Not a Spider!

Harvestman probably Phalangium opilio

I found this the other morning (Sept. 8, 2018) when my husband had to drive over to unlock the gates at Mount Grant, San Juan Island Land Bank Preserve.

While I was waiting for him at the top, I had a chance to photograph this really interesting spider (or so I thought). It had 8 legs and looked like a spider to me, but not one I’d seen before on San Juan Island. I spent that evening going through my spider ID book without any luck.

So I sent off an email to Rod Crawford, curator of the arachnid collection at the Burke Museum in Seattle and all around “spider man” genius. Here was his response.

“Dear Cyndi,
The reason you could not find the top specimen in the Adams spider book, is that it isn’t a spider. It’s a harvestman (member of a separate order of arachnids). Even a scorpion is more closely related to a spider, than a harvestman is. Harvestmen have segmented bodies that are all in one piece (not 2 separate pieces), 2 eyes close together on a little bump, totally different mouthparts, respiratory system and reproductive system, no venom and no silk. Yours is probably the common European import Phalangium opilio.”

So, I learned something new today. I hope this will inspire you to read up on Harvestmen or Opiliones. I know that’s what I’ll be doing this evening for my light reading! Here’s a link to get you started ~ and while you’re at it, check out Rod Crawford’s great spider myth’s website at

Illustration of a Harvestman

Rough Stink Bug, Brochymena spp.

This is a quick post! I just wanted to share the stink bug nymph I found over the weekend (Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019). It’s a Rough Stink Bug nymph, in the genus Brochymena. I believe it’s Brochymena quadripustulata, the Four-humped Stink Bug. However, Brochymena sulcata and B. affinis are two other species found in our area so similar, they are difficult to distinguish.

Brochymena quadripustulata nymph

Often Brochymena stink bugs are confused with the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, Halyomorpha halys. These two species can be distinguished by the teeth on the outer edge of the pronoun found on Brochymena spp. and the lack of white rings on Brochymena spp. antennae. Great diagram here ~

I’m not certain what the red spot is on the bug in my photo, but curiously, I found another photo on with a similar spot . I wish I’d kept my specimen for further investigation, but let it go after taking a few photos. The quality of the photo when enlarged just isn’t good enough to determine if the spot is a parasite. My first thought was it sure looks like a honey bee varroa mite, but I haven’t found any literature describing mites on stink bugs. For the time being, it’s on my “shelf” of things to figure out.

References/Further Reading

Brownlined Looper (Neoalcis californica)

I found this specimen ready to hitch a ride on the car window when I was leaving a dinner on Sunday evening, August 25, 2019. Time of sighting was 7:32 pm. It managed to stay on the window glass as we pulled out of the driveway, but blew off as we began our drive home.

This is a Brownlined Looper moth, Neoalcis californica in the family Geometridae and is the single species in its genus in North America. Its distribution ranges from Southern California to British Columbia. Adults can be found flying between March and October in the Pacific Northwest, but has been documented flying as late as December in California. Larvae of this species feed mostly on conifers, including Douglas-Fir, Western Hemlock, Western Red Cedar, Grand Fir, Lodgepole Pine (Canadian Forest Service) as well as many broadleaf trees and shrubs (USGS).

First described by American Entomologist, Alphaeus Spring Packard in 1871, this rather nondescript moth was initially named Boarmia californiaria. A description by Packard is found in the Proceedings of the Boston Society of Natural History. Volume 13 or view description attached below.

Neoalcis californica
August 25, 2019, 7:32 pm
San Juan Island, WA
Neoalcis californica
August 25, 2019, 7:32 pm
San Juan Island, WA
Packard’s description of Boarmia californiaria
renamed Neoalcis californica
part 1
Packard’s description of Boarmia californiaria
renamed Neoalcis californica
part 2


North American Moth Photographers Group. Mississippi State University Digital Guide to Moth Identification

Powell, J. A., and P. A. Opler 2009. Moths of Western North America. pl. 28.14; p. 208.

First recorded sighting on San Juan! Apantesis nevadensis superba, the Nevada Tiger Moth

Sunday evening, August 18, 2019, my husband took me to a lovely Farm to Table dinner at Sweet Earth Farm, San Juan Island, WA Aside from the amazing food and beautiful scenery, I got to sit at a table with some really great folks who, after finding out about my love of bugs, sent me a photo of a Tiger Moth that was on the side of their garage door. Turns out this particular moth was going to be pretty interesting!

