Readers’ wildlife photos

January 11, 2023 • 8:15 am

Today’s reader introduces himself and his pictures below. Semyon’s words are indented, and you can click the photos to enlarge them. I believe this is the first Russian contributor we’ve had. Welcome!

My name is Semyon Morozov. I’m sending you my wildlife photos.

These photos were taken in August 2016 in my small homeland, Kurgan Oblast (Russia, the south of the West Siberian Plain). Photo hunting was successful at that time!

Here’s a female wasp spider (Argiope bruennichi). Look at these white things on her web: they are called stabilimenta. Their function is not completely clear. Scientists assumed that these structures stabilized the web, but then other explanations appeared, such as protection from predators or attracting prey.

Eurydema ventralis is a shield bug that feeds on crucifers and some other plants. The bug sits on a leaf of Parthenocissus that has been cut by a leafcutter bee (Megachile sp.).

The yellow-winged darter (Sympetrum flaveolum) is one of the most common dragonflies in this area.

This is an odd caterpillar of the grey dagger (Acronicta psi). It was ready to pupate, so I took it home for observation.

But instead, a fat larva of some parasitoid wasp crawled out of the caterpillar! Then the larva pupated, and after 16 days an imago appeared from the pupa.

And here’s the Roesel’s bush-cricket (Roeseliana roeselii). This individual has a saber-like ovipositor at the end of the abdomen, which indicates that it’s a female.

All these arthropods were dwellers of the garden. Now let’s go beyond it. What are these cupcake-like things on the rotten stump? These are the fruiting bodies (aethalia) of the slime mold (Fuligo septica, I guess). These are not fungi but organisms, the life cycle of which includes both a single-celled amoeba-like stage and a macroscopic one.

In the meadow, I found a wasp spider again. This female caught another predator, a dragonfly (it’s most likely the yellow-winged darter).

There was a pond nearby, next to which I met a caterpillar of the drinker moth (Euthrix potatoria). It’s said that the insect was so named because of the caterpillars’ passion for dew.

I found another caterpillar on the pond shore. It was a larva of the reed dagger (Symira albovenosa = Acronicta albovenosa), a moth that likes reed beds.

And finally, here are exuviae of some dragonfly. These are the remains of an exoskeleton that a larva left after molting.

16 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. Nice pictures! That parasitoid wasp larva emerging from the caterpillar is creepy. Insects have the most surprising adaptations.

  2. Did the parasitoid wasp leave an intact caterpillar shell? Doesn’t it even cave-in a little with something that large growing inside it?

    1. Strangely enough, there was no visible damage. And what’s more, the caterpillar was still alive. It’s known that parasitoids turn caterpillars into zombies so that they later protect parasitoids during the pupal stage. However, this caterpillar didn’t try to protect the pupa in any way.

  3. Hello, and welcome! I enjoyed these very much. It is interesting that we have the same garden spider here in the U.S.

  4. Thank you, Dr. Coyne! And thanks to all the commenters!
    I’m no longer in Russia, but I have a lot of interesting photos from there.

  5. Great photos, especially the slime mold. The world would be a better place if there was more love and appreciation of these magical myxomycetes! I will look forward to your future contributions!

    If anyone is interested, I just found a great little book called “The Curious Observer’s Guide to Slime Mold” by Carrie Niblett. Even thought it is focused primarily on the species she found around the UC Santa Cruz campus (where she was a student), it is a great intro text, cheap, and has wonderful photos.

  6. Looking forward to more submissions. Excellent photography, subjects, and commentary. As always with arthropods, surprised at how similar they are half-way around the earth. And then some are totally dissimilar. Evolution!

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