Rail-bed bugs

Small carpenter bee - Ceratina sp., subgenus Zadontomerus

As is to be expected in just about any habitat, but especially open, sunny ones, there were lots of insects of varying types along the rail tracks. I decided to sit in front of a small patch of garlic mustard (good for something, at least) to try to snap a few photos of the creatures coming in to the flowers. It was while I was sitting here that I spotted the redstart and Yellow Warblers of yesterday. I got a few photos of them, but not of the little guys at the flowers. There was very little variety at the garlic mustard, it turned out once I sat and looked closely. In fact, the above was the most abundant insect along the tracks, and all I saw at the garlic mustard flowers. I snapped this photo just a short distance down the tracks, at some coltsfoot growing at the edge of the railbed. This is a small carpenter bee, of the genus Ceratina. Species for most insects can be very difficult to pin down, and this is no exception, however it belongs to the sub-genus Zadontomerus. These bees are solitary, making their nests in dead wood or stems. They’re pretty similar to the similarly sized and patterned sweat bees, except that the small carpenter bees have long tongues, as seen here.

Mining bee - Andrena sp.

Another bee I spotted along the tracks was this small mining bee. Mining bees are also usually solitary, and find or dig burrows in the ground. This one was scoping out potential nest sites, checking cavities between and under pebbles. She didn’t seem to find anything to her liking while I was watching. Female bees will collect up pollen and nectar into balls that they place in the burrows as a food source for the larvae. They lay an egg on each ball prior to sealing the burrow. Bees come out in the spring once the temperature reaches about 20 C (68 F), even sometimes while there’s some snow still on the ground, and are fairly common during this season.


While I was watching the bees, I felt something land on my head and start crawling around in my hair. Thinking it might be one of the little bees, I gingerly shook it out of my hair, and it landed on a leaf on the ground. Turned out to be a little metallic-green beetle. I tried looking this one up, but couldn’t narrow it down past leaf beetles, family Chrysomelidae. There are a number of metallic beetles in this family, but none of them seemed quite the right shape. One fairly common (and introduced) species looked like an almost match except the back is pitted, and it’s not on my little beetle. So it remains a mystery, for the time being.

Leafhopper - Neokolla hieroglyphica

This final bug is a leafhopper. This is the only one of the four that I managed to determine a species name for. This is Neokolla hieroglyphica – the hieroglyph reference coming from the interesting markings on the insect’s face. The species appears to be somewhat variable in colour, and when I spotted it it actually looked more blue than the orangey it appears here in the photo. It was just sitting on a leaf on the garlic mustard plants I was trying to get photos of the small carpenter bees from. Female leafhoppers lay their eggs in the stems of various plants. I found a journal article documenting the way this species uses goldenrod, and another page that collected the species from a crop field (though it’s possible they were attracted to goldenrod in the crop field or something). There would certainly be a lot of goldenrod along the tracks.

Other insects spotted included Cabbage White butterfly (always on the move, and so very difficult to get a photo of), quite a number of flies, and one of my favourite beetles, the star of tomorrow’s post.


Author: Seabrooke

Author of Peterson Field Guide to Moths. #WriteOnCon Mastermind. Writer of action/thriller SF/F YA. Story junkie. Nature nut. Tea addict. Mother. Finding happiness in the little things. Twitter: @SeabrookeN / @SeabrookeLeckie

2 thoughts on “Rail-bed bugs”

  1. Thanks, Tom. It’s been great fun to play with.
    I wonder if it’s the @ in your name that WordPress filters as spam? All your comments go there, and I’m constantly pulling them out of my junk bin (despite that it’s supposed to learn when you mark it as not spam).

Leave a Reply to themarvelousinnature Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: