Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Two Interesting Insects

Bugs are cool. Actually, I must be careful about that "bug" term; they are really insects. And I saw a few interesting ones while out and about this weekend. The first is a wicked-looking critter, the Great Black Wasp, Sphex pensylvanicus. I bet you've seen these, too - they are hard to miss at over an inch in length, with shiny irridescent bodies. Rather showy, actually.

Two Great Black Wasps nectaring on Swamp Milkweed, Asclepias incarnata. Although here's a pair, they just happen to be drawn to the same plant. This species is one of the so-called solitary wasps and generally are loners. Like butterflies, they are drawn to palatable nectar such as is produced by milkweeds. another name for them is "katydid-killer". They make subterranean burrows with small chambers at the end, and after stinging and immobilizing a katydid, haul it back to the burrow and drag it within. Presumably eggs are then laid inside the katydid's tissues. Better to keep the host alive and essentially paralyzed, so when the young wasps hatch, the larvae have a fresher meal. Not sure I'd want to come back as a katydid and have that be my fate.

Speaking of katydids, here's one - potential Great Black Wasp prey. I photographed this Greater Angle-wing, Microcentrum rhombifolium, at Bigelow Cemetery, subject of the last blog entry. It is on the foliage of Scurf-pea, Orbexilum onobrychis, which is common in this tiny prairie remnant. In an amazing bit of evolution, these insects have developed a morphology that exactly matches that of a leaf, from overall shape to the venation of the wings, which matches viens on a leaf.

You've heard these. They are common nighttime singers nearly everywhere, making a rapid series of metallic clicks, or sometimes a single rasp. Some are singing outside my window as I type. Go here to hear a Greater Angle-wing.


Anonymous said...

Hey Jim,

Thanks for posting that bug sounds website, thats pretty cool, I'll def. be visiting it often. I too encountered one of these Katydids just the other day, they are pretty dern sweet.

Anonymous said...

NORTHERN MOLE CRICKET!!! Holy crap, that sound has been bugging me forever (well, probably 5-6 years anyway). Thanks so much for the bug sounds link.

Greater Angle-wing's a good one to know, too. Lesser Angle-wing should be in there as well. Lessers can be heard at the Singing Insects of North America website:


I'm half tempted to click every link there to get a checklist for OHIO singing insects.


As always, click the image to enlarge At the onset of last Monday's aquatic expedition (perhaps more on that later) to Rocky Fork ...