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Zummorr's Insect Emporium

here's a good place for FRIENDLY, ENJOYABLE, and otherwise very GENERAL discussion!
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Zummorr's Insect Emporium

Postby Zummorr » 1 year ago

There is a story, possibly apocryphal, of the distinguished British biologist, J.B.S. Haldane, who found himself in the company of a group of theologians. On being asked what one could conclude as to the nature of the Creator from a study of his creation, Haldane is said to have answered, “An inordinate fondness for beetles.” -Excerpt from the American Naturalist 1959 regarding J.B.S Haldane population genetics scientist

Insects or Hexapoda, those generally winged, armored, little things, They are responsible for carrying our crops, our plague's, and for that universally chilling fear of tiny legs tingling across your skin.
Well it turns out that insects are the most diverse,most numerous and often, most misunderstood animals in the animal kingdom.
Since I am a hobbyist, and an official naturalist, I would like to share what I know using pictures taken on my many hikes.

Image Bug Catcher Zummorr would like to battle!

This first insect is a California Ringlet Butterfly
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Ain't it fuzzy? This fellow was found in house and home on the sliding glass door.
Moth's and Butterflies (it's a little more complicated than that) are both part of the same order of insects, Lepidoptera. But there are ways to distinguish between the two.
The easiest way to distinguish between a moth and butterfly is to look at the antennae, only butterflies have clubbed antennae like this butterfly here. Moth's have much more variety in their antennae and their antennae are very rarely clubbed.
If I were fiercely categorizing an insect, like one would in class, I'd have to closely examine the wing veination that you see here. I'd have to count the number of veins and where they first or part, it's quite a bother really, color and size are usually not really significant in terms of classifying insects, it's the weird small details like number of joints near the end of it's legs which are important.

You might notice that the butterfly's eye is rather peculiar as it looks like it has an eyespot, a black portion on it's eye that looks similar to an iris. This is literally a trick of the light. Compound eyes, like the ones this butterfly has are composed of arrangements of ommatidia. the best way to think of an insect eye is that it is shaped like a colander or golf ball, it's a round eye that has many small holes that are each focused in a different direction.
When a picture is taken the unfocused portions of the eye reflect light while the focused portion (The portions of the eye that are looking at the camera) are deep and don't reflect any light back.
For comparison on how this insect "Psuedopupil" works here is a grass hopper's eye taken at different angles.
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and when we turn it around, he is still looking at the camera
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It's surprising how prickly looking a grass hopper is.


Tomorrow I will talk about Bees, look at this! a "Bee" eating a bee!
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If you have any questions about what I talked about here or insects in general, I'll do my best to answer them.

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Re: Zummorr's Insect Emporium

Postby Ivy » 1 year ago

aw hell yeah. our very own bogleech!
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Re: Zummorr's Insect Emporium

Postby Telamon » 1 year ago

Bugs are pretty cool. I dabble in butterfly watching, but it's a lot harder than birdwatching.

But I was just reading a book by Bernd Heinrich and he kept going on about all the bugs that lay their eggs in other bugs, and that seriously grosses me out.
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Re: Zummorr's Insect Emporium

Postby Le Neveu de Rameau » 1 year ago

Telamon wrote:But I was just reading a book by Bernd Heinrich and he kept going on about all the bugs that lay their eggs in other bugs, and that seriously grosses me out.
But really, is that honestly all that different from when you lay you eggs in other humans?

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Re: Zummorr's Insect Emporium

Postby Telamon » 1 year ago

Le Neveu de Rameau wrote:But really, is that honestly all that different from when you lay you eggs in other humans?
No, because they DESERVE it.
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Re: Zummorr's Insect Emporium

Postby Zummorr » 1 year ago

My apologies for a late post.
Ivy wrote:aw hell yeah. our very own bogleech!
You give me too much credit good sir. He's a skilled artist in addition to someone who is fond of ecdysozoa, and all their strange inhabitants. It would take me much practice to reach his levels. Something to strive for, I suppose.
Telamon wrote:Bugs are pretty cool. I dabble in butterfly watching, but it's a lot harder than birdwatching.

