There have been some really strange insects showing up in our yard recently. And by "strange" I mean creatures that I can't immediately put a name to, not even a really broad family name like "bee" or "fly." Take this bug that I found on our front porch this afternoon, for instance:
What in the world is that?! With that long body and those long shiny wings, it looked a lot like a big wasp. It even moved like a wasp, cleaning itself with quick, graceful motions, and starting up at me menacingly when I got too close:
But what are those hard shells in the middle of its back? And those aren't a wasp's antennae, nor is that a wasp's face...
It was actually those square-shaped shells that tipped me off as to what type of insect this creature might be, and pointed me in the right direction toward identifying it. Those shells are elytra, the hardened forewings of beetles that usually cover their entire abdomen. And searching for "beetle with short elytra" led me to the rove beetles (family Staphylinidae) and the probable identification of this creature as the species Platydracus maculosus. It's a beetle! Totally weird!
Another bug that I didn't have even a general name for has shown up in the garden a few times this year, and I spotted it again today:
I don't remember seeing anything like this before, and the body shape seems utterly strange to me. But those long hind legs suggest something in the grasshopper family, and indeed, with some looking around, this turns out to be a nymph (juvenile) of some sort of tree cricket (possibly Neoxabea bipunctata).
Tree crickets are supposed to live, well, up in the trees, so I'm not sure what this little guy is doing in my garden. Maybe it'll stick around as it grows up, and then I can see what an adult tree cricket looks like.
I'd seen a Fishfly (genus Chauliodes) last summer, otherwise I would have also been stumped by this individual who came to our porch lights last week -- what a monster!
And although very familiar to me by now (since there are always a few hunting in my garden), Robber Flies do still bring a certain weirdness factor, especially the big ones:
Finally, I wouldn't call these last bugs "weird" (at least, not in the same sense as all the previous creatures in this post), but their bright colors make them pretty unusual compared to most other insects around here. I like these fancy leafhoppers a lot, so I was happy to see them in the process of making more leafhoppers!
Just when you think you have a handle on bugs, there are always crazy new creatures waiting to appear!