Skip to content

Insects are not always easy to identify.

Take this cute little guy. Is it a beetle or is it a bug?

Because it has a shield shape in the middle of the back and a beak (the mouthparts you see tucked under the head), it's a shield bug (also called stink bug).

Now comes the hard part. Some shield bugs, like harlequin bugs for example, feed on plants. Some are predatory and feed on soft-bodied insects like caterpillars. How do you tell which is which? A rough rule of thumb is if the beak is thicker than the bug's antennae, then it is a predator. If the beak is about the same thickness as the antennae, then it is a plant feeder.

This little guy is a predatory kind in the genus Perillus. Best to let it go about its business.

Let's take a look at a couple of photographs sent in by my cousin.

(Photograph by Karen Gibson, used with permission)

How did she ever spot this mostly green grasshopper hiding on a green plant?

 

(Photograph by Karen Gibson, used with permission)

Looks a lot different close up! Can you see the bright yellow semi-lunar process at the "knee joint" of the hind legs? (See previous post about grasshoppers for details).

This species has an unusual common name:  obscure bird grasshopper,  Schistocerca obscura.

Turns out the plant is unusual, too. Called the citronella plant or mosquito plant geranium, Pelargonium citrosum, it is a scented geranium that smells like another plant, citronella. Citronella is supposed to chase away mosquitoes, although there's some question whether the scented geranium has the same effect.

In any case, a scented geranium that smells like citronella evidently does not chase away grasshoppers.

____________________

Thanks to Karen for permission to use her photographs.

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?