Category Archives: Science

Copulating stilt-legged flies

Copulating pair of Taeniaptera trivittata, a type of still-legged fly (Micropezidae). Males (or females, according to one source) apparently brush the eyes of the partner during mating, though this frame didn’t capture that. When flitting around leaves they wave their white-tipped forelegs and look just like small ichneumon wasps. They have thin waists but the pattern on their wings makes them look even thinner, waspier. Known to feed on rotting Typha, which was abundant nearby (John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge, Tinicum, PA).

If you come across a pair, please take a video so I can see the legs in action. I like to watch, and I know of others who are interested in this species.

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Copulating stilt-legged flies (Taeniaptera trivittata)

Huge thanks to John S. Ascher and John F. Carr on for help identifying them.

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Astylopsis macula (Lamiinae)

Found a bunch of these flat-faced longhorn beetles on a dying tree a few weeks ago. I’m fairly confident it’s Astylopsis macula. But there are a gazillion genera of Lamiinae, so I’m happy to be corrected. Would also be very happy to hear from anyone who knows what elytral pits do, other than providing handy identification. I’ve wondered about that for years. Are they vestigial patterns from forewing ancestry? Sound-dampening trick to elude echolocating bats? Are pits just decorations, useful in crypsis or for intraspecific recognition? If you know, would love to hear from you.

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Astylopsis macula

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Variable oakleaf caterpillar

This is a newly-molted variable oakleaf caterpillar (Lochmaeus manteo), with old head capsule still attached. I initially thought the capsule was the head and that the thorax had eyespots, but John and Jane Balaban on pointed out the obvious to me.

This species sprays formic acid, apparently.

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Lochmaeus caterpillar

Close-up of Lochmaeus caterpillar

FYI, Al Denelsbeck posted an almost identical image here, complete with close-up of the eyes.

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Galapagos mug with English and Spanish maps

I read a lot of books and articles about the Galapagos Islands, and it’s a tad annoying that the islands all have two names — colonial British, and modern Spanish. Most books (but not articles) have a map, but it’s invariably just a monolingual map and also fixed on a given page so it’s hard to refer to frequently. So out of frustration I designed myself a bilingual map mug. Just hold in right hand when reading modern works, and in the left hand when reading something older like Charles Darwin’s, Voyage of the Beagle. It’s also useful when reading about the various endemics that were given names according to the islands where they were first described. E.g., when reading about Microlophus albemarlensis barringtonensis (one of the lava lizards), a quick glance at the mug will tell you that the subspecies is on Isla Santa Fé, though primary species description was for the specimens on Isla Isabela.

I put it up on Redbubble in case you need one for yourself, or need a geeky gift for somebody who’s doing some reading in advance of a trip to the Galapagos.

Mug with English/Spanish maps of the Galapagos

If you’re curious about the map, it’s one I scanned from Darwin’s, Journal of Researches. It’s probably not suitable for navigation purposes, FYI, especially if filled with hot canelazo.

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Green lacewing larvae covered with debris

Here are three types of Chrysopidae (green lacewings) I found a few days ago. One had covered itself with insect parts (and spider web), another with (perhaps) fluff from some wooly homopteran (woolly alder aphids?), and a third with bits of lichen. There’s currently no way (as far as I know) to identify these larvae based on their debris preferences. And it seems likely that there are many undescribed species tooling around right in front of us (e.g.). Like many aspects of natural history, there’s a huge need for citizen scientists to forward information on lacewing larvae to experts — that need is apparently described in this article by Catherine Tauber et al. (Side note: don’t publish “calls for citizen science submissions” in paywalled journals that citizens cannot read.)

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Green lacewing larva (Chrysopidae) with debris

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Green lacewing larva (Chrysopidae) with debris

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Green lacewing larva (Chrysopidae) covered with lichen

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