The Membrane-Winged

An Eastern Carpenter Bee working the milkweed.This is one of our biggest bees, so note the tiny little critter to its right in both pictures above. Didn’t see this one while photographing. Not sure if its a bee or wasp.
One of the leaf-cutter bees stuck to a Drosera filiformis, thread-leaved sundew. This carnivorous plant is tiny and usually snags much smaller insects with its gooey droplets. The bee is visible mired in the filament-like mucus of the plant, but she struggled free. This particular drama was found amid cranberries in a saucer of boggy delights during the Flatbush Gardener’s urban safari. Most of the critters pictured here today were found there.Humped Beewolf, a wasp that preys on bees.Blue Mud-dauber Wasp working on her nest. She captures spiders to entomb as food for her young.Texas Leaf-cutter Bee, as IDed by iNaturalist, which records them in Texas, Louisana, NY and PA. Good rule of thumb is that bees are vegetarians and wasps carnivores (at some stage in their their life: some adult wasps will sup nectar).Look at these saddlebags of pollen on this Bombus bruiser’s legs! Bumblebees really shake down flowers for pollen — in fact, they and some other types of bees forcible release pollen by buzz pollination — the frequency of their buzzing wings. This pollen, by the way, is food for her and her babies. She’ll make a wax chamber for each egg, sealing it with a ball of pollen. Nectar will go in wax pots for herself and future daughters.
The word Hymenoptera, the order that includes wasps, bees, ants, and sawflies, means membrane-wing. They have four such wings (in the caste system of ants, it’s the reproductives who are winged). Flies, in the order Diptera, have two. I’m putting this Common Eastern Physocephala fly in here because it looks superficially like a wasp. BUT: note the little white tag that seems to be coming from the abdomen in the above picture. I’ve darkened this image to make it stand out a bit more. (Clicking on it will make it fill your window.) There’s one on each side of the back end of the thorax. These are halteres, essentially modified hindwings, which help balance these fliers. This fly, by the way, parasitizes bumblebees.

6 Responses to “The Membrane-Winged”

  1. 1 elwnyc July 2, 2019 at 8:10 am

    Hi Matthew, really enjoying these photos of the “bugs” – I’ve taken quite a few photos of pollinators, but am not very good at IDing them.


    • 2 mthew July 2, 2019 at 8:44 am

      iNaturalist can be helpful for IDs, and all that data maybe be helpful for surveys and the like. Can submit right from phone with the app. I find, however, that I take much better pictures with my real camera and submit via their webapge: The is also still pretty active.

  2. 3 EWA KOZYRA July 2, 2019 at 8:48 am

    Beautiful pictures, your insect photos are so appreciated! I am happy that finally there are some flies and bees and spiders around in our yard as well. We were worried because this year they appeared unusually late here around Manhattan Beach. Only little hover flies were abundant but now there’s a growing number of butterflies, leafcutter bees (cutting neat round holes into young rose leafes), wool carders hogging the betony, bumble bees shaking out comfrey flowers, green sweat bees and tiny black bees on giant dill. I just wish there were a bit less mosquitos 🙂

    • 4 mthew July 2, 2019 at 6:25 pm

      Oh, I know that feeling! Had my first major mosquito attack of the year last night around 2:30am. Woke up with hands blazing from bites.

  3. 5 Murray Fisher July 8, 2019 at 10:06 am

    You are my teacher!


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