Scanning Electron Images of a Cerambycid Beetle

Yesterday I had the extreme good fortune to be able to use the scanning electron microscope (SEM) at University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Labs (San Juan Island).  We put a Cerambycid beetle under the SEM and “WOW,” the photos were phenomenal!  Here’s a few for you to see.  Below is a photo of the beetle’s compound eye.  Just think of all the information each of those facets receives and processes.

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Cerambycid beetle compound eye, imaged under scanning electron microscope at Friday Harbor Labs, San Juan Island, WA

Next, you see an image of the beetle head.  It shows the antennal insertion points, the compound eyes, frons, clypeus, labrum, mandibles, and bristly setae.

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SEM anterior, dorsal view of cerambycid head.

If you’re interested in learning more about the morphological features, here’s a pretty good diagram below for reference.

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image from http://www.faculty.ucr.edu/~legneref/biotact/bc-51b.htm

The last image for you is of the beetle’s tarsi (the foot).  This is an important identification feature for many insects.  Imagine that!  When I was working on my masters degree from the University of Florida, I had an amazing taxonomy professor who was an expert on Coleoptera (the beetles).   He created identification keys for Florida beetles and you can take a look at them here:  http://www.entnemdept.ufl.edu/choate/beetles.pdf IMG_7525.JPGWell, I’m looking forward to using the SEM again and my next imaging will hopefully include the sponging mouthparts of a fly.   Stay tuned!

Heterosilpha ramosa (Say 1823)

I found this specimen October, 20, 2018 when I went for a walk and I’m excited to add it to my insect checklist.  This is the larva of the beetle Heterosilpha ramosa, also known as the Prairie or Garden Carrion Beetle.  It is classified within the family Silphidae, a group of beetles named after their preference for dining on carrion.  Both adult and larval forms of carrion beetles typically feed on dead things.  There are two subfamilies within the Silphidae.  The Silphinae and the Nicrophorinae.  Nicrophorus beetles actually have bi-parental care of their young, but that’s for another post!

The strange thing about Heterosilpha ramosa is that it doesn’t quite fit the category it’s been placed into.  There isn’t much online either to help with the derivation of its name, but this is what I’ve put together.  For the genus:  Hetero meaning different or other and Silphidwhich comes from the Greek word silphe,a kind of beetle.”  The species name, ramosa means “full of branches” and refers to the beetle’s branched elytral costae or the main veins on the leading edge of an insect wing.  I love looking up the name derivations for insects.  Curiously, we get ramosa from “Ramos,” a Spanish or Portuguese name derived from the Latin “ramus” to describe someone who lived in a thickly wooded area.

Yes, I digressed a bit! Back to the feeding habits of this creature and its name:  Heterosilpha.  Instead of only eating carrion, it is a generalist feeder which means it eats lots of different things, other than carrion!  The common name, Garden or Prairie Carrion beetle refers to its habit of feeding on plant detritus and sometimes even nibbling the leaves and roots of living plants you may have in the garden.  Generally it is believed to do more good than harm in gardens or crop systems since it feeds on snails and other invertebrate pests.

Heterosilpha ramosa larva IMG_7448

Heterosilpha ramosa larva photo by Cynthia Brast October 20, 2018 San Juan Island, WA

In my search, I also found out that this is yet another understudied creature.  It is unfortunate that we know so little about the world that exists under our feet!  Here is a photo of an adult Heterosilpha ramosa.   For now, I am waiting to see if the larva I found pupates.  Check back for updates and be sure to look for interesting bugs next time you’re out on a walk!

Heterosilpha.ramosa.adult

Photo credit to https://insectsofsouthernontario.ca/heterospila-ramosa/

 

 

 

 

 

Revenge of the Mantids

clip mantis Check out my story about praying mantids on San Juan Island!  They’ve been a victim of hyper-sensationalism.  Seriously.  Read my article before you squish one.

https://sanjuanislander.com/news-articles/environment-science-whales/environment/28146/revenge-of-the-mantids

Merlin.mantid

Let me know if you have questions about these or other insects you come across!  I’m always interested and do my best to answer emails.  Thanks!

 

Lophocampa roseata (Rosy aemilia)

I spent a good part of the day combing through my insect photos from the past 9 years. There are thousands. Finally, I found the ones I was searching for. I credit Victoria Compton on San Juan Island, WA  for helping me out on this one. She sent a photo the other day to my email with a caterpillar and had suggested an ID. Not only was she correct, but in ID’ing the caterpillar, it enabled me to match up one of my adult moth photos that had been sitting around nameless since 2016. The photos I found today were of the same caterpillar that had been a mystery to me since 2013. It’s a nice “aha” moment when you connect the dots! Below are the pics for you to see.

