Tag Archives: entomology

Nature pics from Zolfo Springs

Photographs from a week in Zolfo Springs, Florida. In case you’re wondering, the namesake spring was capped with concrete in 1960s, and the large pool it fed has been filled with dirt. But still plenty of nature to photograph.

Cuban tree frog (Osteopilus septentrionalis) on a post

Cuban tree frog (Osteopilus septentrionalis). Apparently arrived in Key West in 1931 or earlier. They eat each other as well as any of the native tree frogs, which is likely why native tree frogs are becoming so rare in the area. Reported to take up residence in bird boxes, too, which is thought to annoy birds and result in their declines. Also fond of hiding in boxes that house electrical components, which doesn’t end well. And they clog toilets. I could go on. All considered, a really awful species for Florida. And it’s spreading to other states.

Juvenile Cuban tree frog (Osteopilus septentrionalis) on lemongrass

Juvenile Cuban tree frog (Osteopilus septentrionalis) resting on a lemongrass leaf. Yes, cute, but don’t be fooled.

Black-tailed red sheetweb spider (Florinda coccinea)

Black-tailed red sheetweb spider (Florinda coccinea) with morning dew. I wonder whether the red color evolved to lure prey, perhaps mimicking a fruit or flower. Would be interesting to compare capture data with similar sheetweavers that have black bodies.

Condylostylus mundus

A male Condylostylus mundus. Longlegged flies (Dolichopodidae) are hard to photograph and ID, but I got lucky here. There just aren’t that many that are blue and chunky like this. Females of this species are green.

Copulating pair of common lovebugs (Plecia nearctica)

Copulating pair of common lovebugs (Plecia nearctica). Probably the most photographed fly on the planet. So definitely had to take one more. In addition to mating, they are fond of hanging out in large numbers on freshly painted surfaces. I have no idea why.

Geranomyia virescens (possibly)

Possibly Geranomyia virescens, a crane fly. The long proboscis is for drinking nectar, not sucking blood. It’s just a harmless pollinator.

Black stink bug (Proxys punctulatus)

Black stink bug (Proxys punctulatus). Here’s the BugGuide info page. The University of Florida has a very nice description of the species, too. Like many insects it’s gone through a half-dozen different Latin names, which makes it hard to locate interesting natural history tidbits that are often only available in old books and journals.

Hyalymenus sp. feeding on scarlet sesbane (Sesbania punicea) fruit

Hyalymenus sp. feeding on a scarlet sesbane (Sesbania punicea) pod. BugGuide says there are three species in Florida but offers no help in distinguishing them. Per some experts it could be the case that all three species are variants of a single species. If you know the answer, please leave a comment on the post or go directly to one of the iNaturalist observations I’ve made.

Yellow ants (Monomorium floricola) on cow skull

Yellow ants (Monomorium floricola) on a cow tooth. This species likes to nest in arboreal cavities so this is a fitting location. If you’d like to see closeups, antwiki has them.

Conura sp. on tomato leaf

Conura sp. (Chalcididae) on tomato leaf. I have no idea which species. And there are a lot in Florida.

Chelonus sp.

Chelonus sp. They’d land for approximately 1 second, then launch themselves for more hovering. So super hard to get a decent photograph. An odd-looking wasp because the abdomen is almost completely smooth due to fused tergites. Using wing venation alone this appears to be Chelonus kellieae (per figure in Marsh 1979), but that’s a species from Costa Rica and I’m not sure it’s in the United States. But I bet it is; its primary host, the potato tube moth (Phthorimaea operculella), is found in Florida. There were thousands of these wasps hovering over the lawn in the morning, so they are certainly eating something that’s in great abundance. They are egg-larval parasitoids (the egg is deposited into the host egg but doesn’t kill the host at that point).

Polistes bellicosus at nest

Polistes bellicosus nest. You can see an egg in the top left cell. They were not happy with me being so close. It was mutual.

New World banded Thynnid wasp (Myzinum sp.)

New World banded Thynnid wasp (Myzinum sp.). I think this is Myzinum maculatum because it has clear wings with brown tips; plus coloration and banding matches that of individuals ID’d as such (e.g.). Also, one source says the species has a cleft front claw (figure 7), and I think that’s the case here. You can tell this is a male by the curved pseudostinger at tip of abdomen. The larvae are parasitoids of scarab beetle larvae.

