Aliens in the Midden

While searching for arthropod subjects to photograph on Steve’s property, we decided to check the compost/midden pile and found something completely unexpected.

gold-and-brown-rove-beetle-staphylinidae-ontholestes-cingulatus, Farmington, MO
Gold and Brown Rove Beetle – Staphylinidae-Ontholestes cingulatus, Farmington, MO

These beetles were crazy to watch – super speedy while flipping their gold-tipped abdomens over their backs in display.  These guys yield even more support to my contention that the vast majority of ideas used in the sci-fi genre (particularly the creature-features) were taken from somewhere within the natural world.

gold-and-brown-rove-beetle-staphylinidae-ontholestes-cingulatus-img_6903
Gold and Brown Rove Beetle – Staphylinidae-Ontholestes cingulatus, Farmington, MO

Check out those chompers!

gold-and-brown-rove-beetle-staphylinidae-ontholestes-cingulatus-img_6900
Gold and Brown Rove Beetle – Staphylinidae-Ontholestes cingulatus, Farmington, MO

-OZB

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The Resident Ichneumon

This tiny and speedy ichneumon wasp, which I am calling a Theronia species, has been hanging around my patch of wild strawberries for a couple of months.  If I am close to correct in the identification (with more than 100,000 described ichneumons, how close could I be?), then this species parasitize tent caterpillars along with a number of other lepidopterans.

Ichneumonidae - Theronia sp. - Female - Photographed in the author's wild strawberry patch, St. Louis Co., MO.
Ichneumonidae – Theronia sp. – Female – Photographed in the author’s wild strawberry patch, St. Louis Co., MO.

I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent & omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidæ with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars …

-Charles Darwin-

Ichneumonidae - Theronia sp. - IMG_6541
Ichneumonidae – Theronia sp. – Female – Photographed in the author’s wild strawberry patch, St. Louis Co., MO.

-OZB

The Leafcutter Bee

Leafcutter Bee - Megachile sp.
Leafcutter Bee – Megachile sp.

The Leafcutter Bees are an interesting group of native solitary bees found within the Megachilidae Family along with Mason Bees, Resin Bees and Carder Bees.  There are approximately 200 species of Leafcutter Bees (Megachile genus) found in North America and several of these species can be easily found in gardens throughout the eastern United States where they favor the plant families Asteraceae, Campanulaceae and Fabaceae.

 

Leafcutter Bee - Megachile sp.
Leafcutter Bee – Megachile sp.

Leafcutter Bees get their names from an obvious behavior.  These bees line their chosen nest cavities (stems, cracks, wood-boring beetle borings, holes of all kinds) with circular discs that they cut from green leaves or flower petals.  When a cavity has been sufficiently lined, the bee will deposit an egg along with a provision of nectar and pollen, afterward abandoning the nest.

Leafcutter Bee - Megachile sp.
Leafcutter Bee – Megachile sp.

Bees in this family are abdominal pollen collectors, as can be seen in the photo above.  Unlike most bees that hold pollen in brushes on their legs, the Megachilidae hold their pollen on the underside of their abdomens that consist of course, unbranched hairs that curves towards the tail.

Leafcutter Bee - Megachile sp.
Leafcutter Bee – Megachile sp.

A diagnostic behavior of the Leafcutter Bee is their habit of extending their abdomen vertically while they forage.  I have not been able to find an accepted reason that they do this.

Leafcutter Bee - Megachile sp.
Leafcutter Bee – Megachile sp.

This is a group of native insects that anyone can help in their own backyard.  Consider making, purchasing and installing nesting structures for your native pollinating bees.  It’s quite easy to do and will help out a lot in suburban where natural sites for nests are often hard to find.

It’s Not Easy Being a Pollinator

Crab Spider
Crab Spider

Tonight’s post all share a theme of the challenges of being a pollinator on prairie wildflowers.  The first photo above shows a lovely-colored, ambush predator known as a Crab Spider.  Crab Spiders do not spin webs, but lay in wait, often on a flower for a pollinator to visit.

Ambushed
Attacked!

This Assassin Bug has captured a syrphid fly and is having himself a meal.

Ambushed!
Ambushed!

In the image above, this goldenrod flower came to life to ambush a Honeybee.  I find that Honeybees are the most often caught in traps like this.  Native bees seem to be constantly on the move and much more defensive, most likely due to the fact that they are solitary and there would be nobody to care for the brood if they were more care free like the honeybees.

Ambush Bug
Ambush Bug

The creature is actually called an Ambush Bug.  What an interesting face this one has!  I can imagine the potential conversation.

Robberfly
Robberfly

Finally, this gigantic Robberfly is finishing off some small prey.

Monarch Eclosion

I finally found a monarch caterpillar on one of my plants after a 3-4 year absence.  Knowing the poor success rate when I had them in the yard in previous years, I decided to try my hand at rearing this one inside.  I read a little on proper practices online and had received some advice from someone I work with (thanks Tim!) and watched as the little one put on the weight at the expense of my common milkweed I harvested from the garden.  Unfortunately the idea for a time lapse project came too late and .  I wasn’t prepared and wasn’t knowledgeable enough about the metamorphosis process.  I tried my best.  I made several mistakes and will hopefully remember these next time.  I also had a couple of equipment failures that caused me to miss a couple of gaps many hours in length.  Tim and his family have successfully reared and released a good number of monarchs this year and tag them for hopeful data points on the migratory routes (just like in birds).  He had an extra tag and I tagged the little female prior to her release.  Hopefully she will make it the ~1800 miles from central Missouri to central Mexico where she will overwinter before heading back north again next spring.

Even with the problems, I kind of like the outcome.  I can’t wait to try again… 😉