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What is Red and Shiny and in my soil?

Posted by Poochella 7/ WEST WA (My Page) on
Tue, May 31, 05 at 23:04

Four times in the past couple weeks I have dug up from a depth of about 4-6 inches a very red, shiny, hard coated THING! I don't know bug terminology, but I believe it's a THING from which would eventually hatch a bug of some sort.
Have any of you seen one and do you know what it is?

1-1.5 inches long
1/3 inch wide at the largest width, tapering to about 1/4 inch each skinny end.
Brick red or slightly brighter (actually a nice find for an underground color. If I only knew what it was...)
Shiny, hardcoated exterior
Mushy, cream colored interior if you squish it, which I did to one. There was no visible body mass or formation, just mush.

Any ideas? Guesses?
I won't be doing too much more digging, but if I find another I will post a photo.
It's yet another unsolved mystery of the yard....


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: What is Red and Shiny and in my soil?

  • Posted by Ron_B USDA 8 WA (My Page) on
    Tue, May 31, 05 at 23:22

Moth pupa.


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RE: What is Red and Shiny and in my soil?

I'm on the hunt for moth pupae, or coccoons.

Kind of queasy here as I've searched and seen some gruesome bug photos LOL.... scroll down to the Acherontia atropos (Deaths Head Hawk Moth) coccoon on the right. On your way scrolling, don't miss the fabulous close up of the coloration on the Swallowtail, I believe.

Back to the coccoon or pupa:
That color looks pretty close to what I'm finding. And isn't that what little Jody Foster found in "Silence of the Lambs?"

Here is a link that might be useful: It's a Moth


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RE: What is Red and Shiny and in my soil?

I have been finding the same thing in my soil. My chicken LOVES them! Thanks for the info!


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RE: What is Red and Shiny and in my soil?

I have them too. Anybody know if they are good or bad for the garden/yard?


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RE: What is Red and Shiny and in my soil?

Unfortunately, I don't think they are anything so nice as a moth pupae. I think they are leatherjackets, otherwise known as Cranefly larvae. Hard shelled, shiny, red little nasties just waiting to eat the roots off your grass or plants. Many times they are described as grey, but we have red ones too. Maybe it is a regional difference.They are the 'daddy long legs that you see in the fall on your lawns laying their eggs.

Here is a link that might be useful: Cranefly Larvae


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RE: What is Red and Shiny and in my soil?

I haven't got a clue what it is but thought you might want to post on the insect forum -- there might be an entomologist or other person who would know for sure. You might do a search, too, to see if your suspects are native to this area (we know the craneflies are!), or what pests you might find in your lawn. Extension specialists at universities should know. You might be able to send in a specimen to their insect ID lab if you can't find out any other way. Good luck!

Here is a link that might be useful: Insect forum


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in the meantime...

OK -- I was curious about the Death's Head moth -- what a terrible name -- anyway, looks like they aren't native on this continent -- see link. The pupa in the link looks like what you're describing but it must be something else...

Here is a link that might be useful: Death's head hawkmoth


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RE: What is Red and Shiny and in my soil?

Thank you all. I don't think it's cranefly, I've seen many many of those over the years and this is very hard, red, crabshell-like material.

I will post at the insect forum and let you know any result.


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RE: What is Red and Shiny and in my soil?

  • Posted by jean001 z8aPortland, OR (My Page) on
    Wed, Jun 1, 05 at 20:37

Hmmm. That link to the photo of a leataherjacket is VERY misdleading. The things are "dirt" colored rather than red. And they certainy aren't shiny.

I vote for moth pupa.

In its earlier stage (caterpillar), it was likely was eating some of the plants at your place. But not necessarily to the point that it did serious damage. Healthy plants can easily tolerate a tad of damage.


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RE: What is Red and Shiny and in my soil?

I'm seeing these things too and my search for an ID has been long and fruitless. I was over at the insect forum and saw the thread there, was an ID ever found? The closest I saw to anything that looked like it was actually an insect that had something to do with oaks and it wouldn't be found underground.
Aaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrgggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!
(sorry for the scream, but I feel better now ;p)


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RE: What is Red and Shiny and in my soil?

No real answer yet. I wish I could find another one now, as I am curious what it is/was.

Are you also finding yours underground a few inches, Dingbat?


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RE: What is Red and Shiny and in my soil?

