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Flies

Larvae-seeking Downy Woodpeckers

12-3-11  Larvae-seeking Downy Woodpeckers

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When cooler days arrive and adult insects become relatively scarce, insect-eating birds are very clever at gleaning the twigs, trunks and buds of trees and shrubs for overwintering eggs, larvae and pupae.  Certain galls (abnormal plant growths that house and provide food for a variety of insects) are sought by specific birds.  Downy woodpeckers seek the larvae of the Goldenrod Gall Fly (Eurosta solidaginis), which overwinter inside Goldenrod Ball Galls (formed on Canada Goldenrod, Solidago canadensis) before emerging as adults in the spring.  A tiny1/4” to 3/8”-wide hole (and an empty gall) is evidence that a downy woodpecker had itself a meal!

   


Naturally Curious wins National Outdoor Book Award

I am delighted to be able to tell you that this morning I learned that NATURALLY CURIOUS won the Nature Guidebook category of the 2011 National Outdoor Book Awards.  I’m honored and humbled by this recognition.   http://www.noba-web.org/books11.htm


Netted Stinkhorn

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The way I discovered this netted stinkhorn fungus (Dictyophora duplicata) was the same way flies find it – the odor emanating from it is much like that of a decomposing body.  This odor comes from the spores of the stinkhorn – the  slimy, olive-green matter on the head, or top portion of the fungus.  When mature, the spores have a fetid odor which successfully lures insects to the stinkhorn.  They eventually depart from the fungus, and procede to disperse the spores that stuck to them far and wide.   Although it’s not too discernible in these photographs, netted stinkhorns derive their name from a fishnet-like veil, or skirt, below the head of the fungus.

 


Robber Fly

Robber flies have been covered in a previous posting, but their beak, or proboscis, deserves its own post, in my opinion.  These predators perch and scan the sky for prey. When they see it they  anticipate the prey’s direction and speed of flight and fly out and intercept it mid-air.  Their objective is to paralyze the prey and  liquify its insides so that the fly can drink it.  The tip of the robber fly’s beak is covered with microscopic stiff bristles, designed to secure it within the wound it creates. Once this is achieved, a dagger-like shaft hidden inside the beak is used to stab its victim in the head or thorax and inject the paralyzing  neurotoxic and digestive enzymes.  The resulting fluid is sucked up by the fly’s beak, or proboscis.


Goldenrod Visitors

If you want to get an idea of the number and variety of wasps, bees, beetles and bugs that reside in your area, go to the nearest goldenrod patch sit for a spell – this member of the Aster family is a magnet for insects. You’ll find many foliage- eating bugs and beetles, leaf-mining  larvae, nectar and pollen feeders, and flower and seed-eaters.  In addition, many predatory spiders (jumping and crab, especially) and insects (ambush bugs, ladybug beetles, flower bugs etc.) have discovered that goldenrod  is a goldmine for them, as well. Researchers have found nearly 250 species of insects feeding on one species of goldenrod (Solidago canadensis).   Pictured from left to right are a long-horned beetle (locust borer, Megacyllene robiniae  – pollen eater), a fly (nectar feeder) and bee (nectar and pollen feeder).

 


Robber Flies

Robber flies often perch on the leaves or stems of low plants waiting until suitable prey flies by, and then attack it in the air.  They have long, strong, spiny legs for grabbing prey, and piercing-sucking mouthparts for consuming it.  Robber flies prey on a variety of insects, including bees, beetles, bugs, dragonflies, grasshoppers, flies, leafhoppers and wasps. Once they capture an insect, they pierce it with their short, strong proboscis, or mouthpart, and inject  their saliva into it.  The saliva of robber flies contains enzymes that paralyze the insect and digest its insides, which the robber fly then drinks. The pictured robber fly is feasting on the innards of a stink bug it just captured.