Wasp mimic longhorn beetle

New monthly feature: “Look What I Found!”

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Plants and insects go hand-in-hand, and many gardeners enjoy learning about all the little critters that share their garden. In honor of the important connection between plants and insects, I’mย launching a new monthly feature for The Bug Chronicles here on Savvy Gardening. It’s called “Look What I Found!”, and in order for it to be successful, we’re going to need your help. Here’s how it’s going to work.

Once a month, I’m going to head out into my garden with my iPhone in-hand and take pictures of the first five insects I can find. I’ll post the pictures here the next day and provide some information about each of my discoveries. Sometimes they’ll be very common bugs almost every gardener encounters on a regular basis, but other times they may be something I’ve never seen before. Either way, I promise you, the pictures will be of the first five bugs I can find that day.

So, what’s your job? Well… that’s where the fun really comes in! Your job is to head out into your own garden with a camera, snap a picture of the first bug you can find, and post your picture in the comment section of the most recent “Look What I Found!” post (starting with this one!). I’ll do my best to try and identify the insect, if you haven’t already. Now, if you live in Zimbabwe or somewhere else very far away, I’ll probably have to pass on the identification attempt, but if you’re from North America, I’ll do my best.

Tip: To take a clear picture on your smart phone, don’t try to get super close to the insect; just photograph it from eight to ten inches away and then use the photo editing feature on your phone to crop the picture. This will enlarge the insect without making it blurry. I usually take three or four images and pick the clearest one.

Sound like fun? Cool – then let’s get started!

Here are my five bug photos for this month’s “Look What I Found!” feature:

1. Clavate tortoise beetle: Plagiometriona clavata

Clavate tortoise beetle

Clavate tortoise beetle – Plagiometriona clavata

This little guy is an adultย clavate tortoise beetle. Last year was the first time I ever found this insect in my Pennsylvania garden, though it’s found all over eastern North America. I think their protective, tortoise shell-like wing covers are pretty cool. Don’t the brown markings look like a Teddy bear? The adult beetles primarily feed on members of the potato/tomato family (Solanaceae), chewing small holes in the leaves. I found this one on my potato plants. Their damage, though, is not significant, and they’re not generally considered a pest. The larvae are also really interesting – they cover themselves with their own dried fecal matter to shield themselves from predators (oh golly, sorry I couldn’t find a picture of THAT… ).

2. Banded net winged beetle: Calopteron reticulatum

Banded net winged beetle

Banded net winged beetle – Calopteron reticulatum

The banded net winged beetle is a frequent find in my garden. I often find the adults drinking nectar from various flowers, especially goldenrods. This one was hanging out in the raspberry patch. Native to eastern North America, adult banded net winged beetles are about a half-inch long. Their predaceous larvae live under loose tree bark and feast on various small insects living there.

3. Woodland jumping spider: Thiodina sylvana

Woodland jumping spider

Woodland jumping spider – Thiodina sylvana

Spiders aren’t insects, but I couldn’t help but include this little critter in today’s post when I found him in the garden. Though the picture makes him (or her) look HUGE, in real life, this tiny guy wasn’t even a quarter of an inch long! Jumping spiders are really cute (just do a Google image search for “jumping spider” to see what I mean). This particular species is arboreal, meaning it spends most of its life in the trees (hence the species name sylvana, meaning “woods”). All spiders are very good for the garden because they are predators of many common pest insects.

4. Spined soldier bug nymph: Podisus maculiventris

Predatory stink bug nymph

Spined soldier bug nymph – Podisus maculiventris

Finding a spined soldier bug nymph in my garden yesterday morning was like striking gold! When I saw webbing on the tip of one of my blueberry branches, I thought I’d just get a cool picture of some young, web-spinning caterpillars. But when I uncurled the leaf, I discovered the distinctive red of a spined soldier bug nymph. This little guy is no bigger than this letter “O”, but he was using his spike-like mouth part to suck one of the caterpillars dry like a champ! Spined soldier bugs are incredibly beneficial to the garden. As both nymphs and adults, they eat dozens of different pests, including corn earworms, gypsy moth caterpillars, Mexican bean beetle larvae, potato beetle larvae, and many others. They’re found all across North America. This is a fairly young nymph, probably in the second of its five life stages (or instars). Each instar looks different from the one before, and once the insect reaches adulthood, it’s fingernail sized, brown, and has the distinctive shield-shape of the stink bug family (yes, the spined soldier bug is a member of the stink bug family, but no worries here – this species is predaceous and does NOT feed on your plants!).

