Readers’ wildlife photos

September 16, 2014 • 5:34 am

Reader “largeswope” sent two photos:

The two attached pictures were taken in my garden. I live in Longmont, Colorado. The first is a Monarch Butterfly, (Danaus plexippus) enjoying a Butterfly Bush (Buddleja davidii). The second is an Italian Honey Bee (Apis mellifera ligustica)  on a coneflower (Echinacea). She got employee of the day from my beehive for that amount of pollen collection!  Both were taken by my iPhone 5.

Two wonderful species who are facing many challenges.

photo 1

Look at the pollen on that bee!

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Nature red in tooth and claw from reader Jacques Hausser, who sent a series called “The feast of the scorpion fly”:

The male scorpionfly looks rather threatening with its impressive scorpion tail… which is actually an innocuous pair of claspers they use to hold the female during pairing.

Scorpionflies eat mostly dead or dying insects. In the first two pictures, their meals are true flies (Diptera, don’t ask me the species names) attacked by the terrific parasitic fungus Entomophthora muscae (or its ilk). Entomophthora compels the unfortunate contaminated fly to land on a plant, cling on it and stay there, its innards progressively digested by the fungus. Death occurs after about one week. Ultimately the fungus grows conidies (fruiting bodies) out of the corpse and disperses its spores around. Meanwhile, the fly is a good meal for scorpion flies, which are not Diptera but Mecoptera and are immune to the fungus.

Male Panorpa vulgaris eating a dead fly. You can distinguish the fungus conidies on the remains of the abdomen.

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Female Panorpa vulgaris savoring a different species of fly, but with the same fungal filling.

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Another species,  another menu: male Panorpa germanica sipping the protective foam nest excreted by larvae of Philaenus spumarius (a froghopper; their larvae are known as spittlebugs).

Panorpa_germanica

Brian Peer, who studies birds that parasitize the nests of other birds (“brood parasitism”), sent a bunch of cool egg photos that I’ll post later, but for those of you who like all things warm and furry, I thought I’d add some mammal photos he took:

Here’s a Brown Thrasher [Toxostoma rufum] nest I was monitoring in Iowa. You never know what you’ll find in a nest, and in this case I was shocked to see a young opossum [Didelphis virginiana] resting on top of the nest!

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12 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. That possum is cute!

    I really enjoy the readers’ photos. Many thanks to all the photographers and to you for posting them.

  2. A fungus parasitic on flies? A scorpionfly that typically eats flies weakened in this way?
    Oh, mysterious are the ways …

  3. Excellent pics! I was always happy seeing scorpionflies in the forests near our house when I was growing up. I did not know they often ate immune-compromised flied.

    What is that red and blue thing sticking out of the ‘possums ear? I am also wondering what it is saying, after being spotted on a nest by paparazzi?

  4. Scorpion flies are awesome! We have a possum that thinks it is a member of our stray cat colony. Every now and again it wanders inside. It is pretty timid and the cats don’t usually pay it much attention.

  5. Thanks for the great photos.
    How can that bee even see? Holy crap, don’t think I’ve seen a bee so saturated with pollen.

    Don’t think I’ve ever seen a scorpion fly either. Thanks for the detailed information. What a way to make a livin’.

    I also like how possums are so mellow…they seem to meander around without a care in the world. Though I believe this behavior (and the fact they are nocturnal) contributes to them often becoming car fodder.

    1. That is the most pollen I have seen on a bee as well.

      “Holy Pollen, Batman! We need to crunch him down for some extra protein!” Robin

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