Apantesis nevadensis superba
San Juan Island, WA
photo by N. Hamlin

As I worked through my usual steps to ID the specimen, I noted the photo came to me with “Ornate Tiger Moth” in the subject line. This specimen was indeed very similar to the Ornate Tiger Moth (Apantesis ornata). To complicate things a bit more, not only has this family of moths (Tiger moths) been reclassified (from Arctiidae to Erebidae), but this genus has also recently been renamed. Formerly Grammia ornata, Apantesis ornata (Ornate Tiger Moth’s) have not been recorded in San Juan County and records for adult flying periods of this species are earlier than for this particular specimen. I believed this specimen was something different.

There were records of another species of Tiger Moth in the Pacific Northwest I came across that better matched the image of my photo and timing of adult emergence. Apantesis nevadensis, the Nevada Tiger Moth, has been recorded as widely distributed in the Pacific Northwest, but according to information on Pacific Northwest Moths, A. nevadensis is “only found in a few locations west of the Cascade Mountain crest, including on Vancouver Island, the south Puget Sound, and coastal Oregon.”

However, a fairly recent (2007) review in Zootaxa by Ferguson and Schmidt described a subspecies of Apantesis nevadensis, A. n. superba that had been recorded on Vancouver Island, B.C., our neighbor. Could the San Juan’s be a new geographical locality for this subspecies?

Apantesis nevadensis superba
San Juan Island, WA
photo by N. Hamlin

I emailed the photo to Merrill A. Peterson at WWU. He has a great book available called Pacific Northwest Insects too. You can find it here ~ ( Merrill is Professor and Chair of Biology and Insect Collection Curator at Western Washington University and my all around go-to person for confirmation of insects in our region. Merrill agreed that my ID was correct. Since this was a FIRST record for the San Juan’s, he asked if I could collect locality (GPS) data and date of sighting from the original photographer.

My next task was to email the gentleman who sat with us that night at dinner and ask him if he was willing to share this, enabling Merrill to post the record online. We needed first initial, last name, GPS data, and date of sighting. Not only did I receive a response with this information AND permission for me to use the photographs in my blog, but I received a photo of a second moth taken the very day this gentleman went out to register the GPS coordinates on his phone. Now we have a record of two sightings, almost exactly one year apart!

Apantesis nevadensis superba
San Juan Island, WA
photo by N. Hamlin

So how exactly can you tell the Apantesis nevada from Apantesis ornata?

Here are the morphological descriptions for adult specimens of each species, taken from to get you started. Please feel free to contact me here or at with questions or to report sightings of insects in the San Juan’s. ๐Ÿ›๐Ÿž๐Ÿฆ‹๐Ÿœ๐Ÿ๐Ÿฆ—

Apantesis ornata ~

Adult: FW appear black, typically with a net-like pattern of extensive yellowish or rosy off-white transverse lines and thinner pale veins. HW color is variable from yellow-orange, orange, to orange-red, rarely entirely black. HW is heavily marked with black, including the basal wing, multiple spots, and an irregular marginal band. These are often fused to each other, especially near the wing margin. 

Apantesis nevada ~

 Adult: forewing black with 3 variably thin to wide pale bands crossing wing; subterminal line W-shaped, touching PM line at top of W, and outer margin at bottom; single pale line from base of costa to anal angle; hindwing varies from bright red with several black spots to pale pink with merged spots forming extensive black area; top of thorax white with 3 longitundinal black stripes; ptagia (collar) has one black spot on each side

If you’re interested in learning more about these and other species of moths, or have a sighting to report, you can visit Pacific Northwest Moths at To see locality records for Apantesis nevadensis, including the first record(s) of this moth for the San Juan’s, you can link here ~


Ferguson, D. C. and C. Schmidt. 2007. Taxonomic review of the Grammia nevadensis species group (Lepidoptera: Arctiidae) with descriptions of two new species, Zootaxa 1405, pp. 39-49: 42-44.

Pacific Northwest Moths 2018. Apantesis nevadensis.

Peterson, M. 2018. Pacific Northwest Insects. Seattle Audubon.

Powell, J.A. and P.A. Opler. 2009. Moths of Western North America. University of California Press.

Silver-Spotted Tiger Moth (Lophocampa argentata)

I found this specimen at the Friday Harbor Post Office yesterday and picked it up to save in my collection. It’s a bit bird-pecked, but worth keeping for passing around at my upcoming insect talk at the library in October.

