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).
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.
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).
Posted in Biology, Photography, Science
Tagged Chrysopilus thoracicus, diptera, Golden-backed snipe fly, insect, male, Rhagionidae, snipe fly, velutinous, yellow
Apple oak gall (Amphibolips confluenta or Amphibolips quercusinanis), backlit to show leaf-like venation. Second photograph is a cross section showing where the wasp larva develops. I’d love to know what the spotting does, if anything.
Cynipid wasps love oaks for some reason — over 3/4 of the 1300 species use Quercus as host. People argue about why that’s the case (e.g., Ronquist et al. 2015). Even Alfred Kinsey the sexologist weighed in, back in the days when he was obsessed with gall wasps.
Posted in Photography, Science
Tagged Amphibolips confluenta, Amphibolips quercusinanis, apple oak gall, coevolution, cynipid, cynipidae, defense, development, gallwasp, glands, hymenoptera, insect, leaf, meristematic stimulation, plant, quercus, Quercus bicolor, round, secretion, spots, wasp, yellow
Banded tussock moth (Halysidota tessellaris) caterpillar with stemmata peeking out from behind the anterior tufts. The second photograph shows the barbed setae, which will eventually be detached and rewoven into the cocoon.
Posted in Biology, Photography
Tagged banded tussock moth, black, caterpillar, Erebidae, hairs, Halysidota tessellaris, insect, lepidoptera, Lymantriidae, moth, ocelli, pale tiger moth, poisonous, setae, stemmata, tessellated halisidota, toxic, tussock moth, white, yellow
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 Bugguide.net pointed out the obvious to me.
This species sprays formic acid, apparently.
FYI, Al Denelsbeck posted an almost identical image here, complete with close-up of the eyes.
Posted in Biology, Photography, Science
Tagged caterpillar, crimson, entomology, eye, formic acid, green, lepidoptera, Lochmaeus manteo, moth, red, stripes, thorax, variable oakleaf moth, white, yellow
This golden-backed snipe fly (Chrysopilus thoracicus) landed in one of my bird baths and drifted around for a few minutes on the surface tension. I’m not positive, but I think I’ve seen them do this in past years, too. I wonder whether they are looking for mosquito larvae, or perhaps adults. These flies have predaceous mouthparts, so they clearly hunt something. Sure wish somebody would PCR the gut contents of these things and let me know. Anyone ever seen them take something down?
Here’s another one, albeit one with a damaged eye:
Posted in Biology, Education, Photography, Science
Tagged Chrysopilus thoracicus, diptera, fly, Golden-backed snipe fly, hair, hairs, hydrostatic pressure, insect, male, orange, patches, predaceous, predator, Rhagionidae, surface, tarsi, tarsus, thorax, water, yellow