In past years, the BugLady has taken off during the month of May or June to refresh her sadly depleted “BOTW Future” file with new images of emerging insects, and she plans to do that. BUT – she’s also in the process of moving out of a house that she’s lived in for 40 years (rule of thumb – if you haven’t seen it/thought about it/used it for 10 years or so, you probably don’t need it). St. Vinnies’ is thrilled. The BugLady is thrilled that she’ll go forward with about 1/3 of her present worldly possessions.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.