The story of the Cuckoo leafcutter bee has several moving parts. It starts with the family Megachilidae (of recent BOTW fame), a large and diverse group of solitary bees that includes the leafcutter, mason, and resin bees, and others. Leafcutter bees are famous for their modus operandi – they cut tidy circles from the edges of leaves or petals and use them to wrap their egg packets, line the walls of tunnels (typically pre-existing tunnels in wood), and make walls between egg chambers. There are 630 species in the Megachilidae in North America, and 4,100 species worldwide.
Reports from the Field
A few days after she found an American Snout butterfly (of recent BOTW fame), the BugLady saw this small, pale, worn butterfly ahead of her on the ground. At first, she thought it might be a Summer Azure probing for minerals. Usually, they’re pretty uncooperative about having their pictures taken, so she was really happy that this “Blue” wasn’t camera shy. When she looked at it on the camera’s screen, she saw that it was not your run-of-the-mill Summer Azure.
It was a Marine Blue (Leptotes marina), a butterfly listed as “A very rare stray in Wisconsin.”
The BugLady was walking along the river when she saw an orange and brown butterfly fluttering around near a bare area. Even though she hadn’t seen one for a long time, she was pretty sure she knew what it was (having quickly eliminated from consideration the slightly larger and more vividly-colored Red Admiral, American Lady and Painted Lady). After that first encounter, she saw several more Snouts.
Spring was long and cool, an arrangement that the BugLady usually applauds (she savors every little step into spring, and she doesn’t like it when the phenology of six weeks is squished into one or two). But this year bordered on the ridiculous. Water warms slowly and steadily (those of us that live in the air often experience dramatic daily fluctuations), so a cold spring means that dragonfly and damselfly naiads, which grow up underwater, are slow to wake up and consume those final calories before emerging as adults. All of which is a roundabout way of saying that dragonflies and damselflies have been a little late this year, but with some dedicated stalking, the BugLady found some cool things as summer neared, including many tender, young, recently-emerged odonates.
In the BugLady’s neck of the woods, the insect world is dominated these days by mining, sweat, and bumble bees and by lots of flies, including a big hatch of mosquitoes that timed their appearance to coincide with the Riveredge Butterfly and Dragonfly count (causing the BugLady to move along the trail rather smartly). Here’s what she’s been seeing in the run-up to summer.
Fishflies can be found throughout much of eastern North America. Adults are generally found near the water that their aquatic larvae require (which is why the landlocked BugLady is always surprised to find them on her porch). Various species of Fishflies may live in streams and rivers or in still ponds; some, reported from ephemeral ponds or streams, can survive a short dry spell if well-buried in wet mud. They have also (uncommonly) been found in tree holes and in the pitchers of Purple pitcher plants.
The Striped cucumber beetle (Acalymma vittatum) (vittatum means “banded” or “striped”) is on Wanted Posters of a whole slew of North American agricultural agencies east of the Rockies (it’s replaced in the Far West by Acalymma trivittatum). In fact, the Striped cucumber beetle is so notorious that the bugguide.net entry didn’t even pop up until page 5 of the internet hits. It’s in the huge leaf beetle family Chrysomelidae (one of the largest beetle families – 35,000-ish species total, 1,900 of them in North America). With 390,000 species worldwide, Coleoptera (the beetle order) is the largest single order in the entire animal kingdom.
Painted Skimmers are in the Skimmer family Libellulidae, which contains many of our more common and more colorful dragonflies, and they’re in the genus Libellula – large, sturdy, showy dragonflies, often with dramatically-patterned wings, that are often referred to as the King skimmers.
Gray Commas (Polygonia progne) are in the Brush-footed butterfly family Nymphalidae – “brush-footed” because their front pair of legs is small and “brush-like” and tucked in close to their body making them look like four-legged butterflies.
Water mites are common – abundant – denizens of shallow, quiet ponds, and a few species have adapted to life in rivers and streams. They’re everywhere except Antarctica, in tree holes, deep lakes, bogs, hot springs, rivers, swamps, and marshes. The word “ubiquitous” applies.