Here are some photographs of Fulgoraecia exigua, a moth that parasitizes planthoppers during its larval phase. There were dozens of these larvae in the place where I was walking, many of them hanging on silk threads, spinning in the wind. They look like miniature sheep (a parasite in sheep’s clothing, I guess), and are rather cute, I think. But not for planthoppers, as you can probably guess. When the larvae hatch (earlier in the season) they crawl around and seek out planthoppers to latch onto, then suck their juices and eventually displace their hosts’ wings as the weeks go by. I.e., the planthoppers go about their lives with a caterpillar attached to their abdomens. When its done feeding the caterpillar lowers itself to the ground on a silk thread and pupates. I’m going to go back to the spot see if I can get photographs of the pupal form, which looks like a miniature version of the Sidney Opera House, built from the waxy fluff that protected them.
Spiny assassin bug I found during a walk several days ago. I’m guessing this could be Sinea spinipes, but genus is challenging so that’s tentative. What I really like about this insect is its folded antennae. I’ve never noticed that before in a reduviid.
I was photographing a spider a few days ago, and one frame that I was about to trash (jumping spider’s eyes not in focus) happened to show a kleptoparasitic fly that was drinking fluids from the captured ant. Because the fly is not especially visible I haven’t tried that hard to ID the fly (probably Milichiidae or Chloropidae), but I did find an interesting page showing a fly in Australia that was found near a salticid called an ant eater (Zenodorus orbiculatus).
If you have time to waste, here are some fun facts about kleptoparasitic flies:
- Some species are attracted to volatiles released by captured prey (e.g., stink bugs). I have pics.
- There are apparently some that are specialists on spiders (Brake and von Tschimhaus 2010).
- It’s usually just females; when males present they might be looking for mating opportunities with females (Ibid.).
- In Africa. there’s a milchiid that can induce ants to regurgitate (Wild and Brake 2009).
- Some plants in the Apocynaceae seem to have evolved the ability to mimic the venom volatiles of paper wasps. The scent is attractive to kleptoparasitic flies because the wasps use the venom when they hunt (Heiduk et al. 2015). This is referred to as kleptomyiophily, apparently (new word for me).
If you really need to more, check out the http://www.milichiidae.info/. Sorry: the Chloropidae don’t have their own site.
I think the spider is Phidippus princeps. Happy to be told otherwise. Here are some better pics of the spider:
I finally put a few evolution-related images on a Shoppe page … just in case you need a geeky Christmas gift for somebody.
Below are some photographs of strange growths on a patch of Asclepias syriaca I visited several weeks ago. From the few publications I’ve found, enations can be caused by viruses (Geminiviridae, Luteoviridae, etc.), and thus could be transmitted to nearby individuals via insect vectors or by the connected roots (milkweeds are clonal). Could be a genetic mutation, too, I suppose — could be spread by seed or via clonal growth. Anyone seen this before?
Photographed at Hildacy Farm Preserve in Media, PA.