Help scientists discover a new species of insect

Sonora, CA – Tuolumne County may be home to a new species of insect, and that’s why the public is invited to help prove it.

With only three sightings since 2019 and over the same number of years, citizens are urged to keep their eyes peeled and help catch this unique creature alive so it can be studied. These sightings have taken place in Columbia, Pine Mountain Lake and just this week in Crystal Falls. According to Jim Tassano, owner of Foothill-Sierra Pest Control in Sonora, one of his service technicians spotted him outside on Wednesday in a dog pen under a patio, crawling on a cinder block on the sunny side of the house. house and capturing it. He shared: “We thought if we could contribute to science in a fundamental way, that would be very exciting.”

The larva pictured belongs to the green lacewing insect species. It is also known as a “waste-carrying” insect, according to species expert Dr. Catherine Ann Tauber. She was so excited by the discovery of a live larva that she hopped in her car and headed from UC Davis to Sonora to get a first-hand look at the bug. As the video in the picture box shows, the larva carries dead ants and other debris on its back, trying to camouflage itself from predators, including ants. Its back has long tubercles with hairs sticking out of them to hold debris in place. It is a loner and a predator that only eats other insects. Dr Tauber detailed: “There are only seven groups of this species reported in the United States, and it may be related to a South American species. At this stage, the larva looks different from those of any known species.

The next step, according to Dr. Tauber, “is to raise this larva to the adult stage and see if we can determine what species it is. I suspect it’s a new species, but we’re not sure. That’s why we try to get the larva and raise it to adulthood where I can do my homework.

This is where the public comes in, because the more living specimens there are to study, the better. “Dr. Tauber instructs, watch the video and then if they see any specimens that look like this, put them in a jar very gently using a Kleenex or something to pick them up. Don’t crush it. So put hand on jim [Foothill-Sierra Pest Control] so he can bring me the specimen. The number to call is 209-532-7378.

The larva will be fed frozen butterfly eggs. Dr. Tauber hopes it will then weave a cocoon and, when mature, break free with large wings and long antennae. If it is a new species, then it will need a name.

“I will write a description of it and give it a name. Then I’ll release it, and once it’s released, that name will stick with this bug forever,” Dr. Tauber advised.

When asked if the “Tassano” bug sounded good, Jim, laughing, said, “No, it should be a regional name, something local to that region. »