Friday 5: Biodiversity of a Light Fixture (With Bonus Material!)

I enjoyed writing my post about the insects I found in the windowsill at work, so I’m going to do one more.  (Don’t worry – Fridays won’t become dead insect Fridays!  I’m done after this.)  I mentioned last week that finding interesting bugs in the window prompted me to empty out the light fixture above my desk.  In doing so, I learned some things:

1. When emptying a fluorescent light fixture with a cover that swings down on a hinge, it is best not to be standing directly under it when you swing said cover down.  Dead insects raining down into your hair isn’t the most pleasant experience!

2. Fingerless gloves and the above mentioned dead insect rain are not a good combination.  My office can get really chilly, so I wear fingerless gloves a lot when I work.  They were full of crispy dead insects moments after popping the hatch on the light fixture.  Did I mention that they were my brand new, Smartwool ones that I’d had for one day?  They’re totally full of assorted insect legs now.

3. You can have an unbelievable number of insects in a light fixture!  I had over 100 individuals.  I don’t even want to think about how long it’s been since that thing was cleaned out…

So, what did I find in there?  Here are the 5 best things that were lurking in my light:

Darkling Beetle

Darkling Beetle

Darkling beetle

This was the biggest thing I found in the light fixture.  In fact, I was a little surprised this beetle was able to make its way into the fixture at all.  There’s not a very big gap, but perhaps it was strong enough to push the cover up and climb in anyway.  The compulsion to go to lights is quite strong for a lot of insects, so they might be willing to do some really heavy lifting to get closer.

Blow Fly (I think…)

Blow fly

Blow fly

Like many entomologists, I’m a sucker for shiny metallic insects.  (Many of us are easily distracted by shiny things!)  Flies with a metallic sheen…  Well, they’re just cool.   Flies are impressive creatures when you take the time to look.  I’m a terrible at fly identification, but I think they’re quite beautiful nonetheless.  I mean, just look at that fly!  It’s a common one and I see them all the time, but the eyes, the mouthparts, the color, all those hairs – it’s darned impressive if you ask me!




Found three of these.  One of them may or may not have ended up in my hair as it plummeted out of the light fixture.  Thankfully, I’m not roach phobic, so it wasn’t a big deal for me.   Brushed it out, scooped it up, and photographed it.  The things I do for you people!  :)

Box Elder Bug

Boxelder bug

Box elder bug

I got these in my house in Arizona ALL THE TIME, so it wasn’t surprising at all to see them here in North Carolina too.  Like the fly, these are very common insects, but their coloration makes them rather attractive bugs too.  I like ’em!  The texture of the membranous part of their wings is especially elegant.

Ladybugs Galore!

Asian multicolored ladybeetles

Asian multicolored ladybeetles

There were dozens of ladybugs in my light!  I think they’re all multicolored Asian ladybeetles too, so every one of them was non-native.  Man, there are a lot of these ladybugs in my area!  I took a bunch of elementary school girls out to look for ladybugs today and every one we found was a multicolored Asian ladybeetle.  Granted, the fact that we saw ladybugs at all in January was still pretty cool.

And this week, I have a special bonus bug for you all:

Snub Nosed Weevil

Snub Nosed Weevil

Snub Nosed Weevil

I am absolutely in love with these little weevils!  I shared a bunch of photos of them a few months ago, but here’s another one.  You all need more photos of these beetles.  They’re just so cute!  I think these would make a great model for a stuffed animal.  Who wouldn’t want to cuddle up to an adorable weevil as they fall asleep?  I know I would!   Of course, a lot of people think I’m kinda weird too…

Anyone want to take a look in their light fixtures and report what they see in the comments?  I think it would be interesting to see how things compare between lights.  My light is in a poorly sealed, chilly trailer at a field station, so I probably have a better chance to get a wide diversity of insects in my light than other people, but I don’t know.  Maybe one of you has something amazing tucked away in a light!  I’d love to hear what you have.

Have a great weekend everyone!


Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth



20 thoughts on “Friday 5: Biodiversity of a Light Fixture (With Bonus Material!)

  1. A few months ago I spotted a gigantic bug on my kitchen window screen. I took a picture and managed to find it on-line – a Wheel Bug. Once I read the description about the “painful bite” I was glad I hadn’t tried to pick it up :-). Dead bugs are certainly easier to handle & photograph.

    I’ve enjoyed these “dead insects I’ve found around the office” posts – maybe not every Friday, but once in a while is good!

    • Wheel bugs are so cool! I avoid picking them up myself (they’re true bugs – those little guys can BITE!), but wow are they pretty.

      And don’t worry – this will be my last dead bug post for a while.

    • You’re right! Perhaps I will do one of those in the future. But I’ll need to gather some photos first and it’s just cool enough in NC that we don’t have a whole lot of insect or spider action currently. Sigh…

  2. We have a halogen floor lamp, the type that points toward the ceiling. The bulb runs extremely hot, and insects are very quickly roasted. (Doesn’t help with identification.) The trouble is, when I smell something burning, I naturally dash around all the rooms thinking that some electrical gadget is overheating.

  3. Wonderful, so glad you braved cleaning the light fixture for us. Wonder how many years you’ll have to wait to get such a diverse haul.

    • I don’t think I’ll have to wait all that long. I’ve started looking at the other fixtures, which have all been cleaned more recently than mine had, and they’re getting an impressively diverse haul already. One has a big spider, a wasp, and a large beetle of some sort tucked away up there – might need to empty that one and see what else is in there!

  4. i think the blow fly is very interesting. i was tutoring 2 grade 2ers 2 months ago and we read a report on blow flies. i could not believe how many lenses those suckers have on their eyes. no wonder you have no chance of creeping up on them and swatting them.we have these really odd looking insects here in melbourne that hang around compost they look like a long orange spotty ladybug. we just moved here never seenem is so good to communicate with an entomologist

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  6. Our friends live in CA and bought our little neighbor house as a weekend cottage. A porchlight stays on when the house is empty…No matter how we try to seal that thing, In the warmer seasons it literally fills up with insects every few months. Mostly moths. Since I do nightly photo trips over there anyway for example.

    Azenia implora (Azenia implora - Hodges#9729)

    I’m not too keen on sorting through the corpses. But now, in winter? Maybe a good idea when not much else is around. I know that Elateridae are a comon by-catch ….

    • I have really enjoyed looking through my light fixtures! And now I’ve got some coworkers looking at them too. It’s amazing what you can find in them!

      BTW, it’s been MUCH colder there than it has been here in North Carolina. Crazy!!

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  8. The lady beetles are, indeed, Harmonia axyridis. That’s quite little cache of them! They spend the winter in sheltered places, like woodpiles, tree crevices, etc., and more recently in buildings. You might find more of them as the winter goes on!

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