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Abandoned Hornet Nest over the Chattahoochee River in Fall

October 13, 2012 | Roswell, GA, USA

In Fall, bald-faced hornets enter the autumn of their lives. Surviving adults, no longer responsible for providing masticated prey for the colony’s growing young, enter into a retirement of sorts. They abandon their nest and spend their last days, up until the first frost, feeding on nectar. Only mated queens survive to found new colonies the following year.

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Leafrolling Mystery Caterpillar

20mm | April 5, 2012 | Twelvestones, Roswell, GA, USA

Earlier this month I was checking for anything interesting in my backyard when I came across this caterpillar in a rolled up leaf on viburnum. I decided to try and rear it to get an identification.

It turns out it was a final instar because it pupated beneath its leaf within a week, sometime around the 9th.

Pupa within leaf shelter

I removed the pupa from its webbing for some cleaner shots.

11mm | Underside of pupa

Dorsolateral view

I checked daily for the adult, but sadly it eclosed while I was away on vacation, sometime around the 20th give or take a few days. When I got back I found a dead and beat up adult. I prefer live images of a fresh adult that I can release later, but I’ll take what I can get here I guess. read more

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Stingless Bees

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. read more

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Termites at Work

July 9, 2011 | Tupaciguara, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Just after dark, termites started emerging from below ground. Here they appear to be excavating. The darker soil has been brought up from below by workers while guards form a defensive perimeter.

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Marimbondo-chapéu – Hat Wasp

July 9, 2011 | Tupaciguara, Minas Gerais, Brazil

The local common name for these social wasps is marimbondo-chapéu in Portuguese or hat wasp in English. The name refers to the form of the nest, seen above.

Seen from below, I’d say it looks more like a sunflower. They are really packed in there. I’d estimate there are probably a couple of hundred of them.


Here’s another crop that I like of that same image.

A different crop

You’ve probably noticed by now these images were taken during the day. So what are all of them doing hanging out on the nest? Taking a siesta? I wondered the same thing. I spent around 45 minutes taking pictures and attempting to gauge just how closely I could approach without alarming them. During that whole time, not a single one flew off or arrived. read more

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Stingless Bee Nest

January 20, 2011 | Armonia Nature Preserve, Limon Province, Costa Rica

This stingless bee nest was nestled in the hollow of a tree. The nest entrance is only about a centimeter wide, making the bees themselves only 5 or 6mm long.

As their common name suggests, these bees have no sting to defend themselves. Knowing that, I got quite close. Harmless though they may be, they certainly look mean.

Looking mean

New arrival below

In that last photo, you can see a new arrival hanging below the nest, with pollen visible in the basket on its hind tibia.

According to Hogue, there are three genera of stingless bees. Lestrimelitta can be eliminated here because it doesn’t have a pollen basket. Of the other two, Melipona is larger, hairier and the wings don’t extend beyond the tip of the abdomen as they do here. These must then be a Trigona species. read more

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Apterostigma collare

4mm | January 19, 2011 | Armonia Nature Preserve, Limon Province, Costa Rica

I spotted the structure below on the underside of a large leaf. I really didn’t know what it was, and I gently poked at it. It was quite fragile as it turns out, and it fell open to reveal an ant nest. I then immediately regretted not having taken a photo beforehand. The next day I was lucky enough to find another one, also pictured.

6cm x 4cm | Unexpected ant nest

4cm x 2cm | Nest with an ant entering

These nests are the work of an ant in the genus Apterostigma. Ants of Costa Rica has an info page for this genus in Costa Rica. I tried to use the key there to identify these, but it was a bit technical for me. I’m basing the species identification on the statements from the site that seem to indicate that only Apterostigma collare builds these nests under leaves. There are some more photos of nests at that same site. read more

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10mm | January 18, 2011 | Gandoca-Manzanillo NWR, Limon Province, Costa Rica

I don’t think I’ve ever photographed webspinners before, so this represents another first from my most recent trip to Costa Rica. That’s notable to me because they have an order all to themselves, Embioptera.

As I walked the coastal trail leaving Manzanillo, I noticed many trees with webbing on their trunks. I stopped to look at a few, but I didn’t see any movement. I suspected webspinners were responsible, but it was only later when I decided to probe one of the webs that the webspinner above emerged. It didn’t seem very happy with the situation, and moved quickly to try and take refuge within the web again. Eventually it chewed a hole through which it disappeared. read more

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Large Wasp Nest

January 17, 2011 | Cahuita National Park, Limon Province, Costa Rica

I spotted this wasp nest way up in the canopy. I like how it’s open-ended at the bottom, exposing the comb inside.

It’s amazing to me the variety of forms that tropical wasp nests take. One day I’d like to do a compilation of all the ones I’ve photographed over the years.

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Leafcutter Ants Nesting Above Ground

January 17, 2011

Cahuita NP, Limon Province, Costa Rica

I was watching some leafcutter ants and I noticed they disappeared inside the trunk of this tree palm(?). I thought perhaps they were just passing through, but another trail ended on the other side.

In the second photo you can see some leaves being carried along one of those stems. One of the nest entrances is about one third from the left and one third from the bottom.

I thought that leafcutter ants always had underground nests. Perhaps that’s the case here as well, with the majority of the nest still being underground. It’s a swampy area though, and the area behind the tree was submerged. It makes me wonder how leafcutter ants nest in areas that are often inundated with water. read more

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