5. Wasp mimic leghorn beetle: Clytus ruricola

Wasp mimic longhorn beetle

Wasp mimic longhorn beetle – Clytus ruricola

And my last find for this month’s “Look What I Found!” post is the wasp mimic longhorn beetle. I’m sure you can see where this insect gets its common name – the yellow and black coloration looks very much like a wasp, but this beetle is as far from a wasp as you are from a warthog. I found this one-inch long adult scampering across our patio. A native of eastern North America, the wasp mimic longhorn beetle can be found in its adult stage only from May to July; at other times of the year, it’s only found as a grub, feeding on decaying hardwoods such as maple.

Now it’s your turn! What will you find in your garden today? Post your picture in the comments.


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52 Responses to New monthly feature: “Look What I Found!”

  1. Ron Mitchell says:

    This is a really interesting idea. I am sure that I will see many insects here I could not previously put a name too. I’m really looking forward to following this. Now I need a good camera for my sleuthing!

  2. Danny Young says:

    Hi Jessica
    I really like this new series you are starting. I know very little about insects. I am especially interested to know if the pictured bugs are either garden pests or beneficial to the garden.

    I look forward next month’s feature.

  3. The rain has stopped and the sun has just come out.. I saw a few hover flies, but couldn’t get a photo.. however, I did find this fella hiding under my hyssop – he may be the marigold-eating culprit I’ve been looking for! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Yes, you probably did find your culprit. Snails and slugs love marigolds (even though folklore says they don’t!)

    • Ron Mitchell says:

      I’ve found that I cannot plant marigolds in the ground as they get eaten up. In a container they last longer, but still seem to get some damage.

  4. Kitty says:

    found on butterfly weed

  5. Cheryl says:

    Also going to post a bug on my milkweed, it has chew bites too. I’m not sure if it’s the same as Kitty’s photo.

  6. Love this idea!! Moths and butterflies too? This was on the wall outside my apartment (Hudson Valley, NY) today …

    • Of course moths and butterflies, too! ๐Ÿ™‚ Any and all insects are welcome. I believe your moth is an adult lesser maple spanworm (Speranza pustularia). Their caterpillars are pretty cool, too. Spanworms are what most of us call inchworms. The caterpillars don’t have any legs in the middle of their body, so when they walk, their body forms a loop. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Valinda says:

    This caterpillar is a new one to our area. We spotted it on our mid morning walk.

    • Hi Valinda –
      Thanks for your picture! You’ve found a spicebush swallowtail butterfly caterpillar (Papilio troilus). This species uses spicebush as a larval food source. It’s found all across the Eastern U.S. Adults are mostly black with blue at the base of the lower wings. This guy looks like he’s left the host plant and is trying to find a good place to pupate. Cool find! Thanks for sharing.

    • Wow! That is such a cool caterpillar! Now I’m gonna be on the lookout for one of these fellas! ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. I found this fuzzy guy on a sweet pepper plant; we plucked the leaf off and relocated him out of our field!

    • Hi Sara. Thanks for the picture! This is a white-marked tussock moth caterpillar (Orgyia leucostigma). They’re native to Eastern North America. They feed on hardwood trees but don’t usually do significant damage. Just part of the ecosystem. You’re noticing them now because they’re walking around trying to find a place to spin their cocoons and pupate. The “hairs” can cause irritation for some people if you handle them, so just let them be. One of my favorite caterpillars,too!

  9. Maria C. says:

    I’ve seen all over my milkweed, but I haven’t seen too many butterflies yet (on anything).

    • Hi Maria. The insect in your picture is a milkweed beetle (Tetraopes tetrophthalmus). This long-horned beetle’s only food source is milkweed. Like monarch caterpillars, it too takes on the toxins present in milkweed sap. As larvae, the milkweed beetle feeds on milkweed roots, but as it matures, it moves up the plant to feed on foliage and flower buds. If you wanna have some fun, catch a milkweed beetle and hold it in your cupped hand. Raise your hand up to your ear and have a listen. Adult beetles purr and squeak. If you’re squeamish about holding one, put it into a jar instead and lower your ear to the opening to hear the beetle “talk.” It’s really cool!

