Author Archives: John Valo

Black-and-gold bumble bee (Bombus auricomus)

black-and-gold bumble bee
Photo by Gerry Garcia

Black-and-gold bumble bee (Bombus auricomus) is common, large, colonial bumble bee. It occurs in North America east of the Rocky mountains. It is common in southern Minnesota, less common in the north. It is one of the largest bumble bees in Minnesota. Females (worker bees) are up to ¾″ long. It is found in grasslands and open areas. It lives in small colonies of about 35 workers.

Black-and-gold bumble bee is identified by its large size; there is a patch of yellow hairs on the back of the head; the thorax that is yellow on the front third, black on the rear two thirds, and has a very narrow yellow band at the rear; and the abdomen is black except for the entirely yellow second and third segments.

http://www.minnesotaseasons.com/Insects/black-and-gold_bumble_bee.html

Slender spreadwing (Lestes rectangularis)

slender spreadwing
Photo by Dan W. Andree

Slender spreadwing (Lestes rectangularis) is one of the most common and one of the most easily recognized damselflies in Minnesota. It occurs in the United States from the East Coast to the Great Plains and in adjacent Canadian provinces. It is found in partially shaded areas in marshes, ponds, lakes, and still backwaters of slow streams.

Adults are about 1½″ to 2″ long. The male thorax is dark brown with yellow sides and wide blue or gray shoulder stripes. The abdomen is dark brown above, yellow on the sides, and extremely long, about twice as long as the wings. The wings are clear with a dark spot near the tip and a pale vein around the tip. The female is similar but has light brown shoulder stripes on the thorax and a shorter and stockier abdomen.

http://www.minnesotaseasons.com/Insects/slender_spreadwing.html

Dyer’s Polypore (Phaeolus schweinitzii)

Dyer’s Polypore
Photo by Luciearl

Dyer’s Polypore (Phaeolus schweinitzii) is one of the most common large polypores in coniferous forests throughout North America. It is used to prepare fabric dyes of various colors, but is also a significant pest to the timber industry in western United States.

The fruiting body is a large, bracket-shaped polypore (conk). It usually appears on the ground as a rosette or an overlapping tier of brackets at or near the base of a large coniferous tree. In Minnesota it is most common on white pine. It attacks the living roots and the heartwood of older trees, causing the disease called red-brown butt rot. The lower 10 to 20 feet of the trunk, the most valuable part for the timber industry, is weakened or hollowed, making the tree susceptible to falling over. On young trees the fungus causes root rot which is also fatal.

The cap is 2″ to 12″ wide and circular when growing on the ground, semicircular or fan-shaped when on a trunk. When young it is soft, spongy, light brownish-yellow to orange, and densely covered with velvety hairs. As it ages it becomes hard, less hairy, and turns dark brown from the center outwards. Older specimens are brittle and dark brown or black, looking something like a cow pie. It is probably poisonous.

http://www.minnesotaseasons.com/Fungi/Dyers_Polypore.html

Ferruginous tiger crane fly (Nephrotoma ferruginea)

ferruginous tiger crane fly
Photo by Alfredo Colon

With over 15,000 described species, the family Tipulidae (crane flies) is one of the largest families of true flies (Diptera). More than 1,600 species occur in North America. The subfamily Tipulinae (large crane flies) contains the largest of the crane flies. In North America, the vast majority of species are in the genera Tipula and Nephrotoma. The genus Nephrotoma (tiger crane flies) contains about 150 described species. The most common of these is ferruginous tiger crane fly (Nephrotoma ferruginea).

“Ferruginous” means reddish-brown or rust colored, but ferruginous tiger crane fly is more often described as orange in color. It is distinguished from other crane flies by the body color, the antennae that are entirely black except for the first two segments, and by a black spot at each end of a groove across the thorax.

http://www.minnesotaseasons.com/Insects/ferruginous_tiger_crane_fly.html

Wasp mantidfly (Climaciella brunnea)

wasp mantidfly
Photo by Bill Reynolds

Wasp mantidfly (Climaciella brunnea) is a large wasp mimic. It occurs across the United States, in adjacent Canadian provinces, and in Mexico and Central America. It is widespread but considered scarce.

With its mantid-like front legs wasp mantidfly looks similar to a praying mantis but it is not even closely related. This is an example of convergent evolution, where unrelated organisms, adapting to similar environments, independently evolve similar characteristics. It also looks similar to a paper wasp. This is an example of Batesian mimicry, making it look like another species that is unpalatable or dangerous to potential predators.

