Friday, July 31, 2009

Giant Resin Bee (Megachile sculpturalis)

The term GIANT resin bee is a little misleading. M. sculpturalis is a giant among resin bees which tend to be small. It is about the same size as a bumble been but more cylindrical and not as heavily built. The females tend to be larger than the males. The head and abdomen of the giant resin bee are black. Dense yellowish-brown hairs cover its thorax. Their wings are dark, but still transparent.

Giant resin bees are native to Asia. They were introduced into the United States in North Carolina in 1994. The exact means of introduction is not known, but via ship is suspected. They have since spread throughout the southern U. S. In the short run, there are no known harmful effects resulting from Asian Resin Bees, at least as far as humans are concerned. They are not aggressive and will seldom sting unless trapped. In the long run, it is not yet know what effects M. sculpturalis may have on native pollinators. Their size could give them a competitive advantage. On the down side, Giant Resin Bees are also known to be excellent pollinators of kudzu -- as if it needed any help in thriving.

According to North Carolina State University, Giant Resin Bees have large jaws, which the females use for carrying nest material. People usually encounter giant resin bees around buildings and wooden decks, because they commonly nest in vacant carpenter bee tunnels. These bees will also nest in small spaces between the boards of a building and in dry rotten logs with tunnels bored by other insects.

The female bee nests alone and begins by preparing a cell in an existing tube or narrow cavity, using resin and sap collected from trees. Other materials such as bits of rotten wood and mud are also used in nest construction. Next she collects pollen and carries it to the nest on the underside of her hairy abdomen.

After completing several pollen collecting trips, she lays an egg on the pollen ball in the cell. Then she seals it, and prepares another cell. Continuing in this fashion, one female can complete about 10 cells. If the entrance of the nesting tube is directly exposed to the outside, the tube may be noticeably sealed with a resin, wood and sometimes mud cap. After the eggs hatch, the larvae feed on the pollen and spend the winter within their cells. The larvae pupate in late spring and the adult bees emerge that summer.


Thursday, July 30, 2009

White-lined Sphinx Moth (Hyles lineata)

The White-lined Sphinx (Hyles lineata) is a common sphinx or hawkmoth that ranges from Central America north through Mexico and the West Indies to most of the United States and southern Canada. It also occurs in Eurasia and Africa. Both the adult and caterpillars feed on a wide variety of sources. Adults usually fly at dusk, during the night, and at dawn, but they will also fly during the day. Wingspan averages around three inches (7.5 cm).


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Giant Walking Stick (Megaphasma denticrus)

This is the first adult walking stick I've seen this summer. All others have been smaller, green nymphs. Walking sticks eat vegetation. Some dine on specific species while others are generalists. A Giant Walking Stick like this one can often be found on grape vines, grasses and oaks. Females grow up to seven inches long (180mm), making them the longest North American insect. This male was only about four inches long (101mm). The "clasper" at the end of its abdomen is for holding onto a female during mating.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Zebra Conchylodes Moth (Conchylodes ovulalis)

Zebra Conchylodes Moth 
(Conchylodes ovulalis)

Identification: Wings white with violet sheen; forewing marked with six blackish-brown lines (in a zebra-like pattern) and prominent hollow reniform spot.

Wingspan: 23-30 mm (around an inch).

Range: Pennsylvania to Florida, west to Arizona, south into neotropics.

Habitat: Deciduous and other forests.

Food: Larvae feed on Asteraceae.

ID Sources:
Moths of Maryland
Dallas Butterflies
BugGuide Species Page


Friday, July 24, 2009


Recently molted cicada. Its wings are still drying and hardening.


Sunday, July 19, 2009

Robber Fly (Ommatius ouachitensis)

All Robber Flies (Family Asilidae) are predators. They capture prey and inject neurotoxins to immobilize. After also injecting digestive enzymes, they suck out the liquidized innards of their prey, leaving little remaining except for an exoskeleton.

Members of genus Ommatius are easily identified because they are the only North American species with feathery antennae, although these are difficult to see without binoculars or in a photo. You can see the fuzzy moth-like branching of the antennae in the enlarged versions of these photos.

