Tag Archives: insect

Photographs from Ridley Creek State Park

Last week when I was at Ridley Creek State Park I crossed paths with a tree tour led by wildlife biologist Gary Stolz (PA Dept of Conservation and Natural Resources). I promised the group that I’d post photographs of things I’d seen at the park. Here are the highlights:

Long-tailed giant ichneumon wasp

Long-tailed giant ichneumonid wasp (Megarhyssa macrurus)

Megarhyssa macrurus

The largest and most colorful was clearly the long-tailed giant ichneumon wasp (Megarhyssa macrurus) that I found ovipositing into a red maple. Actually, there were perhaps a half-dozen of them, all presumably targeting the larvae of Tremex columba (a sawfly) that were busy eating the tree. The presence of the sawflies is given away from probably a mile away (I’m guessing here) due to the odor of the symbiotic fungus they use to help digest the wood. Once on the tree, though, the ichneumon probably locates a larva by sensing the vibrations it makes when chewing. The ovipositor is approximately 2″ long and is tipped with a cutting edge (as you might guess). It also drips out a fluid that helps dissolve the wood. An amazing insect to watch.

Green’s giant ichneumon wasp

(Green's giant ichneumonid wasp) Megarhyssa greenei

Megarhyssa greenei

Also on the same tree were several Green’s giant ichneumon wasps (Megarhyssa greenei). This species has a shorter ovipositor (among several other differences) but does pretty much the same thing as the species above.

Unknown wasp in Tribe Ephialtini

Ovipositing wasp in Tribe Ephialtini.

Also beautiful but much smaller (perhaps 12 mm), I found this wasp ovipositing into a nearby tree that was completely dead and covered with moss. I’m still working on an ID (it’s something in the Ephialtini). Which means, like many of the insects I photograph, I’m hoping that an expert will eventually help me identify it. Sometimes that process can years but I’ll update this page if there’s any movement. For those curious, I post photographs to iNaturalist and BugGuide for help. And I often ask my Dad (Foster Forbes Purrington), an entomologist.

Coelichneumon navus

Coelichneumon navus (female)

Coelichneumon navus

The last wasp of the day is Coelichneumon navus, another ichneumonid but with a concealed ovipositor. This species has been known to parasitize fall webworm (Hyphantria cunea) and cypress looper moth (Iridopsis pergracilis), but like many of the 100,000 or so members of the family Ichneumonidae not much is known about its natural history. I found two caterpillars on this tree but haven’t yet ID’d them.

Gnophomyia tristissima

Gnophomyia tristissima

Gnophomyia tristissima

Another insect with no common name, Gnophomyia tristissima live, love, and die around rotting hardwood logs. These are crane flies and can be identified by their bright yellow halteres (remnants of their second pair of wings) and black bodies. This photograph shows mating but afterwards the male seems to guard the female while she oviposits (if you want to see that, click on image to be taken to a site that has additional photographs). I spent about 30 minutes watching and photographing them and could have stayed longer. But the mosquitoes were exsanguinating me.

American nursery web spider

American nursery web spider (Pisaurina mira)

Pisaurina mira

Earlier on my walk I found a rather orange American nursery web spider (Pisaurina mira). It was also rather large.

Banded fishing spider?

Juvenile banded fishing spider (Dolomedes vittatus)

Dolomedes vittatus?

I can usually narrow down spiders given their eye arrangement and details of web (or lack thereof), but this is stumping me. My tentative guess is that it’s a freshly-molted (teneral), juvenile banded fishing spider (Dolomedes vittatus). I’m trying to get this confirmed so check back if you’re curious. Astute readers will notice that it’s on a tree, not near water, but apparently there are few members of Dolomedes that can live away from water just fine. This is one of those species.

Northern water snake

Northern water snake (Nerodia sipedon)

Nerodia sipedon

This was the first time I’ve seen a northern water snake (Nerodia sipedon) but apparently they are super common. This one was perhaps 2 feet long but they get as big as 4 1/2 feet. Non-venomous, though, in case you were wondering.

Sulphur tufts?

Sulphur tufts (Hypholoma fasciculare) on log

Hypholoma fasciculare?