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Lophocampa roseata Photographed July 10, 2016 San Juan Island, WA

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Lophocampa roseata larva Photographed October 6, 2013 San Juan Island, WA

This is a Tiger moth in the family Erebidae, subfamily Arctiinae. The scientific name is Lophocampa roseata (also known as the Rosy aemilia). It was first described by Francis Walker in 1868.  They are found in Western Oregon and Washington as well as in Southwestern B.C. and are associated with habitats of conifer forests and maple trees. The sources I checked list them as somewhat rare and Natureserve lists them as “critically imperiled.” So, I guess we have another beautiful Lepidoptera on San Juan Island to care for along with the Marble Butterfly!

***Critically imperiled Tiger Moth. Please post/email photos if you live in San Juan County, WA and come across one in the adult or larval stage.  Thanks! 

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Lophocampa roseata larva Photographed October 6, 2013 by Cynthia Brast San Juan Island, WA

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Lophocampa roseata larva Photographed September 26, 2018by Victoria Compton San Juan Island, WA 

Helpful links:

 

http://explorer.natureserve.org/servlet/NatureServe?searchName=Lophocampa+roseata

https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/224121-Lophocampa-roseata

https://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/species/Lophocampa-roseata

https://bugguide.net/node/view/247272

 

 

Western Horse Fly (Tabanus punctifer)

Found this specimen in the parking lot at Marketplace in Friday Harbor yesterday. Glad I didn’t turn into the “grabber” I can sometimes be and instead used a box to scoop up my big find. Probably if you were watching me, you’d have been scratching your head wondering WHY is this woman going through her grocery sacks and opening a snack box of tuna?  That box made an excellent fly “trap!”

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Big is an understatement! This is the LARGEST fly I’ve collected on the island.  It measures over 1 inch long or more than 2 cm.  The Western Horse Fly (Tabanus punctifer) can bite through your clothing, although it is the female that needs a blood meal (males feed on nectar and pollen). The adult female lays egg masses (over 300 per mass) on vegetation along ponds and lakes. When the eggs hatch, the larvae develop in the water and here is what I read about them from my sources at Bugguide.com…

“These larvae are aquatic. They have mouthparts that are identical to those of rattlesnakes in structure. A pair of hollow fangs that are connected to a poison/anaesthecic salivary gland further back in the body. These mandibles can easily break through human skin and inject the immobilizing contents of the salivary glands. Normally used to paralyse, and perhaps digest, prey. They are capable of quickly immobilizing/killing animals as large as frogs. They are strictly carnivores and eat ‘meat’.”

I guess this means that the toe-biters aren’t the only ones you should avoid when you go for that swim!

If you care to read more, I suggest this excellent informative guide I found online.   It is a 1921 publication from Sanitary Entomology:  The Entomology of Disease, Hygiene and Sanitation ~ https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=eIQoAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&pg=GBS.PA237Sanitary Entomology

 

 

All Wet! April 26, 2018

A water trough and cool morning temperatures equate with a desperate situation if your wings are wet and they aren’t the inflatable kind that keep you afloat.  I rescued two, soon to be drowned, little specimens yesterday morning and can tell you, they were “happy” to  dry off in the sunshine ☀️ .

The first rescue was a delicate, Green Lacewing in the family Chrysopidae.   Lacewings are in the insect order Neuroptera which means nerve-winged insect.  It is named for the intricate, sheer, net-like pattern of its wings.  They are valued because they prey on garden and orchard pests insects like aphids.  The intriguing thing about this specimen (make sure to pay close attention to frames 0.22 and 0.24 in the video) was its reaction to my voice when I stopped Millhouse the cat from interfering with my cinematography.  The Lacewing appears to have a look of surprise when it hears me.

The second rescue from the water trough is the beautiful, iridescent green cuckoo bee you see in the video below.  Cuckoo bees are actually wasps in the insect order Hymenoptera, and family Chrysididae.  While they are pollinators in that adults seek out nectar for food from flowers, they are named, like the cuckoo bird, after their habit of seeking out nests of other wasp and bee species to steal food, or the life of developing larvae as a host for their own young.   Never-mind that part of the life cycle of this bee.  It is truly a gem, glittering in the sunshine…a jewel worn by a new spring blossom in the garden.

