Sunday, September 30, 2018

HumBug: A Dead Crane Fly and a Strange Nursery

Posted By on Sun, Sep 30, 2018 at 3:30 PM

Crane fly rescued from the oblivion of my vacuum cleaner and given a new existence. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Crane fly rescued from the oblivion of my vacuum cleaner and given a new existence.

I grew up calling them “mosquito catchers.” Other folks know them as daddy longlegs (a name also used for Opiliones,a type of arachnid) or mosquito hawks. More properly they are known as crane flies, or family tipulidae of the order diptera — true flies.

Resembling giant mosquitos, they inspire fear in some people. But unlike their more bloodthirsty cousins, they cannot bite. As adults, most species don't even feed, living for only a week or two following their final molt.

Moving a dresser that had not been moved in years I found a very dead specimen which had interesting wing markings.

Adult crane flies often lose legs, sacrificing appendages to escape with their lives. They are extremely fragile, making them an unlikely subject for displays, so I decided to give it a go. Not finding any relaxing fluid in my paraphernalia, I resorted to an old school method I'd only read about. I put the tangled mass of legs and wings in a jar with a piece of paper towel dampened with distilled vinegar. In a day I was able to move the legs around and set them into position before allowing it to re-dry. Although I can't think of anything more fragile, it survived the process in perfect condition. 
Robin's pincushion gall on the leaf axil of a wild rose. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Robin's pincushion gall on the leaf axil of a wild rose.

One can often discover an odd growth on some of the local wild roses. Known as robin's pincushion gall, it is caused by a tiny gall wasp (Diplolepis rosae) which deposits its eggs on a growing rose bush. The larvae emit a chemical that causes the plant to grow a wild, spiky red tangle, providing some protection as they feed and mature. There are, however, known parasitoids that still attack them.
Tiny grubs of the gall wasp that produces the robin's pincushion. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Tiny grubs of the gall wasp that produces the robin's pincushion.
  • Pin It
  • Favorite
  • Email

Tags: , , ,

Sunday, September 23, 2018

HumBug: Two Killers and a Charmer

Posted By on Sun, Sep 23, 2018 at 11:17 AM

Gray-eyed mantis eyes the camera. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Gray-eyed mantis eyes the camera.

The insect season is winding down. The imported species of praying mantis, (Mantis religiosa) are mature now and can occasionally be seen flying. Insects only get fully developed wings in their final molt. Although there are some exceptions, mantises aren't among them. Flying, they look like less agile dragonfly. The four wings and size are about right, but there are no quick turns going after prey. They fly to get some place. Their hunting is done by ambush, not flight. Mantises are always photogenic. So when one flew overhead and landed in my front yard I got out a camera.

This species comes in either tan or green. This specimen was one of the tan ones. Mantids have the unnerving ability to turn their head and look directly at you. This one though had something unique about it. Its eyes were gray. Checking my image archive all the other ones I've seen all had eye color that matched their body. Why this one was different is a mystery to me.
Robber fly dines on another species of fly. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Robber fly dines on another species of fly.

Another large killer with wings that was out this week is the robber fly (family Asilidae). As lethal as the mantises hiding in the vegetation are, the robber is a killer on the wing. Taking prey on the wing as large or even larger than itself. Although not aggressive toward us, they can deliver what I understand is a very painful bite of mishandled.
This suave little guy in the prison stripes made a beeline for the naked ladies. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • This suave little guy in the prison stripes made a beeline for the naked ladies.

Watching the Amaryllis belladonna, aka naked ladies, in my front yard I noted a moderate sized, extremely quick, starkly black and white striped bee. It was so agile it took a lot of exposures to get a few good images. Later, the photos showed it to be an urbane digger bee (Anthophora urbana). A solitary species these little bees dig holes in the ground and line them with a waterproof material they secrete to protect their offspring as they develop.
  • Pin It
  • Favorite
  • Email

Tags: , , ,

Sunday, September 16, 2018

HumBug: Locals Among the Invaders

Posted By on Sun, Sep 16, 2018 at 11:16 AM

Tachnid flies are parasitoids, often infecting caterpillars of butterflies and moths with their eggs. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Tachnid flies are parasitoids, often infecting caterpillars of butterflies and moths with their eggs.

Finding myself with an uncommitted day and the Himalaya berries in season, I went blackberry picking along some of my favorite logging roads. I did OK but the best part of the day was wandering through patches of Queen Anne's lace, cat's ear, pampas grass, Scotch broom and bird's foot trefoil. One and all thriving invading alien species. Many of these bloom later in the season than the locals, providing food to many species of insects and prolonging their season as well.


Continue reading »

  • Pin It
  • Favorite
  • Email

Tags: , , ,

Monday, September 3, 2018

HumBug: Honeybees are Loveable and Love Plums

Posted By on Mon, Sep 3, 2018 at 5:44 PM

A honeybee gorging on a green gage plum. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • A honeybee gorging on a green gage plum.
Honeybees are everyone's favorite. After all, they pollinate our crops, make wax and honey, their language is a dance and they are the perfect model of a socialist society. They toil tirelessly gathering nectar and pollen, cleaning and building their home, and tending to the needs of the queen, who in turn produces eggs which replenish the ranks of the working class when they grow old. She maintains order and regulates things through pheromones. Each and every worker is willing to die in defense of the colony.


Continue reading »

  • Pin It
  • Favorite
  • Email

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Recent Comments

Top Tags in
Life + Outdoors

glow worms


centipedes


dragonflies


Evolution


birds


Top Commenters

socialize

Facebook | Twitter

© 2020 North Coast Journal

Website powered by Foundation