Sunday, April 28, 2019

HumBug: Spring Bug Break

Posted By on Sun, Apr 28, 2019 at 11:16 AM

California darner (Rhionaeschna californica). - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • California darner (Rhionaeschna californica).

Spring is finally, really, underway. I took a walk along the Van Duzen River got nearly 100 photos of invertebrate wildlife. There were three different kinds of dragonfly: California darners, variegated meadowhawks and a single female red rock skimmer.

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Sunday, April 21, 2019

HumBug: New Neighbors

Posted By on Sun, Apr 21, 2019 at 1:00 PM

Big millipede (Tylobolus uncigerus?) nearly 4 inches long. Most likely what the lady was hunting. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Big millipede (Tylobolus uncigerus?) nearly 4 inches long. Most likely what the lady was hunting.

Late the other evening, my wife and I went out for a walk. Along the road we saw several large shiny brown millipedes. In the middle of the road, apparently investigating a smeared member of that species, was something that at first looked like a slightly smaller one. On closer inspection, it was something completely different. I didn't have a camera or a jar, so my very tolerant wife volunteered to stay and keep track the bug in question while I got something to collect it with. For the first time in years I actually ran (it was a short distance) and retrieved an empty spice shaker bottle. They're my favorite collecting vessel; made of tough of plastic they come in a convenient variety of sizes, are break-proof, clear and come with lids already perforated with air holes.

Western banded glowworm in a defensive position. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Western banded glowworm in a defensive position.


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Sunday, April 14, 2019

HumBug: Bugs Between the Raindrops

Posted By on Sun, Apr 14, 2019 at 1:30 PM

An as yet to be identified bumblebee on dandelion - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • An as yet to be identified bumblebee on dandelion

Despite the dreary weather, life must go on. Eager to get along with their lives, our local insects show up even for the brief patches of sunshine that occasionally grace my back yard. Mostly disdained by the local honeybees, oxalis, dandelions and English daisies draw a crowd.

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Sunday, April 7, 2019

HumBug: Looks Can be Deceiving

Posted By on Sun, Apr 7, 2019 at 11:10 AM

A digger, not a carpenter. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • A digger, not a carpenter.

Last week I mentioned a large shiny black bee that visited my rosemary plants. In all my field guides the only large shiny black bees are carpenter bees, genus Xylocopa. Although there was a definite similarity, something wasn't quite right so I investigated further. With the help of some online friends and resources, I learned these bees are actually members of the family Anthophora, digger bees. So far, that's as far as I can get, identification wise. I was relieved to find this family digs in the dirt, not in the beams of my house.
Calypso lures naive queens with a false promise of sweet reward. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Calypso lures naive queens with a false promise of sweet reward.
Next Monday, April 15, is a day I look forward to every year. It's the day I mark as the day the fairy slipper orchids, Calypso bulbosa show up under my fir trees. These inch-wide flowers emerge every year about this time. A single leaf emerges from a marble-sized bulb and they produce a single pretty little flower. The literature says they are usually pollinated by naive bumblebee queens who enter the flower seeking nectar, which the flowers do not produce. After several unsuccessful attempts, the bees learn and move on to more productive plants but, in that learning process, they transfer pollen between flowers assuring the next generation of dainty blossoms who will continue to dupe bees as they have for innumerable generations.
Wasp-like markings offered little protection for this hapless hover fly. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Wasp-like markings offered little protection for this hapless hover fly.
On the way back from my expedition to the land of the fairy slippers, I stopped to take a photo of a hover fly apparently dining at a trillium. When I brought the photo up to review, I noticed the fly, whose wasp like markings offer it some degree of protection in life, had also been the victim of deception. A flower spider (Thomisidae) was enjoying the product of its camouflage. These spiders lay in wait, hiding in flowers and readily eat bees and wasps, too.
Crab/flower spider was not deterred by the deadly stinger of this honeybee. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Crab/flower spider was not deterred by the deadly stinger of this honeybee.
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