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Feather-legged fly, Trichopoda pennipes (Diptera: Tachinidae)

November 20, 2013

A few weeks ago I was secretly checking out my neighbors invasive looking vine (which I now believe to be Thunbergia grandiflora or blue trumpet vine) when I noticed this unusual looking fly with with an orange abdomen and what appeared to be coreid style leaf feet. I ran in and grabbed my camera and was able to get a few pics, but could never get it to look directly at me – also was worried that my neighbor might get a little suspicious.

Trichipoda pennipes on Thunbergia grandiflora

Trichipoda pennipes on Thunbergia grandiflora

T. pennipes 06 T. pennipes 05 T. pennipes 04 T. pennipes 02 T. pennipes 01I did a little internet sleuthing and found a Hawaiian Ent Soc reference stating: “Trichopoda pennipes pilipes Fabricius was introduced into Hawaii from Trinidad in 1962 to combat the southern green stink bug, Nezara viridula (Fabricius) (Davis and Krauss, 1963; Davis, 1964).”

Unfortunately it parasitizes some other bugs as well…”In Hawaii, T. p. pilipes has been reared from the scutellerid Coleotichus blackburni White and the pentatomids Thyanta accera (McAtee) and Plautia stali Scott, in addition to N. viridula.”

The Bishop Museum’s Hawaii Biological Survey site says this in regard to the Koa Bug and T. pennipes:

“Unfortunately, a fly that was introduced to help get rid of the pest stink bugs (which have been causing problems with some of Hawaii’s agricultural crops) does not know the difference between the bad bug and the “good” koa bug. By going after the “wrong guy” it has had a impact on the reduction of its populations on most islands.

The koa bug is still around, but in very low numbers on most Hawaiian islands. There are only a few areas left on the Big Island where it is common. Hopefully our HBS field staff will find evidence on Maui that it is making a comeback.”


Mohammad S. and J. W. Beardsley, Jr. 1975.  Egg Viability and Larval Penetration in Trichopoda pennipes pilipes Fabricius (Diptera: Tachinidae). Proc. Hawaiian Entomol. Soc. 22: 133-136.

Ant Art

March 25, 2012

"First Launch Ever" by Andrey Pavlov

I discovered some more cool insect art today – I guess maybe you could call it “ant art.”  Photographer/artist Andrey (Antrey) Pavlov from St Petersburg, Russia creates a window in into the secret life of the ants.  Below are a few of my favorites, but you can find the gallery with the rest of his work here .

Abutilon sandwicense, Halona management area, Lualualei Valley

March 23, 2012

A couple of weeks ago I was back up in Lualualei Valley checking on another species of Abutilon, Abutilon sandwicense.  These plants were higher up in the mountains in a portion of the valley we refer to as the Halona Management Area.  I don’t have much experience with Abutilon, but from the plants we have in Lualualei, A. sandwicense seems to grow much differently from A. menziesii  – it grows tall and lanky, and it is not very bushy like menziesii.  There were no flowers, but they seemed to be doing OK.

While I was there, I did some poking around on a  nearby Sapindus tree that usually hides some nice little treasures.  On the leaves I found Hyposmocoma, and, to my surprise, one appeared to have a parasitoid wasp lurking around its case.  This same small tree also had some interesting Tetragnatha spiders, some cool Salticids (ant mimics?), and some kind of beetle larvae (I think?).

I had seen these Salticids on this same tree back in 2010, and at the time I inquiredabout them to the friendly entomologists at the Bishop Museum.  I’m not sure he would want me quoting him, but in Frank Howarth’s words, “It’s a male Siler sp. [Salticidae] and apparently still undetermined.  I’ve seen a specimen from Makua Valley.  It was recorded from Hawaii by J. Proszynski 2002. (Remarks on Salticidae (Aranei) from Hawaii, with description of Havaika – gen. nov. Arthropoda Selecta ,vol. 10 (3): 225-241, f 81.) from a damaged specimen collected in 1974 by Wayne Gagne in the Waianae Mts.”

