Here’s a photograph of a narrow barklouse (Graphopsocus cruciatus) with a clutch of eggs. I was initially taking a photograph of the domed structure (more on that below), but then examined the photo on my camera’s LCD viewer and saw this tiny insect moving around. Which surprised me — it was December 18th, and cold. It wasn’t freezing, but certainly not a day I’d expect to find an insect out ovipositing. But apparently this group of insects (Stenopsocidae) are known to be active if there’s a random warm day in winter. I might go back in a few weeks to see what’s become of them.
Here’s a closeup of the eggs so you can see the silk that holds them down. I watched her apply this webbing (from labial silk glands) for about 15 minutes. Some species in this group are gregarious and can cover an entire tree in such webbing, which tends to freak out homeowners. I’ve only seen that in Puerto Rico, though.
I’m not exactly sure what the egg case is (antmimic spider? ground sac spider?), but I’m wondering whether the barklouse might have positioned her eggs near a potential food source. Barklice are reported to eat fungi, algae, lichens, plant tissue, and pollen, but there doesn’t seem to be much published on the species’ natural history or diet prefereces. I briefly thought the structure might be a slime mold like Enteridium lycoperdon, but then I saw (I think) white embryos or larvae through one of the two holes that seemed roughly chewed through the shell-like exterior. If you recognize the contents, I’d love to hear from you.
Many thanks to Ross Hill (Meford, Oregon) for identification, and to Edward Mockford (University of Illinois) for helpful references on the species.