Category: informational

hi! im fascinated by the thyanta perditor stin…

hi! im fascinated by the thyanta perditor stinkbugs in my garden (common name too long). i cant find any images of them as nymphs, though. so you inspired me – i took some eggs and im going to raise them myself! ive never raised bugs before though, do you have advice? should i just give them pieces of the plants the adults live on or should i try giving them fruits as well (the nymphs eat the same as adults right?) and how do i best give them water? thank you, all help very appreciated! 😃

Very good! I raised Thyanta custator last year, and they were a lot of fun but I got so behind dealing with all my rearing photos I still haven’t uploaded most of them (or made a follow-up post for them on here [link to posts with my stink baby tag]). I made a couple entries for them on iNaturalist [link] and Bugguide [link].


To answer your questions:

Feeding the babies: They will basically eat any soft leafy plants (which is why gardeners aren’t fond of them, but I’ve never seen them cause actual damage!). You want to feed them whatever is easiest for you to provide them fresh, continually. Try a bunch of things! I started out giving them a random assortment of plants (some stink babies grow up on grasses, and those were easy!), but the problem with Thyanta is their favorite foods dry out really quickly. If you give them something like lettuce (from your garden or the grocery store!), you can make a clean cut on the stem and wrap the stem with a damp paper towel. It should last a decent amount of time. Something with a more rigid stalk (ragweed or pokeweed leaves? Leafy flowery bushes?), you can place in a small container or jar with water, but make sure there is something that prevents them from following the stalk into their watery grave. I have been having success with filling the container with water, then throwing in paper towels or cotton balls to slow the water evaporation and keep the babies from drowning.

Watering the babies: Insects (to my knowledge) don’t drink water like other animals do! All of their water comes from their food. So just make sure their food is nice and fresh, and they will be fine!

Preventing escapes: They WILL try to escape. Find a way to stop them! I used critter carriers with a piece of paper towel over the opening between the container and the lid. If you raise them in a jar, you can use one of the canning lid rings with paper towel or fabric. They can squeeze through much smaller holes than you think they can, and they can go MUCH FASTER than you think!

Molting: If they stop moving/stop eating, and then you see “dead” ones at the bottom, they may have just molted!


Above is a molting baby Thyanta! Bugs (True Bugs, hemiptera) tend to be red after molting. In the image above, you can see the old skin (the exuvia) he is squeezing out of. Those skins are basically an empty shell in the same shape/size as the babies had been. They are fun to collect to compare the size of the babies at each life stage.

GOOD LUCK and let me know if you have any more questions!

July 18, 2018

Hello! I discovered what I am fairly certain i…

Hello! I discovered what I am fairly certain is a pre-pupal Citheronia regalis caterpillar in my yard and I would like to try and raise the squishy baby into adulthood! I havent had a lot of luck in finding any care recommendations for the little blue noodle. Do you have any advice? Thank you!!

Oh congratulations! I haven’t met one of those yet, but I hope to some day! If your baby is, in fact, prepupal, then it is wandering around trying to find the perfect spot to pupate and is no longer eating and doing normal caterpillar stuff.

Sometimes you do find regular caterpillars wandering around that aren’t prepupal, and those need to eat. Silk moths are popular enough you can find information on their hosts fairly easily. There is a great lepidoptera/host plant database online: Give the baby some fresh twigs of the host plant (put the stem in water and seal the opening by filling the container with cotton balls or cover the top of the water container with press-n-seal and cut a small hole for the plant—lots of caterpillars are kinda dumb and will drown themselves -_-)

The way you can tell prepupal and regular caterpillars apart: prepupal caterpillars start to fade in color and look sick. They restlessly wander around. They aren’t interested in any host plants you present to it. The silk moths will make cocoons, usually with leaves or leaf-litter, but sometimes they’ll just make “naked” cocoons. When they start making a cocoon, the best thing you can do is leave it alone. They will be chewing on things, rubbing their face on stuff, sewing leaves together, etc. so give it some kind of substrate. Paper towels work fine for most species!