The Entomology staff at the Bishop Museum is awesome – Mahalo to Frank and Neal.

Abutilon menziesii, Lualualei Valley

March 6, 2012

There are two areas within the Navy Radio Telecommunications Facility and Munitions Storage Area where federally listed endangered Abutilon menziesii occur.  Every month we go out and check on them, and this month they were flowering.  I also noticed some interesting insect damage: feeding on the leaves, which I believe is from the Chinese Rose Beetle, Adoretus sinicus, a bore hole in a flower bud, and ants tending some kind of Homoptera (I didn’t collect any of the ants but they look like the white footed ant, Technomyrmex difficilis – not sure about the Homoptera either, at first I thought aphids but now I am thinking leafhoppers ).

Halobates sp. (Hemiptera: Gerridae) at Castle Beach, Kailua, Hawaii

August 22, 2011

The tradewinds have been fairly strong lately, so this past Saturday I went for an early morning stroll along a beach a few minutes from where we live to see if I could find some Halobates.  The genus Halobates consists of water striders (Gerridae) that live almost entirely in marine habitats and contains the only insect species living in the open ocean (The Marine Insect Halobates (Heteroptera: Gerridae): Biology, Adaptations, Distribution, and Phylogeney, Oceanography and Marine Biology: An Annual Review 2004, Nils Moller Andersen and Lanna Cheng 42:119–180).

Usually when the winds are strong you find these little guys on the windward side of Oahu hopping around in the sand, and I’ve always wanted to get some images of them, so I thought I would give it it a try.  I also wanted to test out the macro abilities of my new camera.  I recently bought a Canon Powershot SX30 IS – it wasn’t my first choice, but I couldn’t really justify getting a decent SLR and macro lens worth more than our minivan, so I had to make some compromises. I think it will work out OK for my purposes, and with a few accessories I should be able to get some decent insect macro shots.  Having said that, it is still painfully obvious that the Canon 30D and 100 mm macro lens that I had access to at work were much better.

I did manage to find a few stranded striders hiding out in depressions in the sand. I’m not sure if these are H. hawaiiensis or H. sericeus.  From what I’ve read, H. hawaiiensis is a near shore/coastal species and H. sericeus is an open ocean species, so I’m guessing that maybe these are H. sericeus that have been blown in with the trades, but that is only a guess (Biological Notes on the Pelagic Water Striders (Halobates) of the Hawaiian Islands, with Description of a New Species from Waikiki (Gerridae, Hemiptera), Proceedings of the Hawaiian Entomolgoical Society, 1938, Robert L. Usinger, 10:77-88). 

Satan Antenna System

June 3, 2011

Earlier this year we conducted surveys for federally listed endangered Hawaiian Drosophila on land up in Kokee (Kauai) that the Navy manages.  The sites are situated right against the critical habitat boundary, so we basically conduct our surveys along the fenclines and permiter of the property lines (this is the second year we have done these surveys).  The last site in this area consists of a NASA facility with a giant antenna (access is prohibited, so there is a locked gate preventing unauthorized personnel from driving up to it).  The big dish is pretty impressive, but I was more interested in the remnants of the previous antenna system that sit behind the current facility.  There are some old footings and a small rusting blue structure labelled “Satan Antenna System”, complete with pitchfork logo.  Evidently this stands for Satellite Automatic Tracking Antenna, and it dates back to the ’60s.  While at the site, the remote feeling created by the combination of being in the middle of the forest and having an expansive view of the Pacific Ocean, together with standing in the shadow of a giant satellite dish that seemed to randomly come to life every 30 minutes and orient itself towards some unknown celestial target, tended to prompt the imagination to create images of what might be inside the little locked blue building…perhaps a long staircase into the darkness? Ernest Borgnine in a hooded robe?

Location of the NASA site.


NASA Kokee Antenna.

SATAN building.


SATAN building.

SATAN building.


Are solifugids really predators of bed bugs?