But I was just reading a book by Bernd Heinrich and he kept going on about all the bugs that lay their eggs in other bugs, and that seriously grosses me out.
Honestly I disagree, insects can be pretty easy to find in grasses or near/inside flowers, granted you have to look close. But as long as it isn't winter, generally bugs are plentiful. I could be biased though, my eyes are quite well experienced.
I agree that there are plenty of disgusting insects, if I come across any I will give full warnings.
Luckily here in California I don't have to worry about Bot flys, which are nasty little things that lay their eggs on mosquitoes, which then transport the eggs so that they grow in human skin. Gross!
Le Neveu de Rameau wrote:
Telamon wrote:But I was just reading a book by Bernd Heinrich and he kept going on about all the bugs that lay their eggs in other bugs, and that seriously grosses me out.
But really, is that honestly all that different from when you lay you eggs in other humans?
Speaking of placing eggs into things. This is tangential, but significant, scientists have been creating ovaries from stem cell cultures in lab and then implanting those ovaries into mice that had their ovaries made deficient or removed. Biotechnology is really something.

Now to Insects!
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This guy is actually a robber fly eating a honey bee. Robber flies are predators that scoop up their prey and pierce them with a sharp beak. Yup this is a predatory fly that eats honey bees. It's commonly called a Bee killer but It's genus is called "Mallophora" which means wool-bearing. Turns out that flies also known as Diptera (two-wings) are actually not all annoying pests, they are quite diverse. From the common house flies, to the deadly mosquito, the derpy and harmless and misnamed, Mosquito-eater* (Crane-fly) Like hymenoptera they diversified with flowering plants and now are everywhere.


Taking the pictures of this guy were tricky, he was pretty aware of my presence and relocated to several portions of the fence, carrying his meal with him in flight. I had to use my extreme photography skill of "moving incredibly slowly" to get the shot.

It turns out that this bee killer is not the only fly that likes to pretend it's a bee.
ImageI am unhappy with how blurry this image is and I will replace it if I can get a better shot.

This is a syrphid fly, sometimes called hover flies,flower flies, or bee flies.
These flies are common pollinators and predators. They are notable for their ability to hover in place. What gives them away as Syrphid flies is their distinct head shape and wing shape. This fly's eyes practically go around it's whole head and it's head is wider than it's body segment. At the same time it's wings are usually splayed outwards and have unique shape and veination.

A good trick to take home to identify if you are looking a fly or a wasp is to look at the antennae. Both flies here have really short and stout bulbs on their heads. These are called "Aristate" antennae. Bees and wasps frequently have longer, more typical antennae that are actively moving. Another give away to a fly is that flies lack mandibles and instead have a beak or proboscis. Bees, or Hymenoptera, also have four wings as opposed to a fly having only two, but this might be difficult to tell at a glance because bees typically have their forewings covering their backwings.

Huh. This post turned out to be about flies that looked like bees and not actually bees. My stocks of good quality bee photos are low. Better go remedy that for tomorrow.

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Re: Zummorr's Insect Emporium

Postby Coryman » 1 year ago

I've actually been finding this thread strangely interesting! I guess when you've got 5 minutes to kill, it's better to read something educational (even if it's irrelevant to my schooling)
So this can probably wait a bit, but last summer my cousin and I found what looked like a wingless bee, but also like a fuzzy caterpillar, and a bit like an ant too... He said last night it was a dasymutilla, but the more well known species lived in the southern US, rather than Western Canada. You say you're in California... D'you have them out there?
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Re: Zummorr's Insect Emporium

Postby Learning-Timebuster » 1 year ago

insects are good
"some anime quote goes here"
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Re: Zummorr's Insect Emporium

Postby Telamon » 1 year ago

Zummorr wrote:Honestly I disagree, insects can be pretty easy to find in grasses or near/inside flowers, granted you have to look close. But as long as it isn't winter, generally bugs are plentiful. I could be biased though, my eyes are quite well experienced.
It is a matter of perspective. I've been learning to ID birds since basically as long as I can remember, and always had an experienced birder (my dad) to help me learn, whereas butterflies I'm just kind of on my own with a field guide. Not that they aren't super neat, there are just a lot more that I see that I can't ID. And the fact that getting an ID is a big deal to me is probably another consequence of my birding habits.

