Bug Hunt: Your Guide to Oregon’s Minibeasts

As summer approaches and the pandemic carries on, walks are an easy way to get out of the house, relax, and enjoy local nature. Ever find yourself getting bored after walking the same route every day? Spice up your strolls with a hunt for Oregon’s most interesting minibeasts – butterflies, bees, spiders, and other bugs.   

Butterflies   

Oregon Swallowtail Butterfly 

Papilio oregonius  

The Oregon swallowtail butterfly is Oregon’s state insect. Known for their pale, yellow color and a bright orange-red eyespot on the lower portion of their wings, these traits make them easy to identify.   

The Oregon swallowtail reproduces twice a year, and between the months of April and September, it is common to see them flying around in an erratic fashion. You can find them in the lower sagebrush of the Columbia River and other tributaries. Because of their diet, you may also see them flying around thistles, purple sage, balsamroot, and phlox.   

Spring Azure 

Celastrina ladon  

Spring azure butterflies are commonly found in the woods, near wet spots along trails. These beautiful blue creatures are one of the first butterfly breeds to appear in the springtime. Spring azures can be a little more complicated to identify as compared to other butterflies. Possible color variations include light blue, gray, white, and taupe. A sound way to tell them apart from their many subspecies is their lack of an orange spot on their hind wing, and their thin and straight markings.  

The website Insect Identification recommends looking for Spring Azure Butterflies “around and along roadsides, forest edges and areas with abundant shrubs through the summer and into fall. They are attracted to lights at night.”  

Mylitta Crescent 

Phyciodes mylitta  

The mylitta crescent butterfly is native to the western United States and is characterized by black and orange coloring with a white scallop pattern on the edge of their wings. Females and males look similar, though males have a more delicate pattern.   

These butterflies are easy to find in either rural or urban areas (quite common in Portland), and they particularly enjoy meadows, fields, vacant lots, and parks. In our area, they fly from the months of April to September.   

Bees  

Black Tail Bumble Bee 

Bombus melanopygus  

Despite their name, black tail bumble bees are actually characterized by red second and third abdominal sections in the northern part of the state. With the typical fuzzy body of a bumble bee, these insects can be easily found when one recognizes the differences between various subspecies. Specifically, look for the characteristic red bottom.   

These bumble bees sometimes nest above ground, and enjoy hanging out in small, cozy places, like birdhouses and mailboxes. They are known to be “easy-to-please pollinators” and commonly forage on a wide range of plants.  

Blue Orchard Mason Bee 

Osmia lignaria  

Blue orchard bees, since they are native, are extremely important to local agriculture. About the same size as the honeybee, blue orchard mason bees are identified by their dark metallic blue color and by the fact that they carry pollen on their bellies rather than on their hind legs.   

If you want to see these bees, look at fruit trees in the springtime – they love to pollinate apple, plum, pear, almond, and peach trees. If you have a home garden, you can also consider building bee houses or bee blocks for them, which they will readily gather in.   

Western Leafcutter Bee 

Megachile perihirta   

Approximately the size of a honeybee, there are about 242 species of the Megachile leafcutter bees which are characterized by black, fuzzy bodies and yellow, furry bellies. Adult males and females emerge in the spring to mate and pollinate. In particular, they enjoy spending time nesting in wood or hollow stems as well as underground. Again, it is possible to bee watch this specific species in your own yard if you invest in a bee house or block, which they gladly inhabit.   

Spiders 

 Hobo Spider 

Eratigena agrestis  

The hobo spider is a very common spider species native to Oregon. Unlike other spiders, these creatures do not have the colored bands where the leg joints meet which can be found on other spiders in the Agenlenidae family. They are characterized by v-shaped patterns on their abdomens and a light stripe down the middle of their sternum.   

Hobo spiders are known to hang out in cracks and crevices, like rock retaining walls, cracks in soil and concrete, window wells, stacks of lumber, or between bricks. Though these spiders have been accused of having a necrotic bite, evidence now suggests otherwise. But like all spider or bug bites, it’s important to monitor them in case they become bacterially infected.   

Grass Spider 

Species of Agelenopsis  

Grass spiders are common during North American summers, including in the state of Oregon. Though these creatures are often mistaken for the similar wolf spider, grass spiders are characterized by two black lines that run down their tan midline, with a pattern on the abdomen of black lines and chevrons. Grass spiders are also unlikely to bite and are not poisonous, unlike the wolf spider.   

These spiders are likely to hang out in your lawn, because they like to spin funnel webs in the grass. They can also be found in the crevices of buildings and along the bottoms of fences.   

False Black Widow Spider 

Steatoda grossa  

False black widow spiders, like their name suggests, look very similar to the dangerous black widow spider. They have round-shaped abdomens, are a brown color with pale markings, and have teeth on their mouth parts (called the chelicerae).   

These spiders commonly hang out in walls, fences, and in the bark of trees, and they can also be found in gardens, under rocks and wood. Though the bite from a false black widow spider is initially painful and alarming, it is not known to have long-lasting effects.   

Other Bugs  

Western Box Elder Bug 

Boisea rubrolineata  

Western box elder bugs are native to Oregon and the western United States, and like to hang around houses in the summertime, known to gather in the hundreds in the sunshine. These insects, sometimes known as pests, can be identified by their gray-brown to black color with red lines on the thorax and wing coverings. Underneath their wings, they are a dark orange color, making them easy to identify during flight.   

Western box elder bugs love to not only hang around houses but also enjoy orchards, specifically ones with maple and boxelder trees.   

Azalea Lace Bug  

Stephanitis pyrioides  

The lace bug was given its name because of its lace-like delicate wings. As Insect Identification describes: “Almost boxy in shape, the transparent wings have a wide black midline and a black bar crossing near the head and another near the rear. A transparent ‘hat’ extends around the head.”  

Azalea lace bugs are known to feed on evergreen azalea plants and rhododendrons.   

Green Stink Bug 

Chinavia hilaris   

Known as being one of the largest stink bugs in Oregon, green stink bugs are characterized by their vibrant green coloring, distinctive black marks on their abdomens, and dark antennae with lighter banding. Common in the Willamette Valley, these bugs like to spend time near English holly, hawthorns, red alder, and Himalayan blackberry, as well as on woody shrubs and trees.   

By Cara Nixon