Unusual beetle(?) with brilliant orange, yellow, black markings?

lrobins(z5 CO)August 10, 2004

Hi,

I would like help identifying an unusual insect (just curiosity). I spotted the insect on a Eupatorium (Joe Pye Weed) flower, so it is likely attracted to nectar. I trapped and released the insect just for a closer look. I would say the length was 1/4 to 1/2 inch, and the body was very thin, not much wider than a toothpick. The insect had two wings and looked beetle-like to me, that is the wings folded neatly over the body when not in flight, although I am not an expert in insect classification. The markings were brilliant, alternating orange and black/yellow stripes going around the body (like a zebra) rather than parallel to the length. By "black/yellow", I mean that these stripes were subdivided into black and yellow regions in an intricate pattern. I did a web search for common beetles with these markings, but didn't turn up anything quickly. I'm pretty sure that my insect is not a cucumber or potato beetle.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
lrobins(z5 CO)

Actually, believe it or not, this brilliantly colored, daytime active, thin bodied insect is a MOTH, the adult of the Ailanthus webworm, Atteva punctilla. The Ailanthus webworm is a sub-tropical insect that has spread north following the introduction of an "alternate" host plant, the introduced invasive species Ailanthus altissima, that has spread throughout North America. (Since the Ailanthus tree is not native to the Americas, while Atteva punctilla is, we can say that the moth has "adapted" a new host.) Further, Atteva punctilla is not adapted to survive cold winters, so apparently a population flies north each year to seek the abundant leaves of the Ailanthus trees.

Since Ailanthus is generally considered undesirable (it has bad habits, like spreading into a huge thicket by runner roots, and producing a toxin that interferes with growth of other plants in its vicinity), the Atteva punctilla might be classified as a beneficial insect, although it doesn't do enough damage to seriously impact the Ailanthus.

There are hundreds of images of this tiny but photogenic insect on the web. Here are a few:

http://www.bugguide.net/node/view/1762

http://entweb.clemson.edu/museum/moths/local/moth16.htm

    Bookmark   August 27, 2004 at 10:44PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Well, we sure wre thrown off by the suggestion that it was a beetle!!! ;-) Next time, maybe post an image.

I totally agree that this is a wonderful little insect! I see them only rarely, and it's always a great surprise!

    Bookmark   August 29, 2004 at 6:26PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
tracey_nj6(6)

Aren't they gorgeous! I found one only by chance; I was photographing a butterfly, and only noticed it AFTER I downloaded the photo. I posted it in one of these forums and Lynn identified it for me.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2004 at 3:24PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
radalyn

I just left my Joe Pye weed to come and find out what bugs are all over it, and I saw this question. Funny, the description fits until lrobins describes the decorative patterns. My bug isn't atteva punctilla. The body stripes are narrow and bee-like. Any other ideas? I'd take a picture if I knew how to....

    Bookmark   August 26, 2010 at 4:25PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Springtails
We just bought a new home and our back yard is infested...
sthelp
What bug or animal builds this?
Hi there, I've lurked on this website for a while and...
Bullsweet
How to get rid of gophers
I seem to be having a big problem with gophers and...
Amy - California
larve identification
i have a organic compost pile. years of success. i...
bob41
Digging pest?
Can anyone identify the pest digging tunnels in my...
vadxx001
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™