Grown-ups, do you have a kid who loves creepy-crawlies? Give them this field guide to local bug finding.
Have you ever gone looking for bugs? To be an expert bug hunter, you need:
- A magnifying glass
- A phone to take pictures with
- A notepad to write down your discoveries
Now that you have everything, you’re ready to play bug bingo. Here are a few of our favorite local bugs:
They’re called assassin bugs because they attack other bugs. If you see a dark bug with a pointy head, steer clear. They can poke you with their proboscis (that long thing sticking out like a nose).
Where to find it: In the trees or around grassy areas — anywhere they can hunt other bugs.
Bees are one of the most important insects. They carry pollen on their fuzzy legs, which helps plants grow. But if you’re scared of bees, the best thing to do is stay very calm when you see one. Bees only sting if they think you’re a predator, so running away or trying to hurt a bee might backfire.
Where to find it: Bees have favorite flowers — they love lavender and lilacs, to name a few. You might also see them at the pollinator garden just outside the Juniper-Front Community Garden in Bankers Hill.
These aren’t really a kind of bug, but an age of bug. Caterpillars are the larvae — a fancy word for “young” — of moths and butterflies. Their name means “hairy cat,” but not all of them are hairy.
Where to find it: Since this is a life stage of a bug, you’re more likely to see caterpillars in the spring (think: May or June). Some places where you can see butterflies include Zoro Garden in Balboa Park, the Butterfly Garden at San Dieguito County Park, or the Ocean Hills butterfly sanctuary.
Dragonfly (or damselfly)
Did you know that there are over 3,000 different types of dragonflies? They are great hunters and — unlike some other bugs — can fly in every direction.
Where to find it: Wet places like ponds, lakes, and marshes (like the water at Balboa Park). They also like really colorful flowers.
These wriggly, slimy creatures are every gardener’s best friend. They help churn up the soil to make plants grow. Did you know that they don’t have eyes? They “see” by sensing light.
Where to find it: Sometimes, after rainstorms, they get flooded out of the ground. If you find one squirming on the sidewalk, cup it in your hands and carry it back to the grass. It won’t bite — earthworms don’t have teeth.
These bugs are the ultimate jumpers. If a grasshopper were the size of a human, it could jump the length of a football field.
Where to find it: Just like their name says, grasshoppers love the grass. Look around fields — like the trails at Mission Trails — or near riverbanks.
Do all those legs make you shiver? We don’t blame you. But house centipedes can’t bite or sting you. The house centipede may look like it has a hundred legs, but it actually has 30 legs. Can you count them?
Where to find it: You’re most likely to see them at night. Look under big rocks, around piles of wood, and — if your family has a compost pile — they love being around rotting food.
You know this one — those red beetles with black spots. But did you know that they’re good for gardens? They eat other bugs that might hurt the plants. So next time you see a ladybug, say “Thank you for keeping my garden safe.”
Ladybugs are cute, but don’t pick them up. They might squirt gross-smelling stuff if they think you’re a predator. Yuck.
Where to find it: Near plants, especially leafy plants like clover.
This little guy might be a bit hard to find because they’re so good at blending in with the mud. But you’ll know it’s a leopard slug by its black spots — just like a real leopard. Don’t pick them up. It stresses them out.
Where to find it: At night, typically somewhere damp and dark. Turn over a stone after dinner and see if you can find one.
Also known as a praying mantis, this bug is the ultimate hunter. Some mantids can even eat frogs and lizards. Watch out. Those front legs can really pinch.
Where to find it: They can be pretty hard to find, but they love warm leafy places. You’re most likely to find them perched on a leaf in a bush, blending in.
They may look like butterflies, but moths are actually their own kind of insect. They have different body parts and fold their wings differently. But you’ll know it’s a moth if it has darker wing colors.
Where to find it: Moths are nocturnal — meaning they come out at night — and they’re attracted to light. Sit under a porchlight or turn on a flashlight in the dark and see if you get some fuzzy friends.
They’re in the wasp family — so they have narrow waists, wings, and a stinger. But unlike most wasps, they are less likely to sting.
Where to find it: They like partially covered areas. Look for them on your porch, in garages and sheds, or even in the attic.
Pill bug (or rollie-pollies)
Kind of like armadillos, except bugs — these bugs roll up into balls when scared. They’re not insects, but crustaceans. Meaning they’re related to lobsters.
Where to find it: Somewhere wet and dark, like under a rock. They love eating rotten plants and veggies, so if you see one inside it’s time to take out the trash.