Lophocampa argentata Silver-spotted Tiger Moth
San Juan Island, WA
photo by Cynthia Brast-Bormann
August 27, 2019

Lots of folks emailed me earlier in the year with photos of caterpillars they were finding. The larval form of this moth looks like the two photos below, depending on the developmental instar.

Silver-Spotted Tiger Moth Larva Lophocampa argentata
Orcas Island, WA 98250
May 9, 2019
photographed by K. Rose
Silver spotted tiger moth larva Lophocampa argentata
San Juan Island, WA
April 26, 2019
photographed by L. Narum

These moths are fairly common throughout the San Juan Islands. The larvae feed on Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesi) and other conifers. The name, argentum comes from Latin referring to the silver spots on the wings of adults.

While larvae are defoliators, they are not usually present in high enough numbers to cause economic damage or require any chemical control. Also, while very pretty to look at, the caterpillars do have urticating hairs which can cause stinging, burning, or rash in sensitive people. Take a photo or observe them, but resist the temptation to pick them up!

Lophocampa argentata
San Juan Island, WA
August 27, 2019
photo by Cynthia Brast-Bormann
Lophocampa argentata
San Juan Island, WA
August 27, 2019
photo by Cynthia Brast-Bormann

Varied Carpet Beetle Larva, Family: Dermestidae, Genus: Anthrenus

Found in windowsill crawling out of click beetle (Elateridae) body that was stuck inside spider webbing. August 24, 2019 San Juan Island, WA

Varied Carpet Beetle Larva (Anthrenus)
San Juan Island, WA
August 24, 2019

Carpet beetle larvae like to eat things composed of animal products (containing keratin) like wool or hair. Outdoors they like to feed on dead animals or scavenge inside animal nests. Your sweaters, carpets, and furniture items can be attractive to them and damaged if they build up in large numbers. Sometimes these beetle larvae can make people sick. Notice the many tiny hairs that cover the larva body. These are called hastisetae and can make sensitive people break out in hives or rashes if they come into contact with the larvae. The best way to keep these from building up to large numbers in your home is to vacuum often and adopt good sanitation practices.

Read more about them here:

Carpet beetle larva (lower specimen) found crawling out of Elateridae (click beetle) that was stuck in spider webbing on window sill inside home.

Hypena decorata

Family: Eribidae Hypena decorata August 20, 2019 San Juan Island, WA

I found this on the kitchen floor the other morning (August 20, 2019). It looked like a piece of tree bark had been tracked in. When I reached down to pick it up, I realized it was some sort of moth and one I’d not seen before.

Hypena decorata August 20, 2019

After taking photos of it (it was expired when I found it), I thumbed through my reference books, trying to see if I could identify it. After about an hour of skimming literature and photos, I finally grew frustrated and emailed Merrill Peterson at Western WA University to see if he’d seen it before.

That afternoon, I did indeed hear back from Merrill. He’s fantastic about responding and said he had to reach out to someone he knew, but finally got an answer for me.

Here’s what Merrill said, “Itโ€™s a strange Hypena decorata, like this one. I had to get some help to figure it out!” I was glad Merrill helped solve the mystery and now I can share what I found out about this moth.

Hypena decorata is in the family Eribidae, within the superfamily  Noctuoidea, the (Owlet Moths and kin). Hypena is Greek for “beard.” When you look at the fuzzy, long labial palms that project to form the moth’s snout, it does indeed look a bit like a beard.

According to the Bugguide reference, Lafontaine & Schmidt (2010) list 29 species of the genus Hypena in America north of Mexico. The moth is relatively rare to uncommon West of the Cascades, but found in southwestern British Columbia and western Oregon and Washington. Distribution records also show the species ranges to Southern California. Larvae are food plant specialists, feeding on nettles  (Urtica spp.).

Hypena decorata August 20, 2019


Chlorochroa ligata – Conchuela Bug

I spotted this round black bug yesterday on the leaf of a Mullein plant (Verbascum thapsus) yesterday (August 17, 2019). At first glance, you might think it a beetle, but upon closer examination, I recognized the yellowish outer margin from a larger, very similar specimen someone had asked me to identify earlier. This isn’t a beetle, but a BUG. True Bug, that is. It’s classified in the insect order Hemiptera. Hemiptera means “Half-wing” in Greek. This is a large order of insects with over 10,000 species in North America. It includes “bugs” like aphids, scale insects, cicadas, giant toe biters, stink and shield bugs (like this one!) and more.

