Posts Tagged 'wasps'

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.

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.

Sheet Music

A bridge and a stream. What more could Organ Pipe Mud-dauber Wasps (Trypoxylon politum) need than shelter from the rain and a source of their building material?

Well, spiders, of course. These wasps paralyze spiders to feed their young inside these mud-nests. Here’s an interesting observation: Tufted Titmouse and Downy Woodpeckers breaking into these to get the larval wasps. And also the spiders?

I don’t seem to have a photograph of one of these wasps. I’ve sure seen a similar species, the Black and Yellow Mud-daubers (Sceliphron caementarium). They’re particularly photogenic, or just hang around long enough for photographs. They also feed their young spiders.

(Click on image above to make it fill your screen if not your speakers.)
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Well, if you think I’m a worse case scenario-ist, read this on the effects of the return to Miocene-level global temperatures for the centuries to come. We’re remaking the planet like it was 16 million years ago!

The Mother of Her Country

In the garden at the Geo. Washington Birthplace Monument in Virginia, I was delighted to discover this queen Southern Yellowjacket (Vespula squamose).Here she shows how she gets that pollen on the top of her thorax.The workers of this species are more traditionally yellow and black, so this big orange queen must really stand out among them. But that’s not all. A “facultative temporary social parasite,” she may set up her own nest or, more likely, she will usurp a nest of Eastern Yellowjackets (Vespula maculifrons). She kills the host maculifrons queen and adopts or enslaves the workers, who then raise her squamose young. V. vidua and V. flavopilos have also been known to be parasitized in this way by these queens. As the host species ages out/dies off, the squamose take over the nest completely.

The species doesn’t seem to range up here to NYC, but it does extend as far south as Guatemala. In tropical climes — including Florida — the nests can be perennial, much larger, and have multiple queens. The species is vigorous in defense of their nests. They’re also carnivores, but the queens will take nectar.

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.

Revealed by The Fall

One day this summer I saw and heard several Baltimore Orioles around this linden. It was so thickly leafed I couldn’t see a nest, but it was pretty clear there was one in there.Woven from grasses and human garbage, suspended like a flapper’s purse. These things always surprise me because they seem so improbable as egg- and nestling-containers.A more “traditional” nest structure, seemingly never completed.Paper wasp nest, from the same tree, if I’m not mistaken, as last year. The queen, the only member of the hive to overwinter, didn’t stray far.
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While the Trump freakshow storms, kleptocrats destroy the state. An introduction to the destruction of government under Trump.

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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