Not that butterflies aren't super cool or anything. Last year I saw a Juniper Hairstreak that basically had me bouncing up in down in excitement. Oh, and dragon/damselflies are super neat too. But I know that the more you learn the more fun you can have.
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Re: Zummorr's Insect Emporium

Postby Zummorr » 1 year ago

Coryman wrote:I've actually been finding this thread strangely interesting! I guess when you've got 5 minutes to kill, it's better to read something educational (even if it's irrelevant to my schooling)
So this can probably wait a bit, but last summer my cousin and I found what looked like a wingless bee, but also like a fuzzy caterpillar, and a bit like an ant too... He said last night it was a dasymutilla, but the more well known species lived in the southern US, rather than Western Canada. You say you're in California... D'you have them out there?
Was it something like.
ImageTaken from google images.

Those are Velvet ants. I've never seen them where I've lived. But I've seen them in both southern California and north of where I live.
They look like fuzzy and colorful ants...But that coloration is a huge warning sign actually. You see velvet ant's nickname is "Cow killers" because of their incredibly painful sting. Velvet ants are not ants at all. they are solitary wingless wasps. They are part of the same order as ants, "Hymenoptera" (wasps,bees and ants) but are in different families Dasymutilla (velvet ants) and Formicadae (for ants) The best way to tell them apart, besides the fuzzyiness is that Formicadae have elbowed antennae.

As a general rule of thumb, animals that have bright black and red,orange,or yellow, colorations are trying to warn you that will mess up your day, it's even worse if the animal is exceptionally clumsy and dawdle around. Or those animals are trying to mimic other animals that are dangerous.

If you see them, be mindful that they can really mess up your day, you probably wouldn't die from the sting, but I'd think that you'd go to the hospital.

Regarding irrelevancy, if you are interested in a topic in my opinion it's not irrelevant. I had to take art history in college and I honestly really enjoyed it. I took alot away from that class. When I'm out hiking and I look at the fields or the trees, it tugs at me to know what I'm looking at, because whats out there is more than just trees and grass. Whats out there is more than just "bugs." Theres a ton going on beyond one's cursory glance.

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Re: Zummorr's Insect Emporium

Postby Coryman » 1 year ago

Yeah, a lot like that, maybe a bit more yellow but it's probably just a different species/different lighting. Good thing we were so afraid of it though!
raocow wrote: In a world where shag carpeting wins a fight against a helicopter, we spend a lot of time reading and comparing numbers.

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Re: Zummorr's Insect Emporium

Postby Zummorr » 1 year ago

I apologize for the delay in posts, I was overtaken by sloth. Then my cat passed away. We recently buried her in the back yard, with a piece of her favorite blanket.

This is a honey bee on a Flannelbush.
Image Image
The honey bees in California are actually a nonnative species and are European honey bees.They are in Order Hymenoptera, Superfamily Apidae
Honey bees are important pollinators but it's important to remember that insects do not pollinate out of kindess, they are bribed into pollinating by energy rich nectar which rests in the base of flower stems. Similarly we don't build apiaries because we find bees cute, even if they are fuzzy, we just really like sweet stuff. On a chromosomal level, hive bees are unique. Unfertilized queens (XX) produce males with only half the genetic material (X-) When fertilized queens produce drones (XX) using 50% of the queens genetics and 100% of the male's genetics. In order to become queens some young drones are fed "royal jelly" which induces hormonal changes in them.

What is notable is that most hymenoptera do not live in hives not even most apidae Large, shiny, black bees like this one
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are Carpenter bees they are in the same family as honey bees but do not form large hives. Their social groups are quite or they might even bee solitary. These are not to be confused with Bumble bees.

