While searching for arthropod subjects to photograph on Steve’s property, we decided to check the compost/midden pile and found something completely unexpected.
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.
…comes the newest in reality based, sustainable living instructional programming: Corruption Construction!
In a previous post I wrote a bit about the Warty Leaf Beetle (Neochlamisus gibbosus), a member of the Cryptocephalinae subfamily. Fascinating due to the fact that the adult form seems to be a perfect mimic of caterpillar frass, this species is much more interesting than I had imagined.
This species is highly, if not solely, associated with blackberry as a host plant. While watching these guys and looking for other insects on these plants I kept noticing gall-like structures, usually on the undersides of the leaves.
Paying closer attention, I noticed that these structures were not galls, nor were they attached directly to the plant tissue – they moved. On closer inspection, I could sometimes see the legs of the creature that resided within the house.
I had to crack one open to see if I could get an idea of what sort of organism built and resided within. As you can see in the photograph below, the animal appeared to be a beetle larvae.
It took me a while to put it together, but eventually I confirmed that the larvae belonged to the same species as the adult beetles that I observed all over the blackberries. My next question was, on what materials did the larvae use to build its shelter? Usually, an insect will use detritus or perhaps fresh plant tissue that it processes to make a protective enclosure like this. These guys do it a bit differently.
It starts with mom. As she oviposits, she encases each egg with a layer of her own feces and some rectal secretions. As the larvae hatches and grows, it continues to expand its home by building with its own feces to accommodate its increasing bulk. Here is a photo of an adult and larvae close together.
The Redbud Bruchid (Gibbobruchis mimus), as its name suggests, is one of those perfect examples of insect-plant specialization. The larvae of this species will only grow on the seeds of Redbud trees and perhaps on those of a relative or two.
Being extremely small (2.5 – 3 mm), these cute guys are quite the challenge to photograph. Adults feed on plant tissues (flower petals, pollen, nectar, etc…) and I typically have seen them feeding on my Echinacea flowers.
The guy above can be seen creating or adding to a hole in a flower petal. I much prefer them to the exotic invasive Japanese Beetles that tend to leave nothing behind.
The Bruchids are a subfamily or “tribe” found within the quite large family – the Chrysomelidae, known as “Leaf Beetles”.
If you know the size of an individual blossom of the Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), the image above will give you a good idea on just how small these little guys are.
Most soldier beetles are true opportunists when it comes to tucker. While not being the most efficient pollinators, these beetles can be found around almost any flowers from mid to late summer where they feed on nectar, pollen and small insects like aphids and ants. This one was photographed on my common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca).