Compact Carpenter Ant

This handsome large, red ant is native to Central America but has been, like so many other species, introduced to Florida and is slowly making its way into Texas. There are a lot of pages purporting to be about the compact carpenter ant, Campnotus planatus, but despite this it still suffers from Wikipedia Stub Syndrome,…

Neoclytus mucronatus

Alas, this gorgeous beetle (Latin name Neoclytus mucronatus) does not have a common name. It’s a longhorn beetle, but that really doesn’t narrow it down past the family (Cerambycidae). A bunch of its cousins have common names like “ash borer”, but this doesn’t. What this beetle needs to be called is a wasp-mimic beetle, because,…

Exasperating Platynota

There are times I wish I could be a fly on the wall at whatever entomologists’ meeting spawned an insect’s unusual name. This is one such time. I would love to hear the story behind the common name of the “exasperating platynota moth”, Platynota exasperatana. It’s the only notable name in a family full of…

Ornate Bella Moth

The most common name for this moth (Utetheisa ornatrix) seems to be the ornate bella moth, but my favorite is “rattlebox moth”. Apparently there’s a whole family of plants (Crotalaria) which produce seed pods that rattle if shaken, and this little moth loves to eat them. Crotalaria contain alkaloids which make the moths, and their…

Buren’s Pyramid Ant

Another lovely insect whose descriptions online are just stubs of articles. The “remarks” on the Dorymyrmex bureni page on bugguide mention that this ant is not considered a nuisance species as it happens not to shoot formic acid (as do some formicine ants). What a ringing recommendation. They’re brown, they like sandy areas, and they…

Cattail Mosquito

It’s hard for me to catch mosquitoes and flies with my big camera rig. Generally they don’t like being approached by the Big Black Eye and take off, at speed. I have so many photos of places where a bug just was! I caught this female cattail mosquito (Coquillettidia perturbans) on a very chilly morning…

Dusky-Winged Hover Fly

This fantastic, big-eyed little alien — I really cannot overemphasize how funky this thing looks — is a dusky-winged hover fly, Ocyptamus fuscipennis, a harmless little syrphid fly. I tried to find something else to say about this species, but it’s another Wikipedia stub. Trying to describe “syrphid flies” as a whole gives me so…

Acorn Moth (Blastobasis sp.)

When it comes to miniature (~5mm long, in this case, or 15mm across the open wings) mottled gray and white moths, identification can be tricky. I would have to get very invasive indeed to really, positively identify this little moth — bugguide mentions that “the only sure way to identify this and most other Blastobasidae…

Warrior Beetle (Pasimachus sp.)

These huge black beetles (about 3cm long) are surprising to find. They look formidable, and will bite if pressed, but prefer to run away and hide under things. I found this one under my garbage can. This key at the entomology department of the University of Florida keys this as a Pasimachus floridanus, but bugguide.net…

Sanctanus fasciatus

A charming little mottled yellow, brown and cream leafhopper, native to the southeastern United States and Central America down into northern South America. This could be some other member of Sanctanus — another genus mostly distinguished by tiny differences in genitalia — but it very strongly resembles this individual on bugguide.net. It’s perching on a…

Larger Canna Leafroller / Brazilian Skipper

In my backyard, I have a little cluster of brilliant orange canna lilies. I was admiring them when I noticed that some of the big, flat leaves had a suspiciously chewed look, and some of the edges were rolled over. When I pulled back the rolled-over edges, I found a few of these fat little…

Hag Moth Caterpillar

This one was definitely a “lifer” — approximately 1.5cm long, this wandering, tentacled floofball is the hag moth caterpillar, or “monkey slug”, the larva of the moth Phobetron pithecium. Like many things with inviting, fuzzy backs and adorable tentacles, this caterpillar is venomous — I’m actually having trouble finding out if it’s the tentacles, or…

Lelaps sp. (A Parasitic Wasp)

An unforeseen side-effect of picking up macro photography has been that, every time I turn around, I discover an entirely new universe. Before I started trying to identify my tiny photo subjects, I had absolutely no idea how many of the miscellaneous little black “flies” zooming around were actually tiny, parasitic wasps. And I do…

Blue-ringed Dancer Damselfly

Damselflies are the bane of my existence as a photographer — adorable, striking, expressive, and damn near impossible to identify in the field. They are either identified based on some tiny part which was just out of focus or just out of shot, or they start life as one color and turn other colors as…

Neotropical red-shouldered stink bug

This handsome little green stink bug, with its characteristic red stripe across the top of the scutellum and another red stripe down the snout, is the neotropical red-shouldered stink bug (or red-shouldered stink bug), Thyanta perditor. It’s another Wikipedia stub syndrome victim, alas; it lives in North, Central, and South America and the Caribbean and…

Telonaca alta

I find treehoppers to be adorable and desperately want to find one of the ones that looks like a helicopter, or an alien, or…unfortunately, this is the closest I’ve got so far, a charming mottled gray and white fellow with clear wings and a pronotum for days, giving it the appearance of a very, very,…