Bug of the Week

Spinybacked Orbweaver– A Spider for Snowbirds

Spinybacked Orbweaver

This episode is dedicated to BugFan Tom. Tom has a day job, practices suburban agriculture afterwards, and conducts field research by night, so the BugLady really appreciates his fitting spider studies into his off time. He has an insatiable curiosity – and a camera – and he provided many pictures and lots of wonderful running commentary and deep thought about a cast of backyard spiders that he got to know personally (his BugFan wife suggested that he may have taken more pictures of those spiders than of his offspring’s childhood, a complaint that the BugLady’s parents would have been sympathetic to).

And Now for Somethinga Little Different VII – Attack of the Killer Shrews

Short-Tailed Shrew

This is a revised version of an article that the BugLady wrote for the winter, 2013-14 issue of The BogHaunter, the newsletter of the Friends of the Cedarburg Bog, an organization that partners with UWM and the DNR to educate people about the Bog and to preserve it. The Bog is the BugLady’s church and her shrink.

The Twelve Bugs of Christmas 2019


Let’s celebrate the (almost bugless) Season with a dozen bugs that were photographed this year. Down through the centuries, various regional versions of the classic Christmas carol have included hares a-running, ducks quacking, badgers baiting, bulls a-roaring, biting cows, bears a-beating, cocks a-crowing, asses racing, starlings, plovers, goldspinks (goldfinches), sides of meat, ponies, deer, stalks of corn, cheese, windmills, and an Arabian Baboon. Never any bugs, though, so it’s up to us.



The first rule of finding insects is “Look on flowers.” Flowers provide a place to rest, as well as a place to eat and be eaten. The second rule is “if you see an insect that’s really still (or in an odd position), look for a predator nearby.” So, when the BugLady spotted a horizontal horse fly, she knew that something was afoot, and she soon located the ambush bug above and to the left of the fly (the fly’s eyes were a bonus).

Ninebark Leaf Beetle


A few years ago, when the BugLady wrote about the ninebark leaf beetle (Calligrapha spiraea), she made a mental note to pay more attention to ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius) during its blooming period. Ninebark? The way the BugLady heard the story, the shrub’s name comes from the German word “nein” for “no,” a reference to the fact that the smooth bark of the young branches looks like no bark at all (some non-German botanist eventually rearranged the vowels so that they made sense to him).

Viburnum Leaf Beetle

Viburnum leaf beetle

It’s quiet now, but the Viburnum leaf beetle (Pyrrhalta viburni) is slowly chewing its way across southern Wisconsin. It has followed the general invasive species template – establishing small, often undetected populations and staying below the radar for years, its spread (unwittingly) aided by human activity. Once we know we know it’s here, it has already reached numbers that are difficult to control.

Three More Bluets

Greetings, BugFans, Seasoned BugFans know that the BugLady can’t go too long without writing about Odonates. Quick review: Dragonflies and damselflies are in the order Odonata. Dragonflies tend to be bigger and bulkier than damselflies, with wrap-around eyes that touch… Read More

Five-Banded Tiphiid Wasps

tiphiid female wasp on flower, highlighting wings and body detail

Greetings, BugFans, The BugLady had fun in a rabbit hole recently. OK, it was a cold, gray day, threatening snow/rain, and the light from the monitor was brighter than the light from outside, but it’s a rabbit hole she had… Read More

Xorides Stigmapterus Wasp

Xorides Stigmapterus

This summer, the BugLady got a “what is this?” email from BugFan Debra that contained a picture of this beautiful black wasp with white spats that she took in northern Wisconsin (thanks, Debra!). The posture was reminiscent of our local Giant Ichneumon wasps, but there are only four species in that genus, and this wasn’t any of them. So, the BugLady suggested that Debra send the picture to the entomology department at UW-Madison, where almost-BugFan PJ identified it. He noted that its “dapper black & white appearance is pretty distinctive” and ID’d it as Xorides stigmapterus.

Whirligig Beetle Redux

Whirligig Beetle photo

Howdy, BugFans, Here’s an updated BOTW from 10 years ago (more words). Whirligig beetles are referred to in Kaufman and Eaton’s Field Guide to Insects of North America as the “bumper cars of the beetle world.”  Looking like dark watermelon… Read More