Bugs in Kansas City

I was happy to learn that my 10-year-old niece is still as into bug catching as ever. I still think bugs are neat (although these days I prefer photographing them to keeping them in bug cages). I can't wait 'til she gets old enough to teach her about genes.

jumping spider

Our first critter is actually an Amsterdam resident, photographed just before I left for vacation. This is a jumping spider, which are tricky to photograph because they don't hold still much. They also are sometimes inclined to jump at the camera, which, even if you like spiders, is a bit startling.

longhorn beetle

My first night in KC, there were a couple of longhorn beetles wandering around the glass door of the kitchen. The backlighting meant that I needed to use the ringlight, which is what gives the reflection on the glass.

reduvid nymph

At the swimming pool, my niece spotted this little guy. I think he's an assassin bug nymph. They have the name because they are predators of other insects, but they are quite capable of stabbing enemies with that long, sharp mouthpiece as well. It's best to stay on their good side, and handle them gently.

reduvid nymph

A longer view of the same bug, showing the mouthpiece in its resting position and giving a sense of its size. The jar is a peanut butter jar, freshly washed by the 10-year-old master bug hunter.

reduvid nymph

One last view of the Reduvid nymph, showing the black and white markings on its back. The Reduviidae family consists of about 7000 different species. In South America, some distant cousins of this assassin bug can carry Chagas disease, a nasty disease that is transmitted when the bugs bite people on the lips and face. The North American Reduviidae, however, are on our side -- they eat bugs such as cockroaches.

ground beetle

Some miscellanious ground beetle, trying very hard to hide from us.

ground beetle

It didn't work, though. My niece captured the ground beetle, allowing some photos in the jar. What I really like about this photo is how it captures the beauty of the bit of grit in the bottom of the jar. At life size you'd have never noticed the pyrite-like glint of the sand, nor the tiny pink rock in the bottom of the jar.

baby grasshopper

The yard was teeming with these little grasshopper nymphs. I particularly like how the reflection shows up in the photos.

baby grasshopper

This little guy looks ready to take on the world.

baby grasshopper

But he decided to just clean his eyes instead.

baby grasshopper

A sense of scale: this one perched on my niece's finger for a while.

maybe junebug

This little beetle was about 1/2 a centimeter long. My niece identified it as a baby junebug... and maybe she's right. I think, though, like the ladybugs, june bugs pupate and thus would emerge as full adults from the pupa. (Our "june bugs," incidentally, are beetles of the genus Phyllophaga. We get the reddish-brown type that seem to enjoy nothing more than flying into solid objects with a satisfying "ting!!" then bouncing off, apparently unharmed, to do it again a few seconds later. Repeat until eaten by a puppy.) This guy certainly looks like a member of the Phyllophaga genus, whether or not it will one day grow into our familiar reddish-brown puppy toys.

green dragonfly

Dragonflies are hard to photograph, as they are always better at watching you than you are at watching them. This one perched just long enough to catch a photo, although my niece was disappointed that she couldn't catch the dragonfly.

black swallowtail

This butterfly, however, was much easier. If you look closely, you can see that its wings are tattered. It is probably nearing the end of its life, hopefully after laying eggs to make more black swallowtails for later in the summer.


For once, there are no bugs in this picture. It's just a simple photo of a thistle. Most people don't like thistles much either, but I find them quite beautiful.

thistle with bug

This thistle, however, does have a bug in it. I'm not sure what kind; my niece called me away before I could tease it out. It is probably some kind of spider, hoping to catch one of the pollinators stopping by the thistle.


An adult grasshopper, hanging upside-down from a stalk of grass.

brown dragonfly

I wonder if the dragonflies land where they blend in? This one seemed to feel pretty safe on the piles of woodchips.

wooly caterpillar

Just as we were leaving the field, my niece noticed this guy crawling around in the weeds. From a distance he looked almost like one of the cattails. He's *big* too, at least as long as my finger and bigger around.

wooly caterpillar

At this size, he's likely about to turn into a butterfly, or more likely an Arctiid moth, which produces most of the wooly caterpillars.

orb spider

Even in relatively bug-free Seattle there were a few subjects for the macro lens. This spider kept trying to crawl away, but its bulbous abdomen wouldn't fit through the cracks in the wooden table. This worked out well for the camera, as I was able to get several photos before it finally found a place to hide.

orb spider

Eek! A human! This spider may be in the genus Steatoda, a group which can give a nasty bite but would prefer to eat other spiders.

WA longhorn

Chris knows me pretty well. Upon spotting this bug on the door, rather than killing it or even shooing it away, he called me over to take its picture. It obliged by being fairly photogenic. I think it's a shorter-horned version of the longhorn beetle at the top of the page.

WA longhorn front

It looks back at the camera, debating the necessity of flying away. It eventually decided that I was harmless.

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