June 19, 2016

Martha O'Kennon

We are just past raspberry flowers (and closing in on the fruit, which is still barely edging from green to muddy pinkish green)but these fill-ins will have to do. The spiderwort is still blooming - I love that color of flowers. Someone with great big teeth has been nibbling on the redbud leaves. The last image is of that strange groundcover - maybe Dan or Sheila can identify it for me. There are a few insects I never have seen except on it. News flash: I had my sinuses reamed out yesterday and am trying to console myself with cold coffee (doctor's orders - no hot food for the next few days. Thanks Doc!). This means I will have a couple of days to work on the new blog. I see that I never did the one for last week, so I have pooled all the pictures for that week into the file for this week!

Remember that there is information in the name of the file for each image. You can see it by mousing over the image - look at the lower left of the screen. I would try clicking on the image. If the little "+" sign appears, it means you can enlarge again. While it is in "+" mode, click on something you want to see more clearly and it will zoom to that section. Then the info is displayed in the address line above. If the image has been cropped so that clicking on it doesn't result in a larger picture, you can always hit control-plus to increase the size of the image.

Again, since I'm working from two picture files, don't be surprised if the dates don't always occur in date order. There were a few kinds of ants but since you have seen all of them at other times, I'm skipping the ants this week. You're also going to notice the loss of a few bees. THAT is because in ID'ing them, I discovered that several of them are actually flies. Here's an example. Why, here's a nice bee with a Groucho Marx mask on. But look at the eyes! Those are Fly eyes, and so this apparent bee is but a humble hover/Syrphid fly. Some other hover flies are (a) this nice little hover fly Melanostoma mellinum6 9 16 2 and (b)this earliest of all the hover flies I lay eyes on in the spring, Toxomerus geminatus. I see that I have to send in (a) because none of them have been recorded (in Bugguide.net) in Michigan (yet). So now you've seen a bunch of bee mimics and other hover flies.

Moving from bees to beetles, here is first a tumbling flower beetle, which is gently hunchbacked and easily mistaken for a bee at first. Then we have the grub of a lily leaf beetle, orange with a black head just like its mummy. These grubs create quite a large amount of beetle guano (poop is the grown-up word), which I should have remembered when these pretty flies started to appear on the very lily plants. There were several color patterns, but this one says it in the simplest way: dung fly. Of course! A bug for every possible thing that can be eaten. I wonder if they have to hold their little nosies.


The family that the dung flies belong to is a large and strangely beautiful one. Here are some more relatives. I


Back in August, we had this beetle which seemed to have been made of beadwork. It was the locust (tree)leaf miner. When I saw this second beetle, I said to myself, "leaf miner, leaf miner", so looked up just "leaf miner", and found this one, which is your basswood leaf miner. I don't know if there is an basswood in the neighborhood, but am pretty sure that someone is harboring it. Basswood is a nice soft wood, which is easy to work for beginner woodsmiths. Perhaps you remember this blue beauty from last year. Well, you'll have to believe me that I saw another one the other day, almost a year to the day of when I saw this one. But this picture looked prettier. (I don't know if the new one got into a claw fight with someone else.)

This first one made me think "rove beetle" as its wings don't cover its abdomen. It turns out to have the scientific species name "hemiptera" (half-wing) so it wasn't a bad guess, ok.. Again, the rhubarb weevil, on what seems to have rhubarb-like leaves. Of course I can't help calling it the banana peel on legs. And another weevil I didn't get the long nose in there but the color is right to be a pale-green weevil. And finally another little grey weevil that I haven't been able to look up.

That was almost the whole beetle roster, and so we turn to the bugs. The assassin bugs were quite the stars of the past couple of weeks. First we saw an adult last week, and then wonder or wonders, I found both a nymph AND later an adult feeding on a spotted cucumber and a white leafhopper respectively.

There were quite a few new bugs to me. The black and yellow one was on a grapevine at the place where I had to turn the car around to go get gas! It was on a grapevine there, but the notes in Bugguide say it (or its kids) like Black locust. The next one looked a lot like the 4-lined plant bug, but wasn't green enough. It is a two-spotted grass bug. This squash bug is supposed to belong to the leaf-footed bugs, but it doesn't seem to have the characteristic flat "leaves" on its hind legs. This last mystery is so small it is hard to make out, but it does seem to have feet and some hairs.. Wonder what it is?

A couple of our favorites. I know how you love (and so do I) the candy-striped leafhopper, but this picture makes it look as if it is arriving at an adventure park. The next image is of a four-spotted Agallia, another oldie. The thistles are showing up more and more of the little "camel-shaped" treehoppers. It seems to me, though, that the little black thorn-shaped treehoppers haven't shown up on any of the redbuds. I wonder where they are - I have images of them from last year.

