Melanoplus Grasshoppers redux

These days the BugLady’s walks are punctuated by the small “pop” of grasshoppers taking off and landing, and by the whir of their wings. Grasshoppers and bumblebees seem to dominate the landscape in the weeks leading up to official autumn.

Once Upon an Ash Tree

Today’s saga could also be called “The Hemiptera Mystery,” though one of the Hemipterans appears only in a supporting role. The main character is a decent-sized true bug (Hemipteran) named Acanthosephala terminalis. For an insect that has a wide range (much of eastern North America), is conspicuous, and is not a shrinking violet, it’s surprising that the AT doesn’t have a common name.

Goldenrod Watch – Act II

The goldenrods in the BugLady’s field are exuberant, with new, brilliant yellow flowers opening daily. Goldenrod blooms late, produces a bonanza of pollen (there’s not much nectar there), and is the embodiment of the insect enthusiast’s credo—“Looking for insects? Check the flowers.”

Way Out on the Lonesome Prairie

Lately, The BugLady’s been thinking about prairies. She led a walk at Riveredge Nature Center’s excellent “Knee Deep in Prairies” celebration, and she spends a lot of quality time on the prairie because she loves its ever-changing palettes and patterns. By some estimates, the biomass of the insects on pre-settlement American prairies equaled that of the bison. Here are some pollinators and predators and plant feeders of the prairie – and the flowers they visit.

Biting Gnats

This one has “bugged” the BugLady for a while—a nemesis-bug. It photobombed shots of other insects and is so small (less than 1/8”) that the BugLady didn’t see it until she put a picture up on the screen, and then it defied identification. Turns out that it’s a fly (order Diptera) in the Biting Midge family Ceratopogonidae. BugFans from coast-to-coast who spend time outdoors in biting midge country may know them as no-see-ums, midgies, punkies, moose flies, pinyon gnats and a few more colorful names.

Slug Moths – A Tale in Two Parts

Slug moths belong in the family Limacodidae (“snail/slug form”); the larvae are called slug caterpillars, and the adults are called slug caterpillar moths. A number of species occur here in God’s Country, but they are a group that she associates with the South. The BugLady’s first experience with them involved driving a camp counselor to the ER in Florida after a related puss caterpillar, our most venomous caterpillar dropped out of a tree onto her.

Common Silverfish redux

Summer reruns. Here’s an enhanced version (more fun silverfish facts) of an episode that first aired in the spring of 2009.

Silverfish are spindle/carrot-shaped, flat and gray with a metallic “finish.” Your common, household silverfish, lives in cool, damp places, feeding on house dust, bits of dried vegetation, small insect body parts that get restaurants in trouble, sawdust, and starch, which it gleans from wallpaper paste and from the glues used in book-binding.

An Inordinate Fondness for Dragonflies

Dragonfly ancestors came on the scene some 325 million years ago, and the BugLady is certain that people were admiring them as soon as there were people. They are woven into the fabric of myth and legend in many cultures and religions and have even been used for medicine and food. What’s not to like? They come in a rainbow of colors and range in size from damselflies that are less than an inch long to hummingbird-sized darners.

Four-toothed Mason Wasp (Family Vespidae)

A solitary Four-toothed Mason Wasp, Monobia quadridens, has taken to creating egg chambers in the BugLady’s wind chimes. This is a medium-sized wasp, with both a length and a wingspan of just under an inch. They are found throughout eastern North America, edging into southern Ontario to the north, the Great Plains on the west, and northern Mexico to the south.

Protean Shield-backed Katydid (Family Tettigoniidae)

Protean Shield-backed Katydids evoke adjectives like “earthy” and “organic,” and “elemental” (along with “lunker”). This utilitarian katydid looks like it saw the dinosaurs, and maybe it did. Katydids (family Tettigoniidae, subfamily Tettigoniinae) are in the order Orthoptera (“straight wings”) (grasshoppers, crickets, et al). Orthoperans survived the meteor strike 65 million years ago; dinosaurs did not. There are 123 species in North America, and they are a mostly-Western bunch, with about 10 species in the East.