I've also found a lot of what you've described and the ones I've found are described as cutworm pupa in GARDEN INSECTS OF NORTH AMERICA by Whitney Cranshaw (pub by Princton U., 2004) pg 134. The Library should have a copy or your local bookstore. Its a good resource showing all the stages of development of 1,420 of the most commom ones. The adult form is a moth. I've been squishing all of them.


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RE: What is Red and Shiny and in my soil?

I have these also and OSU identified them for me as "redbacked cutworm" pupae.

"This cutworm can be very damaging even when the
population is low because individual cutworms can
destroy many plants. Larvae feed beneath the soil
surface on roots and stems of plants and on the foliage
at night. The most severe damage occurs from about
April through early June ..."

Here is a link that might be useful: OSU: Redbacked Cutworm


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RE: What is Red and Shiny and in my soil?

That's for the redbacked cutworm info - I was going to voice my vote for iris borer. I used to have those, looked exactly like the cutworm larva, when I lived in the midwest and I ONLY found them under my irises so I figured they were a stage of iris borer. Guess not, thanks!


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RE: What is Red and Shiny and in my soil?

  • Posted by Mearth z8PNW B'ham (My Page) on
    Sun, Jun 5, 05 at 20:27

I have had several of these pupae indoors in jars for a few weeks now, hoping to see the critter that emerges. All but 2 have died (no sign of wiggly life, anyway). The problem I've had with identifying them online is the lack of measurements. So many pupae look alike but for size or color. That last link offered shows a pupa that is much more yellow than the chestnut-colored specimens common in my garden. My best bet would likely be a visit to the WSU extension office. If I carve out the time for that, I will share their guess.


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RE: What is Red and Shiny and in my soil?

Thanks mearth. Mine are much more red than the yellow variety Harley Lady kindly posted of the evil redbacked cutworm. But that shape is right.
Is there such an insect ID service/extension service in the Seattle area? or King County?

Having visited the insect forum in my 'red coccoon' search I find that there are some really fascinating posts and photos there. Truly lots of little miracles of life around us, but some not so obvious as a big bold delphinium in bloom.


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RE: What is Red and Shiny and in my soil?

I think this is also what or similar to what I have been seeing in my garden. I have had a lot of cutworms this spring and now have seen a few pupae similar to what others are describing. The pieces are fitting - if I have the larvae, then I would have the pupae and the timing is what the OSU fact sheet indicates.

Does anyone know if the redbacked cutworm is also called climbing cutworm?

Poochella, if you bring a sample to any King County Master Gardeners' clinic, they should be able to ID it for you. They are part of WSU Extension.

Here is a link that might be useful: KC MG Clinics


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RE: What is Red and Shiny and in my soil?

  • Posted by jean001 z8aPortland, OR (My Page) on
    Mon, Jun 6, 05 at 12:35

Pupae are very difficult to ID, requiring the expertise of an expert's expert.

It is far easier to ID the adult that emerges from the pupa. Even so, this can also be a challenge because photos of moths are less common that those of butterflies.

Your best bet is to rear out the critter. Put it in a ventilated, but covered, clear container. Set it on the counter, your desk, or somewhere else you will see it daily. Then wait while nature takes its course.


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RE: What is Red and Shiny and in my soil?

Thanks Karchita and jean001. There are indeed many pupae ? is that the right plural? that look a lot alike. I'm glad to know of the Master Gardener clinics' schedules if not for this ID, then for other plant questions.

How I wish I wouldn't have chucked them into the lawn- have mowed a couple times since and I'm sure the mystery pupae are shredded.


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RE: What is Red and Shiny and in my soil?

IDing pupae probably does require the expertise of an expert's expert and since I work those clinics sometimes, I know we certainly don't know everything or even close to it, lol. We do know where to look for answers and we do have lots of books and resources to look things up in. They also will be aware of trends in your area if they are getting a lot of the same questions.

When an exact ID is needed, a specimen could be sent to the WSU lab, where experts would give you a expert answer.

If the problem is cutworms, treatment options include handpicking or applying beneficial nematodes.


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RE: What is Red and Shiny and in my soil?

