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.
Dermaptera – Earwigs
European Earwig(Forficula auricularia) – Very common all around the US. Males have curved pinchers, females are straighter.
Diptera – Flies
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.
Cluster Fly(Genus: Pollenia) This is probably Pollenia rudis but there are similar species so positive identification isn’t possible from the photos. This is probably the smallest fly in the garden, just 4 or 5mm long. (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.
European Crane Fly(Tipula paludosa) 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.
Green Bottle Fly(Lucilia sericata) – Very common and easiest to identify due to their metallic green color. (spotted 7/18/2019)
Flesh Fly(Genus: Sarcophaga) – From the first picture I identified this as a house fly. I later photographed another fly with a better picture and Seek identified it as a Sarcophaga fly. I then took another look at my house fly photo and believe it to be Sarcophaga as well. What’s the difference? House flies have 4 stripes, Sarcophaga have 3. There are many species of Sarcophaga, but you need to look at the male genitalia to determine the differences. Three problems; I don’t have a microscope, my sample is a female, and I’m not that interested in looking at fly genitalia.
European Drone Fly(Eristalis arbustorum) – The markings on the male’s abdomen give it the appearance of having a wasp waist.
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)
Syrphid Fly(Eupeodes fumipennis) – Similar to the species above, but much smaller. This one is only about 10mm long. Bill Dean on Bugguide was able to identify the species for me, due to a small stripe on the face, and the markings on the abdomen. There are a lot of species of flies that all look similar to these.
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.
Yellow Dung Fly(Scathophaga stercoraria) – Males spend most of their lives hanging around piles of shit hoping a mate shows up, and eating blow flies that also like hanging around piles of shit. With cow pastures surrounding us, it’s no surprise they’re here.
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)
Kirby’s Backswimmer(Notonecta kirbyi) – My first sample of catching one of these was a headless, and obviously dead specimen. It had more orange coloring to it, but this species is variable. They’re extremely hard to catch, but after spending several lunch hours trying I finally caught one and was able to identify it to this species. Unlike the water boatmen, which is what I assumed these were at first, the backswimmers get their common name because they swim upside down.
Western Red Shouldered Stink Bug(Thyanta pallidovirens) – 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)
Red-Cross Shield Bug(Elasmostethus cruciatus) – Found on the sunflower plants. (spotted 8/3/2019)
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)
Formica Ant(Formica sanguinea) – I watched this group of ants battling with another one along our planter wall. They’re so tiny it was hard to follow the action, but it appeared that they were carrying whole ants and severed ants back and forth. I couldn’t identify the ones that were being attacked as they were smaller and usually in bits. Formica ants are slave-maker ants, they’ll take over a neighboring colony of other species and make the worker ants work for their own colony.
Black-tailed Bumblebee or Orange-rumped Bumblebee(Bombus melanopygus) – Identifying this species was confusing. Seek identified the first picture I took as a Black-tailed Bumblebee. But when I looked up pictures of Bombus melanopygus I saw some that looked like it and some that had orange bands on the abdomen. Then I saw that the Black-tailed bumblebee (which actually has a yellow tail) and the Orange-rump Bumblebee both had Bombus melanopygus as their taxonomic name. I later photographed one that had an orange rump and Seek identified it too as Bombus melanopygus, agreeing with what I found online. What’s going on? Well it turns out two populations of the same species have different coloring due to one gene. The northern population (mostly Oregon to Alaska) has the orange rumped variety, and the black tailed version is seen in California. Ferndale happens to sit in the area where they overlap, so we get both versions. Often seen in the flower beds and especially the lavender. (spotted 7/18/2019)
European Honey Bee(Apis mellifera) – We see bumblebees 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.
European Paper Wasp(Polistes dominula) – While I see these quite often, I noticed them recently at the pond. It appeared they were dipping their abdomens in the water, I thought they might be laying eggs. But then after identifying them, I see that they are males, and the eggs are laid in the nest. It didn’t appear that they were drinking, so I’m not sure what they were doing. More research is called for.
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.
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
(Junonia coenia) – Spotted a butterfly I hadn’t seen in our yard before, but as the name indicates, they are apparently common. (spotted 8/1/2020)
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
Small Cabbage White Butterfly(Pieris rapae) – This is a very common butterfly in our backyard during the summer, but one of the last common ones I was able to photograph. Like the swallowtail, it seems like early in the season they just want to fly, and they would never land for a photograph. Finally, in August, they must be getting tired and they take breaks long enough I was able to photograph some. One of their favorite host plants is the Spider Plant (Cleome) which just so happens to be what this one was sitting on.
Red Admiral(Vanessa atalanta) – August seems to be butterfly season around here. Lots of butterflies are enjoying the Butterfly Bush (they don’t call it that for nothing), including this Red Admiral. (spotted 8/20/2019)
Painted Lady(Vanessa cardui) – One of the most common butterflies in the world, it’s no surprise we find it in our yard.
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) Just a day after finally getting one swallowtail to land, they seem to be landing more frequently now. Maybe all the flying is finally wearing them out and they need to feed. One thing I’ve noticed is that most of them are showing wounds to their wings. Either they’re having close calls with birds, or all that flying is taking a toll. (spotted 7/19/2019)
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)
Single-dotted Wave(Idaea dimidiata) – One of the moths that is common around lightbulbs at night.
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.
Oblique-banded Leafroller Moth(Choristoneura rosaceana)
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. The dragonfly spent the afternoon that I photographed her laying eggs under the floating plants in our pond.August 22, 2019 we had a number of dragonflies flitting around the yard, doing laps around the berry vines. I tried without success to photograph them as they were flying, but finally one took a breather and I was able to identify it as a female Blue-eyed Darner. Still trying to get a photo of the males, which give the species the name because they are blue.