Department of Entomology, NMNH, Smithsonian Institution

Department of Entomology, NMNH, Smithsonian Institution Main page for sharing the work of SI, SEL and WRBU staff in Entomology at the NMNH and for highlighting timely and/or interesting news items on entomological topics.
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Welcome to our page! This page will be used to give you updates about current research, share insect related news and give you a behind the scenes look at the Entomology Department. We hope that you can use this space to share your thoughts about our posts and tell us about your visit to the National Museum of Natural History. Please feel free to ask us any questions that you may have. While we want you to be able to use this space to discuss topics of Entomology, we ask that you express yourself in a civil manner, and always treat others with respect. The Smithsonian also monitors and may remove posts consistent with its terms of use, as described at http://si.edu/Termsofuse#user-gen.

Operating as usual

08/14/2020
Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History

Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History

#NatureIsBrutal #NatureIsExcellent Some ladybird beetle larvae are notorious for snipping a tip of their prey’s antennae or legs and using them as "straws" to drink their prey alive. In this video, a larva from the genus Scymnus is feeding on an aphid by repeatedly sucking its contents and regurgitating them; this mechanism allows the beetle larva to get as much nourishment as it can from the aphid. Museum communications intern Miguel Montalvo captured this #MicroWonders horror scene in his own backyard! What's happening in yours?

Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History
08/12/2020

Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History

If you look closely you might find a scene like this taking place in your own backyard. While not fully grown, still in its nymph state, this Florida predatory stink bug (Euthyrhynchus floridanus) has found itself a delicious caterpillar dinner. The appendage that the stink bug uses to slurp its prey is called a proboscis –a two-channeled tube with sharp cutting elements. This proboscis is also the defining feature of insects belonging to the order Hemiptera also known as true bugs. #NatureIsBrutal

**Editor's Note** Today is day two of our week-long series of close-ups of the natural world, by photographer and communications intern Miguel Montalvo.

Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History
08/10/2020

Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History

A weevil may sound like a cousin of Pooh’s heffalumps and woosles, but they are actually a type of insect. Isn’t she (or he) a beauty! This is a blue green weevil (Pachnaetus litus), a common visitor (and pest) of citrus plants. When startled, they often fall to the ground and fake their own death to avoid harm by potential predators.

📸 Miguel Montalvo

Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History
08/07/2020

Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History

This beautiful insect can also be a destructive invasive species. Lacebugs (Corythucha ciliata) get their name from their delicate lace-like wings, but they are highly invasive pests of sycamore trees. They eat by sucking fluids from plants' photosynthetic tissue. (Illustration: Elsie H. Froeschner)

Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History
07/25/2020

Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History

For our last #NationalMothWeek post, here’s one you might already be familiar with. The Greater death’s-head hawkmoth is well-known for its appearance in the movie Silence of the Lambs. These moths use chemical camouflage to mimic the scent of bees and enter the hives undetected, where they use their sturdy mouthparts to pierce the wax cells and eat honey.

Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History
07/24/2020

Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History

Meet the sloth moth! This is one of several species of moth that live exclusively in the fur of sloths. When a sloth descends to the forest floor to defecate, the adult female moths fly off and lay their eggs in its dung. The larvae feed on the dung and upon becoming adults they return to the canopy to find a new sloth home. #NationalMothWeek

Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History
07/23/2020

Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History

The bella moth’s bright colors serve as a warning to predators: DON’T EAT. The caterpillars feed on a host plant that contains a large amount of an alkaloid toxin. This is in turn concentrated in the caterpillar, making them distasteful to most predators. These toxins are in such high demand that the caterpillars have been known to cannibalize eggs, larvae, or pupae of the same species to supplement their own toxin supply. #NationalMothWeek

Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History
07/22/2020

Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History

Today, we’re traveling to Madagascar to see Hemiceratoides hieroglyphica, which has been observed inserting its barbed proboscis into the eyelids of sleeping birds and drinking their tears! Presumably, they do this to get nutrients like sodium that are lacking in their normal diet. #NationalMothWeek

Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History
07/22/2020

Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History

Step aside, butterflies—it’s #NationalMothWeek! Did you know that there are about 160,000 species of moths, compared to 17,500 butterfly species in the world? This week, we’ll share some of the more unusual moths, starting with Calyptra thalictri, or VAMPIRE MOTHS! These moths feed on fruit, but the males can use their tongues to pierce skin and suck blood from vertebrates. This gives them sodium to pass on to females during mating, giving their offspring a nutritional boost.

