Lots and lots of insects in our yard. Here’s a good place to start for identification.
Coleoptera – Beetles
Darkling Beetles(Family: Tenebrionidae) – Caught mid-day running across our sidewalk, so it’s an exception to how they got their name. Too many species to be able to positively identify. The one in the photo on the right appears similar except for the orientation of the antennae. There are 20,000 species in this family so identifying the species or even genus is going to be tough. (Spotted Left: 7/8/2019 & right: 7/6/2019)
European Ground Beetle(Carabus nemoralis) I see these all the time when I’m digging in the garden. They usually have a bronze metallic sheen to them, but when I was photographing this specimen I noticed it had a turquoise area on the upper thorax. I’ll have to look for more specimens to see if they all have that. (spotted 7/5/2019) A week after photographing the live one, I was digging around planting some new plants, and came across a dead one. Only after I got it under the macro lens did I notice it’s head was missing. While I was photographing it the larva on the left crawled out. Creepy on a very small scale.
Garden Carrion Beetle(Heterosilpha ramosa) – I see these a lot while weeding and digging in the soil.
Predacious Diving Beetle(Genus: Agabus) – We started seeing these soon after we installed the pond. They’re quick and hard to catch. I see several different sizes, I’m not sure if they are all the same species or not. I had to submit this one to BugGuide even to get it down to the genus. Seek was able to provide the family. There are 106 known species of Agabus, and apparently identification down to the species is tough to do for most of them.
As I was adding the photos to the site, I got this reply from the expert who provided the ID:
Most likely Agabus lutosus
Based on the coloration. You can’t totally rule out A. griseipennis, though, and your specimen is a female which makes an ID very difficult even with the specimen in hand.
Seven-spotted Ladybird Beetle(Coccinella septempuctata) – While I was photographing this beetle on our lime plant, there was an ant that was trying to annoy it. Apparently, the ant knows that ladybugs eat aphids, which the ants harvest for their honeydew. (spotted 6/24/2019)
12 Spotted or Convergent Ladybird Beetle(Hippodamia convergens) – This is the third ladybug species I found. I never knew before that there were so many species of ladybugs. Some are even black with red spots or no spots.
19 Spotted Ladybird Beetle(Harmonia axyridis) – This was the second ladybug species I noticed. I was also able to identify this larva as being the same species, as the larvae for different species of lady bugs are more unique than the adult beetles.
Western Spotted Cucumber Beetle(Diabrotica undecimpunctata ) – I always thought that these were a type of ladybug, maybe ones that weren’t fully ripe yet. But they are in a separate family from the ladybirds.
We see several types of diving beetles in our pond. They are quick and hard to catch so I haven’t been able to identify them yet.
Dermaptera – Earwigs
European Earwig(Forficula auricularia) – Very common all around the US. Males have curved pinchers, females are straighter.
Hemiptera – Bugs
Water Skipper(Family Gerridae) – This was the first animal to move into our pond, and we also see them in the creek. (spotted 6/17/2019)
Western Red Shouldered Stink Bug(Thyanta pallifovirens) – I picked our first batch of boysenberries yesterday and two of these came in with them. They earned themselves a trip to the refrigerator and a free photoshoot. (spotted 6/29/2019)
Alfalfa Plant Bug(Adelphocoris lineolatus) – This one stumped me for awhile until I digitally enhanced my photo and showed it to Seek. While the photos of other Alfalfa Plant Bugs on the internet don’t look exactly like this one (most have white, not yellow wing tips) there appears to be a lot of variation in them. Nothing else I’ve found has the same legs, antennae, body shape and wing design, so unless someone tells me otherwise I’m going with this classification. I didn’t find it on alfalfa, although that is grown locally. I found one example on our pear tree and haven’t seen anymore. Sounds like a bad pest to have if you grow alfalfa. (spotted 7/6/2019)
Hymenoptera – Ants, Bees, Sawflies, & Wasps
Carpenter Ant(Genus: Camponotus)
European Honey Bee(Apis mellifera) – We see bumble bees more often, but these are pretty commonly seen too.
American Elm Sawfly
Trichiosoma triangulum(Trichiosoma triangulum) – I spotted this “caterpillar” walking along the foundation of our greenhouse. I figured with that face it would be easy to identify, but I had a hard time with it. I found a couple of other photographs that looked exactly like my subject, but they didn’t identify what type of caterpillar it was. Finally I found blog where someone commented it wasn’t a caterpillar, but instead it was the larvae of a sawfly. I was able to identify the species using Insects of the Pacific Northwest. There is no common name. (spotted 6/17/2019)
Willow Apple Leaf Gall
Pear Slug(Caleroa cerasi) – These are the larva stage of a sawfly. They love our pear tree, but don’t touch the apple tree right next to it. There are two life cycles each year. The first one is a minor infestation, then later in the year a second much larger infestation can defoliate the tree. They overwinter in the ground, so one of my projects this summer is to put landscape cloth around the base of the tree to help prevent that.
Orange Parasitic Wasp(Theronia atalantae fulvescens) – This one was hard to identify. It looked like it belonged in the wasp family but I couldn’t find photos of anything like it online or in the insect guide I checked out from the library. It seemed like the females were laying eggs on the tent caterpillar cocoons which are everywhere right now, so I thought it might be some kind of parasitic wasp. (spotted 7/10/2019)
I submitted photos to BugGuide and experts identified it down to the subspecies!
Chalcid Wasp(Brachymeria ovata) – Seek identified this as Brachymeria, and looking up that genus in California, I found the species Brachymeria ovata which seems to match. They are about 5mm long.