Species identication within this genus is much more difficult, especially for females like the one I photographed, because Ommatius is currently separated into species by characteristics of the male genitalia. On his website, Norm Lavers does note that black on the hind femur takes up more than 25% of the length in O. ouachitensis. The ID I received for this specimen on BugGuide was tentative as are most of the other IDs I found online. Therefore, I will say that this Robber Fly is definitely a member of genus Ommatius and probably an O. ouachitensis.

I photographed this specimen during the late afternoon in a small clearing behind our garden. Becoming most active as dusk approaches seems typical for this species. They perch in open locations waiting to ambush a passing insect. Typical perches are bare twigs, fence wire or, in this particular case, the straw in my mug of water. I've found O. ouachitensis relatively easy to photograph because they tend to remain perched and are not easily disturbed. I've even watched through my camera's viewfinder as one of these Robber Flies suddenly left and then returned to the same location with an insect a second or so later.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Soapwort (Saponaria officinalis L.)

Soapwort is native to Europe. It was introduced as an ornamental but escaped and now grows throughout most of the United States and Canada.

S. officinalis contains saponin glycosides and will foam if crushed and rubbed. In the past leaves from this plant were gathered and either soaked or boiled in water resulting in a liquid soap. It has
been used to treat a variety of ailments, but because of its saponin content is considered toxic to livestock. Medical research into possible uses for soapwort continues.

Habitat: Gravel and sand bars along streams, ditches, waste ground, roadsides, railroads. Neither Jo nor I had ever noticed soapwort growing on our place until a couple of weeks ago when I discovered a cluster growing in a low spot along the winter creek behind our house. It may have been growing there in the past, but was not readily visible. Brush and broken limb clearing following this years ice storm opened up that area.

Another common name: Bouncing Bet.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Long-horned Beetle (Elytrimitatrix undata)

What little information I could find on this beetle seems to indicate its larvae are found in dead wood, especially roots.

(Formerly Distenia undata)


Monday, July 13, 2009

Jumping Spider

Jumping spiders have a very distinctive, flat-faced, big-eyed appearance that is difficult to confuse with other kinds of spiders. They also have a unique, herky-jerky way of moving. Most are small and hairy. Like all spiders, jumping spiders have 8 legs, 2 body parts, and no antennae. Eight eyes are present on jumping spiders, although 1 pair is often so small that it appears as though there are only 6 eyes. One pair of eyes is always very large and directed forward, almost like human eyes.

Jumping spiders do not build a web to catch prey. Instead, they use their silk in a different way. When jumping spiders jump, they always attach a silk line. That way, if they miss their target they they can climb back up and try the jump again.

Jumping spiders are among the fastest creatures in the arthropod world. Their speed and keen eyesight allow them to pounce on flies, crickets, and even other spiders with amazing accuracy. A resent study showed jumping spiders can remember the exact location of their prey even when they cannot see it. They can locate prey, move closer behind cover and still jump on the prey without ever reconfirming its location.

Source: University of Kentucky Department of Entomology.

This is probably a jumping spider in the genus Phidippus.



Sunday, July 12, 2009

Five-banded Tiphiid Wasp (Myzinum quinquecinctum)

Male Five-banded Tiphiid Wasp nectaring on Slender Mountain Mint (7/11/09).

Species description (via Kansas State University): This is a slender, shining black wasp, with yellow crossbands, which measures 3/4 inch (19 mm) in length. Males are more slender than the females and have an upturned black hook at the end of the abdomen. There are 5 yellow bands on the abdomen of the female (the second is broken in the middle) and 6 narrow, more regular ones in the male. Both head and thorax are marked with yellow. Legs of the males are strongly yellow, but they are reddish in females. Wings are brown.

Life cycle (via BugGuide): Larvae are parasitoids of white grubs (scarab larvae), especially May Beetles, Phyllophaga. Female lays one egg per grub in soil. Larvae hatches, penetrates host, first feeding on non-essential tissues, later feeding on essential organs and killng host. Pupae overwinter in soil and adults emerge in early summer, with one generation per year. Adults feed on nectar.


