Tree Aphids (Family Aphidae)

Tree aphids are so exquisite that it’s hard to remember that it’s an aphid. It’s the winged phase; non-winged individuals are, depending on the species, blob-shaped, sesame seed-shaped, or spidery-looking insects seen en masse, sucking juices from the tender parts of plants. Aphids are generally wingless until an overcrowded plant/deteriorating plant quality signals them to produce winged forms that can migrate to nearby vegetation.

Three Micromoths

Microlepidoptera are a big group of small moths. To some extent, it’s a grouping that’s determined by the size of the moth; there are some families that include both macro and micro species, and the families of the micros tend to be more primitive than those of the macros. The group is very diverse and includes a bunch of day-flying species, and the biographies of many have not been written. Remember—of the 18,000 or so species of Lepidopterans in North America, more than 11,000 are moths. Here are three (and a half) of them.

Asparagus Beetles (Family Chrysomelidae)

Two species grace our area, the Asparagus/Common Asparagus Beetle and the Spotted/12-spotted Asparagus Beetle. Both species overwinter as adults in hollow asparagus stems, or under leaf litter, garden debris, or loose bark, The Common Asparagus Beetle is the first to wake up, and it also feeds on the lacy leaves, which can defoliate and weaken the plant. It lays its eggs in rows of 3 to 8 on the new spears, leaves or flower buds. The 12-spotted emerges a little later in spring, and it also eats the spears and leaves, but its larvae concentrate on the fruits and don’t damage the plant. It lays one egg at a time on the leaves; the larvae hatch, head for the fruits, and burrow inside.

Leeches Revisited

Leeches are segmented worms. They have eyespots along the dorsal side of the first few segments (though their vision is poor) and a brain and a sucker at each end. They can’t hear, but they have a good sense of taste, and sensitive skin. Unlike their (mostly) terrestrial cousins, the earthworms, leeches are flattened in cross section; like earthworms, their bodies are soft but very muscular. All of the 700 or so known species of leech are carnivores.

Brown Stink Bug (Family Pentatomidae)

Brown Stink Bugs feed on leaves, stems, flowers, seeds, nuts, and fruits of a variety of plants, both wild and domestic. In fruit crops, their injected saliva may cause chemical damage, and their piercing may cause mechanical damage (holes) or cosmetic issues (scars on fruit). Brown stink bugs develop by simple/gradual metamorphosis, going from an egg, to a nymph that looks pretty much like an adult and that adds adult body parts as it grows, to an adult.

Water Lily Leaf Beetle II (Family Chrysomelidae)

The Water Lily Leaf Beetle is found throughout North America, wherever its host plants grow, and in northern Europe. They feed primarily on water lilies and smartweeds; each of the two distinct plant families presents unique feeding challenges, and it has been suggested that there are two, specialized races of WLLBs, with slightly different sizes, colors and jaw widths. A study in which larvae were mixed and matched with either food plant showed that not all host plants are created equal—beetles preferred, grew faster on, and had higher survival rates on their natal plants.

Giant Casemaker Caddisfly (Family Phryganeidae)

Caddisflies are famous for having soft-bodied, aquatic larvae that, depending on their species and habitat use plant materials or teeny stones to construct portable cases. For glue they use silk that they produce in a gland in their lower lip. The Giant Casemakers are found through much of the U.S., into Canada. Their larvae live in cold water, both still and gently flowing, and they construct their cases by sticking vegetation together longitudinally or in a spiral

March Fly (Family Bibionidae)

March flies generally live in wooded areas and are often found on flowers—adults of some species feed on nectar, pollen, and honeydew, but adults of other species don’t feed at all, and in either case, they are very short-lived. They’re considered important pollinators in orchards and for some species of irises and orchids. Their larvae, drab and primitive-looking, feed en masse on rotting organic material like leaves, wood, compost, and rich soil, and sometimes they damage plant roots.

Galls IV – Two Oaks and a Hickory

Here’s the general formula for gall formation: Mom lays/injects her egg(s) onto/into plant tissue, and when the eggs hatch, the young insects (there are gall-making wasps, flies, beetles, moths, thrips, and aphids) or mites burrows inside, if it’s not there already. Specific gall-makers target specific host plants, resulting in galls that are predictable in location and appearance.

Golden Dung Fly (Family Scathophagidae)

Golden/Yellow Dung Flies are small, spiny flies. Appearance can vary geographically, seasonally, and because of a variety of other factors including larval food availability. The fly’s life is dung-centered. Mom and Dad meet there, mate there, lay eggs there, and take their meals there. They feed on other flies that are attracted to dung, and they also consume nectar (and, if times get tough, each other), but they leave man and beast alone. Its geographic range includes cooler, temperate regions throughout much of the world, and it probably arrived in North America from Europe early-on, with shipments of cattle.