Bug of the Week

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Going over my photographs from the last 12 months, I realized I took many fewer shots of insects than in years past. It was still difficult, however, to limit the selection of favorites to just 10.

Insects Around Water

blue-dragonflyBlue seems to be the color of choice around ponds and streams.

gorgeous-damselfly_0618Blue mixed with green, that is.

dragonfly-ny_0649These photographs were taken in the company of some of my favorite people.

Insects in Fields and Pastures

flower-fly_0346A flower fly feeds on the nectar of Robin's Plantain, I believe.

skipper-on-cloverc_0268This skipper butterfly sips nectar from a clover flower.

wood-nymph-brsh-foot_0348A tattered wood nymph rests on a leaf.

freshy-emerged-queen-butterfly-241This queen butterfly just emerged from its chrysalis.

monarch-caterpillar-27Not to be outdone, here's a monarch caterpillar feeding on rush milkweed.

single-ant_0227What's this ant doing on this leaf? Probably searching for nectar or honeydew.

Insects On Trees

cidada-nymph-c_0259Exoskeleton of a cicada nymph clings to the trunk of a tree.

That wraps up Bug of the Week for 2016.

Wishing you all a very happy New Year!

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We've never discussed arachnids in detail here at Bug of the Week. Let's find out what we've been missing.

Spiders and their relatives belong to the class Arachnida. How can you tell whether a creature belongs to this group? Arachnids have two body regions called the prosoma (part with eyes and legs) and opisthosoma (rear section). Arachnids have eight legs and they do not have antennae, although they do have two short appendages in front called pedipalps that sometimes may be mistaken for antennae.

wolf-spider-1

Although almost anyone can recognize a spider, there are a number of related arachnids that are less well known.

Scorpions (Order Scorpiones)

scorpion-anatomy

Scorpions have are pincer-like pedipalps  and their opisthosoma is elongated into a relatively thick tail with a stinger on the end.

Like most other arachnids, scorpions are nocturnal. They come out at night to catch insects and other arthropods.

Related posts:

Psuedoscorpions

(Public domain photograph by Alex Wild)

These tiny creatures have pinchers like scorpions (red in this photograph), but have no tail and no stinger. They are often found in compost heaps where they feed on even smaller insects and mites.

Wind Scorpions or Sunspiders

sunspider1These desert arachnids have large chelicerae or jaws that they use for catching insects. They can also use their jaws to stridulate, or make a noise. They don't have a tail.

Related post:  Sunspiders

Whip Scorpion or Vinegaroon

giant-vinegaroon

Unlike all other arachnids, the whip scorpions have a thin tail at the end of the opisthosoma. The pedipalps are robust. In contrast the first pair of legs are thin and have a sensory function similar to antennae.

Vinegaroons have vinegar in their names because they can spray high concentrations of acetic acid if threatened.

Never seen one before? BBC Earth Unplugged has a video of one spraying.

 

Mites and Ticks (Order Acarina)

mite-red-closeThe two body regions are difficult to see in mites and ticks. Their bodies are unsegmented, like small blobs. Also, their legs tend to be quite short relative to their body size.

Certain kinds of mites are among the few arachnids that feed on plants. The red mite in the photograph is an insect predator.

Daddy Long-legs or Harvestman (Order Opiliones)

daddy-long-legLike the mites, the harvestman have what looks like a single oval body region. Unlike the mites, they have long thread-like legs.

Harvestmen differ from spiders by possessing fewer eyes, having only two rather than six or eight. They also lack both venom and silk glands.

Some species of harvestmen are omnivores or scavengers rather than true predators.

Want to learn more?

A few spider identification basics

Check out our growing list of children's books about spiders

spider-books-for-kids

What would you like to know about arachnids?

Insect common names are sometimes misleading.

yellow-bodied-whitefly-11

Take this tiny whitefly, for example. It isn't really a fly (not family Diptera). Instead it belongs to the same family as aphids and scale insects.

It also isn't really white.

whitefly-side(A one-sixteenth-inch long Silverleaf whitefly, Bemisia argentifolii. Photo by Scott Bauer, USDA-ARS)

If you could see under a microscope for a view like this, you would notice the body of the whitefly is actually yellow, almost the same color as the petal of the desert marigold flower the one at the top is sitting on.

Where does the whitefly get its name? Its body and wings are covered with a powdery coating of white wax particles. The wax probably helps protect it from water and predators.

Now you know more about whiteflies, what would you have named them?