  10. Maria C. says:

    Thanks for all of this info, Jess. I’ll listen to a beetle later today. I’m not squeamish about it!

  11. Hi Jessica. Found this crawler on my pole bean seedlings this morning! What is it? Should it stay or go? Thanks :’)

  12. Charlotte says:

    Hi Jessica. Here it is!

  13. Charlotte says:

    Hi Jessica. I agree. Adult squash bug :'( no squash in that raised bed this year yet. Cukes -yes! The pests were around there last summer. Researched and found they winter-over. Looks like they can be killed with direct squirts of soapy water. I’m thinking about adding hort oil as a surfectant. What do you suggest? Besides hand-picking. Thanks.

    • Well, I don’t really think you have to do anything about them, if you aren’t growing any of their host plants in the area. They’ll move on if they don’t have anything to feed on. I interplant my squash plants with dill which seems to keep them away.

  14. jolinda says:

    Ok Jessica Walliser. Here is a new bug in my north Texas garden (only on my Esperanza Yellow Bells plant). Can you tell me what it is and if it is considered a bad bug? Thank you.

    • Jolinda, your photo didn’t upload. Try again by clicking the ‘choose file’ button and selecting the image from your computer’s files or your smart phone photos.

  15. Darlene says:

    Any idea on these guys! Maybe a ladybug!

  16. Barbara Sanders says:

    I was going to post a picture of the beetle I found on my rose bush but it was right here on your post and now I know what it is. It’s a Banded net winged beetle. Love this idea.

  17. Sheri F says:

    Could you identify the bugs on the back of a semidwarf cherry tree in northeastern Ohio? Many people also have gardens in this area too. Thank you

  18. Maryann says:

    Found this in my garden… first thought spittle bug, but, on touching the residue, I found it was coconut-like. On closer look, I found the hole. Research says a clever and determined weevil bore through the stem and left these shreddings. If he didn’t want the food, what did he want??

  19. peter prosser says:

    Not a very good picture but its hard to keep bugs still without killing them. This came out of my giant pumpkin patch and I hope it’s not bad. It has antennas which is cut off in the photo , it also flies but not real well and it wanders around rather than walking in a straight line. It is blurry but there are two orange spots in the front.

    • Hi Peter. Thanks for the picture! This is a lightening bug (also called a firefly), though I’m not sure of the exact species. The leathery wing covers, orange and black pronotum, and segmented antennae are good indicators. Keep in mind that not all of North America’s 150 different firefly species glow as adults, but all do as larvae, so if you don’t see a bioluminescent abdomen, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a firefly. Here’s more on these fascinating insects: http://savvygardening.wpengine.com/fascinating-fireflies/
      Thanks for sharing!
      Oh, and by the way – fireflies are very good for the garden! Their larvae eat snails, slugs, and other ground-dwelling pests.

    • So cool! I’ve been seeing so many fireflies at night, none during the days.. this is a nice glimpse at what they really look like.

  20. Cheryl says:

    More milkweed bugs

  21. Cheryl says:

    The first grayish bug is on the milkweed and I have never had it before. The second bug is on my sunflowers and I’ve had them for years.

  22. joyce says:

    Hi Jessica – this little monster is all over my highbush cranberry viburnum. The viburnum has been beaten already by sawfly and now this.

  23. Cheryl says:

    Eggs of some sort? Can’t find them now.

  24. Cheryl says:

    On my sunflowers for several years.

    • Ahhh… Good find, Cheryl. This is a sunflower maggot fly (Strauzia longipennis). These little flies lay eggs on sunflowers and the larvae feed on the flower tissue. They don’t cause any significant damage at all and should be ignored. They’re an awesome example of coevolution between a particular plant species and a specialized insect species. Thanks for sharing!

  25. I usually get a bunch of good bugs on my hyssop.. but today I noticed a bunch of the new shoots are rolled up with these guys hiding within!

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