Welcome to the Flagstaff Festival of Science Ugly Bug Contest. Each year, schools in the Flagstaff area search their schools high and low to find the ugliest bug they can. Once they have an ugly bug, they bring it to Northern Arizona University where Marilee Sellers helps them identify their bugs. Marilee then uses the electron microscope to take a picture of the bug for the Ugly Bug Contest. The student contributing the bug with the most votes will win a science video for their program
BUG #1: Black Widow Spider
Species: Latrodectus mactans
The black widow spider is in the family of comb-footed spiders. This common name is derived from the comb of serrated bristles on the hind tarsi. These combs are used in wrapping the prey in silk. The webs of these spiders are an irregular network in which the spider usually hangs upside down. The cephalothorax is usually small, the abdomen large and rounded, and the legs are usually bent. Black widow spiders are the most venomous spider in the United States; its bite is sometimes fatal to humans. They are found in dark protected places such as old lumber piles or basements. Black widows eat insects that become caught in their webs. The female is about 1/2 inch in body length, black and shining, with a reddish-orange spot shaped like an hour glass on the ventral (under) side of the abdomen. The male, which is less often seen because it is usually eaten by the female after mating, is about 1/4 inch in length and is marked like the female, but also has four pairs of reddish-orange stripes along the sides of the abdomen. The spiders live about one year and are benefial in their predation of insects.
Lori Milton, 9 years
BUG #2: Crane Fly
This family is the largest in the order Diptera. "I thought these were mosquitoes at first but they did not look hairy enough or shaped the same." Most tipulids resemble overgrown mosquites with extremely long legs, or daddy-long-legs with wings. Crane flies occur chiefly in damp situations where there is aboundant vegetation. The larvae of most species are aquatic or semiaquatic, but some may be "found in the ground and feed on decaying vagetable matter and sometimes plant roots." A few feed on plants, and a few are predaceous. The larvae "could hurt our vegetable roots but they also eat the wood and it helps fertilize the ground." Little is known of the feeding habits of the adults, but some possess a long slender proboscis and are known to feed on nectar. "The grown-ups may not eat, they just eventually die." Crane flies do not bite man.
Ash Fork, AZ
BUG #3: Ground Beetle
Ground beetles are the second largest family of beetles in North America. They may vary in size, but most are dark, shiny, and somewhat flattened, with striate elytra. These are the thickened, leathery, or horny front wings. The adults are commonly found under stones, logs, leaves, bark, debris, or running about on the ground. Most species hide during the day, feed at night, and commonly fly to lights. Adults and larvae are nearly always predaceous on other insects, and many are very beneficial. The larvae usually live in the same locations as the adults. Many ground beetles give off an unpleasant odor when handled. Brachinus species are called bombardier beetles because of their habit of ejecting from the anus a glandular secretion that literally explodes when released, producing a popping sound. This secretion is foul-smelling and irritating, and serves as a means of protection.
Marshall Elementary School
BUG #4 Aphid
The aphids constitute a large group of small, softbodied, insects that are frequently found in large numbers sucking the sap from the stems or leaves of plants. Such aphid groups often include individuals in all stages of development. Aphids have cornicles which are tubelike structures arising from the dorsal (top) side of the abdominal segment. They secrete a defensive fluid. Aphids also excrete honeydew, which is emitted from the anus. The honeydew consists of excess sap ingested by the insect, to which are added excess sugars and waste material. Honeydew is a favorite food of many ants, and some species of aphids are tended like cows by certain species of ants. Most aphids have a complex life cycle, which include bisexual and parthenogenetic (female) generations, winged and wingless individuals and generations, and often a regular alternation of food plants. Enormous populations of aphids can be built up in a relatively short time and would be a great deal more destructive to vegetation were it not for their numerous parasites and predators. One of the most important predators, is the ladybird beetle.
Marshall Elementary School
Enter the Ugly Bug Voting Booth!
Order your very own Ugly Bug Poster!
Back to Ugly Bug Contest 1999
Contestants prepared and photograhed at:
- Northern Arizona University Electron Microscope Facility
- Marilee Sellers, Manager
- Jena Stears, Technician
Image processing and design at:
- Northern Arizona University Bilby Research Center
- Daniel Boone, Imaging Specialist
- Ron Redsteer, Science Illustrator
This year's World Wide Web presentation by:
- Brian Manjarres
- Sally Evans, Center for Environmental Sciences and Education
Send questions or comments to Marilee.Sellers@nau.edu
Last updated 25 February 1999
Webpage Maintained by Brian Manjarres
NAU Home Page Electron Microscope Facility