Monday, February 11, 2008

Northern Paper Wasp -- Part II


Why I NEED BugGuide

A Norther Paper Wasp (Polistes fuscatus) found in eastern North America would probably look more like the one in this photo taken in New York. Note the darker abdomen. The only yellow present is in bands circling the abdominal segments. (This specimen is a male as indicated by the sharp curves at the tips of his antennae.)

An entirely different species of native paper wasp is found in the west. Polistes aurifer has much more yellow on its abdomen, particularly large yellow spots on the second segment.

Here in the Midwest we have various transitional color patterns. The P. fuscatus I found in my basement has yellow spots on her abdomen, but they are not nearly so pronounced as those found on P. aurifer. The ultimate visual distinction between the two species is that P. fuscatus has dark antennea while those on P. aurifer are lighter colored.

(Note: Some entomologists do not consider P. aurifer a separate species but a sub-species, P fuscatus aurifer.)

Field guides are useful and I consult many of them, but when it comes to insects, I'm glad I live in the age of digital cameras and Internet resources like BugGuide. I would never be able to identify more than a fraction of the insect macros I take were it not for help from the experts there.

On his blog Myrmecos, Alex Wild speculates that digital cameras and macro photography may be generating an interest in arthropods akin to the popularization of birding that resulted from the publication of Roger Tory Peterson's first field guide to birds.

Wild concludes:

What are the implications of a larger general interest in arthropods? I don’t know, but I would like to think they would be similar to those of Peterson’s guide. An elevated interest in biodiversity could help sustain conservation efforts. It certainly means a greater appreciation of life’s diversity, and that can’t be a bad thing.


Share/Bookmark

11 comments:

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Marvin, I don't know about arthropods but I do know in the birding community Beetles are being studied as closely as the birds. Are butterflies arthropods? I am not sure of the distinction. Of course butterflies are closely studied as they have been over the years but the field guides for them are as good as most bird field guides. I always like to see peoples faces when they find that the 'worm' that is eating their beloved parsley is a beautiful butterfly in transition. Ha... So much to learn.

I also think that access to the internet is a reason people like bugs. When you can send a picture to sites like What Bug Is This and get an answer to your question it is just too easy and FUN.

Also people that do know some things, like yourself, are helpful and you find out you aren't the only person out in their garden investigating all the inhabitants.

Lana Gramlich said...

There are so MANY bugs & so few good bug guides, at least in my experience. Thanks for doing the work that some of us are too lazy too. <:\

imac said...

Very interesting post and well captured too.

Dirty Duck Canal walk continues.

Tom said...

Marvin,

I love bug guide too!

Tom

Alpicks Treasures said...

I hope these bugs are not already out where you live? I dont do well with Wasp or bees. Nice article

oldmanlincoln said...

Unless you take the time to study, as you must have, nobody knows. I mean mother used to say if it looks like a wasp it is. LOL.

Old Wom Tigley said...

Quote: "What are the implications of a larger general interest in arthropods? I don’t know, but I would like to think they would be similar to those of Peterson’s guide. An elevated interest in biodiversity could help sustain conservation efforts. It certainly means a greater appreciation of life’s diversity, and that can’t be a bad thing."

Hear Hear... any kind of understanding as got to be good.

Marvin said...

Arthropods are all the spineless critters, invertebrate animals that have a jointed body and limbs and usually a hard shell or exoskeleton. It is a huge phylum -- about 75% of all animals -- that includes insects, arachnids, crustaceans and others.

Missouri_Wilderness said...

Marvin,
Indeed, I know your pain. There are several species and subspecies of wasps here in Missouri, but toward the west, mostly Kansas, there are too many for just our measly paper-bound guides. Do these wasps usually nest near the middle of a building or up high? The paper wasps I've encountered avoid the middle areas for some reason. Perhaps they are shy...

nina said...

I wouldn't be surprised if the camera angle increases people's interest in insects.
So many times I see something in my photos that I hadn't seen in real life shooting it, it's always so revealing.

And how coolis it to be able to look so closely at something that would bite or sting in person!

lv2scpbk said...

Like your bee shots, would rather stay away from them though, except in a photo.