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For a little change of pace this week, we thought we would let you be an insect detective.

mystery insect

Here is our bug of the week. Look closely. This insect has fooled a great many people, including authors of college textbooks. Do you know what it is? Let us know. Next week, we’ll reveal the answer.

Remember the lovely lacewing adult I showed you in Bug of the Week a few months ago? I promised to add a photo of the larva and I finally got one.

lacewing larva

Lacewing larvae are amazing predators that feed on aphids, caterpillars, and even scale insects. Scale insects have a waxy coating that often is pressed tightly to the surface of the plant the insect is feeding on. The lacewing larvae use their forcep-like jaws to pry the scale’s covering up, allowing them to feed on the soft insect underneath.

Some lacewing larvae disguise themselves by covering their backs with plant materials or the bodies of their prey. The University of Kentucky has some good information about lacewings.

We were just driving in Lycoming County, Pennsylvania near the town of Allenwood when we heard a cacophony outside, apparently coming from the trees. It was loud enough to hear with the car windows rolled up. Then I saw some of the noisy culprits flying in the road. They were large, thumb-sized insects with bright red eyes. I knew immediately we had encountered periodical cicadas.

I'm sure many people drove right on by without realizing that they were seeing insects that had spent their lives underground since 1991! Isn't that amazing?

For more information, see this Penn State Fact Sheet.