked Hunters are insect-feeders, untiring consumers of bedbugs, pests that are staging a comeback in big cities everywhere thanks to the ease of world travel.  The bad news is that they are untiring and, according to some references, nearly exclusive consumers of bedbugs, and these authors suggest that if you have the predator, perhaps you should check for the prey!  Masked Hunters also live in nest colonies of Swallows, dining on small bedbug-relatives called “Swallow bugs.”  The BugLady sees Masked Hunters on early summer nights on her front porch, to which they and hundreds of other insects are attracted by the porch light, and she has read that sowbugs, lacewings, flies, carpet and grain beetles, and earwigs show up on their dinner plates, too. 

HANDLE WITH CARE (or preferably not at all)!!!  Masked Hunters and their relatives are not aggressive toward humans (and most do not spread disease), but they can defend themselves effectively if manhandled. The same beak that is so lethal to their prey can deliver a poke that is described by Eaton and Kaufman in their Field Guide to Insects of North America as “excruciating” and by other references as “like a snakebite,” and “painful enough to cause immediate faintness and vomiting” and as resulting in longer-term swelling, blood blisters and irritation.  The “Kissing Bug Scare of 1899” (True story! Google it!) was apparently caused when these guys (or their relatives, the Black Corsairs https://bugguide.net/node/view/1809856/bgimage, sources disagree) experienced a population boom in the northeast, entered houses in large numbers, and inflicted bites as people brushed them away from their faces. 

When they’re not feeding, assassin bugs bend their heads slightly downward, resting the beak/rostrum in a short, ridged grove between their forelegs.  They can produce sound by rubbing the beak-tip across these ridges.  Stridulation.

Kate Redmond, The BugLady

Bug of the Week archives:

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