Wait whats this Zummorr uploaded a video of a bee?! https://youtu.be/aBmLqYIDW9AAnd his camera work is super barf inducing!
What I want to point out with this video are two things. The first being that insects, especially energy intense ones like bees, breathe. You can see the bee breathing when it expands and compresses it's abdomen, similar to an accordion. This movement allows it to pull in air through tiny holes on the sides of it's body. These small holes on the sides of it's body are called spiracles.
The other thing I want to point out is that one of the key evolutionary traits of hymonoptera is the evolution of an abdominal junction. This allows for much more dexterity in abdomnal movement. and allowed for the specialization of the ovipositer (the egg laying and sting inducing organ insects)

Next time! Ladybird Beetles! fixed url link
Last edited by Zummorr on 20 Apr 2016, 07:00, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Zummorr's Insect Emporium

Postby Skully » 1 year ago

All the lil cuties! Hooray for insects! Keep up the good work! <3

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Re: Zummorr's Insect Emporium

Postby Le Neveu de Rameau » 1 year ago

Zummorr wrote: You can see the bee breathing
I do bee-lieve you meant to say you can see the bee beething.

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Re: Zummorr's Insect Emporium

Postby Zummorr » 1 year ago

Le Neveu de Rameau wrote: I do bee-lieve you meant to say you can see the bee beething.
I appreciate you viewing the video! you are quite a buzz with your puns but I must say that Beething is quite a stretch.

Ladybird beetles or more commonly called Ladybugs are beetles in the family Coccinellidae. Perhaps this is the best time to go into it but in etymology not all bugs are insects. only a specific famiies of insects called the hemiptera and homoptera are considered "true bugs"

Beetles are the most diverse group of insects and Ladybird beetles are one of many groups In particular they are easier to identify than most beetle species. But have you seen their larvae?
Image Image
Many insect larave are difficult to distinguish especially if they go through a larval stage like a maggot or a caterpillar, luckily ladybird larvae are distinct. These little guys are predators like their adult forms and are pretty active.

At some point in their life cycle they pupate, or go into a stationary period where they change into their adult forms
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I tried to capture it on camera but this pupa actually does move! not much but it did show movement and was not a dormant insect.

And finally after pupating the beetle will emerge and go find aphids and other small insects to eat.
ImageImage
The name of beetle in latin is Coleoptera which means Shield-wing (Coleo=shield Ptera=wing) All beetles have hard or leathery forewings which cover most of their body. Perhaps with their hard shells and ability to fly beetles found many opportunities to diversify.
One thing that bothered me as I had this beetle on my thumb was that it was gnawing on my skin and I had a light scraping sensation around where it's mouth was. Perhaps serves me right for plucking it from the stem of grass it was on.

Interestingly I've heard cases of ladybird beetles swarming close together during winter. An interesting complexity to a normally solitary insect.

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Re: Zummorr's Insect Emporium

Postby Zummorr » 1 year ago

Today I'll talk about "True bugs." I'm not a snooty biologist and I will not make fun of you for calling any generic insect a "bug." But for us in Entomology True bugs are insects part of the order Hemiptera, and everything else is insecta.

Hemiptera are known for having their forewings semi-hardened and covering their body and for having long piercing, sucking beaks. You've probably seen or heard of aphids, bed bugs, water-striders, cicadas, or stink bugs all of them are Hemiptera and they all have long piercing beaks and they are biologist snoot guaranteed True Bugs.

Image Image

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This little guy is part of sub order of Hemiptera called the Homoptera, not exactly sure of it's family but it was sucking on the grasses trying to tap into the sugary plant fluids. So I can rule out that it's a insectivore or vertabrate (large animal with a backbone aka us) parasite.

Lets take a look at a weird insect!
Image From another angle.Imagesize comparisonImage
This gal is called a Snakefly, Superclass Neuroptera Family Raphidioptera These animals are basically living fossils. and their form has remained unchanged from the Jurassic era.

You might notice that I used the pronoun "gal" this was purposeful as it turns out that this insect is super easy to identify by gender! If you look on it's abdomen you will notice a long tail extending past the wings. Well that is not a tail, it's an ovipositer an egg laying appendage in insects. Only female snakeflies have those long tails. You might have read me mention ovipositers when I talked about hymenoptera (bees and wasps) as they have modified their ovipositers to deliver venomous stings.

