Three Prairie Bugs

Scolops Bugs are a slow-moving bunch of plant-eaters that rarely reach “pest” status. Look for Harmostes Bugs in fields filled with their food plants—grasses and wildflowers, especially members of the Aster family; they are infrequent nectar feeders. Stilt Bugs are found in brushy grasslands. Most stilt bugs are plant eaters, and some are specialists—not just any plant will do; they apparently like plants with sticky hairs.

Damsel Bugs (Family Nabidae)

Damsel Bugs are predators that get the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval from the USDA and the Cooperative Extension folks because their menus include so many agricultural pests. They consume some beneficial insects along the way, and they also scarf their competition. They catch their prey with raptorial front legs that are thickened and lined with spines. Grasping firmly, they puncture it with the piercing beak and suck out the contents.

Pussy Willow Pollinators

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

Mullein Watching

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.

Stink Bugs Revisited (Family Pentatomidae)

Stink Bugs use their piercing-sucking mouthparts to inject a “saliva” that pre-digests their food, and the mouthparts are tucked “under their chin” when not in use. It’s not a huge family—maybe 250 species in North America and 5,000 worldwide.

Wall Watching

The BugLady has been stalking invertebrates that hang out on the east wall of the Field Station lab. The wall is painted cinderblock that warms up in the morning and probably keeps some heat as it gets shaded in the afternoon. Grass grows right up to the edge of the building. The BugLady hypothesizes that bugs can enjoy the residual warmth without getting fried by the sun, because she sees some small critters on the north wall but very few on the bright south wall. She found some familiar faces and some new ones—plant-eaters and an array of carnivores that come to collect the herbivores.

Bugs Without Bios III

As veteran BugFans will recall, there are a multitude of bugs out there that are pretty cute but that simply don’t have much information attached to them. In fact, there are around 100,000 species of insects in North America, and a lot of them don’t even have a common name.

The Porch at Night

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.

Marsh Treader (Family Hydrometridae)

The Marsh Treader looks like it maybe like a very new walking stick. Not an aquatic insect in the sense that it lives under water, the MT dwells and feeds on the water’s surface—one of the “pond skaters.” MTs like the quiet waters of marshes, swamps and ponds where they may be seen moving around the edges, hiking across the algae and duckweed mats, or walking on open water, damp sphagnum moss or moist rocks.

Meadow Plant Bug (Family Miridae)

The Meadow Plant Bug is an originally-Eurasian insect that now lives in a band across the central and northern U.S. and southern Canada. The MPB hangs out in meadows and other grassy places, especially grasslands not used for grazing. Remember, the grass family includes domesticated grain crops, too, and there the MPB’s diet gets it in trouble. It eats plant juices found in the grain’s seed, puncturing a seed from above with its piercing mouthparts.