When they pupate there is always a risk you will hatch parasitic flies/wasps instead of a moth, so prepare yourself. But if you have a moth, they can stay in their pupae for a very long time! If your baby is still in the cocoon when winter rolls around, you want to simulate winter by putting it in the fridge, or leaving it in a protected area outside. When the weather starts to warm up in spring, you can bring the baby back in and give it lots of space to emerge and stretch its wings. I use pop-up laundry hampers that zip completely closed.

I hope this helps and good luck!

July 15, 2018

nanonaturalist: nanonaturalist: • Still in b…



• Still in bed at 11:30 am because I’m a grown-ass adult and I can
• Hear a *thump* on my bedroom window
• huh
• What have I done to become so blessed? Has the Cicada God deemed me worthy? Is this the karma I have been so patiently waiting for?
• Thank you for the beautiful song, sweet boy 😭

June 23, 2018

Oh right I forgot to mention: the window is closed. The sound you hear is through double-paned glass. These things are so loud they can actually hurt your ears.

@dratinimartini​ I am indeed so blessed 😭Please enjoy

Cicadas I Have Loved

Posted previously (POST-MOLT GIFSET) here [link]

Cicadas of the world. Top left: The first cicada I ever saw. Auckland, New Zealand in 2007. Top right and bottom photos were two cicadas I saw in Malawi last year (2017).

Some Texan Babes. A couple of these I posted recently. Check them out:
Scissors Grinder comes out of nowhere and lands on my shirt
Little Mesquite Cicada takes a Superb Dog-day Cicada for a pony ride

I obsessively document all my bugs on iNaturalist. Check out all my cicadas here (including their different screams!) [link]

Also, probably worth mentioning I am A BIG FAN OF SCREAMING BUGS

Above: your humble narrator upon receipt of the best shirt ever [link]

@samwisenichols Yes! It’s True! They Are LOUD. Observe Chapter 24 of the University of Florida Book of Insect Records: LOUDEST [link]:

Those are all cicadas. And the “SPL” in the chart is the sound in decibels. The loudest of the loud cicadas average over 105 dB when measured from 50 cm (approx 20 inches away). But how loud is 105 dB anyway? Check out these scales I stole from this website [link] and vandalized with a beautiful Neotibicen <3

Louder than a chainsaw! 😀

Some species of cicada are so loud, you couldn’t take them into a concert or dance club in the EU without breaking the law! Listening to cicadas scream at 20 inches away for less than 4 minutes can result in irreversible hearing damage.


July 12, 2018

@clev988​ submitted:

@clev988​ submitted:

I also found this in school with some students. We’d like to know what it is as well. Thanks!

This is a damselfly! They are very closely related to dragonflies (order Odonata), and are different in that they have a thinner abdomen and hold their wings differently. They fly very fast, and are very effective predators–they eat things like flies and small bugs, often while they are still flying! They are so busy zooming around that it’s not common to get one to land on you, so congratulations for your student (I assume?) on meeting one!

More specifically, this is a Narrow-wing Damselfly (also called Pond Damselfly), which is Family Coenagrionidae. Here is a little more information about them (and lots of pictures!) on Bugguide [link]. Their site is a little weird–this is the link to the “info” page. Towards the top, you will see tabs that say “Browse,” “Info,” “Images,” etc. If you click “Browse,” it will take you to a list view that shows the subgroups and a handful of random photos. You can click on the subgroup names and get more specific. If you click on “Photos,” it will take you to all of the photos people have submitted to the guide. It’s a great resource!

Another great resources is iNaturalist. Here is their page for Narrow-wing Damselflies [link]. Bugguide is limited to America north of Mexico, but iNaturalist contains user-submitted images from all over the world. You can filter to show only species that occur in your region. Also, if you create an account and add your own photos, their ID tool will try to identify the species for you when you upload. It’s a lot of fun! And when you upload, you can keep track of all the things you’ve seen, plus your photos are available for other people to see when they are doing research.

This is a fun “interactive” key for identifying Odonates [link]. It doesn’t include ALL the species possible, but it will help you see which parts of the insect you should look at to identify them. It’s good for narrowing your search down if you are stuck!