February 11, 2011

Image of solpugid by Arno & Louise Wildlife

Last week I gave a skeptical tweet regarding a segment of “Ask the Bugman” in the San Francisco Chronicle in which somone wrote in inquiring about natural enemies of bed bugs and Bugman included solpugids in his answer. Camelspiders? Sunspiders? Windscorpions? Really? These nasty looking arachnids have been the subject of so much misinformation and bogus claims that I thought for sure this was another perpetuated myth.

Soon, however, I began to feel some apprehension over the possibility that I was too quick to dismiss this, so I wasted yet more of my life on the internet and turned to Google for enlightenment. I quickly noticed that this little sun spider factoid was repeated in many places:

1) – “…some species are more specialised, Solpuga sericea and Solpuga lineata burrow into the soil in order to feed on termites while a Californian species of the genera Eremobates enters bees hives and feeds on the bees and Eremobates pallipes from Colarado is suspected of hunting ‘bedbugs’.”

2) Handbook of Urban Insects and Arachnids, by William H. Robinson – “A California species of Eremobates kills bees, and a small nocturnal species, E. pallipes, is known to prey on bed bugs.”

3) Spiders, scorpions, centipedes, and mites; the ecology and natural history of woodlice, myriapods, and arachnids, by J. L. Cloudsley-Thompson – “The small nocturnal species E. pallipes from Colorado is said to hunt bed-bugs.”

4) And finally, in The Biology of Camel Spiders (Arachnida, Solifugae), by Fred Punzo, I found a reference – “One eremobatid solifuge from Colorado, Eremobates pallipes,  has been reported to feed extensively on the bed bug, Cimex lectularius (Muma, 1967).”

I was able to get a PDF of Martin H. Muma’s paper titled, “Basic Behavior of North American Solpugida” contained in pages 115-123 of Vol. 50 No. 2 of the The Florida Entomolgist, and I  found what appears to be the source of these claims.  From the introduction on page 115:

Excerpt from page 115, Florida Entomologist Vol. 50 no. 2, 1967, Martin H. Muma

OK, so maybe this maybe makes a little sense (my apologies to the Bugman).  However, if it were me, I probably would not  include windscorpions in a list of common bed bug predators.  If you’re going to include solifugids, then you should include every other nocturnal, generalist predator of insects.  In no way am I an expert on the Solifugae, but, from this Florida Entomologist reference alone, I wouldn’t term this species a specialist on bed bugs.  I think the behavior reported in the paper would be more a result of the fact that, in the year 1871, bed bugs were much more common than they are today (even with the recent resurgence of bed bugs in the US), and human dwellings were probably much more accessible to wind scorpions.  Hence, back in the day, Eremobates pallipes and Cimex lectularius shared the same space. These days, I doubt the worlds of bed bugs and windscorpions collide very often, except maybe in extreme circumstances. I’ve never really lived out West in an area where solifugids are common, so I can’t speak from experience, but I have a hard time believing in 2011 they are commonly found in bedrooms. And the fact that in captivity they showed a preference for bed bugs as food doesn’t surprise me.  If I were a predatory arthropod, I would also probably show preference for a bed bug over something like a roach as a late night snack – that would be like having the choice between a juice filled gummy bear or a crust of bread.

Perhaps more telling is the omission of this reference in other descriptions of Eremobates pallipes from other respected sources, such as the University of California IPM Online site, where on the wind scorpion page, there is no mention of bed bugs as prey.  With regard to prey, all that is state is that “wind scorpions feed primarily on living insects, spiders, and other small creatures such as lizards that they catch.”  The same is true for a Texas A&M site on wind scorpions – no mention of bed bugs.

So, yes, windscorpions are predators of bed bugs, but I was only able to find a reference supporting this for one species, Eremobates pallipes, and these days I doubt this interaction occurs with great regularity in the United States.  Nevertheless, I can’t fault the Bugman for his answer.  His response about the pyrethroid insecticide Suspend is another story though…restricted use?  Really?


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