Black Slip Wasp(Pimpla rufipes) I caught this one near the similar Orange Parasitic Wasp and thought they might be the same thing, just different colorations. Unfortunately this specimen wasn’t very cooperative during my photography session and managed to get mangled while I was trying to herd her back under the lens. But even in a mangled state, I was able to identify it. It is in the same family as the orange wasp, but a different genus.
Parasitic Wasp(Family: Encyrtidae) – I’ll need to catch one to positively identify it. They’re pretty small, and quick.
Diptera – Flies
House Fly(Musca domestica) – No surprise we see these. One of the most common insects in the world, and we’re surrounded by cows on three sides. Lot’s of poop, lot’s of flies, and because we have lot’s of flies, we also have a ton of spiders.
Autumn Fly(Musca autumnalis) – Closely related to the common house fly, this one is identified by the orange abdomen in the males. The females closely resemble the House Fly.
Giant Western Crane Fly(Holorusia rubiginosa) These also have the common name of Daddy Long Legs, and it’s easy to see why. They also creep me out more than the spider version of the same name.
Cluster Fly(Genus: Pollenia) This is probably Pollenia rudis but there are similar species so positive identification isn’t possible from this photo. (spotted 7/10/2019)
Common Drone Fly(Eristalis tenax) – At first I thought this was a bee, but it is shiny, not hairy. Turns out it’s a fly that mimics the honeybee.
Hover Fly(Genus: Eristalis) – At first I thought this was a Sweat Bee, but Seek identified it as a Hover Fly. I’m not sure of the exact species yet. (spotted 6/24/2019)
Margined Calligrapher Fly(Toxomerus marginatus) Anything that helps control aphids is welcome in my yard. I have no idea how it got the common name, but it belongs to the hover fly family. They are about 5mm. (spotted 7/10/2019)
Stilleto Fly(Genus: Thereva) – There are about 50 species of Stilleto Flies, and I couldn’t find photos of very many of the species. It’s very recognizable due to the tapered abdomen.
Homoptera – Cicadas & Leafhoppers
Aphids(Family Aphididae) – We have over 50 roses in our garden, so of course it’s easy to find aphids. I’m not even going to attempt to try to find a species for these.
Lepidoptera – Butterflies & Moths
Satyr Comma(Polygonia satyrus) – We occasionally see this butterfly. One of the few in our yard that stopped so I could photograph it. (spotted 7/11/2019)
Common Checkered Skipper
Lorain’s Admiral or California Sister
(Limenitis lorquini or Adelpha bredowii) I see these occasionally but haven’t photographed one so I’m not sure which is is that I’m seeing.
Western Tiger Swallowtail(Papilla rutulus) – I was finally able to photograph one of the swallowtails that have been fluttering around the yard the last month. The problem was they’d never land, and trying to photograph a flying butterfly with a telephoto lens is absurd. This was one of the insects I really wanted to add to the list. There are two species of tiger swallowtails, identified by whether they have single or double tails on the wings. I was pretty sure we had the Western Tiger Swallowtail, which has one tail, and now with a good photograph I can finally confirm it. (spotted 7/18/2019)
Banded Woolybear Caterpillar(Pyrrharctia isabella) – Like most moths, we see their caterpillar stage more than the moth. This is one of the cuter caterpillars out there.(spotted 9/15/2005)
Red-shouldered Ctenucha Moth(Ctenucha rubroscapus) – One of the few moths that we see during the day, and definitely the prettiest. They have one generation a year which we see in July. (spotted 7/15/2019)
Western Tent Caterpillar Moth
(Malacosoma californicum) – As a nocturnal moth, we see these more as caterpillars than as moths. Normally in May-June we start seeing them in bunches in the willow trees by the creek. But 2019 was one of the outbreak years these caterpillars go through and they’re everywhere.
Vestal Tiger Moth
Cabbage Looper Moth(Trichoplusia ni) – These got imported into my greenhouse when I bought some tomato plants. At first I noticed some spots in the leaves of my tomatos, cleomo, and lupine plants. I thought maybe I had burned them by watering in the sun. The next day the spots were worse, but I didn’t find any pests. The next day it was obvious something was eating the plants, and Lori and I gave them a good look over, and finally found these tiny caterpillars that matched the color of the leaves, and the look of the leaf veins perfectly. What they did that really fooled me was they would eat a big hole at the edge of a leaf, and then stretch their body across the hole so it looked like they were the edge of the leaf. Hopefully we found them all, the next day I found a few more and it was surprising how much bigger they were after just one day. (spotted 7/4/2019)
Mantodea – Praying Mantis (Mantodea)
I’ve only spotted one praying mantis in our garden.
Neuroptera – Antlions, Snakeflies
Odonata – Dragonflies & Damselflies
I have always called this type of insect dragonflies, but reading up on them I found there are dragonflies and their close relatives, damselflies. While very similar, there are a few easy ways to tell the difference. Dragonflies have thicker bodies, eyes close together, and their wings are spread when resting. Damselflies are thinner, have eyes spread apart on either side of the head, and they fold their wings against their body when resting.
Blue-eyed Darner Dragonfly(Aeshna multicolor) – I think this is the large blue dragonfly we see in our yard. They never seem to land so I haven’t been able to photograph one yet.
Our pond was visited by a female, but they’re not blue so it took consulting with dragonfly expert Kathy Biggs to get her identified down to the species level. She spent the afternoon that I photographed her laying eggs under the floating plants in our pond.