Bugs Without Bios VII

Time to celebrate three more unsung bugs—bugs about whom little is written and whose internet presence is mostly limited to species/collection/biodiversity lists, and to whom we will give their 15 minutes of fame. Remember—there are more than 100,000 species of insects on this continent north of the Rio Grande, many that are difficult to distinguish from their close relatives and that are lacking both common names and biographies.

A Bevy of Tachinid Flies

A common prairie resident in late summer is a large, noisy, skittish Tachinid fly with a bristly, bulbous, shiny black abdomen; the BugLady wrote about them in BOTW’s infancy in 2008. Tachinidae is considered the second largest fly family (after the crane flies), and it’s suspected that once all the undiscovered species of Tachinids have been described and welcomed into the fold, it may become the largest fly family.

Got Sunflowers?

Today we celebrate two American fruit flies that are sunflower specialists, the Sunflower Maggot Fly and the Sunflower Seed Maggot (“maggot” is simply a specific term for a fly larva), one of which has become an unwelcome immigrant to the Old World.

Robber Fly (Family Asilidae)

Robber Flies occur world-wide (except Antarctica), and although their diversity is greatest in warm, tropical/sub-tropical/semi-arid regions, they can survive north to the tundra. There are about 7,000 species total, just over 1,000 of which are found in North America. As a group, Robber Flies are sun lovers that occupy open habitats, woody edges and forest glades. They tend to be active during the hottest parts of the day.

Summer Summary

As the Bug Season winds down, the BugLady would like to celebrate summer by sharing a baker’s dozen of the pictures she’s taken in the past few months.

Phantom Crane Fly (Family Ptychopteridae)

Phantom crane flies (Bittacomorpha clavipes) can be seen east of the Rockies, from late spring to early autumn, in the fairly dense vegetation along the shady edges of wetlands. Sources describe them as floating through the air, legs spread, flapping their wings minimally, assisted aerodynamically by the flared areas on their legs.

Snipe Fly (Family Rhagionidae)

Golden-backed Snipe flies (Chrysopilus thoracicuschrysopilusmeans “golden hair” and thoracicus refers to the thorax) ply the tall grasses, sedges and thickets around wetlands east of the Great Plains. Look down—the BugLady rarely sees them higher than two feet off the ground.

The 12 Bugs of Christmas

With apologies to Olde English Folk Songs everywhere, here is the Second Annual Twelve Bugs of Christmas, featuring a Baker’s Dozen that were photographed this year but that did/will not appear in BOTWs. These pictures are a tribute to the joy of stumbling into the right place at the right time.

Cup Plant Cosmos

The BugLady spent some very warm days among the Cup plants, those jumbo prairie plants whose opposite leaves join around the stem resulting in a small reservoir that often holds rain water or dew. The undersurface of the tender top leaves of many Cup plants were wall-to-wall with (insert creepy adjective here) red aphids—a cast of thousands—and there were some very cool supporting actors.

Recent Bug Adventures

The BugLady has been out with her camera, walking non-aerobically and peering into plants. The “peering” has resulted in some interesting (if blurred) sightings (her macro lens is getting a bit cranky). Amazing things have been happening on milkweed, probably spurred by a banner crop of aphids on the leaves.