I’m still working on an identification but my current guess is sulphur tufts (Hypholoma fasciculare). Or, if you prefer, sulfur tufts. I really enjoy photographing young mushrooms but the consequence is that they are harder to identify.

That’s it! If you have any questions, send me a note or leave a comment.

End band net-wing beetle (Calopteron terminale)

This week I finally decided to teach myself how to identify Calopteron terminale (end band net-wing beetle), and the characteristics aren’t as bad as I thought. I made a visual to help in case others might find it useful:

Identifying End band net-wing (Calopteron terminale)

The easiest diagnostic feature is the transverse depression (dip), shown with a red line in photograph above. I think when I first noticed this depression in the wild I foolishly assumed it was a deformation that certain beetles got from being wedged into a pupal cases that were a tad too small for their bellies. But no, it’s a real, unique thing for this species. And no, I have know idea why they have it.

Below is another of my C. terminale photographs. In this one you can see that there’s a second, slight depression just anterior to the transverse band. For this reason many keys refer to an “undulation” along elytra rather than just a single depression. Here is one on Instagram that really shows the undulation. But sometimes the anterior one is hard to see.

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; End band net-wing (Calopteron terminale)

Even the distal depression is sometimes hard to see with dorsal photographs, so in those cases use the uniformity in discal costae (ridge, vein) heights to make the ID. Excluding the edge vein there are four (4) ridges that are “elevated” to the same amount. Both C. reticulatum and C. discrepans (the other two members of the genus in the United States) have alternating ridge heights. The ridges are filled with poisonous hemolymph, by the way, so don’t poke them.

In addition to the above diagnostic features, many keys say that C. terminale has a “distinct blue tinge”. Other species in the genus sometimes have a blue tinge but I’ve only noticed a distinct blue tinge on C. terminale. 

For more information on identification, here are links to C. terminaleC. reticulatum and C. discrepans on BugGuide. If you’re on iNaturalist, here they are again: C. terminaleC. reticulatum and C. discrepansThere are many more (100+) species in the genus, and most of them are in South America, Central America, and Mexico. I’m not aware of a current guide to these other species but here’s an 1886 one for Central America.

If you encounter a mating pile of any of these insects, please take a lot of photographs and examine the abdomens of females for droplets of hemolymph. There are reports (Burke 1976) that males feed on this hemolymph. So if you get a good pic, send me a URL of the image so I can link to you.

For more natural history, start with these publications:

Burke, H.R. 1976. Observations on the adult behavior of the Lycid beetle Calopteron terminale (Coleoptera: Lycidae). Entomological News 87:229-232. 

McCabe, T.L., and L.M. Johnson. 1979. Larva of Calopteron terminale (Say) with additional notes on adult behavior (Coleoptera: Lycidae). Journal of the New York Entomological Society 87:283-288.

Augochlora pura foraging for pollen on maize

Last week I found hundreds of pure green Augochlora (Augochlora pura) foraging for pollen on Zea mays at Stroud Preserve in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Here’s my favorite capture, which shows a bee cutting open an anther with her mandibles.

Augochlora pura foraging for pollen on corn (Zea mays)

I was a tad surprised to see a wind-pollinated plant so mobbed with bees, but a later search of the internet suggested I shouldn’t have been. Even honey bees forage on corn, though the pollen is apparently not as desirable as other sources (e.g., Höcherl et al. 2011). This is also the reason why spraying a cornfield with insecticides can easily cause problems for any bees (and pollen wasps) that collect pollen.

This next photographs shows a better view of the scopa (modified hairs that hold the electrostatically-charged pollen) on the legs and abdomen. It also shows off how incredibly large corn pollen is (perhaps 85 microns, per some estimates, which is huge). Wind-pollinated plants with large pollen are odd.

Augochlora pura scopa with corn pollen

The final photograph shows some pollen grains set in motion by the foraging bee. The odd look (line segments with bright dot in middle) are presumably caused by the flash freezing the fast-moving grains only in the middle of the exposure (1/200 of a second). I’m not exactly sure why the grains are bright. It could be because they are strongly backlit by sun, but it could be something related to how pollen grain exines bend light (they can cause a pollen corona on allergy-alert days). Someday it might be fun to get a rear-curtain flash configured to better capture such motion.

Pure Green Augochlora (Augochlora pura) collecting pollen from corn