White-footed leafcutter bee (Megachile albitarsis)

White-footed leafcutter bee (Megachile albitarsis) resting with a section of leaf cut out of air potato (Dioscorea bulbifera). It’s one of thousands of species described by Ezra Townsend Cresson, a guy now long dead but who lived five blocks from me in Swarthmore, PA. I’ve even been to his garden several times.

Twice-stabbed lady beetle (Genus Chilocorus sp.)

Twice-stabbed lady beetle (Chilocorus sp.). Given size of spots I’m wondering whether this might be a cactus lady beetle (Chilocorus cacti). But Chilocorus stigma is super common in Florida and is said to have larger spots in the south, so I’m unsure. I should have taken a photograph of the ventral side. One of life’s regrets. They eat scale insects.

Eudiagogus maryae on scarlet sesbane (Sesbania punicea)

Eudiagogus maryae on scarlet sesbane (Sesbania punicea). Members of the genus are known as Sesbania clown weevils, appropriately. The larvae eat Sesbania, too.

Immature Surinam cockroach (Pycnoscelus surinamensis)

Immature Surinam cockroach (Pycnoscelus surinamensis). Parthenogenetic, apparently.

Assembly moth (Samea ecclesialis) on fern frond. Zolfo Springs, FL.

Assembly moth (Samea ecclesialis) on fern frond. Also called the stained-glass moth (hence the species name, I assume). Larvae eat Mexican clover (Richardia brasiliensis) but perhaps other plants as well (very little information available for such a common moth).

Eggplant webworm (Rhectocraspeda periusalis) on tomato

Eggplant webworm (Rhectocraspeda periusalis) on tomato. I spent a whole day identifying this. I’d assumed that any pest of tomato would be easy to identify, but I guess it’s rare to find it on tomato.

Graylet moth (Hyperstrotia sp.) larva on scarlet Sesbania (Sesbania punicea)

Graylet moth (Hyperstrotia sp.) larva on scarlet Sesbania (Sesbania punicea). ID is very tentative, however, and is just based on visual matches to similar caterpillars on BugGuide and in Wagner’s book. Here’s the iNaturalist observation.

Caterpillar of pale-edged Selenisa (Selenisa sueroides) on scarlet sesbane (Sesbania punicea)

For once, a caterpillar that was easy to identify: pale-edged Selenisa (Selenisa sueroides), on scarlet sesbane (Sesbania punicea). In searching for interesting natural history on this species I stumbled onto a paper by Bushwein et al. (1989) describing the larvae’s habit of chewing through flexible PVC tubing in citrus grove irrigation in search of a good place to pupate. The larvae even sealed off the holes they’d chewed, so I guess it was a good place. The authors estimated that some of the larvae travelled almost 5 meters to find such sites, which is pretty impressive. Anyway, if you have PVC irrigation in your citrus grove, make sure to get rid of suitable (Fabaceous) host plants.

Caterpillar of Brazilian skipper (Calpodes ethlius) on canna lily (Canna sp.)

Caterpillar of Brazilian skipper (Calpodes ethlius) in the process of constructing its leaf-fold retreat on a canna lily (Canna sp.). Here’s a closeup of an older larva (after I separated the leaf folds). The BugGuide information page says that the larvae can forcefully eject frass, perhaps as predator deterrent. Always a nice trick.

Larva of yellow-vested moth (Rectiostoma xanthobasis)

Larva of yellow-vested moth (Rectiostoma xanthobasis) found hidden in between two oak leaves tied together with silk. Unlike many moths, the common name here is spot-on descriptive and worth a look. There’s a nice description of this species on page 47 of Marquis et al. 2019.

Caterpillar of Zarucco duskywing (Erynnis zarucco) on scarlet sesban

Caterpillar of Zarucco duskywing (Erynnis zarucco) on scarlet sesban. NB: I opened up its retreat a bit to get a photograph. Here’s the photograph before.

Caterpillar in retreat constructed on scarlet Sesbania (Sesbania punicea)

Caterpillar in retreat constructed on scarlet Sesbania (Sesbania punicea). I’m stumped by this one, however. Possibly in the Family Tortricidae. I’ve photographed it before, and both observations are on iNaturalist … in case you can help ID it. Here’s a photograph of the retreat before I opened it up. Yes, I really enjoy opening up retreats to see who’s living there; so many caterpillars go unnoticed unless you do that.