There were a couple of new (for this year at least) dragonflies and damselflies, and a couple of old ones. The bright iridescent ebony jewelwing male was less apprehensive this week or so, so although he parked in full sun where I am a little blind even with darkening glasses, I got some better shots of him. Haven't seen Mrs. jewelwing lately though. This little green sedge sprite was a new one on me. It came floating through the air like a bit of fluff (It was only about an inch and a half long) and finally settled down near me. Sprite indeed! Then out near the pond, Mr. and Mrs. Whitetail Skimmer came to pose for their engagement photos. He's the one with the white tail, which is one of the first things you see as he darts by. But she is camouflaged so well - both of them have big clear bits in their wings, but her tail is brown, so that she practically drops out of visibility.

We saw a few flies back in the dung discussion. But that's not all! This truly ugly puppy seems not to mind at all what people or flies think of him with his hairy blue butt. But next time I turned around, there was this lovely blue-winged dance fly. Do you remember the march flies? Well, the dance fly has them for lunch. And I don't mean asks them over for acai berry yogurt. These two haunch-sitters may be related.

Even though you already saw some of our hover flies, there are more! This one mimics a bee. And so does this one. And it sure looks to me as if so does this one! At least this last one doesn't seem to!

The beautiful tiny long-legged iridescing flies are back. Here's a greenish blue one, and here's a copper-colored one.

There are a goodly number of long-legged iridescent-bodied flies, but a number of them stand with their wings closed. I named this one long-legged hunter but I'm not sure what it hunts if anything. Oblige me. But this one, which only looks a color-variation away, is a real hunter. In fact, it's a kind of robber fly and eats other little insects. In the third frame, you see both its glamorous colors and its lunch.

Here is a more traditionally built robber fly. And here it is eating its prey - a little iridescent long-legged fly! Last year I saw this kind of robber over at the College's prairie installment. Now that my neighbours have so much milkweed, they seem to have moved into my neighborhood. By the way, those of you who keep all the "u"'s in your "ou" words, my spell checker rejected it when I typed "neighbor" above.

Let's just say Hello once to some old friends. Here are a scorpion fly (but with its tail unfurled), a picture-winged fly, and another kind of picture-winged fly.

Have I shown you this green lacewing? They are such a lovely shade! They aren't related to the moths, but I do so want to segue to the moths just quickly. This one is called a variable moth, since its colors and pattern can change from specimen to specimen. I like the wavy ends of the wings. The last one is still un-ID'ed. All these are unusual-looking!

More unusual moths.

Flower break time. Let me see if I can't find SOMETHING blooming around here just now. Here is the tail end of the Dame's Rocket, and very pretty it is indeed with its Narcissus Bulb fly! Followed by an abandoned orb weaver's web. Next is the unstoppable ground cover - but I don't wear myself out trying to get rid of it as there are a couple of things that visit it and seldom any other flower in any of my yard divisions.

It could just be time to look at spiders. Oh no! Next up is the Orthopteran section. Here we have a tiny nymph of a katydid, grasshopper or cricket. It's a very pale green, and seems to have hopping back legs. Last week I believe I showed you the baby katydids. We will just have to watch these little fellows carefully (no easy task as their baby colors are so close to plant-colors.) There are actually two lots of pictures as I'm not at all sure they are of the same animal. First up: the little Orthopteran sitting on my garbage can. Very hard to fit into my square format as its legs and whiskers are SOOO LOOONG. Then the similarly built (but who can tell them apart the first day?) one sitting on a common evening primrose.

All right, now the spiders, and at the end a waspalicious surprise! This common house spider has really grown. It is much easier to get a focused picture of it now. Second up is the male of the species, another example of sexual dimorphism. The red mirid at the top of the third image is going to grow up to be a four-lined plant bug assuming the crab spider (I think) at the bottom of the picture doesn't notice it.

Here's a ground crab spider, a pretty one with a different head and abdominal color; a running spider; a pirate spider with several prey prizes. And lastly, I may have made up the name "yellow 12-spot" for this last one


Here is a little collection of jumping spiders. Remember they're the ones with the big headlight eyes!

We're about to get to the juicy part. But first, we have two different kinds of sawflies. Remember, sawflies, ants, bees, wasps, and ichneumons are all parts of the hymenoptera order. They are some of the most exotic of the insect world, streamlined but colorful.

Remember, sawflies, ants, bees, wasps, and ichneumons are all parts of the hymenoptera order. They are some of the most exotic of the insect world, streamlined but colorful. Here is an ichneumon [wasp], then one of the "potter wasps" that raise their young in a single little clay pot for each. The last little picture is of a wasp in mid-flight.

Now finally! The surprise of the last couple of weeks is the progress of the little paper wasp nest started by two sister wasps. Not only has the nest itself grown from the initial few cells to the birth of several new wasps, all little females. I don't know if they laid their eggs parthenogenetically or not, (Oh! I've been informed by a friend on Researchgate that the pregnant females spend the winter that way, so no!)but now there are six or seven wasps and all working on the nest. We should see it growing faster and faster this summer! Here is the nest as it was last week on June 7, and as I saw it Monday night (the 13th).

That's about it. It's a good thing I have had to lie low since my nose surgery - the insects have been appearing so cooperatively that almost every day I see something I haven't seen (or it hasn't registered) before. See you all next week, and I hope I will be able to spend some more time outdoors. There may be some more surprises!

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copyright Martha O'Kennon 2016