The wonder of ephemeral pools is that they are populated by animals that take this annual disappearing act in stride—animals that are prepared to dry up with the pond or to get out of Dodge (timing is everything), and therein lie many tales. An astonishing array of animals use ephemeral ponds as a place to drink, hunt, and breed, but an ephemeral pond is a challenging place to call home. The still, shallow water warms quickly (which encourages speedy metamorphoses) but contains little oxygen.
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.
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.
The BugLady’s #3 child nailed it years ago when she proclaimed her mother an “Essoterrorist”—someone with a fondness for squirreling away obscure facts. Here are some of the Bug Facts that she’s come across while looking for something else.
Bombardier Beetles dark-colored, speedy, long-lived, nocturnal carnivores. Many of the more talented members of the family are able to produce noxious chemicals to spray on their enemies. The False Bombardier Beetle spray consists mainly (80%) of concentrated formic acid (which is also deployed by ants), with some acetic acid and wetting agents thrown in.
The Dogwood Tree Borer’s name is a study in confusion. Despite its common name, its larvae have catholic tastes and are at home on a variety of woody plants including plum, viburnum, willow, mulberry, elm, laurel, dogwood, fruit trees, and blueberry. It can be found from the Atlantic through Kansas and the Dakotas.
Cerambycids can be remarkably long-lived—some exist as larvae for a decade and as adults for a few additional years. While their elders feed on flowers, fungi, sap, and leaves, the larvae of many species bore into dead and dying trees—they’re great for decomposition, because their tunnels are doorways for water, bacteria, and fungi.
Everywhere you look, you see adult insects, young insects, and the kinds of activity that will result in them. Here are some sights from the BugLady’s walks in southeastern Wisconsin.
Horsemint tortoise beetles (Physonota unipunctata) are horsemint specialists. That name is a bit deceiving, because there are several species of horsemints (genus Monarda) . The Horsemint tortoise beetle is tied to a mint that isn’t generally called Wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa).
Margined Carrion Beetles are found throughout eastern North America into the Great Plains except, says Bugguide.net, in the Deep South. They live in grasslands and, rarely, marshes, but research has shown that they have a preference for deciduous forests. Although a few Silphid family members may be found in trees, the Margined Carrion Beetle stays close to the ground.