Posts Tagged 'insects'

Waiting Out the Winter

Two specimens from the general area of back-of-the-beach scrublands at Fort Tilden. Big silk moth cocoons, I think.From a distance, they look like lingering leaves, of which each bush or tree still had a few.

Nestled Nests

It’s the time of year to spot the paper nests of Bald-faced Hornets. They usually build their nests in trees. Winter weather often destroys them and/or brings them down to the ground, like this one. But this one looks to be in excellent shape. However, it won’t be reused; the colony is gone, having only lived over the course of summer. Only the queen survives. She over-winters somewhere, perhaps behind the bark of a tree.But wait. Did you notice that hole in the glass behind the bars, visible in the first picture above? Mud-daubbing wasps have gotten in to build their nests of mud. These round holes are where the adult wasps dug their way out of their mud-encased cocoons, probably last August. This one, however, looks like it was never sealed off. Nor filled with spiders.

To Bee Or Not To Bee

When Europeans brought their domesticated honeybees to the New World, they joined the 4000 other species of bees all ready here. That’s a lot of different kinds of bees, but the invasive honeybees, the cattle of insects, the serfs of industry, get virtually all the attention. This is a shame. Honeybees are problematic, to say the least. (I was once a big advocate, but I’ve revised my thinking, not that I don’t think they’re fascinating.)

“The honeybees from a single domestic hive consume pollen and nectar that might otherwise provision 100,000 nest cells for diggers, masons, leaf cutters, and other native bees,” writes Thor Hanson in Buzz. Thanks to the wonder of the internet, the link above goes to the article he cites on this. The most significant effects of industrial honeybee colonies are in wild areas, not agricultural ones. It certainly makes you think about the explosion of bee-keeping, as here in New York City.

Green-Wood Cemetery, for instance, has hives in the Dell Water, which they want to revert to a more nature-friendly section. They have another batch of hives near the pollinator dream-world of their new native plant hillside. Are they undermining their own best efforts?

Hanson’s concise but comprehensive new book raises such questions. It should broaden everybody’s bee horizons. Like other insects, bees are disappearing in our lifetime. (Because, it might be argued, of our lifetimes). As noted here and many other places, this disappearance is two-fold: species are winking out, and the numbers within surviving species are shrinking. The causes are all anthropogenic and interconnected: toxins, imported pathogens, habitat destruction, climate change, industrial monocropping to feed the locust-expansion of human beings. One study found residue from 118 different pesticides in hives from around the country; these included poisons long since banned, like DDT, which persist in the environment. The synergistic interactions of all these chemical weapons are a whole other front in the war against life.
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The author suggests you read the end notes. Duh! Here you’ll find much else that just couldn’t fit into the narrative. (Boy, do I know that feeling!) Like, for instance, the number of specimens Darwin sent home (8,000) and the number Wallace, who earned his living doing this, did (125,000; 83,200 of which were beetles).

Late Skipper

November 7th was a warm day. This skipper could smell the buddleia as well as I could, probably better.The double-barreled tongue can be seen here relatively well.

Last Insects?

It’s definitely autumn. Yet there are lingerers in the freakish-now-normal mildness. On Wednesday, for instance, I was quite surprised to see a Monarch Butterfly vibrating by on my lunchtime walk in Green-Wood. At first I thought it was a leaf, as one would this time of year. Further exploration also turned up a skipper in a still-blooming patch of buddleia. There were also a half dozen bumblebees, a few honeybees, and a fly or two. In addition, there were a couple of Green Darner Dragonflies. Oh, and nearby, a bat in the air! There were, however, many fewer birds than there were on Sunday, the last time I was there. I photographed this madcap Japanese maple on Sunday. While doing so, I saw some movement under its branches. Another late butterfly!It came out for the sun. A Red Admiral. An adult like this, presuming it made it past the gauntlet of Phoebes, will hibernate through the winter. The northern reaches of this species’ territory are too cold, however (still?), so they head south. Could this one be going further south or will it try to over winter here?

Catching Up

One post a day, occasionally two, is hardly enough to keep track. Here then is a miscellany of things I’ve seen in recent months which haven’t made it to these pages yet. Smeared Dagger Moth caterpillar in the Bronx.American Bittern in Prospect Park, seen on the same day as that Purple Gallinule that made all the news.Others saw this one capture and devour a songbird. It pays to be still, at least if you’re a bittern.This wasp was cleaning out the inside of the exoskeleton of something.

A finale to milkweed…

This is fascinating: where does the Anthropocene start? 1610? 1964?

These Eyes

From a distance, I thought this was a wasp. Look at that patterning!But then, those eyes…This is a wasp-mimicking fly of the Spilomyia genus, perhaps S. longicornis.Now here’s a bee, one of the Agapostemon sweat bees. Note how the eyes are on the side of the animal. Flies have front-facing eyes that often meet near the middle. In this image you can also see the two pairs of wings that bees and the other Hymenoptera (wasps, reproductive ants) have. Flies, Diptera, have only two wings.


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