Crown wasp

Crown wasp (Stephanidae: Megischus bicolor)

This wasp, Megischus bicolor, parasitizes wood-boring beetle larvae by injecting eggs with her impressive ovipositor. This family of wasps, Stephanidae, is infrequently encountered but this particular species can be found throughout the eastern US, Mexico, and Central America. At first glance they can be easily mistaken for the more common Ichneumonids, but can be distinguished by their elongated neck and the ring of bumps on their head that gives them their common name.

Graphocephala coccinea

Known as the red-striped leafhopper or the candy-striped leafhopper, these colourful creatures are common garden pests. They are also kind of adorable. I noticed a handful of them in the garden outside the place I’m renting in Salt Lake City, and having never seen them before, snapped some photos for later identification. Turns out that they’re responsible for spreading Pierce’s disease.

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Flying Predatory Insect Attack!

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Spoiler alert: That insect in the featured image meets a bitter end.

I was camping in New Mexico in the Manzano mountains on my way up to Utah, and found the campsite to have plenty of interesting insect life around. I was attempting to get a photo of this specimen (queen Camponotus?) as it walked around, but it eventually took flight. This may have been a bad choice.

eatenbug2 Continue Reading

Parasitic Fungus in Bullet Ants

Bullet Ant with Cordyceps Fungus -- Public Domain image by James Marchment via Insects Unlocked

This specimen, collected by J.C. Abbott in the Refugio Bartola of Nicaragua, shows a bullet ant (Paraponera clavata) in the later stages of Ophiocordyceps infection. Members of this genus of parasitic fungi, thought until 2007 to be part of the genus Cordyceps, are frequently referred to as the “zombie fungus” for their unique and gruesome life cycles. Continue Reading

Gladiators

My apartment is home to several Pantropical jumping spiders (Plexippus paykulli). I think these guys are adorable, but the new tenant might disagree, so I’m ushering them outside before I move out. After catching this one in a glass, I went to get my camera, and found an ant (Solenopsis invicta?) crawling around in my camera bag, so I threw it in with the spider to see if some nature would happen. Neither of them seemed particularly interested in the other. The ant got tangled up in the spider’s tether line a few times, but I don’t think that was intentional. I tried to get some dramatic photos.

Spider and ant face-offFire ant (Solenopsis invicta)

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Ants in Action

I came across these ants just outside my apartment, so I ran off and grabbed my camera bag. These shots are coming from a Nikon D3200, three of them with a 55mm kit lens + a cheap macro screw-on attachment, and the fourth with a 200mm telephoto and the same cheap macro. The telephoto shots came out quite cloudy — I’m not sure if the lens itself isn’t great, or if it just doesn’t cooperate with the macro attachment, but it took a lot of postprocessing to salvage one shot. Really makes me appreciate the incredible quality of the imaging system in the lab.

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Unidentified Moth

Big Brown Moth

Huge MothSpeaking of moths at today’s meeting, here’s a photo I took of the largest moth I’ve ever seen (although I haven’t seen nearly as many moths as most of you, I’m sure). Its abdomen was as thick as my thumb. It was relaxing on the bark of a tree beside my apartment’s swimming pool, where it did a fabulous job camouflaging itself, and was polite enough to wait while I ran off to grab my camera and a flashlight.