Most entomologists have received a phone call along the lines of, “YOU WON’T BELIEVE THIS CRAZY BUG.” These calls often feature the same few species, and entomologists usually can make a quick tentative ID of the “usual suspects.” Here are some of eastern North America’s repeat offenders:
Unlike their periodical cousins, adult dog day cicadas turn up each summer. Males sing to females using membranes called tymbals.1 The resulting sound, resembling a shaking metal sheet, is produced when the males flex their muscles, buckling the tymbals.
This spider has been wrongly accused! The golden garden spider is often found on the sides of homes. Females are large and vibrant, while males are small and drably colored.2 The female’s bold, aposematic coloring may be frightening, but she’s unlikely to bite. If found inside, try gently moving her outdoors to safety.3
These voracious predators are aquatic and often become disoriented by porch lights as they’re flying to new habitats. To move this bug to safety, use a safe transport technique3; this species (and its close relatives) can deliver a painful defensive bite when stressed.4
House centipedes are native to the Mediterranean but have spread globally with humans.5, 6 They have 30 legs (one pair per body segment) and often turn up in basements, where they prey on smaller invertebrates.7
Often mistaken for giant mosquitoes, adult crane flies eat pollen and nectar. There are more than 15,000 species of cranefly,8 but the introduced European species Tipula paludosa is particularly abundant and conspicuous. Larvae feed on plant roots. Clumsy, slow-flying adults and chubby larvae make an easy snack for insectivorous birds.9
Art and words by Paul Manning. Two decades of bug-chasing and tide-pooling along the Bay of Fundy led Paul to a PhD in Zoology at the University of Oxford. Paul’s research investigates the role that invertebrate diversity plays in supporting sustainable agricultural production, with a particular focus on dung beetles. As a complement to his research, Paul enjoys sharing the beauty and wonder of the insect world through a science-art project known as “Bug of the Week.”
Check our facts!
1. Young, D., & Bennet-Clark, H. 1995. The role of the tymbal in cicada sound production. The Journal of Experimental Biology 198: 1001-1020: http://jeb.biologists.org/content/198/4/1001
2. Animal Diversity Web: Argiope Aurantia: http://animaldiversity.org/site/accounts/information/Argiope_aurantia.html
3. Ask Entomologists: How do I relocate insects and spiders? https://askentomologists.com/2015/10/11/how-do- i-relocate- insects-and- spiders/
4. The Attack of the Giant Water bug: http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/artful-amoeba/the-attack-of- the-giant- water-bug/
5. Species Scutigera coleoptrata – The House Centipede http://bugguide.net/node/view/25
6. Animal Diversity Web: Scutigera coleoptrata: http://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Scutigera_coleoptrata/
7. Species Scutigera coleoptrata – http://bugguide.net/node/view/25
8. Catalogue of the Craneflies of the World: http://ccw.naturalis.nl/classification.php
9. Climate change could threaten blanket bogs, craneflies and breeding birds. http://www.rspb.org.uk/community/ourwork/b/climatechange/archive/2015/07/31/climate-change-could- threaten-blanket- bogs-craneflies- and-breeding- birds.aspx
[…] I’ve got some exciting news! One of the coolest science blogs out there (Buzz Hoot Roar), posted a piece I recently wrote. Buzz Hoot Roar is a graphics driven blog that explains a scientific concept in 300 words or less. The team is wonderful to work with: inordinately kind, professional, and very fun. If you have an interest in creating some sciart, and exploring a unique project in science communication – I would certainly recommend BHR. You can read the new piece (about arthropod species that tend to freak people out) here. […]
There are footnotes indicated, but I can’t find them. Where are they?
The footnotes are listed just below under ‘Check our facts’. :-)
Garden spiders are fantastic creatures. Jerusalem crickets seem to cause the most freakouts in my neighborhood, I had one in my closet a few years back that made about as much noise as a small toddler.
Totally agree Kate! They’re brilliant creatures. Jerusalem crickets would be great to see in the flesh, have had a few pals from California send pictures my way. Thanks so much for your comment, and I hope you find a few more (though helpfully less disruptive) crickets on your adventures. -P
[…] particular species was included in a piece I put together called ‘The Usual Suspects’ over at Buzz Hoot Roar. This site is the coolest graphical science blog around, do have a wander […]