Friday, July 10, 2009

Wasp Mimic Flower Fly (Spilomyia alcimus)

Wasp Mimic Flower Fly
(Spilomyia alcimus)

Range: Wisconsin to Newfoundland, and south to Mississippi and Florida. (1)

Size: 15-18 mm ... around 5/8". (1)

Habitat: Open areas with flowers near forests. (2)

Food: Adults take pollen and/or nectar from various flowers. (2)

Identification: Yellow pigment pattern on eyes ... "V" mark on thorax (scutum, in front of scutellum) ... short antennae. (Short antennae are almost always the quickest way to know you are observing a fly and not a wasp.) (2)

Remarks: A very convincing wasp mimic: The yellow pattern on the eyes of S. alcimus helps disguise its "fly eyes". Observers report this species often rests on its four posterior legs and waves it black front legs mimicking the antennae movement of a wasp. (2)

Comments: This specimen was photographed "feeding" on the outside of a plastic watering can. There was no water on the outside of the can, but there was a dried residue of fish emulsion. I assume this attracted the fly to the watering jug.

 Sources and additional information:

(1) BugGuide Species Page
(2) BugGuide Genus Page.
(3) Field Guide to the Flower Flies of Ontario (Pinned images with identification characteristics.)



Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Delaware Skipper Butterfly (Anatrytone logan)

(Photo: 7/01/09 by Marvin)

Delaware Skipper Butterfly (Anatrytone logan)

Definitely a Skipper.

Definitely a Grass Skipper.

IDed on BugGuide as a Delaware Skipper.

According to Butterflies and Moths of North America:

Identification: Wings are bright yellow-orange. Upperside has black borders and black veins near the margins; forewing has a black bar at the end of the cell. Females have wider borders and darker markings than males. Underside has no markings but may have darker orange veins.

Wing span: 1 - 1 11/16 inches.

Range: Southern Maine west across the Great Lakes states and southern Canada to central Montana; south to Florida, the Gulf states, Texas, northeastern New Mexico, and the Mexican highlands to El Salvador.

(Please go to the Butterflies and Moths website for more information on this species.)


Monday, July 06, 2009

Dead-Wood Borer Moth (Scolecocampa liburna)

Dead-Wood Borer Moth

Identification:   Forewings very pale with large black-bordered reniform spot.

Range:  Eastern North America.

Habitat:  Deciduous forests.

Life Cycle:  Larvae feed inside decaying logs of deciduous trees, particularly oak and hickory. They may actually be feeding on the fungi inside the rotting log and not the wood itself.

Hodges:  8514

Comments:  With all the dead oak and hickory we have laying around because of a severe ice storm this past January, this species may soon experience a population boom.


Sunday, July 05, 2009

Stinging Rose Caterpillar Moth (Parasa indetermina)

Common Name: Stinging Rose Caterpillar Moth

Scientific Name: Parasa indetermina

Hodges: #4699

Family: Limacodidae (Slug Caterpillar Moths)

Range: Eastern United States (New York to Florida, west to Missouri and Texas).

Caterpillar host species: Apple, dogwood, hickory, maples, oaks, poplars, and rose bushes.

Slug Caterpillars (from Auburn University ): Slug caterpillars bear little resemblance to the typical caterpillar. The head is hidden within the thorax; thoracic legs are reduced; and prolegs are modified to sucker-like lobes without crochets. Movement is slow, gliding, slug-like.

Similar Species: Smaller Parasa (Parasa chloris) Besides being a little larger, the forewing of P. indetermina is more rounded and has a dark patch midway in the brown terminal band.

Caterpillars: A Stinging Rose Caterpillar is one of the more gaudy examples of Aposematic coloration ((from apo- away, and sematic sign/meaning). It sends a clear signal that it should not be eaten -- or even handled, since the caterpillar's body is covered with stinging spines. The University of Arkansas has a great photo of the caterpillar and drawing of the spines.