Bugs in the News IV

Ever since the BugLady started her “Bugs in the News” sub-series, alert BugFans have been sending links to articles they’ve come across. Thanks, BugFans! Alas, to view a few of these, you have to wade through some ad content.

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.

Flying Ants

The BugLady got a very special request from almost-5-year-old BugFan Jolene, who is curious about Ant Flies (aka flying ants). Why do some ants get to fly but others don’t? Do they get to have the wings their whole life? Do all ants have ant-flies as part of their family? Are their classmates jealous of their wings?

Wildflower Watch – Dawdling among Dandelions

Dandelions produce both nectar and pollen and so are appreciated by wildlife, especially early bees and butterflies (100 species of pollinators have been tallied). The BugLady has been dawdling among dandelions to see who else appreciates them. She saw representatives of 8 kinds of hymenopterans (ants/bees/wasps), 4 kinds of flies, 3 of arachnids (spiders and spider relatives), and 1 beetle. Seen, but not photographed, were a few cabbage butterflies.

Ants in my Plants

Ant-plant interactions enjoy a lovely vocabulary. A myrmecophile is an organism (usually an animal) that consorts with ants; myrmecophily (ant-love) refers to favorable relationships between ants and other organisms; and a myrmecophyte (ant-plant) is a plant that carries on mutually beneficial relationships with ants.

The Ants of CESA (Family Formicidae)

Prairie Mound Ants build mounds in peaty, wetland soils, and their lives are governed by the water table. While their prairie relatives may tunnel five feet into the earth, nests in wetlands are shallower, and ants must be prepared to move up above ground level, into the mound, if the water rises.

Pussy Willow Pollinators

People get excited when pussy willows whisper the spring. The BugLady thinks it’s more fun to skulk among the pussy willows when they are actually blooming (the gray, fuzzy “bud” is the future female catkin), ogling the diversity of insects that come to visit. Willows are dioecious (separate house), bearing their male and female flowers on different plants

Night Orange

The BugLady puts out oranges for the birds—orioles, house finches, catbirds, and several species of woodpeckers eat the pulp. The BugLady guesses that ants, flies and German yellowjackets and raccoons would be the first and most numerous guests at the table, but that some interesting stuff would come to the night-time table.

Ants and Oaks

The BugLady was checking a young bur oak of her acquaintance recently, and she photographed these scenes. She keeps an eye on this tree because it always hosts a lot of ant activity (whether this says good things about the oak or bad, she doesn’t know). Ants, famously, farm aphids. They protect the aphids from predators like ladybugs and move them to greener pastures. In return, they get to “milk” the aphids by stroking the aphids’ abdomen.

Western Thatch Ant (Family Formicidae)

Western Thatch Ants build impressive mounds averaging 8” tall, 2 ½’ to 3’ across, and 5’ deep with 17,000 inhabitants (max is 30,000, plus or minus). The ants make chambers in the soil and then they cover the top of the nest with “thatch”—small twigs (up to several inches long) and bits of grass and herb stems. The result is nursery chambers that are climate-controlled (both temperature and humidity). Early (April) broods of eggs and young are located in tunnels a foot or two below ground,.