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.
Huge thanks to John S. Ascher and John F. Carr on Bugguide.net for help identifying them.
Posted in Biology, Photography, Science
Tagged ant mimic, copulating, diptera, entomology, flies, fly, ichneumon, ichneumonid, insect, mating, Micropezidae, mimic, mimicry, still-leg flies, stilt-legged flies, Taeniaptera trivittata, thin-waisted, wasp mimic
Some photographs of me donating blood. The first is, I think, an Asian rock pool mosquito (Ochlerotatus japonicus japonicus; formerly known as Aedes japonicus japonicus). The second is an Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus). Introduced to New Jersey in 1998 and Texas in 1985, respectively. Both photographs were taken in Pennsylvania.
Posted in Biology, Photography
Tagged Aedes, Aedes albopictus, Aedes japonicus, Asian rock pool mosquito, Asian tiger mosquito, blood, blood meal, diptera, disease, engorged, female, insect, mosquito, Ochlerotatus japonicus, transmission, vector, virus, West Nile virus, Ziki
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:
Posted in Biology, Education, Photography, Science
Tagged ant, biology, diptera, entomology, fly, jumping spider, kleptoparasitic, salticid
Just in case you’re a fan of obscure diptera, I wanted to share some images of an insect I’d never seen before: Anthrax georgicus.
I initially identified it as Ogcodocera analis, which looks exactly alike to the untrained eye (like mine) but isn’t found in Pennsylvania. Anthrax georgicus parasitizes tiger beetles, apparently. The females lay eggs near the entrances to tiger beetle burrows and then the larvae attach to the beetle larvae and suck hemolymph. If you live near a place with dense population of tiger beetles, keep your eyes peeled for this fly. Or read about them here, in a fantastic post by Matt Pelikan. I gather they lay eggs by dive bombing.
The next photograph shows what it did in response to my flash.
I searched around to see if all flies do this, but couldn’t find anything about light-induced wing spreading. I did find an article by Andrei Sourakov on the startle response of a long-legged fly, again caused by a flash — they exhibit a tumbling escape behavior (see paper for pics). In a separate paper, Sourakov discusses the startle response of skippers (Hesperiidae) — again, I highly recommend taking a look at the figures so you can see the insects during their escape tumbles. In hindsight, I should have played around with flash sync speed to see if I could measure how quickly it could spread its wings. The shutter speed I was using was 1/200 second.
Just in case I’m completely wrong about the ID (which I based on this page) and you’re an expert with a moment to spare, I put a better view of a wing at the bottom. The posterior margin of the alula looks convex. I don’t have a better view of the antennae, unfortunately, which I know would be helpful for Bombyllidae. As a side note, insects that are jet black but have shiny white parts are a complete pain to photograph.
Here are a few photographs of kleptoparasitic flies stealing hemolymph from a praying mantis dining on a pentatomid. They might be Milichiella arcuata or M. lacteipennis, types of jackal flies, but those are just guesses. Jackal flies (Milichiidae) and frit flies (Chloropidae) are commonly found on dead insects, but the volatiles released by dismembered true bugs are apparently especially attractive (see Zhang and Aldrich 2004). And if you search online for images of jackal flies, they also seem to be common on dead or dying honeybees, so presumably bees exude a volatile that is attractive to flies as well. I’d love to find an article that times the arrival of various kleptoparasitic flies at different types of insects … could use the assemblages to give approximate time of death, I’m sure, just like on CSI. I don’t watch CSI, so I’m guessing here as well.
If you want to know more about jackal flies, I highly recommend Irina Brake‘s “Milichiidae online“, and this post on Ted MacRae’s blog.
Posted in Biology, Photography
Tagged diptera, entomology, flies, freeloading flies, hemolymph, jackal fly, kleptoparasitic, mantid, mantis, Milichiella, Milichiidae, true bug