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Insect swarms have been in the news this summer.

This week it was pallid-winged grasshoppers in Las Vegas (see for example, this story in LiveScience) or check out this AP video

The grasshoppers aren't the only ones.  Last week there was an article about flying ants in Britain being picked up by weather satellites (Guardian article) and in June it was supposedly ladybugs in Southern California (LA Times article) spotted on weather radar, although later reports say no one could verify which insects were actually detected.

Although these swarms can be alarming or exciting depending on your perspective, they are completely natural. Because insects may reproduce rapidly when food supplies are high and enemies are sparse, many species have the potential to build up to high numbers.

In fact, it is probably not amazing that insect blizzards happen, but that that don't happen even more often.

In a matter of days the insects either migrate away, are eaten, or come to the end of their life cycles. As quickly as they appear, they are gone again.

So for now, grasshoppers are simply having their 15 minutes of fame (or is it infamy?)

During a recent trip to western New York State, I tried once again to capture a photograph of a Japanese beetle.

It should be easy, right? After all, the adult beetles are common, numerous and large.

Yet, the photographs always seem to turn out blurry. What is going on?

While trying to capture this one, I got a clue. (By the way, notice the cool antennae?)

As I followed it down the leaf, it stuck its hind leg out. That's the blurry thing coming out of the abdominal area.

Japanese beetles react to potential predators (and photographers) by sticking their hind legs out.

How weird is that?

Guess these bugs have found a way to ward off paparazzi with a "keep your distance" pose.

Did you identify the insects we found on common milkweed?

A. The beetles are red milkweed beetles, Tetraopes tetrophthalmus. They are a type of longhorned beetle.

The bright red and black adults are easy to spot. They make a squeaking sound if they are captured.

The larvae are not as easy to find. They feed on the roots of milkweed plants under the soil.

B. This is a Baltimore checkerspot butterfly. Do you see the orange tips on its antennae?

The caterpillars are orange and black as well.

The Baltimore checkerspot larvae do not feed on milkweeds. They eat other wildflowers, like hairy beardtongue (Penstemon hirsutus), and English plantain (Plantago lanceolata).

Have you ever seen these insects?