Sitting on the back patio the other night while my girls played, we discovered this cool lookin' critter crawling across the concrete, so I just had to grab the camera.
I wasn't sure what the bug was. It looked similar in shape and color to the Box Elder Bugs common around these parts, but the cool color pattern was significantly different. I looked online and thought it might be related to the milkweed bug. In my web browsing, I was delighted to find BugGuide.net. Am I the last to find this sweet online resource?!
After perusing the pictures and not finding any that matched my bug, I posted my photo to the BugGuide.net's ID Request. Within minutes, one Yurika Alexander, a Japanese bug geek married to a New Jersey man, pointed me in the right direction...Firebug (Wikipedia link) Firebug (BugGuide.net link) (Pyrrhocoris apterus)!!! Turns out I had been looking under the beetles section, when I should have been looking under tree bugs. All this time I just thought firebugs were those little boy pyromaniacs that can't stop playing with matches or taking flaming sticks out of the fire...they are real bugs too!
So, BugGuide.net and Jim McCormac's blog have inspired me to pay more attention to all the bugs I see while out birding, and now I know what resources are best to help me identify them. While waiting for a movie a couple weeks ago, Jessica and I popped into the bookstore next door. There I saw the Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America by Eric R. Eaton and Kenn Kaufman. I'll have to see about adding that book to my library now.