Underside of splitgill mushrooms (Schizophyllum commune)

Splitgill mushrooms (Schizophyllum commune) growing on dead tree. Common but always beautiful when hydrated.

Small ball moss (Tillandsia recurvata) on trunk of a pine tree

Small ball moss (Tillandsia recurvata) on trunk of a pine tree. It grows on everything, even on exposed power lines. Part of their trick is the silvery trichomes that capture water and funnel it into the plant.

In the unlikely event you’d like to see even more photographs from Zolfo Springs, please see my SmugMug site.

Gallery of bee hotel visitors

Here are some of the pics I’ve taken at bee hotels over the past several years. Sharing in case other beekeepers might recognize residents in their own hotels. There were bees, as one would expect, but also wasps, flies, and beetles.

Horn-faced mason bee (Osmia cornifrons)

Horn-faced mason bee (Osmia cornifrons). Very common at my hotels. Introduced from Asia in the 1970s. Details at BugGuide.

Taurus mason bee (Osmia taurus)

Taurus mason bee (Osmia taurus) are also common and also introduced. Details at BugGuide.

Giant resin bee (Megachile sculpturalis)

Giant resin bee (Megachile sculpturalis). Yes, also introduced, though more recently (~1994). Details at BugGuide.

Mock-orange scissor bee (Chelostoma philadelphi)

Mock-orange scissor bee (Chelostoma philadelphi). So named because it prefers to collect pollen from trees in the genus Philadelphus (mock oranges). This is the only native member of the genus in the United States. Details at BugGuide.

Ancistrocerus antilope

Ancistrocerus antilope has shown up a few times at my hotels, but apparently prefers to nest in sumac and elder stems. It also is reported to use old mud-dauber nests. They are fun to watch because they provision nests with caterpillars. Details at BugGuide.

Euodynerus "Species F"

This is Euodynerus “Species F” at the moment. I.e., it’s one of several undescribed species in the genus (details here). Its biology is apparently unknown, so I’m hoping to get more of them in the future.

Parancistrocerus histrio

Parancistrocerus histrio is another wasp that feeds caterpillars to its brood. Details at BugGuide.

Auplopus mellipes

Auplopus mellipes provisions its nests with spiders. For a wonderful overview of their biology, please see post on Eric Eaton’s blog. (While there, I noticed he has a new book on wasps.)

Euodynerus schwarzi

Euodynerus schwarzi provisions nests with caterpillars. For identification tips, see blurb by Matthias Buck et al.; more pics are at BugGuide.

Euodynerus megaera

Euodynerus megaera is extremely similar to the above species but has black tibiae. At least females do (males are much harder to distinguish). It’s also a collector of caterpillars. More details by Buck et al.

Brown-legged grass-carrying wasp (Isodontia auripes)

Brown-legged grass-carrying wasp (Isodontia auripes) provision their nests with tree crickets. As their name suggests, they also carry grass, which they use to pack and seal the brood chamber. Details on BugGuide.

Grass-carrying wasp (Isodontia sp.)

Here’s a photo of the grass-carrying wasp’s nesting plug that I took at Longwood Gardens. They have a beautiful bee hotel with hundreds of cells but as far as I could tell, only a few wasps had moved in.

Trypoxylon collinum

Trypoxylon collinum provision their nests with spiders. Unlike many wasps and bees, the males in this genus actually help out around the nest. For details, please see this Instagram post. BugGuide has a page for the species but it contains little information.

cuckoo wasp (Chrysis sp.)

Cuckoo wasp (Chrysis sp.). They are absolutely adorable. That said, they are also parasites of the above bees and wasps that are nesting at the hotel. They are very difficult to identify, so even getting them down to genus is rare. Here’s BugGuide’s page on the family.

club-horned cuckoo wasp (Sapyga louisi)

The club-horned cuckoo wasp (Sapyga louisi) is another frequent parasitic wasp at my hotels. This one is patiently waiting to gain entrance to the nest of a mock-orange scissor bee. Details on BugGuide.

Leucospis affinis

Leucospis affinis is another parasitic wasp that is almost always lurking around my bee hotel. It’s oddly variable in size. More details by Ari Grele at Insects of Cornell, at BugEric, and BugGuide.

