Posts Tagged 'insects'

Another Snout

This makes four American Snouts, Libytheana carinenta, I’ve seen so far this year in Brooklyn. That’s four times as many as I’ve ever seen. This one, unfortunately, was dead on the sidewalk.

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.

Question Marks

Polygonia interrogationis , the Question Mark butterfly. The wings need to be closed to see the mark in question. I think it’s more of a semi-colon. The similar Comma (Polygonia comma) has the “comma” mark but not the dot. Mud-puddling. Everyone does it, but butterflies are so conspicuous they get noticed doing it. Insects need their vital salts and nutrients as much as other lifeforms, so they suck it up from damp patches, mud puddles, and, I just learned this week, from places naturalists-in-the-know pee. Carrion is another source: very magic realist this, a flutter of butterflies on meat. This one is hoovering up the stuff — moisture, salts? — from this leaf.

Various Insects

Polished Lady Beetle. The gloss on these things! You can see the trees overhead reflected in the elytra*.Red-banded Leafhopper. You must get close to this little one to see this wild pattern.Invasive European Wool Carder Bee. They hover very much like flies and are quite territorial. All over now, they were first detected in New York in 1963.Oleander Aphids.So many wasps, so little time!A Least Skipper, first one I’ve seen. In the marsh area of Pier 1, Brooklyn Bridge Park. *Beetle forewings have evolved into hardened coverings for their hindwings. These coverings are called elytra. Elytron is the singular. On this firefly they are opening in preparation for flight……beetles are not the greatest fliers in the insect world.

Speaking of flying: hot off the scientific press is news that captive-raised Monarch Butterflies don’t know how to migrate. Here’s another abstract.

Isn’t Monarch-raising rampant in schools? Who will tell the teachers? What about other butterflies and moths? Hobbyists are mentioned, too, since in-door raising of wild-caught Monarchs also results in the loss of the ability to orient south. But not all butterflies and moths are migratory… yet the study found that commercial Monarchs have differently shaped forewings than wild ones.

To market, to market; it is devouring the world.

I looked up the National Association of Biology Teachers… and noticed that one of its funders is Monsanto. The Octopus surrounds us.

Hedgehog Galls

Why, they’re miniature Tribbles! This white oak has been hosting these structures for years now on its leaves. But this is the first time I’ve seen them so fresh. They’ll brown up over the summer.A tiny wasp, Acraspis erinacei, known as the Hedgehog Gall Wasp, creates these in conspiracy with the tree. Essentially the wasp hijacks the tree’s chemistry to protect its young. The tree is not harmed. Come the fall, females will emerge from these and lay their eggs on the oak’s buds. Those bud gall wasps will emerge next year and start the process all over again by moving to the leaf.

All the galls on the blog.

Pollinator Week: The Wrong Bee

For National Pollinator Week, let’s talk about the wrong bee, the Honeybee, Apis mellifera.

This one is entangled with milkweed pollinia. A pollinium is a mass or packet of pollen; in this case, there’s one on each end of these wing-like U-shapes. Orchids and milkweeds flowers are where you’ll find these curious pollen-delivery systems. Unlike the loose pollen grains found in other flowers, these aren’t so edible. Pollinia are supposed to break off when bees visit other flowers, but this one was having trouble taking off with the things stuck to her feet. (A hedge-trimmer was approaching so I got out of the way. When I returned the bee was no longer there.)

In this study in a large urban park in Toronto, almost all (>99%) “of diurnal pollination of the field milkweed, A. syriaca was carried out by the nonindigenous Western Honey bee, Apis mellifera. Our findings suggest that A. syriaca is pollinated predominantly by honeybees in human‐impacted region, unlike in similar studies carried out in natural areas decades earlier in which bumblebees were the dominant visitor…”

We have turned Honeybees into domesticated animals. They’re “managed bees” now, no longer wild. They’re farm workers — even migrant farm workers, seeing how some are shipped from Maine to Florida and back again for the blueberry to citrus industries circuit. It is too much to call them industrial workers, proletarianized?

Q. But aren’t honeybees good for the environment?
A. No

Q. Are they bad for wild bees?
A. Yes.

Q. How bad?
A. This bad.

Q. How bad was that again?
A. This bad, especially in regards to pathogens.

Q. Wow! Anything else?
A. Yup.

From that last citation, a paper published in Nature in March: “Our results show that beekeeping reduces the diversity of wild pollinators and interaction links in the pollination networks. It disrupts their hierarchical structural organization causing the loss of interactions by generalist species, and also impairs pollination services by wild pollinators through reducing the reproductive success of those plant species highly visited by honeybees. High-density beekeeping in natural areas appears to have lasting, more serious negative impacts on biodiversity than was previously assumed.”The concern for honeybees has sparked a wave of do-somethingism, but I fear this wave will drown out the hundreds of other bee species, even when they are given nominal attention. The science is fast out-pacing human desires and institution-building (and profit-motive). These wild bee species are mostly solitary or, as in the case of bumblebees, in small colonies. Most are ground-nesters, so they aren’t even getting the attention of “bee hotels.” Many are far more efficient as pollinators than honeybees; some are quite specialized and do the pollination honeybees can’t do at all.

An organization called the Honeybee Conservancy, for instance, claims to dedicate 50% of its pollinator garden on Governor’s Island to managed bees and 50% to wild bees. There can be as many as 60,000 bees in a single hive… so I don’t think their math is particularly good.

The effort to get more honeybees in urban areas, an effort of good faith, is bad news.

Conserving Bees Does Not Help Wildlife (Science)

Diversity of bee species are vital for the blueberry industry. (NC State Extension)

This one is really bad: managed honeybees are infecting Bombus (bumblebees) species with RNA viruses. “Our results corroborate the hypothesis that viruses are spilling over from managed honeybees to wild bumblebees and that flowers may be an important route for transmission.”

Three Common Brooklyn Damselflies

In my experience, these are the three most common Brooklyn damselflies. Eastern Forktail male. Beware that Rambur’s Forktail and Furtive Forktail males also have variations on this green thorax/blue end segments coloring. Fragile Forktail male. The broken green lines on the thorax, upside down exclamation points in this case, are unique. Not sure where this “Fragile” name comes from, since I see this species all over the place. Seems like a tough little critter to me.This is a female Forktail — you can just see the exclamation points. Note that the scale is different for all these pictures. The Forktails (Ischnura genus) are small, running from just under an inch to nearly an inch and a half long depending on the species.Here’s a Fragile ovipositing, dipping her abdomen under water to lay her eggs. Familiar Bluet male. Several of the mostly-blue bluets of the Enallagama genus can only really be told apart by their cerci. These are the structures at the end of the abdomen. They use these to grasp females during sex. Only male and females of the same species “fit” together. Attached to him just behind her head, she can bend forward to attach herself to his second abdominal section, the location of his genitalia.Behold, the “wheel” of mating. There are two damselfly nymph husks on this vertical twig. After hatching, damselfly larva become fierce little aquatic predators. They molt as they grow underwater. Given the date these were spotted, early June, these must have overwintered in Sylvan Water before emerging on a warm day to break out as the adult, flying form. See the green eyes of an emerging adult? It will have to harden off and develop some color over the next few hours.Looks like a brand new Fragile Forktail, soon to start clearing the air of tiny insects. (Click all images to fill uyp your screen.)


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