What the heck is that? Real Insect Aliens


Copyright © 2010 brwenn0 BugGuide.net

“Huh, what’s this? How does a tiny ball of lint move by itself?” Sitting in my adirondack chair outside, I saw a 1/4″ ball of fuzz on the armrest move. I am more curious than squeamish, so I looked closer to see a very well-camouflaged insect with barely visible, tiny feet. I tried prying the lint off, it was pretty well stuck on, and the mandibles on the thing looked formidable, even though it was tiny! I didn’t try too hard, it obviously needed this baggage as protection, having worked diligently to collect it in the first place!

My curiosity demanded I know what this was, so off to the internet (don’t you just LOVE search engines?). I searched “lint bug” and up came plenty of images of debris-carrying insects. BugGuide.net offered the information I was looking for.


Copyright © 2009 Matthew Priebe BugGuide.net Photo#342292

Turns out my little buddy was a Green Lacewing larva and it carries debris to protect itself from predators – makes sense! Lacewings are valuable predators to have in the garden, eating aphids, etc. so I was happy to know I have some in the yard. The adults are beautiful – grass-green with translucent wings, shiny bronze eyes and long antennae.

Copyright © 2006 Charles Schurch Lewallen BugGuide.net Photo#51116

Copyright © 2006 Charles Schurch Lewallen BugGuide.net Photo#51116

My inquiring mind always needs to know, particularly in the garden, whether I am confronting a friend or foe. I never dispatch an unknown critter without first finding out what it is. Big front mandibles usually are a clue to what is a friend to me and a foe to other insects. I love Tiger Beetles – their larva are ferocious-looking like something from a Star Wars movie. My favorite is the Six-Spotted Tiger Beetle, a flashy, iridescent-peacock-green adult that flits around in early summer. They signify a healthy ecosystem.

Copyright © 2009 Peter Cristofono BugGuide.net Photo#294555

© 2009 Peter Cristofono BugGuide.net Photo#294555

Sometimes friend/foe are mixed, like wasps and hornets that sting when I inadvertently get too close to their nests, but prey on lots of insects to feed their young, not to mention pollinating certain flowers.

As gardeners we come across all sorts of insects, some really revolting, like Potato Beetle larva (ugh). We have to decide whether to let them munch away, hoping they don’t eat so much that they destroy the plant or, we send them to the next life. (Slugs are my nemesis and they are ruining my karma on this earth!) I prefer to live and let live, but sometimes I have to protect my crops and flowers. Ultimately, the truth is, Nature ALWAYS wins and I take the results as best I can. I don’t believe we have dominion over Nature, she owns us! Like a patient mother clucking over her wayward children, I envision her shaking her head, knowing that sooner or later, we’ll figure it out.

About Eliza Waters

Gardener, writer, photographer, naturalist
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13 Responses to What the heck is that? Real Insect Aliens

  1. Spy Garden says:

    Great bug post! I love weird bugs. Squash bugs are my nemesis. Maybe we can trade? I’ll take your slugs HAHhaha

  2. Walking My Path: Mindful Wanderings in Nature says:

    This is great! I love Lacewings, but had no idea the larvae carried stuff! Wow! Thank you for your curiosity and follow through!

  3. Pete Hillman says:

    Quite amazing Eliza!

  4. Sarah says:

    Found several on my flower bed…such amazing little guys!
    What I would like to know is what the “fluff” camouflage is made of. Is it something that he’s born (hatched) with?
    Something that grows like fur ?
    Curiouser and curiouser!!

    • Eliza Waters says:

      Hi Sarah, I welcome a fellow curious naturalist’s interest! The larva stick plant and (ick) remains of their victims on their body as camouflage. They are referred to as ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’ because the subterfuge gets them close to their victims undetected. Nature amazes!

  5. Great post! If I could include photos with this comment, I’d show you some that I’ve taken of lacewing eggs and the newly hatched larvae without the camouflage. (They’re look pretty terrifying, despite being almost microscopic.) Lacewing eggs are very common. Each one is perched on a long slender stalk to keep it out of the reach of predators like ants. They’re very tiny, so they’re hard to see, but once you’ve found one, you’ll see them everywhere. You should google them if you don’t know what they look like.

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  7. naturebackin says:

    ‘Lint bug’ was a clever search term! Very interesting result!

    • Eliza Waters says:

      Ha, yes, this post has stayed as one of the top ranked posts for all these years. I think it was the word ‘alien’ that caused the click throughs. 😉 Tags are hard to figure out what draws best.

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