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Bugs

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By Nancy Oakes

Going back over my columns, I've noticed bugs get short shrift. What to name a particular bug can be a puzzler. Do spiders belong in the bug category? What about butterflies? Is "bug" even a correct term. To help me, I checked out National Audubon's pocket guide to insects and spiders.

Notice right away the separation implied between insects and spiders. Spiders are placed into the arachnids group, because unlike insects, they always have eight legs, eight noncompound eyes, produce silk to form a sac for their eggs, and usually build a web to trap food. Spiders we see locally include what I call the garden spider; the book calls them black and yellow argiopes. This spider has a bright yellow body with a black pattern down its middle. The webs I've seen have a distinctive zig zag of spun silk in the center. A lot more golden orb spiders hang around my place, but one argiope has a web on the shed side. By the way, all spiders have poison fangs. Best not to be bitten by any, but I rescue certain small spiders by letting them crawl onto my hand and taking them outside and I've never got bitten. One time though, while I walked through high grass, a wolf spider got caught up in my skirt and the little devil bite me hard enough to draw blood.

The book includes mayflies, dragonflies, damselflies, mantids (think praying mantis), termites, earwigs, stoneflies, grasshoppers, crickets, true bugs, cicadas, leafhoppers, lacewings, beetles, scorpionflies, true flies, caddisflies, butterflies, moths, wasps, bees and ants in the insect group. Reading the list, I have to wonder about untrue bugs and flies. What are they? Where? In general, insects have three parts to their body, two antennae, large, usually compound eyes (remember spiders don't have compound eyes), and they have six legs and one or two pairs of wings.

I recently read a book about fly fishing. Knowing nothing of this activity didn't make the topic uninteresting. Fishermen observe the various insects fish feed on, when the insects hatch and in what places. They design their flies to imitate the various insects such as mayflies, caddisflies and stoneflies.

True bugs-I knew you'd want to know this-have two pairs of wings and a mouth designed for sucking plant juices. Stink bugs belong to this group. You may have seen these green triangle-shaped insects on wild blackberries.

They make the fruit taste nasty. True flies have one pair of wings and a mouth designed for piercing or lapping.

Other insects called flies either have more than one pair of wings or have a different kind of mouth. To my surprise, mosquitoes belong in the true fly category. By the way, the male mosquitoes eat plant juices, not blood. The female is the trouble maker.

Here's a few other things I learned from this book. Ladybird or ladybugs belong to the beetle group. Beetles have two hardened front wings and membranous rear wings that work for flying. Ladybugs eat aphids and are considered good insects. Aphids belong in a group with cicadas and leafhoppers. These insects can do serious damage to crops. Crickets, grasshoppers and katydids belong together because of their long hind legs. These insects make quite a racket in the summer, going quiet when cold days begin. They lay eggs which hatch when the weather warms again.

After all this, I'm still not sure about using "bug" to identify all creepy crawlies. Guess it depends if any "true bugs" are around to object. Until next time, good observing.