Interesting Insects, 05-07-21

I got up around 6:00 this morning and headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve to take advantage of the cooler morning weather. It’s been heating up fast lately.

The showy milkweed by the nature center is growing, but is not in bloom yet. There were lots and lots of Oleander Aphids on them.  The ladybeetles, who along with their kids eat aphids, were present, too.

Convergent Lady Beetle, Hippodamia convergens, and Oleander Aphid, Aphis nerii, on Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa

According to a 2014 article by Mary Louise Flint (who now volunteers at Effie): “[Lady beetles] eat 50 or more aphids a day. The Convergent Lady Beetle, which is the species sold for release, feeds almost entirely on aphids and will not remain on plants with low aphid populations and will not control other garden pests…”

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

The Elegant Clarkia and Goldwire plants are finally in bloom there, and on the Goldwire were lots of tiny Saint John’s Wort Beetles. They’re golden and iridescent and look like little jewels… but they eat the hell out of the Goldwire. When you touch them, the beetles do a “death drop”; they curl up their legs and fall to the ground.

According to an article by Debbie Hadley: “…Predators quickly lose interest in dead prey, so insects that employ the strategy of playing dead (called thanatosis) can often escape unharmed. The act of feigning death often looks like a demonstration of “stop, drop, and roll,” as threatened insects let go of whatever substrate they happen to be clinging to and drop to the ground. They then stay still, waiting for the predator to give up and leave…”

There was a stand of Woolly Sunflowers in one spot close to the river, and on the flowers, I found quite a few different critters. The most interesting was a pair of Swift Crab Spiders. The male was on the back of the petals of the flower and was missing half of his legs. The larger female was on the other side of the petals. I think the male paid a high price for mating with her.

There were a few California Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars going through their later instars among the pipevine in the tall grass. Some of them brandished their “horns” at me.  The horns, which come out of the top if the head are called “osmeteria”. 

Caterpillar of the California Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta, brandishing its osmeteria.

“…The everted organ resembles a fleshy forked tongue (not unlike a snake tongue)… [and emits] a foul, disagreeable odor which serves to repel ants, small spiders, and mantids…”

There were lots of the butterflies hanging around the blooms of the Yerba Santa plants.

An unexpected insect I found today was a long-horned bee napping on the flower of a thistle. These bees are solitary, living alone and not in large well-organized hives. Males sometimes form “sleeping aggregates”, choosing to sleep together on the stems and flowering heads of plants.

Long Horned Bee, Eucera sp.

There were several deer out this morning, including a few males in their velvet. I came across one group of eight deer, and a couple of the does were pregnant. One was VERY pregnant. Does in this preserve usually have their fawns in July, so she has a few more months to go.

I watched a pair of Scrub Jays chase a squirrel out of “their” tree, and also watched a pair of Black Phoebes making visits back and forth to their nest. On one trip, one of the parents brought a cranefly for the kids to eat. On another trip, both parents sat on a raining below the nest — and I got the impression they were trying to call the kids out to take their first fumbling flight. 

Among the birds, though, I think my favorite sighting was the Ash-Throated Flycatchers. They migrate up here from Mexico to breed, so we only get to see them during the brief breeding window.

Looking for galls, I found a lot of the usual suspects on the live oak trees, but wanted to check out the blue oaks, too. I was hoping to find some spring galls that I  hadn’t seen before. By the time I got to my go-to tree in the preserve, it was already warming up outside so I didn’t spend a lot of time in the sun. But I did find some excellent specimens of the galls of the Hair Stalk Gall Wasp. These galls form as a hair-like extension of the leaf’s vein, and have a teardrop shaped capsule at the end in which the wasp larva grows.

A couple of galls of the Hair Stalk Gall Wasp, Andricus pedicellatus [thread gall on blue oak]

Along the river bank I could hear Killdeer, and saw some Canada Geese and female Common Mergansers.

I walked for about 3 hours and headed back home. This was hike #42 of my #52HikeChallenge.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  3. Ash-Throated Flycatcher, Myiarchus cinerascens
  4. Bay Laurel Tree, Laurus nobilis
  5. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  6. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  7. Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii
  8. Bush Katydid, Fork-Tailed Bush Katydid, Scudderia furcata [nymph]
  9. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  10. California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
  11. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  12. California Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
  13. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  14. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  15. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  16. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
  17. Camel Cricket, Gammarotettix bilobatus
  18. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis [flyover]
  19. Cleveland Sage, Salvia clevelandii [purple, circles]
  20. Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  21. Coffeeberry, California Buckthorn, Frangula californica
  22. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  23. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser
  24. Convergent Lady Beetle, Hippodamia convergens
  25. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  26. Cranefly, California Tipula, Tipula californica
  27. Cranefly, Limonia sp.
  28. Cudweed, California Cudweed, Pseudognaphalium californicum
  29. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  30. Elegant Clarkia, Clarkia unguiculata [red line on leaves]
  31. Foothill Penstemon, Penstemon heterophyllus
  32. Fruit-Tree Leafroller Moth, Archips argyrospila
  33. Goldwire, Hypericum concinnum
  34. Green Leafhopper, Nephotettix virescens
  35. Hair Stalk Gall Wasp, Andricus pedicellatus [thread gall on blue oak]
  36. Harvester Ant, Red, Pogonomyrmex barbatus
  37. Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus bifrons [white flowers]
  38. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
  39. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  40. Italian Thistle, Carduus pycnocephalus
  41. Live Oak Erineum Mite Gall, Aceria mackiei
  42. Live Oak Gall Wasp, Spring Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis [looks like a soft funnel, green to brown]
  43. Long Horned Bee, Eucera sp.
  44. Lupine, Chick Lupine, Lupinus microcarpus
  45. Marginal Leaf Fold Gall Midge, Macrodiplosis erubescens [on margins of leaves of red oaks]
  46. Nodding Thistle Receptacle Weevil, Rhinocyllus conicus
  47. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  48. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  49. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  50. Oleander Aphid, Aphis nerii
  51. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  52. Prickly Sowthistle, Pigweed, Sonchus asper
  53. Rose Clover, Trifolium hirtum
  54. Sachem Skipper, Atalopedes campestris
  55. Saint John’s Wort Beetle, Chrysolina hypericin [metallic gold, blue or copper]
  56. Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa
  57. Spicebush, Common Sugarbush, Protea repens
  58. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus [heard]
  59. Spurge, Petty Spurge, Euphorbia peplus
  60. Sunflower, Common Sunflower, Helianthus annuus
  61. Sunflower, Common Woolly Sunflower, Eriophyllum lanatum
  62. Swift Crab Spider, Mecaphesa celer
  63. Tapered Stem Gall Wasp, Protobalandricus spectabilis [live oak]
  64. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  65. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  66. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  67. Varied Carpet Beetle, Anthrenus verbasci
  68. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
  69. White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia
  70. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare
  71. Yellow Water Iris, Yellow Flag, Iris pseudacorus [invasive]
  72. Yerba Santa, California Yerba Santa, Eriodictyon californicum
  73. ?? spider egg case with black flecks