SQUASH OR SAVE? AN ILLUSTRATED GUIDE TO L.A. INSECTS
We have more insect species (estimated 10,000) than any other major metropolitan area. Only 1 percent cause human harm. Here are 13 locals you should know. (illustrations by Comrade, via lamag.com)
- •Stink Beetle (eleodes armatus)The inch-long, drought-tolerant wanderers don't fly, sting, or bite--but they do emit an unpleasant odor when threatened. Despite this, the broach-size bugs are made into jewelry in Mexico.
- •Convergent Lady Beetle (hippodamia convergens)Their name comes from the two dash marks that converge on their thorax, these beetles eat destructive aphids like a living, natural pesticide.
- •Green Fruit Beetle (cotinus mutabilus)L.A.'s boom in backyard orchards attracted these winged, jewel-toned scarabs from their native Arizona. Its larvae munch on compost. Grown beetles make drunk-like zig-zags in search of overripe fruit.
- •Monarch Butterfly (dannaus plexippus)Much beloved and recognizable, monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed--a habitat that's being threatened by aggressive weed clearance.
- •Pill Bug (armadillidium vulgare)Their nickname comes from the tiny shape they can ball into when threatened. These guys look ugly, but they feast on dead plants, which keeps a backyard beautiful.
- •Jerusalem Cricket (stenopelmatus nigrocapitatus)Despite a fierce appearance, these crickets don’t bite or possess a stinger. They spend the bulk of their lives below the soil. (Also known as potato bugs.)
- •Striped-Eye Flower Fly (eristalinus taeniops)Extraordinary mimicry is the hallmark of these flies, which resemble bees and wasps that fool predators. Recent immigrants to our backyards, they are avid pollinators, as are their cousins, drone flies. Neither can sting, though their ferocious buzzing when trapped suggests otherwise.
- •Tiger Moth Caterpillar (family arctiidae)These caterpillars feed at night on weedy plants; pick one up and it will curl into a loose lump.
- •El Segundo Blue (euphilotes battoides allyni)Protected under the federal Endangered Species Act, these near-extinct butterflies live just west of LAX, with small colonies at the Chevron refinery and on a tiny patch of dunes in El Segundo. The larvae feed on buckwheat, which is losing ground to exotic vegetation, so restoration of the native plant has been encouraged.
- •Common Green Darner (anax junius )Dragonflies are the jets of the insect world, and common green darners are one of the largest, with a body stretching three-and-a-quarter inches. Their agile maneuvers make them experts at snagging flies.
- •Tarantula Hawk (pepsis chrysothemus)The giants of the wasp world, they reach nearly two inches in length. The females’ sting is very painful but is normally directed at the tarantula, their preferred prey.
- •Brown Widow (Latrodectus geometricus)Originally from South America and Africa, this relative newcomer to our city (it was first spotted in 2001) is rapidly muscling out the black widow as the region’s dominant venomous spider.
- •Western Black Widow (Latrodectus Hesperus)There’s good reason to be wary of this spider, which gravitates to cool, dark places like attics and crawl spaces: Its bite is several times more venomous than that of a rattlesnake.