OCTOBER
1991

 

 

 

By
Tom Turpin
 
Professor of
Entomology
Purdue University

 

 

 

 

 

10-24-91

Boo Bugs

Even at Halloween, not all skeletons rattle - thanks to some boo bugs that lend a hand, or a mandible.  Never mind that they only produce skeletonized leaves.  Among the insect skeleton producers are the larvae of moths, including the oak skeletonizer, the birch skeletonizer, the apple-and-thorn skeletonizer, the western grape leaf skeletonizer and the blackberry skeletonizer. 

The hickory horned devil is appropriately named for the Halloween season.  It is a fearsome-looking larva with, you guessed it, horns.  It turns into a moth in the adult stage.  The fiery hunter, a ground beetle that feeds on caterpillars, might just appreciate the heating system employed by Satan.

Pirates are favorites on the trick or treat scene.  Two insects have names suggesting they might have been despicable characters that sailed the seven seas - the warehouse pirate bug and the minutes pirate bug.  Do you suppose these insects lack an eye or a leg or two?

Of course a mask is appropriate on Halloween.  Some insects oblige.  The masked chafer, a white grub that damages lawns, probably needs to hide its face - at least when homeowners are around.  The masked hunter, a bug that feeds on bed bugs but will also bite humans, is named because it frequently picks up lint on its head and appears masked as it runs around the house.

Nothing is better fitted to the spirit of the season than assassins.  Among the insect assassins is the leafhopper assassin bug.  There is also a red assassin bug and a redmargined assassin bug.  It may not be quite the same, but the name of this insect suggests it could be part of the gang - the sunflower headclipping moth!

The smeared dagger moth has a name that suggests it has committed a crime suitable for a Halloween gallery of despicable insects.  The truth is that it has wing markings suggestive of its name.  Too bad.  In this Halloween season, it would be fun to speculate that the smeared dagger moth might have been responsible for the name of the beetle that is black with two red spots.  That beneficial insect is known as the twice-stabbed lady beetle.  It's beneficial because, like most lady beetles, it feeds on a common plan pest - aphids.

Now there is a story suitable for Halloween: a black and red beetle consuming every aphid in sight.  To aphids it's a nasty trick, but it's a treat to humans.

 

Writer: Tom Turpin
Editor: Olivia Maddox