Small-scale biodiversity

sun25

At Maplewood Bog, in the clearing where we have our banding station set up, there is a large patch of bright yellow wildflowers. I think these are Woodland Sunflowers, Helianthus strumosus, a relative of the common giant sunflowers often planted in gardens or as crops for their seeds, although there are a few members of the genus Helianthus that look similar. They are lovely, bright, cheerful flowers that add quite a bit of colour to the meadows and hillsides in the region. In most areas I just see them in small patches, but at Maplewood, and more specifically at the banding spot, they cover a broad expanse of the grassy clearing.

sun5

In between my net checks (we alternate, I do one then Dan does the next, which gives us time to band any birds we collect or have a snack if we need), I’ve taken to poking around the meadow to see what’s new. A couple of visits ago I found this spider tucked in one of the flowers. I’m still not sure of the species, although it appeared to be a male because of the large appendages out front (pedipalps, used in mating). There was another on a nearby flower. Intrigued, I started checking other flowers to see if I could find more of the spiders. I didn’t, but I turned up some other interesting critters.

sun1
Dogbane Beetle, Chrysochus auratus

I decided to see just how many species of invertebrate I could find on the sunflowers, either using the plants for food or simply as substrate for resting. Here’s a collection of most of the other stuff I found during our last two visits (I missed a few species that were too quick for the camera). I haven’t identified many of the species, because there were a lot of them, but have included IDs for a few.

There’s a lot more happening out there than you might first suspect! Take a moment to slow down and look more closely, you might be surprised at what you find.

sun2
Wasp mimic flower fly, poss. Sphaerophoria sp.

sun3
Tarnished Plant Bug, Lygus lineolaris

sun4
meadowhawk sp.

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Tumbling Flower Beetle, poss. Mordella sp.
sun7
ladybug nymph?
sun8
sweat bee, poss. Augochlora or Augochlorella

sun9
poss. katydid nymph

sun10
micromoth

sun11
spider

sun18
unknown caterpillars

sun12
long-horned bee, poss. Melissodes sp.

sun13
Red-blue Checkered Beetle, Trichodes nutalli
sun17
spittlebug spittle

sun16
a fly. yup.

sun19
leafhopper
sun20
Bee mimic flower fly, Eristalis transversa

sun15
Horse fly, poss. Tabanus sp.

sun21
unknown caterpillar

sun23
Very poor photo of a bumblebee
sun24
Deerfly sp., at rest.
sun26
skipper sp., poss. Dun Skipper, Euphyes vestris

sun27
Longhorned beetle, poss. Graphisurus fasciatus
sun28
Pearl Crescent, Phyciodes tharos

sun29
aphids

sun30
Sedge Sprite, Nehalennia irene, and Tarnished Plant Bug, Lygus lineolaris

sun22
unknown caterpillar

sun32
A common colour pattern in beetles; poss. Asclera sp.?

sun33
micromoth, poss. Eucosma sp.

sun34
katydid nymphs?

sun35
harvestman
sun31
Bluet, poss. Northern Bluet, Enallagma cyathigerum

sun36
Baby spiderlings, maybe harvestmen youngsters? Were near adult, above.

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Author: Seabrooke

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

11 thoughts on “Small-scale biodiversity”

  1. That’s an amazing set of photographs!

    It’s a little bit of laziness, but mostly frustration at inadequate insect field guides, but I couldn’t begin to identify so many species. It’s wonderful to see (almost) all of their names.

    Also, I’m a sucker for spiderlings. :o)

    1. Thanks, Jain! The best field for insects is by far and away the Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America, by Eric Eaton and Kenn Kaufman. I use this for nearly all my insect identification, and even if it doesn’t have the exact species I’m looking at, it usually has a representative of the genus. If I want to confirm a likely candidate, or look up possible sister species, I usually go to BugGuide.net, which is a fabulous online resource for insects and other invertebrates – it includes a section where you can submit your own photos for expert identification.

      1. Thanks for the tips! I haven’t purchased a guide in many years so wasn’t familiar with the Kaufman Guide – I’ll get it. I’ve popped into BugGuide.net from time to time, but this time, I actually bookmarked it!

        I went through a period where I had to identify everything, sometimes succeeded, sometimes frustrated, then I got complacent about the whole thing, I guess. It’s time to get excited again.

  2. Way cool. I really liked the composition in the aphid, spider and N. Bluet photos. I’m surprised you didn’t find a crab spider. I have been finding some of them lately in my black eyed susans. Isn’t nature grand!

  3. The first time I found a sweat bee I had trouble identifying it because I assumed it was a fly, like all the other bee-like creatures I had been looking at. This summer I have been amazed at the diversity that one can find in a small garden, and even on the same plant.

  4. What a great collection of photos! I’ve become fascinated with insects and other invertebrates in this last year. I was just on a birding field trip today (I know, middle of the summer!), and found myself looking down more than up.

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