From the monthly archives: "July 2011"

Location: Southern Lancaster County, PA
July 28, 2011 10:22 pm
We took this photo on a camping trip in the river hills of southern Lancaster County, Pennsylvania In mid July this year. We were close to a tree line and it was walking on the ground. It was so strange. I never saw a bug like this before… I was wondering if you can identify it??
Signature: Robert

Tiger Swallowtail Caterpillar

Hi Robert,
This is the caterpillar of a Tiger Swallowtail, and its orange osmetrium, a scent organ, is just beginning to emerge.

Pantala flavescens?
Location: Hawthorne, CA
July 28, 2011 2:55 pm
I think I have this beauty correctly identified. Will you please confirm?
Signature: Thanks, Anna Carreon

Globe Skinner, Anna believes

Hi Anna
Just today we were asked by a journalist named Marian with High Country News which insect order gives us the most difficult time with identifications.  Without even flinching we blurted out Dragonflies.  They are sexually dimorphic, meaning the generally drabber females often look nothing like the males.  Additionally, the males go through color transformations between the time they first emerge and the time they are fully sexually mature.  We are not going to research your request tonight, but we are posting your letter and photo.  We will give this our best shot tomorrow.  The lighting and detail on the profile shot are stunning.

Globe Skimmer, according to Anna

The Aquarium Update
July 28, 2011
Sixteen of Lefty and Digitalis’ most beautiful children, 12 silver and black and 4 gold, are living happily in the 40 gallon tall aquarium with a small plecostomus.  They are gorgeous fledgelings and I expect they may begin to pair off in the near future.

Fledgelings July 28, 2011

They may get a new roommate.  Boris has become a bully.  I may need to split up him and Medea Luna.  She nips his tail and he bites her pectoral fins.  Boris is a biter.  Look what he did to poor Lefty 2 1/2 years ago.  Adding Medea Luna to this aquarium might not be a good idea.  That might upset a balanced aquarium.  Perhaps one day I should just move her and a new clutch of eggs to the window aquarium.  But what about the plecostomus?  Such decisions.

Boris (left) and Medea Luna and an old Cardinal Tetra

Boris has also gotten considerably larger than Medea Luna.  He has become a bull Cichlid.
The stories of Boris and Medea Luna’s two recent broods will continue tomorrow.
I moved 5 fry from the bathroom nursery aquarium to the new grow out aquarium near the window.  Then I moved 8 more.  I keep trying to catch the biggest fry.

Update:  Next morning
July 29, 2011
I have six more fry acclimating for transfer.  Any doubts I had about the 2 1/2 inch Plecostomus eating the fry seem to be dispelled by this Aquarium Forum posting.  There are so many places to hide in the new grow out aquarium.  I only saw 11 of the 13 fry this morning.

July 30, 2011
I moved 11 more fry today and I noticed one got trapped in the filter intake.  I reduced the filter flow to keep that from happening again.  Since I had moved the largest fry from the nursery aquarium, I decided to move the second batch of fry, just about a week old, into the nursery aquarium with their older siblings.  At around 1 week of age, I tend to have a significant die off of the weakest of the fry, and the same happened today, with the weaklings being picked on by their older siblings.

Update:  August 8, 2011
I know I moved 16 more fry today.  If I did not lose count, I have moved at least 46 fry.  When I moved the younger fry into the nursery aquarium with their older siblings, I had a major die off, probably losing almost the entire second batch.  Boris and Medea Luna laid more eggs the other day and they hatched last night.  They are guarding their new fry and I will give it a few days before removing them.  I would really like to get all the fry out of the nursery aquarium this time.

Update:  August 11, 2011
After the fiasco of losing so many fry by combining generations, I made sure to empty the entire nursery aquarium of fry, transfering them to the growout aquarium this afternoon.  There were at least 33 of the smallest fry, but they are all now too large to be severely compromised by their larger siblings.  Previously, over the past few days, I moved 11 other fry.  That would make close to 90 growing fry in the growout aquarium.  Then I removed the newest wrigglers as Boris and Medea Luna attacked the turkey baster.  I should consider moving the couple back to their original aquarium and then moving the fledgelings into the community aquarium.  Then Boris and Medea Luna will be able to raise a family without fear of predation by the tetras.  That is just a thought.  The wrigglers are now in a small container with aeration that is floating in the nursery aquarium.  The now empty nursery aquarium, except for one large snail, is awaiting their arrival.

Beetle in Vermont
Location: Saxtons River, VT
July 27, 2011 10:34 pm
Hi Daniel,
Wondering if you can identify this beetle? It was on my screen door tonight, in southeast Vermont. It was about 1.5” in length. Thanks!
Signature: K L Thalin

Brown Prionid

Dear K L Thalin,
This beautiful beetle is a Brown Prionid,
Orthosoma brunneum, and it is one of a group known collectively at Root Borers.  If you would like to see more about this stunning creature, you can check out BugGuide.