Follow along this week see more of these fascinating creatures!

The Department of Entomology wishes everyone a happy and safe 4th of July!
07/04/2020

The Department of Entomology wishes everyone a happy and safe 4th of July!

06/26/2020
Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History

Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History

We're closing out our #NatureNerding101 entomology campaign with a fun #DIY activity for the weekend. Smithsonian entomologist Floyd Shockley shows you how to build a nocturnal insect trap and explore the biodiversity of your own backyard. If you've been missing your normal nightlife scene, this might help with that too!

Special thanks to our colleagues in the Department of Entomology, NMNH, Smithsonian Institution for spending the week with us!

Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History
06/26/2020

Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History

"The Imperial moth is one of my favorite North American moths. But not for reasons that you may think. Sure an adult female can have a wing span of more than 7 inches and range from almost completely buttercup yellow to burgundy in color with varying amounts of those rather contrasting colors and be simply gorgeous.

But what I find even more amazing are the caterpillars of this species. The caterpillars start off orange or red in color with HUGE black antler like structures rising up from their bodies. As they mature the antlers start to shrink and the caterpillars get fuzzy. During this fuzzy phase the caterpillars can be green, brown, or even black and the colors can change each time they shed their 'skins.'

This image is of a caterpillar I reared a few years back that had a particularly unique coloration with bright blue appearing on the head and body. The amazing thing was none of the siblings of this caterpillar had any blue markings. Blue is not a particularly good color for camouflage and for most animals it is a hard color to make or acquire. In fact most animals 'cheat the system' and appear blue by having structures that bend light rather than have blue pigmentation (butterfly scales are a good example of this). I continue to ask myself how and why did this caterpillar have blue markings." - Jim Young, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, @USDA #NatureNerding101

Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History
06/25/2020

Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History

We asked the members of our Entomology Department to share the insects and arachnids that fascinate them most. Here are the week's first three picks! Click on the photos to find out who selected them and why; and share your favorites with us too! #NatureNerding101

Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History
06/22/2020

Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History

The Department of Entomology, NMNH, Smithsonian Institution is taking over our feeds for a #NatureNerding101. Today, they’re starting out with a #PollinatorWeek celebration that features some insects that sustain our nearby ecosystems and make our agricultural system possible. Wherever you live, please support your local pollinators! Click through the photos to learn how.

If you're looking for something creepy this #TypeTuesday, look no further than this spider wasp, Pompilus ami (Pompilida...
05/26/2020

If you're looking for something creepy this #TypeTuesday, look no further than this spider wasp, Pompilus ami (Pompilidae). Female spider wasps sting their spider prey to paralyze it, then place it in a burrow before laying an egg on the spider's abdomen. The wasp then leaves, sealing the burrow behind her. When it recovers from the paralysis, the spider has nothing to do but wander its cell and await its fate: being eaten alive by the larval wasp when it emerges in a few days.

Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History
05/24/2020

Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History

“Plants have cool ways to get pollinated. This greenhood orchid is from Australia. The ‘tongue’ snaps shut behind an insect which has to crawl up toward the light at the top, then down and out the ‘beak.’ The dark blob (pollen) sticks to it as it escapes!” – Bort Edwards, Department of Botany, @smithsoniannmnh #NatureNerding101

#ThrowbackThursday! This moth, the type of Coloradia lois (Saturniidae), was collected on June 16, 1890. A few weeks lat...
05/21/2020

#ThrowbackThursday! This moth, the type of Coloradia lois (Saturniidae), was collected on June 16, 1890. A few weeks later, Idaho and Wyoming became U.S. states.

