Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Spotted Lanternfly

The spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula), is actually not a fly, but a plant-hopper. It is also known as “spot clothing wax cicada” or “Chinese blistering cicada”. These insects are called lanternflies because of the inflated front part of their head that was thought to be luminous.

This species is native to China, India, Japan, and Vietnam. But last year it has been detected for the first time in the United States in Pennsylvania. 

The spotted lanternfly is considered a pest as it feeds on a variety of host plants including fruit trees, ornamental trees, woody trees, and vines.  More than 70 species of hosts are attacked by this pest.  Some of their favorite tree species actually contain high concentrations of toxic alkaloids. Choosing plants with toxic metabolites for foraging and more importantly for egg laying is thought to be a mechanism of defense to protect from natural enemies. Spotted lanternfly is considered poisonous and as such used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Giant Stag Beetle

The Giant Stag Beetle (Lucanus elaphus) is a species you may only see on rare occasion, or not at all. It is a shy insect that prefers to roam around at night. 

The males appear fierce and dangerous with huge mandibles that are often as long as their body, but these weapons are only used in combat with other males to win the favor of a female. This species is rather large, up to 5 cm in length but the beetles aren't aggressive towards humans. They may rear up and display their pinchers if disturbed, but it is just a bluff. They have no venom or poison sting and they don’t bite. Actually they are often quite docile to handle. Females are similar in appearance but their mandibles are much shorter.

These beetles are good climbers and often prefer it over flying. They live around dead trees and logs and the larvae when hatched, feed upon the decaying wood.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Striped deer fly

Deer flies belong to the insect family Tabanidae which is also known as greenheads or bulldog flies. We have about 4500 species worldwide, and many of them have dazzling, rainbow-striped or spotted eyes. Allow one to mesmerize you and you will get a painful bite. The females of most species are blood feeders. They use their knifelike mouthparts and slice and dice your skin only to slurp up the flow of blood. Only the females bite, the males sip flower nectar and hover in open areas or over prominent objects to intercept females.

Chrysops vittatus is known as the striped deer fly due to three stripes on its thorax, and four stripes on its abdomen. Deer flies are generally smaller in size (10-12mm) than their cousins the horse flies. They are fairly common in wet wooded areas. For some reason they often circle your head, so wearing a hat helps to deter them. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Giant weta

The giant weta native to the Little Barrier Island of New Zealand (Deinacrida heteracantha) proudly bears the name of the heaviest and largest adult insect in the world, the record weight for one being of 71 gram and more than 10 centimeters in length. These insects can be heavier than a sparrow. 

Before humans began settling on New Zealand islands, bats were the only warm–blooded mammals in the ecosystem. All species of wetas thrived in safety. Sometime between 1,000 and 2,000 years ago, native people from Polynesian islands (Maoris) first traveled to the New Zealand islands. They brought with them the kiore, or Polynesian rat. It quickly became a predator of wetas. When European settlers began arriving in the eighteenth century, they brought to the islands an enormous array of other animals. They cut down the forests for timber and to create farmland, and the whole shape of the New Zealand landscape changed. 

All weta species are protected today and their limited habitats have been designated as reserves. However, predators remain in these habitats. Although domestic cats that had been living in the wild on Little Barrier Island have been exterminated, the wetapunga is still threatened by the kiore.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Black Damsel Bug

Have you ever heard of an insect called a damsel bug? Despite their name, these insects are anything but distressed and are in fact a very dangerous and effective predator! Many damsel bugs catch and hold prey with their forelegs, a predatory technique similar to that of the praying mantis. 

Careful inspection of fall flowers will often reveal these gray-brown bugs, often with half-consumed aphids hanging from their beaks. They are considered helpful species in agriculture because of their predation on many types of crop pests, such as cabbage worms and aphids.

Today’s damsel bug, Nabicula subcoleoptrata is a mimic of ants, usually wingless and lives in meadows from the Atlantic Coast to British Columbia.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Bathroom mothmidge

Moth flies such as the bathroom mothmidge (Clogmia albipunctata) love to live in places where wet, microorganism-rich films can be found, such as on wet rocks, near streams or in sink and sewage drainpipes. These small true flies are aptly named for their short, hairy bodies and wings which give them a fuzzy moth-like appearance. The adults have long antennae and are most active at night within their damp environments. 

Most North American moth flies do not bite, but some tropical members of this family are blood feeders and can be vectors for transmitting dangerous diseases such as leishmaniasis, which can cause extensive skin sores. Species of North American nonbiting moth flies can occur in huge numbers within compost heaps, a habitat they share with common members of the small wood gnat and scavenger fly families. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

European plant bug

Although Dicyphus errans lacks a common name, we have dubbed this interesting critter the European plant bug! As its name suggests, the bug is native to Europe and, since 2000, this species has been mass-reared and released in agricultural areas in Europe to control various pests, particularly flies and scale insects. A closely related species, Dicyphus hesperus, is similarly used to control whiteflies in North America. However, these species are not ideal for controlling pests because they are what is called generalist omnivore, which means they consume both small arthropods as well as plants. That also means once they've done their job of eating a pest species they start damaging the same crops that they were intended to protect along with neighboring plants. 

This species was recorded for the first time in North America in 2013 at a public school in Listowel, Ontario. The school participated at our School Malaise Trap Program and a few bugs of this European species occurred in their catch.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Club-Horned Wasp

Species in the family of sapygid wasps have unusually thick antennae, but possess the black and yellow striped bodies like so many other bees and wasps. Today’s species (Eusapyga verticalis) is a good example. These wasps are parasites which lay their eggs in the nests of other solitary wasps. Their larvae consume the larvae of their host and any other nutrients in the nest such as pollen. This type of lifestyle is called cleptoparasitism. 

They are not considered as pests, although other wasps that they steal from no doubt regard them as criminals in the insect world. This family is widespread but rare with only 11 species in North America and 82 species across the world.