Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Some Insects

Over the past three weeks or so I've been exploring the forests to get an assortment of insects together for a post. I've got a decent amount, so here we are!

 Pale Green Assassin Bug, Zelus luridus
First up we have a Pale Green Assassin Bug, Zelus luridus. This, as the name implies, is a species of assassin bug. This species is actually the most common species in the Zelus genus, which are assassins bugs characterized by their use of a sticky liquid excreted from their legs to trap bugs to eat. Basically, one of these Pale Green Assassin Bugs will smear this sticky liquid all over its legs, and when it lunges at another bug that bug will be stuck to the Pale Green Assassin Bug's legs, which then allows the assassin bug to easily finish off the prey. In Ohio, this is the most common Zelus species.

Eyed Click Beetle, Alaus oculatus
Next up is the Eyed Click Beetle, Alaus oculatus. The two black eyespots with the white borders are the "eyes" the name speaks of. Why the "click" though? Well, they click, as you might guess. When this beetle needs to get away from a predator, it will click a spine into a notch which makes the beetle pop with an audible click into the air. This startling jump will hopefully confuse the predator long enough for the beetle to get away. When I found this guy, I picked him up to move him to a better location for photos and he "clicked" in my hand. I knew these guys did this, but when one actually does it startles you.

Six-Spotted Tiger Beetle, Cicindela sexguttata
Next is my all-time favorite beetle, the Six-Spotted Tiger Beetle, Cicindela sexguttata. If you've ever hiked a forested trail in early Summer, you've probably caught a glimpse of a bright green, and fast, bug either running or flying away from you. That would be a Six-Spotted Tiger Beetle. They are about 1/2 inch long and have six white spots around the abdomen. Good luck getting a close look though; these guys are skittish and you have to either get a relaxed one or carefully sneak up on one. The photo above took me about 3 minutes to get as I slowly crept up behind him with a 200 mm lens. While this species has large mandibles that are used to catch and kill prey, they do not pose any danger to humans unless handled. However, good luck even getting one in hand.

Now we come to a strange insect, the Scorpionfly. I'm not exactly sure which species this individual is, but it belongs to the genus Panorpa. Actually, even entomologists aren't sure which individuals are which species, or which species is which species. This genus, according to a 2012 paper, needs to be completely revised. Genetic work needs to be done to see how many species there actually are, because right now some of the recognized species actually need to be combined. Regardless, Scorpionflies are a strange looking insect. Their name comes from the male's peculiar abdomen which curves up like a scorpion (the one pictured is a female and lacks the curved abdomen). Just to note, they can't actually sting you like a scorpion. You can find these guys in forests during the summer. Look at vegetation close to the ground; many times you will see them sitting on leaves.

 Golden-Backed Snipe Fly, Chrysopilus thoracicus
Next we have a fly that's already been covered on this blog (click here for the post), but I like them so much I can't help but share one again. This is a Golden-Backed Snipe Fly, Chrysopilus thoracicus. This species is a woodland species and can be found flying around deciduous forests typically from May to June. This individual was found at AW Marion State Park in Pickaway County, where many of this species was flying about.

Heliria cristata
This unusual looking insect is Heliria cristata. As far as I know, there is no species-specific common name. H. Cristata is a species of treehopper, also known as thorn bugs. They're related to leafhoppers and cicadas, as you might guess from looking at one. They are characterized by having a large pronotum, which is the upper surface of the first segment of the thorax. This pronotum many times looks similar to a thorn, hence the name thorn bug, and aids in camouflage. As you can see by the picture above, the pronotum does not always look like a thorn and can sometimes just be in a very strange shape. Unlike leafhoppers, which most times are found on leaves and on grass, treehoppers are normally found on the wood of trees where they pierce the tree and drink the sap.

Uhler's Wood Cockroach, Parcoblatta uhleriana
And finally we have Uhler's Wood Cockroach, Parcoblatta uhleriana. There are twelve species of Wood Cockroach in North America, all of which are native. Many times when someone says the name "cockroach," people think about the pests that can take over houses. Wood Cockroaches are very different, however. These species are found in forests throughout the US and rarely enter homes. If one does find its way inside a house, it was by accident and not intent. Once inside the house they will quickly succumb to the dry environment and die as a result. You can find these guys in their natural habitat in moist forests, many times in hollow trees, in wood piles, and under loose bark.

Are you an insect person? Insects are misunderstood and hated creatures here, but there really isn't a reason for them to be. Most are absolutely harmless, many beneficial, and only a few are harmful or detrimental. People are taught at a young age that "bugs" are scary and should be avoided, but with the prevalence of insects in the world that's nearly impossible. People should be educated about insects and I feel like that would result in people being more accepting of them. People fear what they aren't familiar with, and the remedy for this is fear is knowledge. So if you're one of the people that fears "creepy crawlies," try to learn more about them; it might lessen that fear and maybe even spark a new interest.

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