This animal is not to be confused with a mantis as the front two limbs are unmodified and the four back wings are broad and similar in shape. iirc they are general carnivores and feed on a variety of other insects. If you live in america you might not see these often as they are found west of the rocky mountains and in central america. If you see an insect that looks similar to this, with four broad clear wings and long many segmented antennae, but without the long "neck." then it is a Lace-wing fly, which is closely related to a snakefly.

So California has a really weird ugly fossil bug and the rest of America has fireflies.

If you have any questions about insects or want me to take a shot at identifying some insect you found, feel free to ask.

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Re: Zummorr's Insect Emporium

Postby Telamon » 1 year ago

Jeez, I had no idea that Cicadas were true bugs, or that there were no fireflies in California.

Personally, I like to use 'bug' to refer to insects + spiders, earthworms...just sort of a catch-all for small, non-vertebrata animals, I guess. I feel like it's a category that we naturally have a sense of, but don't really have a word for.
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Re: Zummorr's Insect Emporium

Postby Learning-Timebuster » 1 year ago

Zummorr wrote:So California has a really weird ugly fossil bug and the rest of America has fireflies.
how can you insult this beautiful snakefly like this
"some anime quote goes here"
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Re: Zummorr's Insect Emporium

Postby Zummorr » 1 year ago

Telamon wrote:Jeez, I had no idea that Cicadas were true bugs, or that there were no fireflies in California.
I'm unsure about how diverse the insect life is in California, I would suspect that it is actually really diverse given that the grasslands of California are diverse. But yeah no fireflies and the butterflies are kinda meh. but diversity doesn't mean "super neat and cool looking."
Telamon wrote: Personally, I like to use 'bug' to refer to insects + spiders, earthworms...just sort of a catch-all for small, non-vertebrata animals, I guess. I feel like it's a category that we naturally have a sense of, but don't really have a word for.
Bug is kinda a catch all term these days, typically those in academia will probably just use the scientific name, H+emiptera or the common name of the insect to avoid confusion.

Interestingly enough, there is an evolutionary clade(grouping) that does include insects,spiders and worms.
That clade of organisms is called Protostomia. Protostomia is super wide, and It's easily the most diverse grouping of visible animals on the planet.
It includes the Ecdysozoa(ecdysis-shedding,Zoa-animal) which are insects,crabs, spiders, rolly-pollys, centipedes, and things with exoskeletons.

And on the other side in the Protostomia, you have the Lophotrochozoa, (Lophotrocho-Wheel bearing,zoa-animal) which includes molluscs, annelid worms, flat worms, and nematodes.

So given that it seems like the whole kitchen sink of critters in in protostomia, how are they related? It comes down to small distinctions in cell division in the eight cell stage of life. Protostomes have spiral cleavage, where their early cells don't divide up cellular material evenly, making daughter cells smaller than mother cells. at the same time the early cells in protostomes differentiate into specialized cells in earlier division numbers, as opposed to dueterostomes.(Vertabrates and Starfish) There is more to this story and I could explain if you like.

An important last thing to mention is that since we are vertebrates and we hangout with other vertebrates so much we get a somewhat distorted view of the actual diversity of animals. 97% of animals are invertabrates, things without backbones,and 3% are vertabrates. With 1/3 to 1/2 of those vertabrates being fish. This means that all those animals you see out there, chilling in zoos, goating it up in the grass, being all catty and clawish, or mooing out in the fields, are a small fraction of how much crazy life is out there.
Learning-Timebuster how can you insult this beautiful snakefly like this?
[Edited for response] I can insult this snake fly because as it turns out, no invertabrates* are protected under animal rights acts. So literally this insect has no rights, therefore I will exercise my completely legal ability to insult and make fun of this rightless organism, Nyhehehehe.
(*Some octopi are protected due to high intelligence)

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Re: Zummorr's Insect Emporium

Postby Telamon » 1 year ago

Zummorr wrote: I'm unsure about how diverse the insect life is in California, I would suspect that it is actually really diverse given that the grasslands of California are diverse. But yeah no fireflies and the butterflies are kinda meh. but diversity doesn't mean "super neat and cool looking."
I remember while researching for my trips to Southern California I was surprised by the relatively small number of butterflies in the region. But butterflies are, as you say, just a small part of the picture, so who knows?
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Re: Zummorr's Insect Emporium

