Bugs Without Bios VI

“Bugs without Bios” are critters that, while undoubtedly worthy, are barely on the radar in either on-line or print references. But, they contribute to their communities and have their own places in the Web of Life. What these three have in common is their (admittedly very limited) work as biological control agents.

Velvet Ant (Family Mutillidae)

Velvet Ants, as every on-line and paper resource tells us up front, are not ants at all, but are flightless female wasps in the family Mutillidae (and like ants, they’re in the order Hymenoptera). Their sting is ranked at a 3 out of 4 on the Schmidt Pain Scale and is considered painful, but not dangerous/venomous. Velvet ants are found in dry habitats where their host species build their nest tunnels, and they have extra-tough exoskeletons that help to prevent internal water loss in their xeric surroundings.

Pigeon Horntail (Family Siricidae)

Horntails (family Siricidae) are often called “wood wasps” because their eggs are laid in wood and their young spend both their larval and pupal stages there. Horntails practice “complete metamorphosis,” going through an egg stage, a larval (eating) stage and a pupal (resting/changing) stage before emerging as a very different-looking adult.

Two-lined Petrophila Moth Rerun (Family Crambidae)

Two-banded Petrophilias are found near the rivers and streams in eastern North America that their larvae inhabit. The hind wings of adult Petrophila moths have a row of black/metallic spots that make one spider enthusiast theorize that they’re Jumping Spider mimics.

Bald-faced Hornet (Family Vespidae)

The Bald-faced Hornet is famous for the football-shaped paper nest that it suspends, between two and forty feet off the ground, from a man-made or natural support. The nest is initiated by the queen, a fertile female that mated last fall and holed up over the winter while the workers, drones, and old queen died. She starts the new nest in spring by fashioning a spherical structure that’s open at the bottom. After she raises her first brood, her daughters take over, enlarging and guarding the nest, foraging for food for the larvae and their queen.

American Pelecinid Wasp (Family Pelecinidae)

American Pelecinid Wasps are relatively common from Argentina through Canada, in woodlands, grasslands and gardens, from mid-summer to early fall. Two other species occur exclusively south of the border. Pelecinids have short wings for their length and are slow flyers.

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.

A Tale of Two Paper Wasps (Family Vespidae)

The Northern Paper Wasp and the European Paper Wasp are in the widespread genus Polistes in the family Vespidae. They’re called paper wasps because they chew on bits of paper, wood, bark, etc, mix it with saliva, and form the resulting pulp into a nest typical of their species. Paper wasps target many caterpillars that gardeners consider pests, and in a nod to their pest-control value, people put up nest boxes for them.

Thread-wasted Wasps (Family Sphecidae)

Thread-waisted wasps mostly nest in the ground or build free-standing nests from mud. Although the female is primarily a vegetarian that sips nectar from flowers as she hunts, she provides protein for her young. Most target the caterpillars of moths and a few skipper butterflies and the larvae of their distant sawfly relatives.

The 12 Bugs of Christmas

In lieu of the usual bug biography, the BugLady presents The Twelve Bugs of Christmas—a tribute to a dozen insects (a Baker’s Dozen, really) that were photographed this year but not featured in a BOTW. Let the singing commence.