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 has always enjoyed mullein plants (Verbascum thapsus). Oh, she knows that they’re sun-slurping aliens whose mission is to blanket the earth at the expense of native vegetation, but they produce cheery yellow flowers, and they stick out of grassy fields like skinny saguaro cacti.
Signal Flies are usually seen in fields and edges. SFs are small—these guys/gals are about 6mm long, with patterns on their wings and often on their faces and with metallic colors elsewhere. SFs have protruding mouthparts that resemble a gas mask.
It’s a good thing that the BugLady doesn’t have nearby neighbors (or a Home Owners’ Association) who might be alarmed about someone who turns on the porch light and then creeps around taking pictures of porch critters at midnight.
The BugLady has been a fan of predators since she was old enough to lisp out the word. She likes the cuts of their collective jibs and their matter-of-fact fierceness. To her, the “eat-ers” are far more interesting than the “eat-ees.”
There are around 7,000 species in the Long-legged Fly family worldwide (600 species in just the single genus Dolichopus), and that 1,300 species live in North America! They’re a big bunch of small (¼”), big-eyed, often metallic (and, yes—long-legged) flies. Look for long-legged flies (LLFs) on leaves in dappled shade near gardens, grasslands, woodlands, and wetlands
The BugLady had a professor years (decades) ago who used to say “Don’t just tell them what it is, tell them ‘What about it?’” Here is the second installment of miscellaneous bugs with brief biographies—insects about whom the BugLady can’t find many “What about it’s.”
Feather-legged flies are tachinids in the genus Trichopoda (hair foot). They cruise the flowers, looking for nectar for themselves and “warm bodies” for their offspring. Females may also search while hovering. FLFs specialize in stink bugs, squash bugs and leaf-footed bugs, many of whom are crop pests. The maggot hatches, tunnels into its host, and feeds on the innards for two weeks before exiting to pupate as the host dies.
Leaf-footed Bugs are darkish, mid-to-large sized bugs (¾” to 1”), and many (but not all) have what is described as a leaf-shaped “flange” on the lower part of the back leg (tibia). The males of some species are armed with massive, spiked (often battle-scarred) thighs (femurs) that they whack each other with when in combat over females. L-fBs have a lot of parallel veins on the membranous part of the front wing. Most are herbivores, using their impressive mouthparts to pierce plant parts and suck out the juices.
House flies (Musca domestica) may have originated in the Middle East, and they’ve been around for at least 65 million years. One source suggests that house flies arrived in the Americas with, or even before, Columbus. Given a choice, house flies pick warmer climes (with temperatures up to 100 degrees) over colder climes; in colder climes, they survive with the assistance of humans.