What’s to Eat

The grasshopper in the above photo is being disassembled by a yellowjacket. The meaty parts of the hopper will be transported back to the hive where it’ll be placed in cells containing larvae within the hive. The female wasps are busy this time of year as the hive is perhaps at its largest of the season.

I found the parts of a red swamp crayfish on the railing of the boardwalk leading to the Black Bear Overlook. It too had a foraging yellowjacket hard at work extracting meat for the hive. The crayfish had apparently been killed by a bird, perhaps a barred owl or a red-shouldered hawk, its uneaten parts left on the railing (watch the blog for more on this subject in the future).

The remains of a red swamp crayfish.
Yellowjacket extracting meat for hive.

Woolly aphids are plant sucking insects found on many different woody plants. They suck the juices from the plants and secrete honeydew. Ants can often be seen in the vicinity of aphids collecting the honeydew and protecting the aphids from aphid predators in the process, like lady beetles and their larvae.

Woolly aphids.
Aphid predator, lady beetle larva on leaf to right.

There are fall webworms and there are mimosa webworms. Mimosa grows throughout our 84 acres. Mimosa webworms have infested some of the many mimosa trees we have here at the Museum of Life and Science. The caterpillars also feed on honey locust, but honey locust is scarce here. The webworms will have to make due with the invasive mimosa.

Mimosa webworm web (black specks are frass – caterpillar poop).
Caterpillar adding to web.

The caterpillars are small, about 3/8” in length. They react quickly to disturbances and get out of the way very rapidly, retreating deep into their protective web. They, like the tree that gives them their name, have Asian origins.

Small, and very quick and agile.

Another insect attacking the mimosa is a psyllid, an aphid like insect that, like the aphid, sucks the sap out of trees and produces honeydew. The honeydew travels away from the body of the insect via waxy tubules produced by the psyllid. The honeydew encourages a black mold on the leaves, and on the ground beneath the tree, often staining the sidewalk or deck the mimosa is growing next to.

Mimosa leaf with psyllids. Note the green and orange “bumps” on leaf. Note also white curly substance which is the waxy tubule produced by the insects.
Close look at psyllid nymphs.

Sometimes the only hint of an insect’s presence is what it’s left behind. Here, in the photo below, are hatched eggs on a hazel alder cone (the green objects – the cones are about 1/2” – 3/4” long). The eggs look to be from a stinkbug. I may be wrong, since stinkbugs typically lay their white eggs on the undersides of leaves. I apparently arrived too late to confirm the species.

Possible stinkbug eggs on hazel alder cone (on left – eggs have already hatched).

And finally, I came upon a road-killed insect on the path. The victim was a pine sphinx moth caterpillar. The yellowjackets were collecting what they could before the human foot traffic in the area rendered the caterpillar useless.

Yellowjackets hard at work on pine sphinx moth caterpillar.

Food for all!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.