Reddish Tortoise Beetles

February 13th, 2011 - 11:19 AM | Filed under Featured Photos | 4 Comments

4mm | January 17, 2011 | Cahuita National Park, Limon Province, Costa Rica

There were quite a few of these reddish tortoise beetles feeding on this banana plant.

Banana plant

They feed on the large leaves, scarring them in a distinctive way.

Sign from feeding

Here you can see one munching its way forward, carefully feeding only between the leaf veins.

Machinelike feeding precision

Did you notice the little hitchhiker above? Looks like some sort of parasitic wasp to me. I suspect this is probably a female beetle, and the wasp is just hanging out until she lays eggs, which the wasp will then parasitize. Here’s a closer look.

Parasitic wasp closeup

They’d often fly away from me once I started taking pictures, but it was no trouble to find another one.

Another individual

I like their furry little feet.

Portrait

Update: Marshall’s 500 Insects has a photo of a similar looking tortoise beetle, identified as a Spaethiella species.

500 Insects:
A Visual Reference

by Stephen A. Marshall

Velvet Ant

November 7th, 2010 - 1:57 PM | Filed under Featured Photos | 2 Comments

January 27, 2010 | Caraça Natural Park, Minas Gerais, Brazil

I like finding velvet ants, but boy are they tough to photograph in the field. They don’t stand still unless they’re hidden. This crop is the best I could do for this one. I saw one other one like this.

Pelecinid Wasp

November 1st, 2010 - 6:31 PM | Filed under Easter Eggs, Featured Photos | 1 Comment

January 28, 2010 | Caraça Natural Park, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Wasps in the family Pelecinidae are distinctive and easily recognized by that long thin abdomen. I’ve see them closer to home as well, but I can’t recall if I’ve ever gotten a decent photo. I do remember chasing after quite a few in vain or watching as one teased me from someplace just out of reach. I got lucky with this one.

What I thought was a red marking turns out to be a small mite.

There’s only one genus, Pelecinus, for this family. There appears to be at least two described species in the tropics.

That long abdomen is used for ovipositing in the soil. Females probe for and oviposit on scarab beetle larvae.

Reference: Wikipedia

Unexplained Beetle Behavior

October 30th, 2010 - 9:36 AM | Filed under Featured Photos | 1 Comment

January 27, 2010

Caraça Natural Park, Minas Gerais, Brazil

This beetle looks like a buprestid to me. The interesting thing is that it’s splitting this leaf lengthwise. In the second photo, you can see where the cut starts in the upper right. That would seem like an odd way to eat, so I suspect there’s some other purpose. Is anyone familiar with this behavior?

There’s also what appears to be a small wasp hanging out on the elytra.

Paper Wasps and Parasitoids

September 27th, 2010 - 9:44 PM | Filed under Easter Eggs, Featured Photos | No comments

January 26, 2010 | Caraça Natural Park, Minas Gerais, Brazil

When I spotted these paper wasps alongside the trail, I only halfheartedly took a few shots. Mostly, I just didn’t think I’d be able to get an attractive photo out of it. So when I was reviewing my shots, I just about deleted all of them, including this one.

At the last second though, I noticed something unusual in the photo. I call these sorts of discoveries where I notice something in the photo that I didn’t realize was there when I took it “easter eggs.” It happens often enough that I just decided to add a new category for that here on my blog.

Back to the photo though. What caught my eye are the little black things in a few of the cells near the top center of the nest. Zooming in, you see this.

Closeup of cells with eggs and parasitoids

I assume those are some sort of parasitoid flies or wasps. You can see a few paper wasp eggs at the top. I’m not quite sure what to make of the contents of the cells with the adult parasites. There’s an extra little white blob with the one on the right. Could that be the parasitoid larva? If so, why would there be an adult in the cell with it? Seems too big to be a parasitoid egg. And what are the pinkish blobs with the adult on the left and in the lower right? Are those the parasitoid larvae or is that what the paper wasp larva look like at that stage?

As usual, I have many more questions than answers. I’d love for someone to help fill me in if they know what’s going on here.

This has definitely fueled my curiosity though. I’m likely to brave some stings and try to get some closer and better focused shots of nest cell contents on future encounters.

Parasitic Wasp Stalking Tumbling Flower Beetle

July 3rd, 2010 - 2:08 PM | Filed under Featured Photos | No comments

June 14, 2009 | Twelvestones, Roswell, GA, USA

As usual, I was working in the yard when I got distracted by some sort of dramatic natural scene. This time, I noticed that some magnolia blooms were literally crawling with tumbling flower beetles. Mostly, there was a lot of mating going on amongst the beetles. Then I noticed this little wasp that kept approaching various beetles, usually resulting in the beetle running off. Finally, she found one that was less wary. Above the wasp is closing in. Below, it appears she eventually made contact.

Contact