Postby HamsterZerg » 1 year ago

I thought Protostomes had the mouth develop before the butt while the Dueterostomes had the butt develop before the mouth.
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Re: Zummorr's Insect Emporium

Postby Zummorr » 1 year ago

HamsterZerg wrote:I thought Protostomes had the mouth develop before the butt while the Dueterostomes had the butt develop before the mouth.
That is indeed correct. Protostome(Proto-first,Stome-mouth) Dueterostome (Duetero-second, Stome-mouth)

essentially when a cell becomes a blastula, a hollow ball of cells. it folds in on itself during development. This area where the cell folds in on itself is called the blastopore, in deuterostomes the blastopore becomes the basis for the anus and and in protostomes the blastopore becomes the basis for the mouth. Keep in mind that this is still a ball of unspecialized cells. (around 100 cells stage. losing portions of the blastula will compromise organism's structure, as opposed to the 4,6,8 cell stage where splitting of the embryo results in healthy but usually smaller organisms.)

I didn't dive into it too much because it gets away from entomology and more developmental biology.

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Re: Zummorr's Insect Emporium

Postby Zummorr » 1 year ago

Well I saw butterflies and dragonflies out recently, so that means it's time to break out Ol' Reliable.
ImageShwing* Sparkle* Sparkle*

Up till now I've only been keeping an active eye for insects, but since those big fliers are pretty evasive, I'm going to even the odds.

Nets are extremely OP if you find yourself in dire-need of insects for say an entomology class simply do the following.
1 find a tree.Image
2 Place net under tree. 3 Shake branch vigorously!Image
4 Sort out what strange small insects you in your net. Image I believe this might be a termite or a Hemipteran, my reasoning is the wing structure. the pair of mouth parts jutting out in the front is also a likely indicator, I generally don't go for these small guys because they are a pain in the butt to identify and to pin. but I also got an assortment of tree-hoppers (more hempiterans) as well.


Heres another kind of hemipteran sucking on a flower, with some other insect photobombing.
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A few posts back I promised a picture of a syriphid fly. And feeding on these been this plant
Image Image Image

I'm not a plant expert, however those pea pods tell me that this is a legume. Legumes are a family of plants that have symbiotic relationships with nitrogen-fixing bacteria.

If you aren't big on chemistry think of it like this, plants are really good at making sugars from the sun and CO2. Wood is made of cellulose, which is a sugar. Most of a plant's structure comes from the carbon in the air actually. Sugars are really good for creating stable structures but isn't used for creating more enzymes or proteins. Nitrogen is required to create more DNA, and more importantly proteins which are formed into useful enzymes which perform chemical activity in organisms. Legumes are a family of plants that teamed up with nitrogen fixing bacteria, feeding them sugars and incorporating them into their structures to supply themselves with nitrogen.
The reason why legumes are important? People love to eat their protein, and the amount of protein you get from a farm animal for the cost of water and food for that farm animal is quite inefficient. Tofu itself is usually soybean curd and if not popular, well atleast it is a popular product.

After investigating that it was not lupin or deerbrush. I found that this stuff is french broom. French broom is an invasive species and a problematic plant because of it's ability to change soil nitrogen compositions. In addition to changing soil chemistry, it tends to grow in huge dense clumps, which dry out in the summer, posing fire hazards in the continually immolated state of Califnornia.

During my time in grassland management, we treated areas by removing (by hand and hacksaw) Scotch broom.

Oh yeah, the syriphid fly.
Image Image Image I'm guessing that this guy is pretty engorged with nectar, compared to this skinny fellow Image

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Ivy
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Re: Zummorr's Insect Emporium

Postby Ivy » 1 year ago

those are some adorable flies my man
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Coryman
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Re: Zummorr's Insect Emporium

Postby Coryman » 1 year ago

Funny, we've got a scotch broom problem up here in coastal BC... Just burned a bunch actually, heh heh
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