Here are a few Narrow-wing Damselflies I have seen in Texas. The names are links leading to my observation pages on iNaturalist:

They can be very colorful! Top left: Violet Dancer Bottom left: Desert Firetail Right: Rambur’s Forktail

A lot of Damselflies are blue! Top: Forktail Damselfly (I think!) Middle: Familiar Bluet Bottom: Seepage Dancer

Usually the really colorful ones are males. The females tend to be brown or less vibrantly colored. Sometimes it can be hard to identify the females, but if you manage to catch a mating pair (bottom) you will be able to see the differences more closely. Top: A female Dancer. Dancers have very long spines on their legs. Take a look at hers! Bottom: The mating pair are Double Striped Bluets. The male will place his sperm in a pocket in his thorax, and he will hold onto the female by her neck (they can fly like this!). The female will then place the tip of her abdomen into the male’s pocket to collect the sperm and fertilize her eggs. They end up looking like a heart!

Because the immature Damselflies grow up in the water (just like Dragonflies), the females will lay their eggs in the water. I managed to catch this pair laying eggs! [link].

Dragonflies and Damselflies don’t have larvae (like mosquitoes do), they have nymphs, also called “naiads,” which look similar to the adults, except they have no wings. They are also predators in the water, and will eat things like mosquito larvae. Here’s one I saw in a pond [link]:

I don’t know too much about Damselfly anatomy, but I think those little tails might be gills. 

There are lots of other types of Damselflies besides the Narrow-winged Damselflies. Here are a couple others I have seen!

American Rubyspot Damselflies! Left: A female eating something! [link] Right: A male sticking his butt in the sand! [link]

Great Spreadwing. These Damselflies hold their wings out open instead of together like most other Damselflies do, so it can be easy to mistake them as Dragonflies. But remember that Damselflies are much thinner, and you will be able to tell them apart from Dragonflies! These are two different individuals. Observation for the Left one is here [link], and the right one is here [link].

Thank you for sharing your photo with me! I hope you learned some fun things about Damselflies!

July 9, 2018
All photos except submission are mine and show Damselflies seen in Texas!

All my caterpillars (Black swallowtails) sudde…

All my caterpillars (Black swallowtails) suddenly died. They just… quit eating. One was writhing in the ground, refusing to eat. We had at least 25 very healthy caterpillars and once they ate one plant to the nubbins, they just refused to move to another, fresher plant. Do you have any idea what caused this?

Oh no, I’m sorry to hear about your loss! For moth caterpillars, they will go prepupal, where they stop eating, wander around, generally look sick, then stop moving before they pupate. But for butterfly caterpillars, you wouldn’t expect this, since they need to make their silk pad and dangle for a bit before they pupate.

Where did you get their first plant vs their second plant? Are there any differences between the two?

I have a couple ideas about what might have happened:

1. The plants weren’t the same exact species. A lot of caterpillars will eat similar, though closely related, plant species. Monarchs and milkweed are a common one—as far as I’m aware, any milkweed will do. Swallowtails eat citrus plants (right?), but I don’t know if they will eat all similar plants, or only a few. Additionally, although some caterpillars will eat whatever they find, some will only eat what they ate when they first hatched or before their last molt. I raise Unicorn Prominent moths, and I always find them on my baby plum tree. But, they will eat elm, so I try to move them over to elm. My last batch got big enough by the time I tried to move them that they would only eat plum.

2. If the plants were exactly the same, is it possible one had been sprayed or coated with something? Pesticide, oils from another plant, animal urine? Or is it possible the first plant had been sprayed? I had the unfortunate experience of feeding my Polyphemus caterpillars plants that had been upwind from pesticide applications. They grew slowly, and many developed severe constipation and died. It was very sad. But now I’m able to recognize pesticide poisoning in caterpillars.

Be aware: even if you buy your plants from a natural nursery that doesn’t spray, their supplier may have sprayed the plants. Your best bet is to grow the plants yourself, either from seed, or grow them enough that you can be sure you’re feeding fresh leaves only, or to get them from a trusted source who grew them from seed.