Monodontomerus

Monodontomerus sp. (in Chalcidoidea) are extremely common parasites of mason bees. Please see this post at Nurturing Nature for great video and description of their life cycle. Additional details at BugGuide.

Digonogastra sp.

Digonogastra sp. These braconid wasps are parasites, but I’m not positive the ones I’ve seen at my bee hotels are targeting any of the residents. But they’ve shown up on at least two occasions so I think it’s a possibility.

Amobia

Amobia sp. are flesh flies that develop on the provisions inside (for example) Trypoxylon nests. I’m not sure whether the larvae also eat the wasp larvae, but I’d suspect so. Details at BugGuide.

Houdini fly (Cacoxenus indagator)

Houdini flies (Cacoxenus indagator) are newly introduced to the United States and are likely to ravage mason bee nests and the crops that depend on them for pollination. If you have bee hotel, this fly is reason #1 why you should use removable paper tubes that allow sorting of infested and uninfested brood cells. Without paper tubes your bee hotel will likely be a Houdini fly hotel. Crown Bees has information on how to clean your tubes.

Skin beetle (Dermestidae)

Skin beetles (Dermestidae) are scavengers but can become serious pests of uncleaned mason bee hotels. Yet another reason to use only paper tubes fitted inside drilled holes, combined with a thorough cleaning of entire hotel (e.g., soak in bleach, scrub). Details on skin beetles at BugGuide.

The above is probably less than 1% of the species that might be found at a bee hotel that had a range of nesting-hole diameters. Noticeably absent are leaf-cutter bees, so that’s my photo resolution for 2021.

Note that almost everyone calls these hotels “bee hotels”, but in my experience the majority of the residents are wasps. That’s totally fine with me. Wasps are pollinators, too. And wasps tend to be more photogenic and possess more interesting life histories if you ask me. In related news, I’m really looking forward to reading Heather Holm’s new book, Wasps: Their Biology, Diversity, and Role As Beneficial Insects and Pollinators of Native Plants.

For my full collection of photos at bee and wasp hotels, please click on button below.

Scientists find that Spartan Mosquito Eradicators don’t work

Research conducted in Florida found no evidence that Spartan Mosquito Eradicatiors are effective mosquito-control devices. Here’s the citation:

Aryaprema, V.S., E. Zeszutko, C. Cunningham, E.I.M. Khater, and R.-D. Xue. 2020. Efficacy of commercial toxic sugar bait station (ATSB) against Aedes albopictus. J. Florida Mosquito Control Association 67: 80-83. PDF

Laboratory experiment

Below is a rough reconstruction of the laboratory experiment they conducted. In each of the cages (BugDorm-2120), 100 male and 100 female tiger mosquitoes (Aedes albopictus) were released, then monitored for mortality at 24, 48, and 72 hours.

Schematic of laboratory experiment based on description in Aryaprema et al. 2020.

Here is a photograph of one of the choice cages:

Below are the cumulative mortality data for the three cages. The Spartan Mosquito Eradicator filled with the provided packet ingredients (treatment) did not result in higher mortality. I.e., there was no evidence the device killed mosquitoes under laboratory conditions.

Field experiment

The researchers also conducted a field experiment using two sites that had large populations of tiger mosquitoes (because of the presence of tires). At each site they deployed five tubes (separated by 4 m), switching whether the tubes were “treatment” or “control” tubes every 2 weeks. A BG-Sentinel trap (without carbon dioxide) was used to quantify mosquito numbers every week.

Schematic of field experiment based on description in Aryaprema et al. 2020.

Below are the weekly numbers of mosquitoes caught in the BG Sentinel traps. Results: there was no evidence that presence of treatment tubes (filled as per company guidelines) reduced the numbers of mosquitoes at the sites.

Conclusions

The scientists concluded that “Both laboratory and field components of our study show that the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator is not effective in reducing abundance of Ae. albopictus.” They speculate that the contents do not attract mosquitoes and that the holes on the device (~3 mm) are too small for mosquitoes to easily reach the fluid inside. They also highlight the need for an experiment to evaluate whether the active ingredient (1% sodium chloride) kills adult mosquitoes. I.e., even if mosquitoes were attracted to Spartan Mosquito Eradicators and could easily get inside, the salt might not be lethal.

Update: the salt experiment has been conducted. And the result is that salt does not kill mosquitoes.