Ambiguous Moth

The ambiguous moth! This delightfully-named little moth may well become my spirit animal. About 2cm across, this tiny brown moth, resembling a very small leaf with a rhinoceros horn, is in the family Erebdiae, the litter moths. Litter moths are named because many of their caterpillars feed on dead plant matter. Adults come in a…

Southern Armyworm Moth

This tiny (8mm) little friend was making him/herself at home on one of my baby sunflowers, and unfortunately had to be (humanely) relocated to other green stuff a distance away. Southern armyworm caterpillars are blackish green to green with a uniform light brown or orange head; otherwise they are quite variable in appearance. There is…

Saddled Prominent Moth

Meet the caterpillar of the saddled prominent moth, Heterocampa guttivitta. This spectacular, bright green caterpillar is speckled with red spots, and has longitudinal yellow stripes, and a huge, flat, almond-shaped head with black, red, and yellow stripes. Apparently the defining characteristic here is the two red and yellow horns, or warts, at the back of…

Plain Red-Brown Long Horn Sedge

I’m proud of this identification. This insect looks very much like a moth, except for one thing — there appears to be an extra antenna, or possibly an extra leg, kind of furry, under its head. I had exactly this one photo of it, so I didn’t know if that was a leg, or an…

Soldier Fly (Sargus fasciatus)

This large, strikingly-colored fly (metallic red/purple thorax, striped abdomen, white “racing” stripe and white spot between the eyes) is about 1 cm long. It’s one of many species of soldier flies, in the family Stratiomyidae. I wish I could say more about it, but here is the complete Wikipedia entry (other flies in the family…

Oak Treehopper

I love treehoppers, and it was a delightful treat to find this brilliantly-colored white one with bright red eyes, orange and black stripes, and a prominent horn. The oak treehopper (Platycotis vittata) is generally about 8-9 mm long, not including the horn, which doesn’t seem to be related to the insect’s gender, and indeed may…

Brown-Winged Striped Sweat Bee

The brown-winged striped sweat bee (Agapostemon splendens) is another victim of Extremely Obvious Naming; it’s unfortunate that this gorgeous, metallic green bee has such a boring name. This is actually a male A. splendens; the abdomens of females are metallic green, and their tibia are furry. Sweat bees (family Halictidae) come in a huge variety…

Stimulopalpus japonicus (Bark Louse)

This insect was so tiny in person that I was not entirely sure it was an insect. My eyes could only pick up a small, moving white dot. Once “blown up” through the camera lens, I saw…what was that? It looks kind of like a baby grasshopper or cricket, except the legs are wrong for…

Eastern Eyed Click Beetle

This huge (~5cm) black beetle, with its distinctive black and white eyespots, is commonly referred to as the big-eyed click beetle or eastern eyed click beetle for what I hope are obvious reasons. It is also known as the eyed elater. The Latin name is Alaus oculatus. “Click” beetles have have a spinelike structure on…

Green Hoverfly

This shiny little marble is an adult female Ornidia obesa (most likely)…a green hover fly, or syrphid fly. (Like horse flies, female green hover flies have widely separated eyes while males have contiguous eyes, giving them a wrap-around sunglasses look.) I find these little things charming, and they’re apparently fearless: this one hung around to…

Sexton Beetle (Nicrophorus carolina)

I think this is where I have to admit I have a problem. I was hanging around in the backyard, waiting for our dog do what she does best, and noticed that one of our local anole lizards had passed on. I knelt down to look, and saw that it was swarming with ants. “Oooh,…

Sweetpotato Armyworm Moth

Meet the sweetpotato armyworm caterpillar, a reasonably common backyard denizen in the southeastern US, Central and South America. This particular fat little bugger had an uninterrupted evening eating the only one of my sunflowers to successfully bloom, and was not gracious at all when I pulled it off my sunflower and set it on the…

Asian Lady Beetle

I grew up calling these “ladybugs”, too, but, technically, Harmonia axyridis, and other lady beetles, are not true bugs. H. axyridis, also known as the harlequin lady beetle, Halloween lady beetle, Asian lady beetle, or multicolored Asian ladybeetle, is native to eastern Asia, but was introduced to Europe and North America in order to control…

Hieroglyphic Cicada

Due to some unfortunate misadventures in my youth, I’m generally avoidant of cicadas, even knowing that they are harmless. The hieroglyphic cicada (Neocicada hieroglyphica), at only 32mm long, is smaller than the cicadas I remember hatching in jars when I was younger (only to be dive-bombed by the resulting angry adults when I tried to…

Puss Caterpillar

The distinctive, furry, yellow puss caterpillar is actually the larva of the equally distinctive, furry, yellow southern flannel moth, Megalopyge opercularis. The adult moths are lovely, cuddly-looking things, yellow and cream, with big soft wings and fluffy abdomens. The caterpillars are equally cuddly looking, but the soft yellow setae (hairs) on their body are interspersed…

Palm Flatid Planthopper

Having gotten a camera that can make these little insects visible, I’ve decided that I love planthoppers. They look like tiny, perpetually-startled, neon aliens. The palm flatid planthopper, Ormenaria rufifascia, is a charming, Muppet-faced, bright green species, with bright orange and blue stripes on its head. Adults are relatively big for hoppers, about 11mm in…