July 8, 2018

notyourgrandfather: peanutworm: nanonaturali…








JULY 2, 2018






JULY 6, 2018

@keepcalmandcarrieunderwood submitted:

@keepcalmandcarrieunderwood submitted:

It was like an all black bumble bee. Spotted in Aloha Oregon. Very chill bug

Very nice, you spotted a FLY! (Remember when I said “If you think it’s a bee, it’s probably a fly”? Also, great job going out and looking for things! I’m proud of you!) Some of these guys can get so big they are often mistaken for large bees (and that may be on purpose, too!). I am still trying to learn my flies (there are so many kinds of flies you have no idea), but I think you have either a tachinid fly or a blow fly.


Left: A tachinid fly (I think?) [link to iNat page]; Right: A blow fly (Genus Calliphora) [link to iNat page]

Tachinid flies are common parasitoids–I’ve had a bunch hatch out of my moth cocoons when I was expecting, well, moths. Blow flies tend to lay their eggs on “gross” stuff like poop, dead animals, and can also be parasites. As far as telling them apart, I know that tachinid flies have super bristly butts. Besides that, I usually just post photos to iNaturalist and hope the fly people see them.

But how do you tell a fly from a bee? Some flies are very convincing, but there are a few things you can look for! Here are a carpenter bee and a bumble bee:


On the left is a carpenter bee, and on the right is a bumble bee. They are both very large bees, and they can both be mostly black, or black and yellow. The key difference is carpenter bees have shiny bums and bumble bees have furry bums. I point out some key features on the carpenter bee for comparison with flies: bees have long antennae, fat legs (to carry pollen!), and black eyes. The thing about the eyes may not be universally true for bees, but compared to flies…


Above is what I think is a tachinid fly [link to iNat observation]. The big giveaway is the antennae. I call fly antennae dongles because I can. I don’t know the technical term. In any case, they are placed where you would expect a nose (instead of their “forehead” like bees). They also have skinnier legs, and many have red eyes. Also, check out those hairs. With bees, you either have fluff/fuzz or smooth. You don’t have hairy/bristly bodies, but they are common on flies.

Another key differentiating feature is the number of wings, but I don’t think that’s too helpful for comparing flies and bees. The way bees hold their wings, you can rarely see that there are two. Flies will have little organs for balance called halteres (these are actually their “vestigial” second pair of wings), but they aren’t always visible. If you have a dead insect, it’s easy enough to check this, but when you have a live one buzzing around flowers (flies are very important pollinators!), it’s not as useful. Better to look at the face!

July 6, 2018
Bees and flies were all seen in Texas EXCEPT the blow fly was in San Francisco!

About Wolf Spiders!


Baby wolf spider? Idk?? A cutie tho!! It has the same shapes and the same faint line down the back as well as the same position and length of legs and arms as a wolf spider. This one is just minuscule, so… a baby? Or am I mixing this guy up with another spidey?

Hello friend! Spiders can be really hard to identify because there are so many kinds, many of them look alike even if they are not closely related, and a single species can have so much variation in size, color, and shape that even experts will argue about them!

The key to figuring out what family a spider belongs to is eye arrangement. Here is a guide to spider families based on eye arrangement [link]. And by family, I mean taxonomy: kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species. Arachnid is the class, and Aranae is the order that includes all spiders.

Even though it’s hard to see the eyes with this spider’s dark face, I think this is a Sac Spider (family Clubionidae). Here is the bugguide page for Sac Spiders with lots of photos and more information [link]. I’ve seen lots of spiders like this, with and without their sacs 🙂 BUT! As I said, spider ID is really hard and I might be wrong!

About Wolf Spiders!

I have lots of wolf spider friends, though, and I’m pretty good at knowing when something is or isn’t a wolf spider (your spider friend is not a wolf). And about the size: adult wolf spiders come in all sorts of sizes!

Here is a very large Rabidosa rabida (Rabid Wolf Spider). I don’t like that name much, they are very sweet. I tend to put my finger in my photographs to give a sense of scale, and this lady is so big, my finger was “prey” size and I got a free hug! 😀

Here is a different species of wolf spider with the same finger (we’re holding hands)! I don’t know which species she is, though. And I know this is an adult because she has an egg sac. Wolf spiders carry their eggs in a sac under their abdomens, and they are the only kind of spiders who hold their eggs like this. A few other closely related spiders also carry their eggs, but I don’t remember which ones or how they hold them. :X

And the babies?

