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.

Big Bee Flies (Family Bombyliidae)

Bee Flies are big-eyed, with long legs, and long wings that are often strongly-patterned and are held out to the sides like a “V” when at rest. Because they hover, they’re mistaken for Flower-Hover-Syrphid flies. Like Syrphid flies they are bee mimics. Adults are diurnal, feed blamelessly on pollen and nectar from flowers, but most BF larvae are external parasites/parasitoids on the larvae of ground-nesting insects.

Corn Eaters

Adult Dingy Cutworm Moths fly at night throughout summer and fall, resting and nectaring on flowers in the aster/daisy/composite family. DCM eggs are laid by late August on clovers, dock, members of the aster family, and a number of agricultural crops like alfalfa, tobacco, wheat and corn. Picture-Winged Flies, on the other hand, prefer their corn on the cob.

Marsh Fly (Family Sciomyzidae)

The unassuming adult Marsh Fly is found near the quiet waters of the marshes, ditches, lakes and ponds that its larvae call home, and it may be out-and-about in pretty chilly weather. MFs are considered “indicator species,” whose presence or absence informs us about water quality: they are very pollution-tolerant.

Bugs without Bios IV

The BugLady has many pictures of bugs about whom she can’t find enough information to write a complete biography. Here are three more of them.

Ephemeral Pond Critters

The BugLady has been hanging out at her local ephemeral pond again, looking at small things in the water. She loves the cycles of ephemeral ponds and the critters they contain. Ephemeral ponds are (most years) just that—ephemeral. These are here-today-and-gone-tomorrow ponds, gather-ye-rosebuds-while-ye-may wetlands.

Black Fly (Family Simuliidae)

Black flies are tiny and dark, with clear wings, many-segmented antennae, and big eyes. Their larvae like lots of oxygen and are not tolerant of warmer waters or pollution. Adult BFs live for about three weeks, laying 150 to 500 eggs either individually on the water’s surface or in clumps. Like other biting flies, males are blameless nectar feeders. Females may also consume nectar, but they need that all-important blood meal in order to reproduce.

Soldier Fly (Family Stratiomyidae)

Soldier Flies are mimics who live out in the open by impersonating something that stings. The adults are found nectaring on flowers (or on dung) worldwide (especially in Neotropical haunts), near the wet areas their young require. Larvae of some species are remarkably tolerant to adverse conditions like high temperatures or salinity, and some are found in sewerage outflows.