I Want to Suck your Precious Bodily Fluids

Wheel bug nymph (Aarilus cristatus) with prey (Three-lined potato beetle, Lema daturaphila), June 2016.

It’s a dangerous world out there. Death comes quickly–or slowly, in some cases of parasitism. This time it was a three-lined potato beetle (Lema daturaphila) falling prey to a wheel bug nymph (Arilus cristatus).

The wheel bug is a species of assassin bug (family Reduviidae), which bear jackknife-like beaks with which they stab their prey, inject digestive juices, and suck out the cocktail. They are considered beneficial because they prey on garden pests, but they can inflict painful “bites” if roughly handled (unlike another group of assassin bugs, known as “Kissing Bugs” that feed on the blood of people and other vertebrates, biting because they’re hungry, not provoked).

Adult wheel bug (Arilus cristatus), October 2018.

The name of this group of assassin bugs comes from the peculiar cog-like crest or “wheel” on the thorax of the adult, seen at right:

For more information, check out Wikipedia for wheel bugs and for kissing bugs.

The Disappearing Snake Trick

Here’s an eastern milk snake (Lampropeltis triangulum triangulum) crawling along the base of the front wall of my house. Notice the “V” on the back of its head, which helps to identify this species.




The snake sees a crack between the wall and the concrete slab of the patio.




What treasures might be down that crack? It’s worth investigating.




As the cavers say, “It goes!”




So long!




What’s There?

mantisStare at this picture for a while and see if you can spot the beast. Stare at it long enough, and you might see unicorns and rocket ships. It’s a mantis, probably a Chinese mantis (Tenodera sinensis), that had been hanging around that grassy spot for a couple of months. It did not move far during that time, but was always a challenge to find. This photo was shot in October, 2014.

Follow the Arrow


The Arrow-shaped micrathena (Micrathena ssagittata), also known as the Arrowhead orbweaver, is an odd-looking bug. It belongs to the group of spiders that weaves a flat, more or less circular web.

This particular individual, a female, spent most of her time upside down, hence the ventral view of the photo. The top has much more yellow. One can see that it is a female because the points are absent (or reduced) in males, and the pedipalps (you have to look very closely) are not broadened near the ends for transfering sperm during mating. Also, the epigynum (through which the sperm is received) is visible at the front of the abdomen.

This species is native to the eastern United States and is found as far south as Panama. The spider in this photo was at its web about three feet above the ground between leaves of a pokeweed.

For more information:
Spider Identification Guide
Bug Guide

Butterfly Snacks


What a pretty butterfly! It’s a great spangled fritillary (Speyeria cybele).

What has it landed on?  Let’s take a closer look.

(Sniff, sniff)

Eewww!  It’s a dog turd!

It’s not at all uncommon for butterflies to feed on feces–they get some good nutrients. Is that any worse than that expensive gourmet coffee that tastes so good because coffee beans are eaten by Asian palm civets and crapped out?