Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Answer: What are these three things?

This was supposed to be simple... 

... but as we know, even simple Research Questions can sometimes be more complicated than you'd think.  

Here's what I did in each case... 

1.  I've got a BIG (4 meters tall!) trellis of green beans growing in my garden.  On Monday, I found this growing on stalks.  Do I need to worry about them?  Will they eat up all my beans?  What should I do?  

So... what IS this creature? 

Here it is on my thumb for scale: 

And a fairly in-focus closeup.  The colors are even more striking in real life! 

I first did what many of you did... Search-by-Image.  Here's what I found.  Looks plausible, yes? 

But as I worked my way through the images, there are lots of SIMILAR bugs, but nothing quite right.  The dots aren't in the right place, and none of them had the orange-colored epaulettes at the shoulder.  

So I modified the query and tried again--but no dice.  

I thought that there MUST be other images of this fairly dramatic bug on the web, so I changed my search tactic and went to Yandex's search-by-image tool. Lo and behold, this is what I found: 

That's impressively good.  My uploaded image matches pictures 1, 2, and 4 really well. The first two organic results (from iNaturalist) look like the perfect match.  

Even better is the next result (just below the screencap) from Wikipedia identifying this bug as a Nezara viridula.  Specifically, this is the third instar nymph of this bug, known colloquially as a southern green stink bug (in the USA), southern green shield bug (UK) or green vegetable bug (Australia and New Zealand).  It's a plant-feeding stink bug that goes through a number of developmental stages (known as instars).  This developmental sequence from the Nezara viridula article shows the various stages really well.  Take note of the 3rd instar--that's our bug.  Same shape, same yellow dots, same orange dots on the shoulders.  (Click on the image to see it full-size.)  And that explains why I don't see them any more--they've all moved on to the 4th instar and are full adults (by now).  

For those of you who thought it was a kind of ladybug (aka a "ladybird beetle"), you assumed too much.  If you search for a [ ladybug with yellow dots ] you find something that looks a lot like this, but you've led the witness (i.e., the search engine).  Careful! 

2.  This is a diagram of an important part of a 3-hole punch that's currently broken.  It's an aluminum metal pin with a collar-like-thing around the middle.  That's the part that is missing, so the pin keeps slipping out onto the floor when I use it.  I want to buy a new one… but... What do I call this?  How can I find this online?

I tried to get a good picture of this part, but could never get a good enough photo to use.  Here's my sketch.  

 The pin is about 1 inch long (2.5 cm) and the "collar" clearly snaps into a groove around the center.  (It's also a bit more circular than my sketch, but you get the idea.)  

What IS this gizmo?  How do you search for something like this? 

My first inclination was to search for: 

     [ pin and clip ] 

but that ended up showing my lots of  pins that had  a hole in them and a cotter pin.  That's close, but not quite right.  This is what I saw: 

And that's not bad!  In the first row, 4th from the left, it's described as a "pin and E-clip."  Which is a good answer.  But when I looked at the site, it's clear that this is because the clip is shaped like an E.  You can't see it in my drawing, but it's actually shaped more like a "C."  


I modified my query to be:  
     [ pin c clip ] 

and got these results... 

Look at the first result in the second row:  That's called a clevis Pin/C clip.  Useful!  This is close, but I'm looking for exactly what I drew.  

Finally, I decided to be specific, adding in terms that described the exactly what was special about my goals... and did a search for  [ clevis pin groove clip ]  and found this! 

See that sketch in the upper left?  THAT's what I was trying to draw!  

And now I know what it is.  

3.  I just got  a new piano.  Hurrah! I’ve been waiting for this my whole life.  But the place where it will sit in the house is fairly sunny.  What should I use to cover it to protect from sun damage? What material should it be made of?  (Keep in mind that this instrument has a new finish.) 

After futzing around for a while reading various help forums and Q/A sites, I FINALLY realized that people must sell piano covers... I can't be the only person with this goal! 

     [ piano covers for sale ] 

and found a number of sites that sell piano covers (including ones that are designed and cut for exactly THIS piano, a Kimball baby grand).  Reading through the descriptions I found they're made of either Mackintosh fabric (a kind of rubberized fabric that's made of multiple layers--read the fascinating backstory of how this fabric was invented) OR a kind of multi-layer fabric with a vinyl layer.   All of the covers come in either flat (i.e., one layer) or quilted (multiple layers of fabric, stitched in a protective quilted style).  

Search Lessons 

1.  Sometimes, just sometimes, using another search engine actually improves your search!  In this case, Yandex' search-by-image gave us exactly the right result.  Big lesson here--if one doesn't work, try another one (Bing, Baidu, and Yandex all have good search-by-image functions).  

2. Often a near-miss can give you clues about how to improve your search.  In this case, I learned the word "clevis" from a SERP that wasn't great.  But when I search for that term, all my results were excellent.  Learn from your near-misses!  

3. Consider the value of searching for a product that covers what you're seeking.  If you're searching for something that someone might sell (like a piano cover), you can search for it and learn a lot by reading the descriptions.  

Search on! 


  1. Yandex, seems they are improving rapidly…
    Yandex image search (with bing assistance…)

    any other 'piano searchers' having this appear now…? (your searchers may be challenging for the AdSense algorithm?) might be a way to go ———
    Harry… & Quincy
    their 88 blog
    if the UV threat is still too much – there's always leafing… or playing in Hanger One…
    and the bonus visuals
    Moffett Field… 2023
    might make the list
    the trusty MF
    this one isn't bad either…