Tag Archives: insect

Golden-backed snipe fly

Here’s a male golden-backed snipe fly (Chrysopilus thoracicus). The species is strangely understudied. For example, the adults don’t seem to feed, or at least do so very rarely or in complete privacy. I’ve read about them eating aphids, but that’s secondhand at best. The family (Rhagionidae) is full of predaceous members, so it’s certainly possible, but it’s still odd that we don’t really know for sure, and there should be at least a single photograph of them eating something. I wish somebody would PCR their gut contents to settle the issue. Not much is known about the larvae (image), either, other than that they can mature in rotting logs (Johnson 1912). 

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Male Chrysopilus thoracicus on leaf

I’ve photographed this insect twice before. One was floating on top of water, the other was sporting a severely dented eye. They are easy to photograph because they refuse to budge even when the lens gets within centimeters.

 Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Golden-backed snipe fly (Chrysopilus thoracicus)

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Golden-backed snipe fly (Chrysopilus thoracicus) with dented eye

Snipe flies (Rhagionidae) are so named because their unfurled probosces resemble snipes (long-beaked birds in the Scolopacidae). Not everyone buys that naming explanation, though. Some insist it’s because of their agile, predaceous habit (i.e., they are good at sniping).

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Pyractomena borealis mouthparts

Here are four anterior close-ups Pyractomena borealis. The telescoping head allows the larva to inject (via curved, hollow mandibles) a numbing agent into snails that have retreated inside their shells. The antennae and maxillae are also partially retractable. When a larva is done feeding on a snail (or slug or earthworm) it will de-slime all of these parts with the hooked, fingerlike projections of the holdfast organ (pygopod) located on the last abdominal segment. The head is also fully retractible (see previous post). These larvae are extremely active, so really hard to photograph.

 Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Pyractomena borealis mouthparts

 Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Pyractomena borealis mouthparts

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Pyractomena borealis mouthparts

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Pyractomena borealis mouthparts

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Pyractomena borealis

Pyractomena borealis (Lampyridae) exploring the surface of trees on a warm winter day in February. The third photograph shows how they can retract their head under the carapace like a turtle. At first I thought they might be foraging — they are highly predaceous, and hunt slugs and earthworms (in packs!) by first injecting them with paralytics. But they might have just been looking for a place to pupate, because it’s time for that. Adults will emerge sometime in early Spring to be the first fireflies in the area. The larvae are bioluminescent, too. The hypothesis about why the larvae glow is that it evolved first as an aposematic trait in larvae, warning mice and toads of the presence of lucibufagins, steroidal toxins in the hemolymph. It’s thought that the adult habit of using flashes is secondarily evolved, millions of years after the larvae evolved the ability to glow. The ability of larvae to glow even predates the origin of the Lampyridae, I gather. For more enlightening details, see Branham and Wezel (2003)Stanger-Hall et al. (2007), and Martin et al. 2017.

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Pyractomena larva

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Pyractomena larva

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Pyractomena larva

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Snow midge with yellow halteres

Here’s a snow midge I found a few days ago at Hildacy Farm Preserve. I’m not positive about the species, but perhaps Diamesa nivoriunda. I only saw one, but related members of the genus are reported to swarm during the winter. 

What I’d love to know is why the halteres are yellow. They seem to be yellow on majority of diptera I’ve seen, and I’ve never stumbled onto a paper discussing why that is. All I could find was the sentence “Haltere color is often used to distinguish between species” in a Drosophila book .” If you know of a paper, please send link ASAP. Am dying of curiosity.

 Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Snow midge (Diamesa nivoriunda)

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Small winter stonefly

I was out looking for the elusive snow fly yesterday but found this, instead: an eastern stonefly (Allocapnia recta), a member of the Capniidae (small winter stoneflies). At least that’s what I think it is. Larvae are active during the winter, and adults can fly and mate even when temperature is in the teens. Pretty incredible to see them flitting around on a cold day when other insects cannot even move. At Hildacy Farm in Media, PA. Probably emerged from the nearby Crum Creek. 

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Eastern stonefly (Allocapnia recta) Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Eastern stonefly (Allocapnia recta)

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