Disonycha alternata, a striped willow flea beetle (or a similar species in disonycha). This comes from my friend Dan.
These beetles are widely distributed in North America, and there is an incredible amount of incremental color variation among species. (They are all red, black, white and yellow — just sight variations in pattern and placement.) Flea beetles get their names from their locomotion. They have strong hind legs and jump like fleas when disturbed.
Flea beetles are damaging to gardens and trees, as they create “shotholes” in leaves and stems. This distinctive feeding pattern leaves holes that look as though a smatter of buckshot flew threw the leaves. Saplings are particularly susceptible to attack.
Leptostylus transversus, a flat-faced longhorn beetle. Justin captured this one outside our apartment. Longhorn beetles are so named because of their ridiculous antennae, which are usually as long as the beetle’s body, if not longer.
There are more than 20,000 identified species of longhorn beetle. Our specimen is beautiful, but a fairly common find. Others species of longhorns are crazy interesting though! For instance — the rare Titan beetle, which is the overall largest insect in the world with a length of 6.5 inches, is a member of the family.
Some species of longhorn are extremely damaging pests. Many longhorns reproduce by boring into plant stems or trees to lay eggs. After hatching, larva bore into the plant’s nutrient dispersal system (the cambium) to feed. Asian Longhorn Beetles are so efficient at this that they devastate entire forests — effectively starving trees of nutrients to support their own multitudes. The ALB is considered an invasive species by the US Department of Agriculture and is being monitored quite thoroughly.
Click the picture above to learn more about ALB invasion!
Antherea polyphemus, a Polyphemus moth sent in by my friend Manny, who found this handsome man on his car today. (Sexing this species is easy — fuzzy antennae are male, smooth antennae are female.)
First cool thing about this moth: Because of its brilliant eye spots, this moth was named after the cyclops Polyphemus from The Odyssey. Additionally, Polyphemus moths are truly giant, with an average wingspan of six inches!
Each caterpillar of this species will eat 86,000 times its own body weight in oak, birch, maple, or willow leaves before it reaches metamorphosis. Adult moths do not eat at all, because they emerge from their cocoons, mate, and lay eggs over the course of a single day. Most insects with an accelerated mating cycle don’t have mouth parts and cannot eat after completing metamorphosis, including mayflies and cicadas.
This beautiful monster is quite the specimen, indeed. Thanks for the picture, Manny! More posts to come, as my awesome friends have been sending me some great bug stuffs lately. (^_^)
Millipedes are amazing. They’re also really hard to identify even to a family level, but I’m going to make an informed guess that this is a parajulidae bollmaniulus, the most common milli in North America.
Justin found this one while replanting a tree in his mom’s yard. He brought it home in a Cool Whip container. I gave the milli a moist paper tower and a piece of fresh pineapple I happened to have on hand, as millipedes eat only decaying plant matter. (They do this by scraping at it with their incredibly strong and well-developed jaws.)
If you watched the video from last night, you saw this lady’s amazing legs in action. Millipedes have two legs on each side of every segment. They never have 1,000 legs, as their name implies — most common species have between 36 and 400 legs. The most legs ever observed on a millipede is around 750, but that’s one of the giant species. My specimen was about two inches long. I’d make a guess she had about 80-100 legs, but I didn’t count too closely.
Millipedes are not really dangerous to humans, as they don’t bite or sting. Centipedes, if you’ll recall from previous posts, have poisonous head claws and will bite if disturbed. Millipedes, as herbivores, are much calmer, so their main defense mechanism is to curl up into a tight coil to protect against predators. However, some species do secrete irritating liquid when disturbed, which causes rash and chemical burn to human skin. I don’t recommend handling any unfamiliar bug with bare hands, but definitely never pick up a brightly colored millipede, because those colors are a warning signal that it will secrete the poisonous goo. These secretions can burn right through the exoskeleton of other bugs. Capuchin monkeys have been observed rubbing poisonous millipedes against their fur in the wild — it is believed they utilize the secretions as a mosquito repellent.
Millis prefer damp and dark environments, so you won’t see them strolling around in the open during the daytime. Because they spend so much time in the dark, they don’t have much use for vision. Instead, they have extremely sensitive antennae, which they used to explore the area around them. You can see my milli using her feelers to navigate the Cool Whip container in the video.
NSFW/kids warning, as the music in this video is the song “A Milli” by Lil Wayne.
I can’t help it, every time I see a millipede, this song plays in my head. Milli photo/infotaining post to follow, but enjoy the vid as a teaser. =)