Smithsonian entomologist and ant expert Dr. Ted Schultz joined the Plantopia podcast to discuss agricultural ants. Learn...
05/15/2020
Ants as Farmers

Smithsonian entomologist and ant expert Dr. Ted Schultz joined the Plantopia podcast to discuss agricultural ants. Learn more about the fascinating way ants keep livestock and maintain elaborate fungus gardens!

https://www.plantopiapodcast.org/4

They’ve been farming for a lot longer than we have, and they are really good at it.

This #TypeTuesday, we mourn the loss of Dr. Terry Erwin, who passed away yesterday. Terry joined the National Museum of ...
05/12/2020

This #TypeTuesday, we mourn the loss of Dr. Terry Erwin, who passed away yesterday. Terry joined the National Museum of Natural History 50 years ago as a research entomologist and curator of beetles. He studied Carabidae (ground beetles) and did extensive research in the Amazon, shedding light on the enormous biodiversity of this irreplaceable environment. Terry was also an invaluable colleague, sharing his years of knowledge and expertise with fellow staff, researchers, students, and countless others. He will be greatly missed. In his honor, today's type is Brachinus oaxecensis, a species of Carabidae he described in 1970.

Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History
05/06/2020

Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History

“Hello! I’m Dr. Floyd Shockley. I’m the collections manager with the @SIEntomology, and I am a broadly trained entomologist with expertise in beetles, especially fungus-feeding beetles. I am also an avid coin collector & a movie fanatic (with >2,000 movies collected).

This drawer of butterflies (left) and moths (right) has always stood out to me. It is part of a collection of ~27,000 specimens donated to us in 2014. It is visually beautiful but also displays the dazzling diversity in size, color and form in this group of insects.” – Floyd Shockley, Department of Entomology @smithsoniannmnh #StuffOfJoy

Species names often contain some reference to the organism, such as its color or where it was found. Can you guess how t...
05/05/2020

Species names often contain some reference to the organism, such as its color or where it was found. Can you guess how the moth Clemensia leopardina (Erebidae) got its name? #TypeTuesday

Wish you were on a tropical island on this #TypeTuesday? This damselfly, Teinobasis fortis (Coenagrionidae) hails from P...
04/28/2020

Wish you were on a tropical island on this #TypeTuesday? This damselfly, Teinobasis fortis (Coenagrionidae) hails from Pohnpei, an island in the Federated States of Micronesia. Pohnpei has a tropical rainforest climate, with one of the highest annual rainfalls in the world.

This fuzzy lady looks soft and cuddly, but don't touch! This is the type of Dasymutilla sulcatulla, a velvet ant in the ...
04/21/2020

This fuzzy lady looks soft and cuddly, but don't touch! This is the type of Dasymutilla sulcatulla, a velvet ant in the family Mutillidae. Velvet ants are not really ants, but wasps whose females are wingless. You may also know them by another name, "cow killer"- while they can't actually kill a cow, their stings are rated one of the most painful in the insect world. #TypeTuesday

Meet the type of Spilochalcis corumbicola, a wasp of the family Chalcididae. These tiny parasitic wasps have enlarged, s...
04/14/2020

Meet the type of Spilochalcis corumbicola, a wasp of the family Chalcididae. These tiny parasitic wasps have enlarged, serrated femurs, which females use for subduing the host insect during oviposition (injecting the egg). #TypeTuesday

This #TypeTuesday features Umbelligerus stockwelli, a treehopper from the family Membracidae. A segment of the thorax ca...
03/31/2020

This #TypeTuesday features Umbelligerus stockwelli, a treehopper from the family Membracidae. A segment of the thorax called the pronotum is enlarged, forming an ornate, antler-like structure. The purpose of this structure is not known, though it likely involves camouflage or mimicry.

