Ichneumon wasps are members of a large and very confusing family with over 3,000 species north of Mexico. Ichneumons frequently have a white or yellow band on their antennae and they may be “twitchy.” Some ichneumons have impressive-looking “stingers,” which are actually ovipositers. Ichneumons lay their eggs on moth or butterfly caterpillars or in the larvae of their distant relatives. The adults drink nectar and water.
Slugs, and their crunchier cousins, the land snails, are Mollusks, soft-bodied animals whose mantle secretes a limy shell. Slugs tend to be nocturnal, finding their food by smell. They have two pairs of feelers, with eyes located on the tips of the longer pair. They eat living or dead vegetation, sanding off small pieces of tissue with their toothed, rasping tongue (radula).
Not all bees are social—in fact, most are not. Bumblebees is our only native social bee (like most of our ancestors, honeybees came over on the boat). Their bodies are plump and their wings are small for their bulk, and so they are clumsy fliers. They have a fuzzy thorax and a hairy abdomen, and a yellow and black color scheme. Their antennae are short, and their mouths are shaped for biting as well as sucking.
Now that spring is bursting out all over the place, the Bug Lady would like to dispense with the final, indoor “winterbugs”—the ladybug and the leaf-footed bug—both of which are among the organisms in the Bug Lady’s house that are liable to produce a bad odor when disturbed.
Millipedes are not insects, of course, but qualify for our attention under the more catholic usage of the word “bug.” Millipedes are scavengers; they have chewing mouthparts and eat dead stuff (mainly plant material) that they find on the ground. Millipede eggs are laid in damp ground; millipede babies have just a few segments and three pairs of legs, and they get more of each as they molt. The females of some species take care of their eggs until they hatch.
Skippers are considered by many to be the transitional group between butterflies and moths. They have smooth, knobbed/hooked antennae like butterflies; some fold their wings vertically over their bodies and some fold them flat over their bodies like moths. They are relatively “hairier” than butterflies. About 1/3 of North American butterflies are skippers, and most really have to be “in the hand” in order to be identified.
Black Swallowtail males (which, like many butterfly species are smaller than the females) often appear in late April and early May. The female is larger, lacks the yellow on the wings and has a blue wash above the tails. Black Swallowtails have yellow spots on the body; tigers have a yellow streak along each side of the thorax and abdomen in both morphs. Tiger Swallowtails are among the largest butterflies around, reaching 5” in wingspan.
Sow bugs are not insects (Class Insecta) but are Crustaceans, distantly related to lobsters, shrimps, crayfish and crabs. They like the dark and damp and are found under leaves, logs, flowerpots, etc.
Not a true fly, Stoneflies do have two sets of wings, which they tuck tightly across their body at rest. The naiads are aquatic and are found in flowing (well-aerated) water, where they live for up to three years. The nymphs are primitive-looking, flat and have strong claws. The larvae of some species of stoneflies are predators, and others feed on plant material that falls into the water.
Yellow Garden Spider webs are often built in “chimneys”—cleared areas in the tall grass. It’s as though the webs exist within a glass cylinder in otherwise dense brome grass. The female spins the center of the web; the male adds more web around the outside and adds a thick, white, zig-zag “zipper” band to the center. Also called the Black-and-yellow Argiope, this impressive gal may reach 1 1/8” in length (the male is about ¼”).