From the Garden – Katydids

IMG_3311
Katydid

 

Oh tell me where did Katy live,
And what did Katy do?
And was she very fair and young,
And yet so wicked, too?
Did Katy love a naughty man,
Or kiss more cheeks than one?
I warrant Katy did no more
Than many a Kate has done.

-Oliver Wendell Holmes-

Katydid
Katydid

Thanks for the visit…
OZB

From the Garden – Jumping Spiders

Jumping Spider
Jumping Spider

I’ve always loved jumping spiders.  It is hard not to assume a higher level of intelligence as these guys follow every movement you make and will turn to face the camera, your finger or your face in order to keep an eye on you.  They are tremendous predators and loaded with all sorts of great behaviors, including elaborate dances in order to attract mates.  I have found a few species in the backyard but they all are tricky in getting a usable photograph.

Jumping Spider
Jumping Spider

See you next time.

OZB

From the Garden – Minute Pirate Bug

Flower Bugs
Flower Bug

Today’s “From the Garden” spotlight is on another insidious predator, the Minute Pirate Bugs, or Flower Bugs.  These true bugs, classified within the Family Anthocoridae, specialize in piercing and sucking the contents of any soft-bodied insects that are roughly their own size or smaller.  These prey insects, such as thrips, aphids, caterpillars and their eggs, are important insect pests.  I believe the insect pictured in this post falls within the genus Orius.

Minute Pirate Bug
Minute Pirate Bug

From the Garden – The Planthoppers and Leafhoppers

Two-lined Spittlebug
Two-lined Spittlebug

Planthoppers and Leafhoppers are groups of insects collectively found within the insect Order Hemiptera.  Both groups have piercing and sucking mouth parts and feed primarily on plant saps and tissues.   These groups are highly diverse.  I have been able to capture a few of these fascinating creatures with the camera in the backyard, but these are generally the more common species.  The insect pictured above is known as a Spittlebug – named for the behavior of encasing themselves as nymphs in a spittle-like mucous for protection.

The Stormtrooper
The Stormtrooper

I’ve said before that there is no such thing as an original idea in fantasy or sci fi.  I’ve found that almost every creature or effect you can find to celebrate in these films or books has been taken (consciously or not) from nature, most often from invertebrates or the deep sea.

Planthopper Nymph
Planthopper Nymph

This ultra-tiny guy posted above is a planthopper nymph.  Often members of this group will have long, colorful waxy lengths of fibers extruding from their tail ends that are used for multiple purposes, including predator avoidance.

Candy Stripers
Candy Stripers

Many folks who have spent any time in the backyard have surely seen the Candy-striped Leafhoppers, one of the most abundant species in this group.  Gorgeously colored and quick to disappear, the two pictured above are busy making more.

I look forward to sharing more photos of members of these groups in the near future.

OZB
email: handsomeozarkbillyboy@gmail.com

From the Garden – Nectar Robbers Clash

a bit of protein
A Bit of Protein

Ants and most flies that are abundant around my milkweed are nectar robbers – providing no pollination services for the plant.  I do see flies from time to time that might carry a pollinia, and sometimes a lightweight like the housefly pictured above will get a leg or two stuck and be unable to free itself.  That’s what these ants are waiting for.  Here we see the ants beginning to dissect their prey while it struggles to free itself.

More From the Garden – Long-legged Flies

Long-legged Fly
Long-legged Fly

At nearly 1300 described species in North America alone, the Long-legged Flies (Dolichopodidae) are ubiquitous, under-studies and totally unappreciated.  Little is known about most of this group’s life histories and habits, especially as larvae.  These guys are under appreciated because few know or applaud their function as key predators in backyard and agricultural habitats.  Both larval and adult forms of dolichipodids eat a wide variety of pest insects, including other flies, mites, aphids, scale insects and beetles.

Dolichos (long) Podis (foot)
Dolichos (long)
Podis (foot)

I have discerned three Long-legged species in the backyard and have been able to photograph the two pictured in this post.  The most well known and common have the multi-colored, metallic luster of the insect in the first photograph, while the other is more earth-toned and with a pair of dark spots on its wings.

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Long-legged Fly

Many species in this family are known for elaborate mating dances, equipped with colored flags on their front legs that they use to seduce and entice potential mates.  Sexual selection is even at work on the insects.  No one escapes…

OZB
email: handsomeozarkbillyboy@gmail.com

Those Sexy Syrphids

Time Flies Like an Arrow... Hover Flies Like a Flower
Time Flies Like an Arrow…
Hover Flies Like a Flower

Anyone who has spent any amount of time studying flowers in the backyard garden has at some point noticed Syrphid flies.  Known as hover flies, flower flies, bee flies and other names, this group is most well known for mimicking bees and wasps (Batesian mimicry).  This small guy was captured feeding on my Ohio Spiderwort this spring.

Bee Fly
Bee Fly

This is quite the important group of insects.  The Syrphids are major pollinators for numerous flowering plants, potentially as important as native bees in this service.  Larvae in this group may feed on rotting vegetation and many species will feed on aphids and other plant pests.  The rather large bee fly pictured above was found feeding on a Common Milkweed in the backyard.

Syrphid Sensuality
Syrphid Sensuality

Eating and making baby Syrphids…  If it isn’t already on a T-shirt, it should be.  I often find these guys doing the Diptera 12-step in my backyard.  If we did that, we’d be thrown in jail!

Thanks for stopping by…

OZB
email: handsomeozarkbillyboy@gmail.com

Snowberry Clearwing Moth

Snowberry Clearwing
Snowberry Clearwing

The Snowberry Clearwing is a member of the Sphinx Moths (AKA Hawk Moths).  Its name comes from the fact that one of this species important larval foods is the Snowberry plant.  Sphinx moths are important pollinators and are often mistakenly identified as Hummingbirds or Bumble Bees due to their size and their habits of visiting flowers.  Most Sphinx Moths are active nocturnally or at dawn and dusk, but the Snowberry Clearwing is diurnal.  One Missouri favorite, the Missouri Evening Primrose of glade habitats, shares an obligate pollination mutualism with a species of Hawk Moth, meaning that no other animal can provide pollination services for this plant.  This is a photography project someday in the future!

A Sphinx Moth
Not a Humingbird…

 

The caterpillars of these moths are known as “hornworms”, and they are just as fascinating as the adults.  Included in this group is the Tobacco Hornworm, which is a notorious pest on tomato plants.  A useful natural controller of hornworms are the parasitoid braconid wasps that lay their eggs on the developing moth and whose larvae then eat the caterpillar from the inside out.

Not a Hummingbird...
A Sphinx Moth

Next time you are in the garden, take a closer look at that bumblebee or hummingbird.  It might not be what you assume it to be!

Thanks for visiting…

OZB
email: handsomeozarkbillyboy@gmail.com

The Flies

Carrion Fly
Carrion Fly

The beetles (order Coleoptera) are famous for being the most diverse group of animals on the planet.  The flies, however, are not too far behind and many people are surprised to hear how many forms and places flies can be found.  I have been able to find and photograph a few of these forms in my own backyard and will share them here.  I photographed this carrion fly (Calliphoridae) hanging out on my rosinweed.