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Sometimes simply adding one plant to your yard can attract new insects. This week our Mexican hat or prairie coneflower (Ratibida columnifera) is flowering.

mexican-hat-flower354

Look at all the bugs enjoying the blooms.

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Of course you would expect to see bees visiting flowers.

pollen-coated-bee_0323

This bee was collecting loads of pollen.

beetle-0290Also visiting the flowers were beetles,

lacebug-0311lace bugs,

looper-caterpillar-231and a looper or geometrid caterpillar. Actually, there are two caterpillars in this photograph. Look down and to the left.

tiny-caterpillar-in-focus242Maybe you can see it better in this photograph. It looks like a thread of white on the edge of the petal towards the bottom. It is a first instar or newly-hatched caterpillar.

crab-spider-plus0307Wherever there are bugs feeding on plants, there are predators like this crab spider ready to feed on the bugs.

Dung beetles have a rather odd lifestyle, but nonetheless they are fascinating for a number of reasons.

dungbeetle-X2(Public domain photograph by Alex Wild)

  1. Dung beetles help recycle dung by feeding on it.
  2. Dung beetles either roll the dung or bury it to prevent it from drying out.
  3. Dung beetles navigate to and from their burrows by the position of the sun and some can even navigate by recognizing the Milky Way at night.
  4. Female dung beetles, or sometimes both parents, may stay with their offspring after the eggs hatch and take care of them, something that is unusual with insects.
  5. Although most often seen on the ground, the adult beetles are actually strong fliers.

We'll learn more about one of the first people to dung beetles for STEM Friday this week.

This week let's take another look at the diverse community of insects found on the rush or desert milkweed.

Dusky Lady Beetle Larva with Aphids(Photograph by Lynne S., used with permission)

What do you see here? Probably the first things you notice are the bright orange-yellow aphids. Those are oleander aphids.

Dusky Lady Beetle Larva with Aphids on Milkweed(Photograph by Lynne S., used with permission)

But, what is the insect with the bright white fluffy look?

The insect that looks like a tiny white carpet is actually a lady beetle larva. Instead of the bright red-and-black lady beetles we usually think of, this larva will turn into a small dark brown or black beetle.

These nondescript beetles belong to a group called dusky lady beetles (Tribe Scymnini). The adults are round in shape, like other lady beetles, and feed on aphids, scales and mealybugs, too. The main difference is that the larvae produce a white waxy coating, which is thought to help protect them from predators.

Have you ever spot an adult dusky lady beetle or a larva? Where did you find it?