Readers’ wildlife photos

November 17, 2020 • 8:00 am

We have a comfortable backlog of photos now, but you should still send in your good ones lest ye forget.

Today’s batch, lovely photos of invertebrates (with a bonus mammal and reptile), comes from reader Bruce Budris. As he says about locations, “These are mostly taken in upstate NY (Columbia County).  The two exceptions are the one I note that is taken at the Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge, MA, really only 20 mins. away from us, and the snake pic, which is from Innisfree Garden about 30 or so miles south of us in Dutchess County.”

I’ve put Bruce’s IDs and notes in indents.

We’ve already had our first snow and a number of below freezing nights, but this common drone fly (Erastalis tenax) is still at it on the last flowers we have left (marigolds). This is a species of hoverfly whose body structure and coloring mimics a common honeybee.
Also in the hoverfly family, this is most likely a female migrant hoverfly (Syrphus ribesii) whose coloring mimics a yellowjacket wasp.
And a third type of hoverfly: The oblique stripetail (Allograpta obliqua), which also shares a mimicry of yellow jackets.
The great golden digger wasp (Sphex ichneumoneus), a cousin of the cicada-killer wasp, is probably the largest wasp in this part of the world.   They can usually be found dragging their prey (crickets and such) back to their in-ground burrows.  Golden diggers also seem to like the nectar of swamp milkweed plants.  This one happened to be photographed at the nearby Berkshire Botanical Garden, but I’ve found them to similarly visit the swamp milkweed plants in our garden.  Despite their appearance, golden diggers are very unaggressive, although I noticed the patrons of the garden that summer afternoon were giving their nesting area a wide berth.
The Tomentose burying beetle (Nicrophorus tomentosus) is a type of carrion beetle.  The club at the tip of their antennae is an olfactory organ used to find decaying carcasses, and once found, the mated beetles will bury the dead animal and use it to feed their brood.
The recycler of the previous photo (Nicrophorus tomentosus) is itself being recycled by a horde of red whirligig mites (Genus Anystis).
A beautiful yellow swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) drinking from a Mexican sunflower and another resting on a basil leaf.
A large ferruginous tiger crane fly (Nephrotoma ferruginea) hangs in wait.
Bonus raptor:  A Cooper’s hawk (Accipiter cooperii) that frequently stalks my bird feeder in search of unsuspecting sparrows.
Bonus snake:  While we were attempting to photograph a massive orb weaver spider at the beautiful Innisfree Garden in Dutchess County, NY, this garter snake (Thamnophis sp.) slithered over to check on the proceedings.


16 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. Wow! Those are great pictures. Golden digger wasps and the even bigger cicada killers are indeed very docile. One can get very close with a camera and their only reaction will be to fly away.
    The swallowtail butterfly is a giant swallowtail (P. cresphontes)- by some measures the largest of our butterflies.

  2. The mites on the Nicrophorus beetle may look a bit of a bother to their host, but they are phoretic [free-riders], not parasitic. The mites are likely Poecirochirus, confusingly in the family Parasitidae! [There is a ‘type genus’ Parasitus..]

    These mites are predators on fly eggs and larvae, so likely beneficial, if not essential to the silphid’s reproduction on carcasses.

    Parasitid mites are also phoretic [not parasitic] on a wide variety of dung beetles, with similar benefits to these beetles. In the 1970s, Gerry Krantz, an entomologist here at Oregon State, had a series of projects relating to introduction of dung beetles in regions [Australia in particular] where the native beetles weren’t keeping the prairie swept. Despite the superabundance of dung, these introduction did poorly until parasitid mites were added to the mix.

    1. Interesting. Thanks for explanation. At the time it didn’t occur to us that there was another possibility other than beetle vs mites.

    2. Correction, the genus name I was reaching for is Poecilochirus, according to Bug Guide! Misreading an “r” for an “l” is still pretty good for something I haven’t thought about in decades…

      During my beetle-collecting instar, I saw phoretic parasitids on a wide range of beetles, especially those from mucky habitats.

  3. Fabulous photos! I also have photos of the first two I must send… slightly different! But these are really good! How close were you?

    1. The lens I use has a minimum focus distance of 12” (as measured from the focal plane of the sensor)which means about 5” from end of lens. I use extension tubes which decreases the distance to about 2” (giving higher than a 1:1 magnification. For the fly face shot I’m probably at slightly greater than that minimum distance. For the full body shots I’m a bit further away (maybe 5” or 9” or so) which increases the depth of field in order to get more of the total insect in focus. Focus stacking shots is the workaround for the depth of field issue at such close distance but these photos are all single shot. At such close range though my lighting gear sometimes makes it difficult to avoid bumping the subject.

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