Location: Mogollon Rim, AZ
July 28, 2011 8:12 am
While camping in Mogollon Rim, AZ in July, we rolled over a log and found these bugs, so the images you’re seeing are upside down. These guys were hardly moving, but there were other slow-moving bugs (the black ones) boring into holes in the log. I’m interested in figuring out what these are and I appreciate your time to help in that effort.
Signature: Jenn

Fungus Beetle Pupae

Hi Jenn,
This is a real puzzle for us,  but we believe we know what you encountered.  These look like the Larvae and Pupae of Lady Beetles, commonly called Lady Bugs.  Here is a photo of the Larvae and Pupae of a Twice Stabbed Lady Beetle from BugGuide, and though the match is not exact, we believe you should be able to note the similarities.  We are going to tag this as a mystery because we cannot figure out why such a large number of Larval Lady Beetles would decide to pupate in such a large aggregation under a log.  That does not seem characteristic of what we would expect.  Perhaps we are wrong and they are not Lady Beetle Larvae and Pupae, but we are relatively certain that they are some other group of Beetles.  We will contact Eric Eaton to see if he can provide an answer.  We also want to continue searching to see if there is any documentation of such an occurrence elsewhere on the internet.  Thank you so much for submitting this puzzling identification request.

Aggregation of Fungus Beetle Larvae and Pupae

Eric Eaton makes a correction
August 1, 2011
The beetle pupae are actually of the fungus beetle Gibbifer californicus.


paper wasps and alien fungal spaceship?
Location: Ocean Beach, CA
July 27, 2011 6:18 pm
JULY 27, 2011
This is the 2nd year our yard is well-populated by old-bamboo-fiber-stripping lawn-level cruising maybe paper-wasps of some sort judging by looks and behavior.
Visually back-tracking them to their apparent home in a 30+ ft high mature date palm a half block away we discovered a very disconcerting structure.
We don’t know if the structure is related to the wasps or not because we can’t get up there (and frankly don’t want to without hazmat gear), but – well, you can see in the images that it’s highly coincidental.
So, omniscient entomologistas: Paper Wasps? European neo-bauhaus nest? Alien fungal growth?
ps: the city vector crew were nonplussed and apathetic, equally.
Signature: mrobertson

Thing with Bees

Hi again mrobertson,
We have already addressed the European Paper Wasp image you supplied, and we can say with assurance that this mysterious “alien fungal growth” is not related to the wasps, however, it does appear to have two insects flying toward it and though it is difficult to make out details, those insects have the same general appearance of Honey Bees.  Honey Bees do have a somewhat distinctive carriage while in flight, and the insects in the photo are consistent with that shape.  There also appears to be another insect that might be a Honey Bee crawling on the “thing”.  While this “thing” looks nothing like a honeycomb, it might somehow be related to a bee hive, but we are not sure how.  Perhaps the tree originally held the nest of a woodpecker, and dripping sap hardened and created the shape under the hole.  Bees might have moved into the vacant hole after the woodpecker left.  We will try to contact Eric Eaton to see if he has any thoughts on this matter.  For now, we will tag this as a mystery.  We have also taken the liberty of creating a composite of the two flying insects so that they appear closer together in the enlarged version than they are in the original photograph.

Honey Bees or UFOs????

Apis and Inherent Omniscience
Dear Daniel,
Thank you for your time and effort.
Re omniscient: Not flattery, but an expression of hope – and thinking more along the lines of “inherent omniscience”, i.e., “the ability to know anything you choose to know that can be known” (various) and hoping that you would find out and choose to tell me as well. However let us not delve into teleological nomenclature but instead hear me admit that – I was afraid those were bees and your observation largely honks hours of patient sleuthing. Dang.
In 25 years here in Ocean Beach my madly ornithological ladyfriend has never seen or heard a woodpecker. We do however know what makes the holes:

What’s That Parrot??

after which they nest in them of course.
Date Palm trunks don’t have sticky sap that would run, nor are their cellulose interiors in any way green or anything but white-ish.
I have read somewhere – LSU ento site? That some indwelling wasps may wet and soften the material of a wood enclosure (such as the studs in your walls or a tree cavity), chew the wood up and force it out of cracks or holes to allow the nest to expand – which may form strange extruded shapes.
But these are bees, right? Maybe they weren’t always bees…
Working at the limit of our prosumer cameras from a neighbors elevated driveway a hundred feet away we got a few more revealing images of the “weird thing”.

“Thing” might be expanding foam (see comments)

I feel the “thing” is associated with the hive – you can see damaged or melted comb cells or something like that. In one still inadequate image you can see what appears to be a bee on the lip of the “thing”. In another, darker image – the mass appears to have the glow of encaustic wax.
I don’t see any significant difference in the structural shape between the March and July images – and we had some serious rain which lends to a theory of water resistance.
I cut the “thing” image out, dragged it into a google image search box  – and that worthy AI returned images of cast busts of heads of Paul Tillich, John Gorton of Australia, an asian deity, assorted meteoric stone – and diving way down  – a Jurassic Termite Nest of sedimentary rock.
Oh well. Someday.
Finally, for the goosebumply thrill of it – an all time horrorshow yellowjacket nest image  – from upper Michigan I believe:
one which makes me reflexively grab for my Epi-Pen.
Curiously yours,
[edit note: Edit, Cut, Paste, Ignore. Download any image you might wish to use or save rather than linking, as things in that dropbox are not permalink. MSU EDU image not mine]

Yellow Jacket Nest in Car (from MSU)

Hi Again mrobertson,
Thanks for the wonderful update.  We believe the image of the Honey Bee on the “Thing” supports our theory that there is a bee hive there.  Perhaps you didn’t notice the comment provided by Aariq who wrote:  “To me it looks almost like someone tried to get rid of the wasps by sealing up their hole with expanding foam, and then they just ate holes through it. That’s awfully high up to go through that sort of effort though.