This #TypeTuesday, meet a spiky beetle who will have no trouble social distancing! Platypria alces is a member of the fa...
03/24/2020

This #TypeTuesday, meet a spiky beetle who will have no trouble social distancing! Platypria alces is a member of the family Chrysomelidae, the leaf beetles.

Happy St. Patrick's Day and #TypeTuesday! Meet the type of Agapostemon fasciatus, a sweat bee from the family Halictidae...
03/17/2020

Happy St. Patrick's Day and #TypeTuesday! Meet the type of Agapostemon fasciatus, a sweat bee from the family Halictidae. Instead of drinking green beer, these small bees prefer human sweat, from which they obtain salt. Sláinte!

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The Entomology Department at the National Museum of Natural History houses over 35 million specimens, making it one of the largest entomological collections in the world. These specimens and their data are used in original scientific research on the nature, inter-relationships, origin, and evolution of insects and their allies. The collections also house a large number of medically and agriculturally significant species which are important in identifying insect pests. Our mission is three-fold: 1) To describe and understand the evolutionary and ecological diversity of insects and other terrestrial arthropods through global field and laboratory research; 2) To care for and improve the world's largest and most comprehensive terrestrial arthropod collection; and 3) To make these discoveries known via scholarly and popular publication, databases of systematic and collection information, training at the intern, graduate and post graduate level, lectures, teaching and consulting, and through museum exhibits.

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Comments

Here's a fun story about a specimen originally found in the Smithsonian-NMNH entomology collection!
Today is "Zoo Lovers Day" and what better way to celebrate than to showcase cartoon insects with exotic animal names. (Although spiders are not insects, I couldn't help but include the Camel Spider, such a curious, fascinating creature!)
What is this beautiful creature? 6 legs and a back end like a scorpion.
This New Jersey laboratory raises a million insects a year to combat the spread of invasive species including Mile-a-Minute, tarnished plant bug and Mexican bean beetle.
FOR FREE SUBSCRIPTION OF TRENDS IN BIOSCIENCES JOURNAL PLZ FILL BELOW FORM
TRENDS IN BIOSCIENCES JOURNAL CALL FOR RESEARCH/REVIEW / SHORT COMMUNICATION- WEEKLY JOURNAL NAAS SCORE 3.94 UGC LISTED ISSN-Print 0974-8431&Online-0976-2485/ EMAIL - [email protected] PH-9826550460 & 9919388690.
Good evening, Would any of you guys be able to help me ID a couple species of beetles from South Africa? I know one is a species of Longhorn beetle but not exact species or subspecies. If you can I'll post pictures in the comments. Thanks
Wtf is this sorry i killed because its huge. Length of a quarter
CALL FOR RESEARCH/REVIEW / SHORT COMMUNICATION- TRENDS IN BIOSCIENCES JOURNAL NAAS SCORE 3.94 UGC LISTED WEEKLY JOURNAL ISSN-Print 0974-8431&Online-0976-2485/ EMAIL - [email protected]/PH-9826550460 & 9919388690
What kind of spider is this? I am in Portland (OR) - Vancouver (WA) metro area (Washington side) and found this bad boy (or girl) in my room. My cat bat at it, attempted to eat it and failed miserably when the spider curled up into a crevice and between the carpet on the edge of the wall. I think it is dead or wounded, as my cat did try to munch on it. The spider does have what appears to be a violin on its back but I might be wrong. If you look closely there is a line and roundish/ovalish shape on its head so it does look like a violin and that worries me. Is this little creature a Recluse? I moved here from Arizona and I have seen similar spiders in my apartment ever since bringing my storage up here. So it is plausible that a desert recluse and its family could have hitched a ride. I read online that they will stay in the same place they traveled to, not leaving the area you brought them to, ie the apartment. Lucky me right? Please let me know if this is a Recluse. If it is NOT a Recluse, please tell me what spider it is? Thanks a bunch!! :-) Little spindle of doom.