The fourth Annual chorus of “The Twelve Bugs of Christmas,” the BugLady offers a Bakers’ Dozen of Bug Portraits that were taken this year but are unlikely to appear in future BOTWs because their stories have been told in past BOTWs (hence, the links, for BugFans who want to know “The Rest of the Story”).
Winter Crane Flies perch inside the mouths of caves, mines, hollow trees, and decaying logs in cool/temperate climates. Many species of WCFs overwinter as adults in sheltered nooks and crannies and are abroad in the chilly (but not freezing) air of early spring and late fall—even during mid-winter thaws, when they may be seen walking on snow.
The BugLady would like to dedicate this episode to the late (great) Cornell Professor Richard B. Fischer (January 19, 1919 – August 7, 2005) who taught the BugLady how to sneak up on insects (no bobbing or weaving, just slow and steady and straight ahead.
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 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.
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 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.
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 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.
Golden-backed Snipe flies (Chrysopilus thoracicus—chrysopilusmeans “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.