Look What I Found! Exotic insects in the Houston area


June 18, 2009
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I know I tend to “toot the horns” of the exotic insects that we have here at the Cockrell Butterfly Center. They really are incredible and most people, including myself (for now at least),would not get the chance to see these animals without traveling to their individual countries of origin. I must say, though, that Texas, and especially Houston, has some pretty cool bugs! I’m always amazed to see what kinds will pop up. We often get phone calls from people who have found interesting bugs around their homes. Most of the time I suggest leaving them be. I definitely believe that animals are happier in their natural habitats and I hate to keep something in captivity just for the heck of it. Sometimes, however, someone will find something that is useful for display purposes or just too dang cool to pass up!

This happened to us twice last week! First, a gentleman brought a Giant Sonoran Centipede (AKA Giant Redheaded) that he found at Canyon Lake. I love Canyon Lake! My family had a house out there when I was a child and I have many fond memories. None of them include finding anything like this!!

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Creative Commons License photo credit: emills1

 This guy was a little camera shy, but all you’re missing is a very menacing red-orange head! These centipedes are very common in West Texas and the Southwestern United States; occasionally, they are found in the hill country and sometimes even close to Houston.  I think it’s very important to teach people the difference between centipedes and millipedes and what better example is there? Centipedes can be dangerous – especially this one. They are predators capable of injecting venom with their fangs. Most centipedes are harmless to people, but because of its size and potent venom, this one can do some damage. They are not particularly aggressive, just don’t try to handle them, ouch!

Later in the week, two men called and tried to describe what they had found on their front porch. Several things went through my mind, but as usual, I had to see it to get a positive identification. What they brought me was something I’d never seen before here in Texas.  I had, however, seen something similar in Arizona, so I had a pretty good idea of what it was.

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Creative Commons License photo credit: emills1

 Meet the Hardwood Stump Borer. At first glance, most people mistake it for a cockroach. It is similar in size, shape, and color, but this is a type of longhorn beetle. The eggs are laid in hardwoods such as oak and sycamore. The larvae develop inside the wood, eating and growing for about 3 to 4 years. The pinchers are not just for show and can deliver a painful bite! My co-worker saw one of these at her daughter’s swim meet recently as well, so you may get lucky and see one yourself!

If you ever see a mysterious, incredible, beautiful, or odd bug that you’ve never seen before, please give us a ring or shoot us an e-mail. Even we are sometimes amazed at what kinds of bugs can be found in our own backyards. Until next time, happy bug watching!

Erin M
Authored By Erin M Mills

Erin Mills received her undergraduate degree in Entomology from Texas A&M University in 2004, and after a short tour of the pest control industry, joined HMNS as the Cockrell Butterfly Center's Insect Zoo Manager in 2005. Over the years she expanded the butterfly center's live arthropod collection, developed the ever popular "Bugs on Wheels" outreach program, and continued to establish her role as HMNS's insect expert. In October of 2016, she achieved her long time goal of becoming the Director of the Cockrell Butterfly Center and in January of 2021, she joined the team at HMNS Sugar Land as the Director of Nature Programming. Erin leads hikes in Brazos Bend State Park and provides fun, hands-on nature-based experiences at HMNS Sugar Land. As a Board Certified Entomologist, Erin has extensive knowledge of insect identification, ecology, plant relationships, husbandry, really any insect-related topic!

4 responses to “Look What I Found! Exotic insects in the Houston area”

  1. Sarah M. says:

    What a well written article.

  2. tomas n says:

    i found something that looks like a cross between these insects:grasshopper,deadly menthis,ans a scorpion. i took pictures of it but i never seen it before, my reson for asking is it dangerous cause kids play in this area. ill try to send it to you, you aint going to believe the size of its stringer,its 3/4 of its body.

  3. Leigh says:

    Well, this answer is six years late in coming, but if the stinger is 3/4ths of its body, you probably saw some kind of vinegaroon, like a whip scorpion. They have no venom glands but can spray vinegar or other acids. Overall they are not dangerous.

  4. Brett Hondow says:

    I found this page (albeit 11 years later) as I was trying to identify this very beetle I found in Houston, TX.
    I mistook it for a large American cockroach for starters until I saw it moved differently. There were two of them and they were about to mate right there on the wall where I work overnight.
    Hours later I spotted my beetle again climbing about 10 ft up the wall, where it promptly fell to the ground. I scooped it up for a photo shoot but have not yet had time. I was looking to see what they ate so I could feed it, then discovered it likes any insects it can catch. Kind of not an option for the poor beetle at this time. I’ll keep it overnight, shoot photos in the morning and release it afterwards.

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