August 03, 2020

Cottony rosette stem galls on Wyoming big sagebrush

Here are photographs of a rosette gall that I'm trying to identify, all growing on Wyoming big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata subs. wyomingensis at the Crooked River National Grassland in Madras, Oregon. Galls are between 1 and 4 cm in diameter and are composed of dozens of thin, pointed bracts coated with fine white hairs. There are thousands at the location.

I'm assuming they are some sort of Rhopalomyia (Cecidomiidae), but I can't find a good match in iNaturalist, BugGuide, or on any of the hundreds of web pages and books that document the various galls on sagebrush. Similar galls have also been observed by @ddubois2 on Artemisia cana in Montana (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/45283788#activity_comment_4818259) and by @serpophaga on Artemisia dracunculus in California (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/8919705, https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/8919707).

It seems improbable that something so striking is not yet described. If anyone has ideas on what it might be, I'd be grateful for any leads.

Posted on August 03, 2020 12:00 PM by colinpurrington colinpurrington | 8 observations | 1 comment | Leave a comment

August 01, 2019

Victims inside Spartan Mosquito Eradicators

Per inventor of the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator, mosquitoes are initially attracted to the CO2 released by fermenting sugar, enter the device through small (5/32") holes in the lid, drink some fluid, exit through the same holes, then later die when their stomachs rupture from combination of yeast-produced CO2 and sodium chloride.

As an avid follower of various gizmos that kill mosquitoes, I was curious whether I could find evidence of a mosquitoes entering the containers. My hypothesis is that the mosquitoes would never, ever crawl through a hole to get to fermenting sugar water. Especially something 5/32" in diameter. Never going to happen.

So I bought two for my yard (Swarthmore, Pennsylvania) and I've been taking photographs of insects and spiders that die within. The yellow card is not part of the device but I added it trap insects that might enter but that might not drown. Not shown are many, many small insects that drown and then rot into unidentifiable blobs. I haven't found a single mosquito.

Posted on August 01, 2019 01:54 PM by colinpurrington colinpurrington | 11 observations | 1 comment | Leave a comment

June 27, 2018

Does Anomalon parasitize oak leaf rolling weevils?

In the part of Florida I'm visiting, oaks are covered with the nidi of oak leaf rolling weevils (Homoeolabus analis). They are easy to miss if you're not looking for them but once you see one you can see the hundreds or thousands in almost every tree. And in some places they fall to the ground in such numbers that they crunch as you walk on them. It's no surprise to anyone that they get parasitized, of course, and I've been reading up on them. There's enough going on inside that a book could be written. If you teach biology, they would be super fun to use for an ecology laboratory exercise, a la goldenrod galls.

Anyway, I've noticed that a small, absolutely adorable ichneumonid, Anomalon sp., is surprisingly common on oak trees in the area. I haven't exhaustively scanned for the wasp at other trees, but my sense is that something is attracting them to oaks, especially live oaks. Males are common and they seem to be searching leaves carefully, though I'm not sure for what. I've only found one female so far and she was doing the same, at one point pausing and eating something off of a damaged leaf part. So they could just be foraging for something to eat. But I'm suspicious, and am wondering whether the beetle is a host for the wasp. It's not in the literature as far as I know so I thought I'd make a journal post that might be of interest to somebody who actually knows stuff about this wasp or beetle. If that's you and you've stumbled on this post, I'd love to know more.

Posted on June 27, 2018 03:07 PM by colinpurrington colinpurrington | 2 observations | 1 comment | Leave a comment

June 23, 2018

Myakka River State Park

Went with my father to Myakka River State Park in SW Florida yesterday, and here are the photographs to prove it. Most interesting (to me) were two flies that I'd never heard of before: one in the genus Octhera and a Grallipeza nebulosa. At least that's what I think they were. Took me forever to figure out IDs. We spent a lot of time along the river's edge trying to capture tiger beetles (no luck) but thankfully escaped interest of nearby alligators. There's supposed to be one that is 16 1/2 feet long. Only dangerous situation was self-induced when I got in close to a nest of paper wasps.

By the way: it's the namesake of the Myakka bug (Ischnodemus variegatus).

Posted on June 23, 2018 02:29 PM by colinpurrington colinpurrington | 14 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

June 17, 2018

Residents at the bee and wasp hotel

The hotel opened its doors on May 14th and it's been extremely popular with Chelostoma philadelphia. I'd estimate I have 10 of those at the moment. They often hassle each other, which I was surprised to see. I wish I had an ability to see which hole belonged to which bee so I could assess whether they are trying to usurp each other's hole. Or maybe they are just mildly territorial and would be agonistic against anything that came close. Several of them seem to working diligently to uncover the end caps of finished nests. Again, would be nice to know whether this is being done by hole owner or some other female that wants access to the chamber. Curious.

Had one or two Osmia earlier but none recently. I entirely missed the early-season mason bees that I hoped would help pollinate my kiwi vines (that was a fail). Just my fault for taking so long to build the darn hotel but I'll be ready with fresh, clean wood and reeds by Feb 1st, 2019.

Potter wasps have been regular visitors but I'm not positive they are happy with accommodations. Lots of room changes. ID's on them are pending so I'm not sure how many species I've had.

Most recent check-ins have been Trypoxylon collinum, kindly ID'd by @susanna_h. I have two pairs, and they are super fun to watch. But a super pain to photograph because they don't linger for more than a second on exterior of hole. One of these days I'd love to capture the female returning with a spider, or perhaps the moment she passes it off to male. They also do not get along with the potter wasps. Maybe they'll work it out.

So those are the paying guests. Freeloaders maybe in the next entry. There are a lot.

Posted on June 17, 2018 04:16 PM by colinpurrington colinpurrington | 6 observations | 2 comments | Leave a comment

June 06, 2018

Mason bees and wasps

I've recently become obsessed with hole-nesting bees and wasps so decided to build myself a hotel and document the comings and goings. After approximately two weeks I've observed two bee species and two wasp species (linked observations). Part of my obsession arose because I think it would be great if local folks knew about all the amazing insects that would be killed by those mosquito-spraying services that are increasingly in vogue. So I'd love to get neighbors interested in setting up their own hotels, though that goal might take a few years. Mainly I just think hotel-nesting ("trap house") insects are cool. And I need some pollinators.

Making hotels is fun, too. It's a great way to get rid of scrap lumber around the shop. If you have a question about construction please don't hesitate to message me.

mason bee house

Posted on June 06, 2018 02:19 PM by colinpurrington colinpurrington | 4 observations | 3 comments | Leave a comment

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