Bug of the Week: Stilt-legged Flies

A teacher friend last week suggested he could show images from Bug of the Week to his class via a SmartBoard and ask students for insights into what they see (Great idea, Jeff!)

stiltlegged-fly-Rainieria antennaepes-34This insect (from the archives and from western New York state) would be perfect for that kind of student exploration.

First, you might want to ask what kind of insect it is. Is it a wasp? An ant? Or a fly?


Here’s a closer view. Why does this insect have red eyes? Why do you think it has such long legs? What are those orange marks on its legs?

In case you don’t recognize it, the insect above is a stilt-legged fly, Rainieria antennaepes. Most experts think it is a parasitoid wasp mimic (like this one), but some of its relatives are ant mimics.

Although it is not readily apparent in these photographs, the tarsi or “feet” of the front legs are white. The insect holds its front legs out in front of itself and waves them around like antennae. The species name antennaepes means antenna foot, referring to this behavior.

You can see a fly of a closely-related species waving its front legs in this video. Keep alert for one scene that shows what the adult flies feed on. Look closely at the front of the head where the sponging mouthparts are found.

Did you see it? The adult flies feed on bird droppings and similar wastes.

Isn’t that an interesting fly?

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Mystery Seed of the Week 238

Last week’s seeds were large and from eastern North America.

mystery-seeds-238-3This week’s seeds are much smaller and from the Southwest.

mystery-seeds-238-2You probably won’t see them out like this, however.

mystery-seed-238-flowersThe seeds are often hidden within small dried flowers.

Do you recognize what plant these seeds are from? If you choose to, please leave a comment with your ideas.

Mystery Seed answers and new Mystery Seeds are posted on Tuesdays.

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Seed of the Week: Tulip Tree

Our mystery samaras last week were (as Sara suggested) from a tulip tree, Liriodendron tulipifera.

Liriodendron_tulipifera_flower(Photograph in the public domain by P.Gibellini at Wikimedia)

The scientific species name means “tulip bearing” and refers to the stunning yellow and orange cup-shaped flowers…

tulip-tree-leaves-3although I have often thought the leaves look a bit like tulips, too.

Tulip trees are large, beautiful deciduous natives to the East Coast of North America.

tulip-tree-leaves-1They are so popular that they are the state tree of Kentucky, Tennessee and Indiana.

Have you ever seen a tulip tree flowering? What do you think of them?


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