Bug of the Week

We have some new insects on the elephant food plant in the back yard.

They are oval and covered with white wax. Do you know what they are?

These rover ants know what the white insects are:  a source of honeydew. The ants will defend the white insects and move them around to better sources of food.

The white insects are mealybugs. The two under the ant have just molted, shedding their waxy coats. Can you see the shed exoskeletons towards the lower end of the pile (they are open at the back)? Seems likely the mealybugs are most vulnerable right after molting.

Have you ever watched ants tending mealybugs?

We have a lot of white threads around this week.

The threads are a type of silk.

Here's another patch of silk.

One patch of silk was made by the creature in the photograph above.

The other patch of silk was made by these creatures.

Can you tell which is which?

Why do you think the animals make silk? Do they both make it for the same reason(s)?

 

The rush milkweed is still flowering.

Every once in awhile a high-pitched sound travels through the air and one of these shows up.

If you are brave, get a bit closer.

It's a tarantula hawk wasp, an important pollinator of milkweeds. You can read more about how they do it in a previous post.

These wasps are big and noisy and clumsy.  They seem like flying dinosaurs. You can't miss them.

 

Not far away is a quiet little bee that you might easily miss.

Look at that long antenna.

The bees with antennae almost as long or longer than their bodies are commonly called long-horned bees. They are important pollinators of a number of plants, but their legs aren't long enough to pollinate the specialized milkweed flowers.

Still, they are just some of the many insects that benefit from milkweed flowers.