Karchita, would you post the contact info for the WSU entomology lab (or send it to me via e-mail from my member page)? I looked for an address or e-mail at WSU but couldn't find what I thought would be the right place/person. Also, if there's a plant path lab for sending in disease samples, I'd appreciate that info, too. I don't have use for that level of expertise often but I like to know where to go when I do. Thanks!


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RE: What is Red and Shiny and in my soil?

  • Posted by jean001 z8aPortland, OR (My Page) on
    Mon, Jun 6, 05 at 23:15

Everyone, in whatever state they live in, can contact their own county's Extension Service office to request ID of insects and/or disease.

But understand that policies vary from one state to the next. Thus a fee may be required for one or both or neither of these services.


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RE: What is Red and Shiny and in my soil?

Any ID yet?


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RE: What is Red and Shiny- I've got a new specimen!

Okay you savvy entymology types and otherwise NW gardeners. Tonight I landed another coccoon which I believe is very close to the ones I originally had and posted about.

There is only one, so I am asking for your collective advice: should I take the shiny red thing to a WSU extension place, a Master gardener clinic, or should I just try to let it hatch into whatever it will become? And if 'let it hatch' is the answer, what sort of housing should I provide to give it the best chance to hatch out?

I have not been so excited about a buggy find since I was 9 years old when I scored a cecropia moth caterpiller!


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RE: What is Red and Shiny and in my soil?

Put it in conditions similar to where you found it, making sure the container has air holes, similar temperatures, shade, etc. If in dirt, dirt; if in leaves, leaves, etc.


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RE: What is Red and Shiny and in my soil?

Sounds like sound advice Larry, Thanks. Dirt it was; and I will tend to it right now.


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RE: What is Red and Shiny and in my soil?

I believe it is the red underwing moth. :)


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RE: What is Red and Shiny and in my soil?

We had this question come up at master gardener clinics repeatedly last year. Dr. Linda Gilkeson identified it as the Lesser Yellow Underwing moth (that's in the adult stage). You will have seen this moth around in July and August. It is fairly large (about 1"), tan/brown in color with some orange on the inside of its wings The pupa stage is when it is as "red and shiny and in my soil". It came into BC in 1982 and has now spread all over the Pacific Northwest. Lastest sighting was as far east as Ontario. It is very destructive, cutting plants off at ground level.


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RE: What is Red and Shiny and in my soil?

Yes, after two years of diligently going out after dark in autumn and plucking/drowning the lesser underwing caterpillars, our cover crop this year has remained upright, rather than eaten.


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RE: What is Red and Shiny and in my soil?

In and around the Portland, OR, region, instead of the lesser yellow underwing, it's the greater yellow underwing caterpillar, Noctua pronuba.


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RE: What is Red and Shiny and in my soil?

Jean001a...yes, we have that one too in Victoria. Don't dispair: you'll get 'Noctua comes' variety one of these days too! :-)


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RE: What is Red and Shiny and in my soil?

Too late, we already do. Note that all the collected specimens from my SE Portland garden have been N. comes, Lesser Underwing, having the black HW discal arc that is lacking in N. pronuba

Comparison of the two species here:
http://pnwmoths.biol.wwu.edu/browse/family-noctuidae/subfamily-noctuinae/tribe-noctuini/noctua/noctua-comes/


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RE: What is Red and Shiny and in my soil?

Oh great! I was wondering when that would occur.

Perhaps there's hope. Larry lives in SE whereas I live in NW, sort of --- I'm quite a bit west in unincorporated area.


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RE: What is Red and Shiny and in my soil?

Yes, one pest moth variety is enough for any individual gardener to deal with.

The above adult specimen was collected on 3 July 2002, and my notes indicate there were sightings the previous year. I have continued to examine one or more adults every year; so far only this species has shown up here in SE PDX.

Actually a quite attractive moth, but usually only seen when roosting on a wall or when flushed out in daylight when watering shrubs, aside from those moths whose full-time job is trying to escape from the garage via closed windows.


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RE: What is Red and Shiny and in my soil?

I wonder how susceptible these would be to beneficial nematodes?

Google looks promising when I searched, "nematodes cutworm larvae control".

fleas for the fleas... :)

Nick


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RE: What is Red and Shiny and in my soil?

Cutworms: I live in the northwest I have them in my garden also, get rid of them fast. Most gardening dust gets rid of them. I like the dust because it really gets into the little hidden places

http://mint.ippc.orst.edu/glasscutid.htm


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