name that insect

The forgotten caterpillars

Way back in October, I posted a Name these Insects query. And nobody responded.

Actually, 2 people responded — including Mark — who identified the second entry, which was eastern black swallowtail.

Here it is once again.

But not a peep about the other one.

Where were the rest of my entomology geeks?

No one cares about the insects. But I do. I care about insects.

Except the stinkbugs.

They can die.

And I don’t like carpenter bees, because there too many of them. And one crawled into the mailbox and stung me.

Anyway, back to the mystery ‘pillar.

Help! Who am I? Or what am I?

Last chance…

Give up?

The above creature is a “silver spotted skipper caterpillar.”

According to my Deep Throat entomology source, spotted skipper butterflies are common but, “for some reason, we don’t see many of the caterpillars.”

The creepy eyespots are intended to encourage a predator to think twice — and consider that a tasty morsel might bite back.

Oh, and here’s a fun fact: According to Univ of Fla’s entomology webpage, when disturbed, the larvae (the caterpillars) regurgitate a greenish, bitter-tasting, defensive chemical.

So leave these guys alone. Or if you must pester one, keep your mouth shut.

Here’s the finished product:

An insect’s worst nightmare


Well, readers pounced on “Name That Insect” like an assassin fly.

Props to Lee, who accurately identified this insect as a “robber fly,” less than hour after I published the post.

But nice details from Lyn, who also buzzed in correctly, adding, “They are a predatory fly that captures its prey mid-flight. It then stabs its victim and uses its hypopharynx to suck the guts out of the unfortunate prey.”

Wikipedia offers similarly vivid imagery about the robber fly, which is also called an assassin fly:

It waits in ambush and “attacks its prey by stabbing it with its short, strong proboscis [ie, elongated, tubular mouth] injecting the victim with saliva containing neurotoxic enzymes, which rapidly paralyze the victim and soon digests the insides. The fly then sucks the liquefied material through the proboscis.”

Sounds like the insect world’s version of a mobster/alien — the stuff that keeps young flies and bees awake at night!


Name That Insect, 2016

Wow, it’s been two years since we’ve played the “Name That Bug” game. (And I’ve renamed the contest when I realized that, while all bugs are insects, not all insects are bugs. Blame my nonexistent editor.)

Anyway, November 2014 was the last time I posted one of these. Need a refresher? Click here for that one, and here for the answer.  And here’s another fun one — it wasn’t a reader challenge, but a colorful species just the same.

I wouldn’t have a “Name That Insect” post were it not for my friend Hunter, who thinks of me whenever she spies some freaky looking insect. And since she presently resides in a far-flung desert outpost near Joshua Tree National Park, she comes across plenty of winged oddities. Like this one:


So what is it? And is it chowing down on a late lunch, or taking advantage of this fly in other ways?

Details: about an inch-and-a-half in length; observed clinging to the side of Hunter’s California home, in the shade.

Come on you wannabe entomologists — y’all did pretty well with the last one.

I’ve done a bit of digging and have a guess, but I’ll wait for your answers before I query my insect expert.

As always, the prize is pride and bragging rights.