Mama Wolf gives piggyback rides to all her babies until they are large enough to fend for themselves!

Juvenile spiders tend to look mostly like their adult selves, especially in terms of body shape and proportion. So if you see a spider that looks like X spider but is too small, it could be a young one! Just get a good look at the eye arrangement!

July 4, 2018

Question Mark pupation! When a caterpillar is …

Question Mark pupation! When a caterpillar is nearing pupation, she will spin a dense silk pad that secures her chrysalis. It’s a little hard to see in here, but the Question Marks spin a HOT PINK silk pad! When the pad is ready, she will grab onto it REAL TIGHT with her rear pair of prolegs (first image, the gif). I don’t know what is happening physiologically at this stage (the prolegs may change in structure with attachment), but when she is attached, she will begin the pupation process. 

Question Marks hang upside down in a curved “J” shape. The larval skin will split and the chrysalis will emerge. I haven’t witnessed this for the Question Marks yet, but it’s strange and interesting for the species I have seen— the chrysalis is a formless blob shaped kinda like the caterpillar, and it wiggles around to make sure the larval skin drops off. While doing this wiggle, the chrysalis will carefully “step out” from the skin and attach to the silk pad. The end of the chrysalis has some tiny hooks (like velcro!) called the cremaster. Sometimes the chrysalis will have an accident and fall off, but when that happens, you can find any patch of silk (they leave it EVERYWHERE) and reattach! 

The outer skin of the chrysalis will slowly harden into a protective layer, which has the distinctive shape for that type of butterfly. Question Mark chrysalids look like a gnome face, and those white patches are pearlescent and sparkle like diamonds! On the chrysalis, you can see the face and developing wings.

The night before the butterfly emerges, the chrysalis will appear to darken as the body and wings of the butterfly develop their coloration. 

July 3, 2018

ripleyandweeds: labbbugs: nanonaturalist: ms…







Any bugblrs out there got a guess as to what this little guy is? He looks like a weird-ass, fuzzy, scarlet red ant, but hes about the size of a carpenter bee.

I saw him on a hike through the Zuni Pine Barrens/Blackwater Ecological Preserve in Zuni, Virginia.

Red velvet ant/ Cow killer wasp! And you can tell this one is female because it has no wings. (The male cow killers have wings, but no stinger)

They run pretty fast, but they don’t attack unless provoked

Just make sure if you’re in areas like this and you’re out with your pets that you keep a close eye on them because you don’t want them investigating a velvet ant too closely.

! Velvet Ants are So Interesting !

They’re not actually ants (they’re wasps), and the ladies can do a pretty good number on you with her stinger! Velvet ant females don’t have wings, which is how you can tell them apart from the stingless flying males (stingers are modified ovipositors, the tubes females lay eggs through–males can’t sting!). The females make up for not flying by being very fast, so it’s tough to get decent photos of them!

Some of the first couple I saw, not the best quality photos, but these ones were really interesting! On the left is Timulla suspensa, and on the right is Dasymutilla quadriguttata (and nope, they don’t have common names!).

Dasymutilla bioculata above (temporarily in a dish for photographing)

Unidentified Dasymutilla sp. A lot of these velvet ants look very similar and it can be hard to identify them from photographs [link to bugguide page for Dasymutilla].

I love velvet ants and they actually make really good pets!

Also I love the Zuni/Blackwater preserve! I did bat and bee surveys there last summer!

ok they’re cute and fuzzy but WHY are they also called ‘Cow Killer Wasps’

@ripleyandweeds These things are native and fairly common in scrublands, a place where people have historically had cattle running free, grazing on whatever they can find. They also have a notoriously painful sting. Like, real bad.

I don’t know how often cattle would step on one (probably not often, if ever), but after enough people got stung, they probably spun tales about how it was painful enough to kill a cow (to make themselves seem more macho or whatever).

In any case, no touching! !!! !!!!!