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

 

Xestoleptura crassipes on Pearly Everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea)

Xestoleptura crassipes

Flower Long-horned Beetle (Xestoleptura crassipes) on Pearly Everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea)

Western Conifer Seed Bug (Leptoglossus occidentalis)

I’ve been stuck in the house all week with the flu…a BAD case of the flu. You don’t want it! Trust me. So, what does the very bored, sniffling, coughing entomologist do to pass the time when she’s sick? Why play with bugs of course!

My honey brought me this from the back deck…(such a thoughtful man!). fullsizeoutput_184b.jpeg

I wonder if he knew that had he not been more careful, our house could have been filled with “le pew de le bug,” a very unpleasant odor! While I probably wouldn’t have suffered (since I’m all stopped up), he certainly would have noticed.

So, what is this bug? Well, it’s not a “bug,” it’s an INSECT. You know….6 legs, chitinous exoskeleton, antennae, three main body parts (head, thorax, and abdomen).  More specifically, THIS INSECT is a Western Conifer Seed Bug (Leptoglossus occidentalis).  It is classified in the order Hemiptera, family Coreidae (Leaf-footed Bugs and Squash Bugs).

No….please don’t take that literally.  I’m certain this fella (or femme) would not like to be “squashed!”  I don’t advocate squashing any insect.  They’re ALL interesting…in one way or another.

The Coreidae or Squash Bugs are medium to large in size.  They are usually brownish colored.  This one has what I would describe as the beautiful color, Bronze! Please also note the leaf-like hind tibia, a feature characteristic of some species in this particular family. img_1869-2

What does it eat? It feeds on vegetation.  Check out the very long, piercing Rostrum or Proboscis tucked carefully along the underside of this one’s body.  western-conifer-seed-bug-leptoglossus-occidentalis

The Rostrum is used like a straw to suck the juices from conifers including Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and Lodgepole Pine (Pinus contorta).  Other species are vegetable pests.  Hence the “Squash Bug” moniker.  It also has the characteristic SCENT GLANDS that will secrete the particularly stinky odor if you poke it too much when you are trying to get it to pose for a picture!  “Le pew de le bug!”

 

The Fainting Bug! Enoclerus sphegeus

IMG_0997I like beetles. There are interesting ones all over the place…and they do REALLY interesting things. Some can cry like babies. Some like to pat poo into nice little balls and roll them back to their home. Some hang around to take care of their offspring and even “play music” to call them to breakfast…or lunch…or dinner! Some do “bad” things like eat your plants …or your trees…or your house! Some wear really cool suits of shiny armor. They can look like miniature versions of dinosaurs or imaginary space aliens! Some have really cool names…like this one I found the other day…with many friends…hanging out on a dead fir tree. Its name? The FAINTING beetle! That’s exactly what it did when I walked up….fainted right over onto the ground! Stayed that way too…for about 30 seconds with its bright red (aposmatically colored) abdomen warning me it would taste VERY bad if I decided to eat it. No worries there little bug. I was only going to take your photo. Now the scientific name of this fella (or maybe it was a “she”) is Enoclerus sphegeus. It eats the bark beetles that eat fir and pine trees. Check out the photos and next time you see a beetle, take a moment to “admire and inquire” before you automatically stomp it! Not all bugs are bad.

Interested to know more.  Check out some of these references for further reading:

Boone, C., Six, D., and K. Raffa. 2008. The enemy of my enemy is still my enemy: competitors add to predator load of a tree-killing bark beetle. Agricultural and Forest Entomology, 10(4), 411-421.

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1461-9563.2008.00402.x/full

Cowan, B., and W.P. Nagel. 1965. Predators of the Douglas Fir Beetle in Western Oregon.  Agricultural Experiment Station, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR. Technical Bulletiin 86 http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/xmlui/bitstream/handle/1957/8806/?sequence=1

Rasmussen, L. 1976.  Keys to Common Parasites and Predators of the Mountain Pine Beetle. USDA Forest Service Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. Ogden, UT. General Technical Report INT-29

http://www.usu.edu/beetle/documents2/1976Rasmussen_Key%20to%20Common%20Parasites.pdf

Fainting Bug, Enoclerus sphegeus IMG_0990Enoclerus sphegeus, the Fainting Bug IMG_0992Enoclerus sphegeus, the Fainting Bug IMG_0994 IMG_0997 IMG_0999 IMG_1000 IMG_1001

Bugging You From Friday Harbor…..a “peacock-feathered” moth!

Alucitidae or "many-plume moth" ~ Distinguished from other families of moths by their delicate wings, fringed like the "feathers of a peacock."  They are only 3-13 mm long, gray or brown in color, and lack abdominal tympana.  They have filiform antennae, a well-developed proboscis and are nocturnal.  About 130 species have been described but there are just three species in America north of Mexico.  Read more about them in Moths of Western North America by Jerry A. Powell and Paul A. Opler.Alucitidae or “many-plume moth” ~ Distinguished from other families of moths by their delicate wings, fringed like the “feathers of a peacock.” They are only 3-13 mm long, gray or brown in color, and lack abdominal tympana. They have filiform antennae, a well-developed proboscis and are nocturnal. About 130 species have been described but there are just three species in America north of Mexico. Read more about them in Moths of Western North America by Jerry A. Powell and Paul A. Opler.

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