Readers’ wildlife photographs

November 28, 2015 • 7:34 am

We have birds and arthropods today, the latter from reader Mark Sturtevant:

A female crane fly (Tipula sp.), [I am reasonably sure of the genus but there are tons of species that look pretty much like this]. This large insect was so heavily gravid with eggs that it could barely fly. She had a long way to go to lay eggs in water, as the nearest such supply was over a half mile away.

1 Crane fly

I love the green eyes of this species of Square headed wasp (possibly Tachytescrassus). If so, then this species burrows in the ground and provisions it with paralyzed grasshoppers.

2 Square headed wasp

A Slaty Skimmer dragonfly, with the mysterious name: Libellula incesta. Probably a story in there somewhere.


Hatching Leaf-footed bugs (Leptoglossussp.). The egg shells were iridescent gold. Leaf-footed bugs have a defensive smell and taste, and I suppose that explains the aposematic coloration of these youngsters. Their synchronized hatching may provide them with a degree of group protection. These common insects will gradually expand their hind tibia into expanded ‘leaves’ from which they are named. I am not sure of the use of that structure, but since they are generally camouflaged by then perhaps it adds to that effect.

4.Hatching Leaf footed bugs

JAC: To show the adult, I’ve added a picture of the Florida leaf-footed bug [Leptoglossus phyllopus] from Backyard Beasts:


Reader John Harshman supplemented our Thanksgiving photo of the ocellated turkey with some other photos, including the gross-looking caruncles (what function do they serve?):

Here are some ocellated turkey photos [Meleagris ocellata], all taken at Chan Chich in Belize, where they are dirt common. The first one really shows off the caruncles (which is the technical term for those colorful warts).




17 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photographs

  1. Beautiful bug pics Mark! (Don’t ask me to use a better word than “bug” – if I tried I’d expose my ignorance even more. 🙂 )

    As for the caruncles on the Turkey, I wouldn’t want to eat a bird with those on it – I’d assume it was diseased and would make me sick too! The blue head makes its potential taste seem unattractive too. Gorgeous feathers though.

    1. This is perhaps not a good time to point out that your Thanksgiving turkey (or at least its wild relatives) had a blue head too, and though it had no caruncles, it had weird, colorful growths on its face.

      Though our turkeys are as flashy as the ones in Belize, their feathers are quite fancy (and iridescent too) when viewed up close.

  2. I think the caruncles are a sexual selection thing. Females in this family go for colorful wattles, warts, ‘n tubercles.

  3. Sexual selection produces strange results – and female turkeys show very strange aesthetic tastes. These birds – both species – would be absolutely beautiful with a “normal” feathered head… or perhaps their splendid tail is here to divert female’s attention form their ugly face.
    Very nice pictures, Mark. I like the baby bugs. A little question: don’t Tipula rather lays eggs in the soil ? Several species are pests eating lawn or vegetable toots.

    1. You are correct! I do find lots of crane fly larvae living in water, however, so I assumed that would be the case for this one. But you rightly point out that that is not true for all in this family. Well, that solves that mystery.

  4. Crane flies don’t lay their eggs in water – despite their appearance, they are not large mosquitoes! The larvae – often called ‘leatherjackets’ live in damp (but not submerged) soil, and will chomp their way through the roots of your lawn if you aren’t careful. Lovely pic! – MC

    1. When they hatch from the lawn in late summer, I get swarmed by them when I mow the lawn. I’m afraid many get mowed as well, but what’s a person to do?

    2. Just to be clear, this is from Wikipedia: “Some lay eggs on the surface of a water body or in dry soils, and some reportedly simply drop them in flight. Most crane fly eggs are black in color. They often have a filament, which may help anchor the egg in wet or aquatic environments.”
      I frequently find crane fly larvae when dipping for aquatic insects in lakes, rivers, or ponds. It is true as well that their larvae are also found in soil, well away from bodies of water.

      1. Thanks for putting me straight, Mark!

        This seems to be the definitive description:

        “The Tipulidae s.l.—craneflies—are one of the largest groups of the Diptera containing over 15,270 valid species and subspecies. The immatures of the majority of species live in aquatic or semiaquatic habitats. Some aquatic species live entirely submerged and lack functional spiracles, others come to the surface to take oxygen by using spiracles positioned at the end of the abdomen. Semiaquatic species occur in a wide range of habitats. The semiterrestrial and terrestrial larvae live in environments that are moist or at least humous.”

        Taken from this article:

        – MC

  5. Thanks for the bug and turkey pics. Those hatching Leaf Footed Bugs are neat. How big are they? They appear to be aphid-size.

    1. That is about right. They slowly dispersed as I was taking their pictures, probably being disturbed by my movement of their leaf. I remember trying to re-group them for more family pictures, but they were not having any of that.

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