Pelecinid Wasp

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Pelecinid Wasp – Pelecinidae – Pelecinus polyturator.  Millstream Gardens Conservation Area, Madison County, MO.

Parasitoids of insect larvae, the Pelecinid Wasp female uses her extremely large abdomen to thrust through soil to deposit eggs primarily on scarab beetles.  I assume the family and genus names are derived from the Greek – pelicos, referring to the great size of the wasp.  Females can reach lengths of up to 6 cm.  No need to worry, these guys do not have stingers.

-OZB

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Derbid Plant Hopper

Derbid Planthopper – Derbidae – Apache degeerii.
Photographed 08-13-16 at Cuivre River State Park, Lincoln Co, MO.

Derbid Planthopper - Derbidae Apache Degeerii
Derbid Planthopper – Derbidae – Apache degeerii
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Derbid Planthopper – Derbidae – Apache degeerii

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

Bugs in the Backyard – Locust Borer

Locust Borer
Locust Borer

This Locust Borer (Family Cerambycidae) was photographed this fall feeding on Tall Goldenrod (Solidago altissima) that grow in my wildflower patches in our yard.

Locust Borer
Locust Borer

The Locust Borer’s preferred larval host plant, the black locust tree, is now widespread across North America and Europe, but was originally found in the Appalachian and Ozark regions.

Locust Borer
Locust Borer

It is unclear whether the color and pattern of this long-horned beetle serves to mimic the aposematic  coloration of the well-known yellow jacket wasps (Batesian mimicry), or for crypsis – allowing for camouflage in the goldenrod, where they are often found.

Locust Borer
Locust Borer

 

 

Busy Bees…

I apologize for the tacky post title.  I just wanted to let everyone know that I am busy at work in preparation for the ninth annual Art at the Shaw Nature Reserve Show and Sale – 2014.  If you are reading this and have the ability to visit, please stop by to see more than 20 talented artists of many different media.  I look forward to meeting and talk with you.  It is a very nice event.

Here is a photo…

Honeybee Harvesting Silphium
Honeybee Harvesting Silphium

First Bloodroot of the Year!

Putting close to 15 miles on the trails this glorious weekend, I was noticing just how delayed spring was this year compared with the past several.  Harbinger of Spring is about at its peak at the St. Louis latitude, and Spring Beauty and Cutleaf Toothwort are a few days to a week before their peak will be here.  But, it is coming.  I saw thousands of these plants pushing there way up through the leaf litter along with Dutchman’s Breeches (very cute little buds, I must say).  I finally tried the rhizome of the Toothwort today while on a hike at LaBarque Creek C.A. near Eureka.  A member of the mustard family, the Toothwort’s small, fleshy and crisp rhizome has a tooth-like appearance, hence its common name.  Another colloquial name associated with this plant is Pepper root, also in description of the rhizome.  I found the taste to have hints of horseradish and green onion, with a little peppery heat.  The perfect size and flavor makes me think it would be perfect in a variety of dishes, including stir-fry and salads.  But since it would require killing a lot of plants, I doubt I will make a habit of it.

As I was coming to the last mile or so of my hike today, I thought I would once again strike out on my first Bloodroot of the season.  But, just in time, I saw a single, fully-opened bloom a couple of feet from the creek.  This was the only subject I photographed all weekend, but it was still a grand couple days for a walk.

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“First Bloodroot of the Year!″

Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM, ISO 200,  f/22, 1/15 sec

The Marvellous Gasteromycetes

No worries.  Although the biology, terminology and classification behind the fungi is a course of study that is as beautiful as any human language, I will not try to fill this post with all that specialized nomenclature, especially since I am a novice at it myself!  This particular group of fungi are polyphyletic (similar or convergent in nature, but no recent common ancestor) and have been grouped together based on their habit of passive spore dispersal.  While most other fungi have mechanisms that forcibly discharge their spores, in this collection of orders the spores are passively dropped and released by rain drops, wind, insects and other animals.  These fungi go by the names of earth stars, puffballs, and earth balls.  The palate-pleasing truffles and the oh-so fascinating bird’s-nest fungi are also included in this grouping.  The phallic (order Phallales) stinkhorns spores are spread by flies and other insects that are attracted to the rotten smells they exude.  The bizarre jelly and “ear” fungi are also placed in this group.  Finally, the economically important rusts (Uredinales) and smuts (Ustilaginales) also fall in this category, often finding conditions in our modern monocultures perfect and in little time can cause severe declines in yields of cereals and legumes.

The photo here shows the “Acorn Puffball” (Disciseda sp.).  In nature, the spores are forced through the ostiole (opening) when struck by rain drops or falling leaves or other matter.  Often they may separate from their base and roll across the landscape ejecting spores as they move along.  In this photo I used a small twig to push on the side of one of the fruiting bodies that discharged the cloud of spores I hope is apparent.  This took some time and patience to get just right.  I did not have any artificial light source, so reflectors and trial and error with exposure settings had to suffice.  These guys are most often found in dry habitats like desserts, dry grasslands, pastures and dry woodlands.

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“Acorn Puffball, Autumn 2012″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM, ISO 400,  f/13, 1/6 sec