This blog provides an informal forum for terrestrial invertebrate watchers to post recent sightings of interesting observations in the southern Vancouver Island region. Please send your sightings by email to Jeremy Tatum ( Be sure to include your name, phone number, the species name (common or scientific) of the invertebrate you saw, location, date, and number of individuals. If you have a photograph you are willing to share, please send it along. Click on the title above for an index of past sightings.The index is updated most days.

January 1

2017 January 1


   Jeremy Tatum writes:  It is a long time since I have seen a firebrat in my suite, but one turned up this morning.  There is a problem.  Is this the Common Firebrat Thermobia domestica, or the Grey Firebrat Ctenolepisma longicaudata?  I showed both species in the 2014 November 1 posting.  Typically C. longicaudata is uniformly grey, whereas T. domestica is very well marked.  The specimen shown below looked uniformly grey at a casual glance with the unaided eye, but the photograph shows some patterning.  It seems to be not sufficiently uniformly grey for  C. longicaudata, but not well enough marked for T. domestica.  One needs some structural feature apart from colour to distinguish between the two.  I suspect the following criterion might work:  Abdomen shorter than thorax =  T. domestica.  Abdomen longer than thorax = C. longicaudata.  If that is a reliable criterion, then I’d call the specimen below C. longicaudata.


  Another small problem is that C. longicaudata is often called the “Grey Silverfish” – although it is much more similar in appearance to the Common Firebrat than to a Silverfish.  Both of the firebrats like warm places.  The Silverfish Lepisma saccharina likes cool places, and is easily distinguished from the firebrat by its short cerci.  I have never seen a Silverfish in my apartment building.


Grey Firebrat Ctenolepisma longicaudata (Thy.: Lepismatidae))   Jeremy Tatum

December 30

2016 December 30


   Jeremy Tatum writes:  This spider was in my bath this morning.


Eratigena atrica (Aea.: Agelenidae)  Jeremy Tatum



   Re the spelling of  “gypsy” (see December 29 posting).  Apparently “gypsy” is usual in the U.S.   The spelling “gipsy” is in the older British moth books  (South, Kirby), but modern ones use “gypsy”.  The “gipsy” spelling was used in the pre-war de Havilland biplane aircraft, and for the sailing boat that Sir Francis Chichester sailed around the world in.  Etymologically the word comes from the same root as “Egypt” so the y-spelling is to be preferred.

December 29

2016 December 29


   Viewers may have seen the Saanich News, December 28, page A3, where it is reported that this spring there is going to be spraying again of Btk for the supposed presence of

Lymantria dispar (Lep.: Erebidae – Lymantriinae).   [This is so much easier to spell than the English name.  Is it Gypsy or Gipsy?]


  These spraying operations for this mythical moth are always initiated by the same official.  Just the same individual every time.  As far as I know the only place where the Gypsy Moth occurs is in the labs at the Pacific Forestry Centre on Burnside Road.


  The supposed infestation (and where the spraying is to occur) is Elk Lake.


  I believe the spraying for Gypsy Moth is done for political purposes – The U.S. won’t buy our lumber because we haven’t sprayed for Gypsy Moth.  Therefore we must spray for Gypsy Moth, whether it is present or not.


  In the past, the Forestry Center has asked members of the public to report infestations of Gypsy Moth   Doubtless they get lots of reports – from people who wouldn’t know the difference between a Gypsy Moth, a lackey moth ( Malacosoma – “tent caterpillar”), a Fall Webworm, or a hole in the ground.


  The egg masses (which overwinter) should be easy to spot, since they are laid en masse and are covered with a conspicuous layer of yellow silk and scales.  The caterpillars, too, are conspicuous, because they are gregarious and aposomatic.  If there is truly an infestation, they would be hard to miss.  In past years I have searched and searched in the very areas where there was supposed to be an “infestation”.   The caterpillars feed upon almost any broadleaved tree or shrub.


  While one can accept that Btk poses little or no hazard to human health, I take great exception to the statement in the Saanich News that Btk is a natural substance present in soil that does not harm OTHER INSECTS  [my emphasis]  and that it affects only Gypsy Moth caterpillars.   It is in fact equally fatal to any caterpillars that eat leaves. This statement that it doe s not affect other insects is completely false.


Jeremy Tatum

December 20

2016 December 20


   Jeremy Tatum writes:  I found this caterpillar yesterday on the sidewalk at Pear Street, Saanich.  In the photographs it is sitting on a leaf of red cabbage, which was all I could immediately find to offer it.


Large Yellow Underwing Noctua pronuba (Lep.: Noctuidae)  Jeremy Tatum

Large Yellow Underwing Noctua pronuba (Lep.: Noctuidae)  Jeremy Tatum


December 11

2016 December 11


   Jeremy Tatum writes:  I’m reverting to the old way of posting Inverts.  I don’t have time to waste trying to figure out how to do it on a new computer!


   There aren’t many invertebrates around just now, so I have had to content myself with photographing just winter moths.  The two below, from my Saanich apartment today, are undoubtedly European Winter Moths Operophtera brumata.


European Winter Moth Operophtera brumata (Lep.: Geometridae)  Jeremy Tatum


European Winter Moth Operophtera brumata (Lep.: Geometridae)  Jeremy Tatum



   Sometime early in January I’ll post a summary of 2016 butterfly records from Invertebrate Alert on this site.  I could do it now – but I suppose it’s not impossible (maybe not very likely) for someone to see a butterfly before the end of the year!