African Fig Fly

This handsome orange fruit fly (or vinegar fly) with its distinctive white “racing stripes” is the African fig fly, Zaprionus indianus. This invasive and destructive species has made its way from its native west Africa through much of India, Europe, and South America, arriving in Florida in 2005. The females lay eggs in overripe fruit,…

Homaemus proteus

Meet one of five species of shield-backed bugs in the genus Homaemus: this is Homaemus proteus, notable for those two lovely spots on its scutellum (although not all individuals have the spots, and some have much bigger spots — I wonder if this might be a nymph rather than a color morph, but this is…

Mexican Paper Wasp

Meet Mischocyttarus mexicanus, the Mexican paper wasp. This eusocial species has actually been extensively studied, because individual wasps employ different reproductive strategies over their lifetime, including nesting individually and as a colony, brood parasitism (with unrelated conspecifics) and usurpation. This “reproductive generalization” is unusual behavior. M. mexicanus can be found all over the southern United…

Acutalis tartarea (Treehopper)

This strange little beastie does not have a common name, alas, although I’ve seen it on Project Noah as “Black-veined treehopper”, which works. It is notable for its bright green abdomen, black “painted” lines along the wing veins, partially clear wings, and a wide, dark brown “stripe” on the pronotum. The pattern of coloration varies…

Pennsylvania Flea Beetle

Flea beetles (as you may guess after seeing those big, folded, hoppy hind legs) are known for their prodigious jump. In general, they aggravate gardeners by making holes in leaves. This particular species, the Pennsylvania flea beetle (Disonycha pensylvanica) however, prefers wetland areas and not eating human crops. This ~5mm beetle has a black head,…

Dot-lined White Moth

I regret that I do not (yet) have any photos of the adult moth (Artace cribrarius), mostly because it strongly resembles a stuffed animal, but please enjoy these fascinating pictures of the A. cribrarius caterpillar, a very well-camouflaged caterpillar which appears to resemble the bark of a birch tree, complete with nifty “fringe of sublateral…

Baby Jumping Spiders

Newly-hatched baby spiders can be almost spherical, tiny, half-formed, without a lot of features. I’ve heard spider enthusiasts describe newly-hatched spiders as “eggs with legs“. After their first molt, though, they seem to become tiny versions of the adults, although until a spider has grown up completely it may be missing characteristics that allow you…

Clastoptera querci

Spittlebugs are related to leafhoppers and other tiny, hopping insects which suck juices out of plants. Spittlebugs are unique in that they hide in little white frothy clouds of “spit” (hence the name) as nymphs. (It’s not actually spit. It’s actually secreted from the, um, other end of the insect.) Adult spittlebugs do not hide…

Melanoliarus sp. Planthopper

It’s hard to tell scale in macro photography, but this planthopper was relatively huge — almost 1 cm — and was very patient while I got some gorgeous photos. Melanoliarus has about 48 species in North America, and they can only be firmly identified by looking at the genitals of the males, so Melanoliarus sp….

Messua limbata

This darling little brown jumping spider is an adult female Messua limbata, the only species of Messua found in North America. Both males and females are about the same size, 5mm or so, and these spiders range from California to Arizona, as well as “Texas to Mexico”, which apparently also includes Florida. The kind people…

Heptagonal Orbweaver

This unassuming 3mm spider was almost invisible, hanging vertically, upside-down, with its legs in an X pattern in a tiny, five-inch web with a little stabilimentum. It looked like a miniature representative of the genus Argiope, one of the big garden spiders, but in fact this lovely lady is an adult female heptagonal orbweaver, Gea…

Flat-Faced Longhorn Beetle (Ecyrus dasycerus)

I’ve found a few of these strange little gray beetles in this odd position — with their antennae folded back, their front half braced on the top of the boardwalk railing and their back half dangling off the side — and I wonder if they aren’t just doing their best to pretend to be part…

Brazilian leafhopper

This glorious little yellow leafhopper, with its brown and white spots, was all of 4mm long, and sitting on the leaf of a sunflower (you can just see the little hairs on the leaf’s surface in the photo), waving gently back and forth in the wind. This did not make it easy to get a…

Tree Cattle (Cerastipsocus venosus)

These delicate, ephemeral little black “flies”, about 6-8mm long, are actually bark lice — Cerastipsocus venosus — with the appallingly banal common name of tree cattle. (They actually share this common name with a number of other species of bark lice.) Both adults and nymphs of C. venosus form crazy-large groups (like herds of cattle,…

Cryptotermes cavifrons

This gorgeous little fairy-like insect is, tragically, a termite, a rather unfortunate insect to find in my backyard. I can only hope that one of my native population of anoles later made itself a snack after I let this pestiferous creature go on about its way. (I try to always properly thank my photo subjects.)…

White-Banded Fishing Spider

The white-banded fishing spider, Dolomedes albineus, is named for a light or white “moustache” which is sometimes found just above its chelicerae, on its clypeus (roughly its “face”). This individual does not display the white band, but it does have the many bristly setae (hairs) on its legs, and the forest-green coloration which mark it…