Conchuela Bug (Chlorochroa ligata)
Found on Mullein plant (Verbascum thapsus)
San Juan Island, WA August 17, 2019

This specimen isn’t a full-grown Conchuela Bug, but a nymph. True bugs have what is called Hemimetabolous or incomplete metamorphosis. This means there are 3 stages of development that go from egg, to nymph, to adult. The nymph basically looks like a miniature version of the adult. To contrast, the Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies) and Coleoptera (beetles) have Holometabolous development with 4 stages that include egg, larva, pupa, and adult.

Conchuela is derived from Spanish and means the diminutive ofย conchaย shell. These bugs do indeed look like a little black shell with their hardened pronotum, scutellum and rounded body.

Conchuela Bug
Chlorochroa ligata
Photographed on Common Mullein
San Juan Island, WA August 17, 2019

In case bugs don’t interest you, perhaps the Hairy Woodpecker on a Mullein plant will. I’ve been enjoying watching these birds rock the Mullein back and forth like a clock pendulum, pecking away at the thousands of seeds held in a single flower head.


Monochamus scutellatus, the Whitespotted Sawyer Beetle

Monochamus scutellatus
Canoe Island
August 12, 2019
Photo by Chase Stoddard
Monochamus scutellatus
Canoe Island, August 12, 2019

I received this photo yesterday of a very cool Cerambycid (Long-horned) beetle from Chase S. on Canoe Island, WA. This is a Whitespotted Sawyer beetle (Monochamus scutellatus). These beetles are found in forested areas across the continent. The first time I saw one on San Juan Island, I almost mistook it for a giant black spider. Its long antennae give it the appearance of having eight legs, like an arachnid.

The larvae (known as sawyers) of Monochamus beetles develop in the wood of fire-scorched, diseased or injured, dying pine, Douglas fir, true firs, and spruce trees. The adult beetles lay eggs in slits in tree bark. Larvae (grubs) develop through several instars before pupating. The younger larvae feed on wood beneath the bark and filling the void with long, fibrous borings, then move into the wood, forming holes that will become almost perfectly round as the tunnel grows deeper. The tunnels can eventually reach the heartwood of the tree.

Prior to pupation, the larvae will pack the deep gallery with grass, leaving a space at the end for the pupal cell or chamber. Adults will emerge by gnawing through the cell and a thin layer of wood and bark to the surface. Telltale signs of boring damage is the accumulation of debris along infested logs. As they can attack and damage recently felled trees, they are considered a pest in logging areas. According to Furniss and Caroline’s 1977 Department of Agriculture Forest Service Publication No. 1339, utilization of preventative methods that avoid leaving logs exposed during the beetles’ egg laying period ( July-September ) is the best approach.

Monochamus scutellatus White-spotted Sawyer
August 30, 2010
Photo by Cynthia Brast
San Juan Island, WA


Furniss, R. L. (Robert Livingston)., Carolin, V. M. (Valentine M.)., United States. Forest Service. (1977). Western forest insects. [Washington]: Dept. of Agriculture, Forest Service : for sale by the Supt. of Docs., U.S. Govt. Print. Off..

Haggard, P. and Haggard, J. (2006). Insects of the Pacific Northwest. Timber Press Field Guide.

Peterson, M.A. (2018) Pacific Northwest Insects. Seattle Audubon Society.

Black-headed Grosbeak (Pheucticus melanocephalus)

I had to share because I don’t just love bugs. I really love birds too! This visitor and family have been a true delight to observe at our feeder. I’d been hearing a strange high-low whistle around our property and finally figured out this is the sound the baby makes when I watched the parent feeding it while it made this call and shook its wings. They’re not subtle! Listen to the two note call here ~

Black headed Grosbeak chick calling

I believe the photos below are of the juvenile, dated August 7, 2019

Black-headed Grosbeak August 7, 2019
Black-headed Grosbeak August 7, 2019
Black-headed Grosbeak August 7, 2019
Black-headed Grosbeak August 7, 2019
Black-headed Grosbeak August 7, 2019
Black-headed Grosbeak at feeder

Read more about these beautiful birds here ~

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    I love beetles and keep bees! In my free time, I enjoy photography (mostly bugs) and documenting insect species found on San Juan Island. I have limited availability for local, onsite beekeeping consultation and hive inspection, honey bee removal/swarm collection as well as phone/skype consultation. Contact me at Member Washington State Beekeepers Association

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