 

 

 

Blue Orchard Bee ~ Osmia lignaria

Sighted April 12, 2018, San Juan Island, WA.  Blue Orchard Mason Bee (Osmia lignaria).   These are important early (native)  pollinators.  Adults hibernate overwinter and emerge from March to May.  Blue Orchard Mason Bees are being managed as orchard pollinators as they are excellent at pollinating fruit trees such as pear, cherry, plum, and apple, as well as quince and others, including blueberries.   Blue Orchard Mason Bees and other solitary bees in the genus Megachilidae (like leaf-cutting bees) carry pollen on their bellies instead of special baskets on their hind legs like honey bees.  The Blue Orchard Mason Bee use tubular cavities for nests, partitioning each brood cell with a wall of mud.   Although similar in size, Blue Orchard bees are easy to distinguish from honey bees because they are metallic in coloring, often dark blue or blue-black.

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Family: Megachilidae, Genus: Osmia (Mason bee)Osmia ligaria – Blue Orchard Bee

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Family: Megachilidae, Genus: Osmia (Mason bee)

Osmia spp.  Mason bees

Osmia spp. (Osmia lignaria) mating ~ April 15, 2017

Read more about Blue Orchard Mason Bees (Osmia lignaria) here:  

https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/pollinator-of-the-month/mason_bees.shtml

http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/MISC/BEES/blue_orchard_bee.htm

 

Working Checklist of San Juan Island, WA Coleoptera

This is a checklist I’ve put together of the Coleoptera of San Juan island. Beetles with (*) asterisks are those I have actually seen, photographed, or have in my collection. It is a work in progress!San Juan Island – List of Coleoptera 2016 by Cynthia Brast

 

 

European Wool-carder bee (Anthidium manicatum) What do you “bee-lieve?”

I found this bee yesterday at the San Juan Island Community Gardens (https://www.facebook.com/pages/San-Juan-Island-Community-Gardens/161100800613137?fref=ts). A friend helped me get it into a container so I could photograph and hopefully identify it. Took me awhile, but I believe it is a Wool Carder Bee (Antidium manicatum). I read a neat blog about how they are associated with the plant called Lamb’s Ear. Females scrape the “wool” off the leaves to line their nest and both sexes sip nectar from the plant’s flowers. Read more about them here… http://entomology.ucdavis.edu/?blogtag=Anthidium+manicatum&blogasset=45538

European Wool-carder bee (Anthidium manicatum)

European Wool-carder bee (Anthidium manicatum)

European Wool-carder bee (Anthidium manicatum)

European Wool-carder bee (Anthidium manicatum)

European Wool-carder bee (Anthidium manicatum)

European Wool-carder bee (Anthidium manicatum)

European Wool Carder bee (Anthidium manicatum)

European Wool Carder bee (Anthidium manicatum)

IMG_9605-European Wool-carder bee (Anthidium manicatum)

European Wool-carder bee (Anthidium manicatum)

IMG_9604-European Wool-carder bee (Anthidium manicatum)

European Wool-carder bee (Anthidium manicatum)

IMG_9603-European Wool-carder bee (Anthidium manicatum)

European Wool-carder bee (Anthidium manicatum)

IMG_9602-European Wool-carder bee (Anthidium manicatum)

European Wool-carder bee (Anthidium manicatum)

 

My Dinner Guest

A very hungry bumble bee

I found out on my walk.

I invited her to dine with me,

And though she couldn’t talk…

 

She came along without protest

Happy to have me serve…

The wildflower blossom I picked for her,

Six-petaled bee hors d’oerve.

 

Once in the house, I seated her

As my honored guest,

Then I served her with a bee size drink…

My vintage nectar best!

 

A little sugar mixed

With water all together

And the happy bee was well revived

To survive this cold, spring weather.

 

She buzzed about and thanked me

For the sustenance,

And then she asked to be excused

With her little bumble dance.

 

I opened up my front door

To see her on her way

She said to look for her again

Some sunny summer day!

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Bombus mixtus or Mixed Bumble Bee queens emerge after overwintering to begin the process of making a nest (typically in the ground) where she will begin to make wax pots to lay her eggs in.  You can help save these important pollinators by reducing use of herbicides and lawn chemicals in your yard.  If you find one on a cold day, help it out by providing a boost of carbohydrate energy.  You can wet a sponge or cotton with sugar water or prepackaged hummingbird food and offer it a drink.  The hungry bee will thank you for it.  Remember to “bee” nice to bees!

***Text and photographs copyright 2012 by Cynthia Brast.  No part of this story may be reproduced in any form without the expressed written consent of the author.

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