Red Widow with Egg Sac

September 25th, 2012 - 8:59 PM | Filed under Featured Photos | No comments

~15mm long | August 21, 2012 | Tiger Creek Preserve, Babson Park, Fl, USA

While on my way to BugShot 2012, I spent several days exploring parks along the way. My favorite spot was the Nature Conservancy’s Tiger Creek Preserve for the variety of habitats its trails pass through.

Here, I was curious about some some palmetto leaves that had been sealed up. Peeling a layer of leaves away, I found a red widow guarding her egg sac.

Stingless Bees

November 21st, 2011 - 10:27 AM | Filed under Easter Eggs, Featured Photos | No comments

10mm wide entrance | July 6, 2011 | Victorio Siqueroli Park, Uberlandia, Minas Gerais, Brazil

These stingless bees have made their nest inside a termite mound. Earlier in the day, the bees weren’t clustered around the entrance like they are here. Instead they were simply flying in and out occasionally. This was taken late in the day though, and I suspect they are preparing to seal the entrance for the night. In the photo below, you get a better sense of how the nest is situated in the termite mound.

Though these bees are stingless, they aren’t defenseless. Do you see the clump of resin in the upper left? Looks like an ant has been encased there. I wonder if the bees perhaps mobbed it and secreted all that resin.

Nest in termite mound

One of the common names for these bees in Brazil is torce-cabelo, which means hair-twister. I once got a little too close to a nest for the bees’ comfort. In return they made me quite uncomfortable. At first I didn’t realize what was happening. Suddenly they were crawling all over me, getting tangled up in the hair on my head, my arms, and anywhere they could grab hold. Having experienced that, I’m not likely to forget their common name.

Crooked Jaw Termites

August 28th, 2011 - 12:41 PM | Filed under Featured Photos | 4 Comments

5-10mm | July 3, 2011 | Tupaciguara, Minas Gerais, Brazil

As promised in my last post, here are some termites where the soldiers are much larger than the workers. Large is relative though, since although they are twice the size of the workers, these soldiers still only measure one centimeter.

Soldiers are twice the size of workers

Based on Hogue’s Latin American Insects and subsequent web searches, I believe these are termites in the genus Neocapritermes, which he refers to in an illustration as crooked jaw termites. The name certainly fits. My first thoughts after seeing one of these soldiers was that it was deformed.

Soldiers have crooked jaws

After seeing a few more, my thoughts turned to wondering what purpose those jaws might serve. I thought they kind of looked like bulldozers, and that perhaps they’d just push and perhaps flip away intruders.

Another soldier

The size of the head suggested there were large muscles powering the jaws though, so I wasn’t quite convinced of that.

Large head for strong jaw muscles

Here’s a closer look at the mouthparts.

Mandibles and palps

Even the workers are interesting with their transparent bodies.

Worker with transparent body

You can see their digestive track and perhaps some other organs.

Group of workers

So what exactly are the jaws used for? See for yourself in this video, as a soldier rather effortlessly flicks away an ant. The action is around the 20 second mark.

Reference:

Latin American Insects and Entomology
by Charles L. Hogue

Only Termites Shall Pass

July 16th, 2011 - 7:22 PM | Filed under Featured Photos | No comments

July 9, 2011 | Tupaciguara, Minas Gerais, Brazil

A phalanx of termite soldiers forms a first line of defense in front of foraging workers (not shown). I accidentally breathed on them shortly after this shot and they all quickly retreated.