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…

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…

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…

Cottonwood Leaf Beetle

Meet the cottonwood leaf beetle, Chrysomela scripta. These charming little beetles are about 6mm long. They are red, orange or yellow with black spots/broken black lines on the elytra, and a reddish or yellow margin on the thorax. Both adults and larvae really love leaves, to the point of skeletonizing them, and are serious defoliators…

Pine Woods Snake

When I moved my trash can to drag it to the curb, the biggest worm I had ever seen, ever was hiding underneath it! When I looked closer, the “worm” was actually a gorgeous pine woods snake, Rhadinaea flavilata. (Alternate names include the yellow-lipped snake and brown-headed snake.) Like most snakes, this one didn’t want…

Pink-striped Oakworm Moth

This fuzzy little pink-to-orange silk moth of the family Saturniidae is found across Canada and the US. The females are larger (maybe an inch and a half long); the males have large transparent spots on their wings. Both sexes have the little white spot. In Florida, these guys reproduce year round. Males attract the females…

Ailanthus Webworm Moth

This tiny (1 cm) day-flying moth is actually native to Florida (so it’s funny I found this one in Indiana). The moth’s larvae used to live almost exclusively on the paradise tree (Simarouba glauca) in Florida, but when the “tree of heaven” (Ailanthus altissima) was introduced to the US from China, the ailanthus webworm moth…

Julia Butterfly

Dryas iulia (often incorrectly spelled julia) is also known as the Julia butterfly, Julia heliconian, the flame, or flambeau. It is the sole member of the genus Dryas, native from Brazil to the southern United States. There are more than 15 described subspecies. Approximately 80-90 mm across, its elongated wings are primarily orange with black…

Saltmarsh Moth Caterpillar

This little fellow is (very probably) a Saltmarsh Moth caterpillar (Estigmene acrea), but again this is one of those “identifications” wherein this could also be any one of a number of closely related species. Below, an earlier instar salt marsh moth caterpillar does an amazing yoga pose: The just-hatched caterpillars are mostly yellow, with little…

Milkweed Assassin Bug

A handsome milkweed assassin bug (Zelus longipes), wandering along one of the tombs in St. Louis Cemetery No 1 in New Orleans. These brightly-colored, long-legged insects are ambush hunters, believe it or not, which stroll idly along foliage, reaching out to grasp prey with their front legs. Most species of Zelus seem to be cryptically…