Adults emerge in late May through October. Males live less than a week, females up to a month. They can be found on flowers where they wait on and ambush small insects. During her time the female lays up to several thousand eggs. The small white eggs have short stalks and are attached to the underside of plant leaves. After an egg hatches the larva waits for and then attaches itself to a passing wolf spider. When the female wolf spider begins making an egg sac, the mantid larva crawls off the spider and onto the sac. It then gets wrapped up as the egg sac is completed and feeds on the spider eggs inside.

http://www.minnesotaseasons.com/Insects/wasp_mantidfly.html

Midwestern salmonfly (Pteronarcys pictetii)

midwestern salmonfly

Midwestern salmonfly (Pteronarcys pictetii) is a large, dark brown, giant stonefly. It is common in the Midwest from Minnesota and Wisconsin south to Kansas and Indiana. Adults are 1½″ to 2½″ long. The head narrows slightly in the rear and has a thin, bright orange, rear margin. The plate covering the thorax is highly sculptured and has a thin, bright orange stripe in the middle and three bright orange spots at the base. The legs are robust. The wings have many prominent veins.

Young (naiads) live in well aerated water of small and medium-sized streams. They eat particulate plant matter in the water and move very slowly. When disturbed they will pretend to be dead. They take 2 to 3 years to develop. Adults emerge from April to June and live for only 2 to 3 weeks. They are poor fliers and when disturbed they will run rather than fly away. They are sometimes found far from water. They are active at night (nocturnal) and are attracted to lights.

http://www.minnesotaseasons.com/Insects/midwestern_salmonfly.html

Franklin’s ground squirrel (Poliocitellus franklinii)

Franklin’s ground squirrel
Photo by Lynn Rubey

Franklin’s ground squirrel (Poliocitellus franklinii) is a medium-sized squirrel but a large ground squirrel. It is the largest and darkest ground squirrel in its range. It occurs in the tallgrass prairie region in the United States and Canada. It is considered scarce in Minnesota. It is found in areas with tall vegetation including edges of fields and prairies, open woodlands, and edges of marshes.

Franklin’s ground squirrel is superficially similar in appearance to an eastern gray squirrel but it is smaller and has a shorter, less bushy tail, shorter ears, and a more pointed snout. The coat (pelage) is short and dark gray with pale and dark flecks and a brown wash over the back and rump.

Franklin’s ground squirrel spends most of its time in an underground burrow that can be up to 8 feet deep. It is tolerant of humans and can be seen at camp sights, in state parks, and at dumps. It is omnivorous, feeding on plants, ground nesting bird eggs, insects, and small animals, including other ground squirrels.

http://www.minnesotaseasons.com/Mammals/Franklins_ground_squirrel.html

Cream pea (Lathyrus ochroleucus)

cream pea

Cream pea (Lathyrus ochroleucus) is a low vine that is common in Minnesota except for the southwest quarter of the state. It is found in open woodlands, woodland openings, trailsides, riverbanks, and thickets.

The leaves of cream pea are divided into 3 to 5 widely-spaced pairs of large leaflets. At the end of each leaf there is a slender tendril, and at the base there is a pair of small, leaf-like appendages (stipules). The stipules are rounded at the base and sharply pointed at the tip, appearing half heart-shaped. The shape is distinctive, and can be used to identify the plant when no inflorescence is present. From May to July clusters of cream-colored flowers rise from the leaf axils.

http://www.minnesotaseasons.com/Plants/cream_pea.html

Bohemian knotweed (Fallopia × bohemica)

Bohemian knotweed

Bohemian knotweed (Fallopia × bohemica) is a fertile hybrid between two highly invasive plants, Japanese knotweed and giant knotweed, and it shares features of both of those plants. The hybrid was introduced into North American and cultivated as an ornamental. It escaped from cultivation and is now naturalized across northern United States. It is reported to be partially or fully fertile, but it spreads mostly by rhizomes and by the dispersal of plant fragments.

Bohemian knotweed is found on river banks, along roadways, and in other disturbed areas. It often forms large dense colonies. Its bamboo-like stems are erect, stiff, and hollow, and usually have many long slender branches. The leaves are up to 12″ long and may be spade-shaped, straight across at the base, or slightly heart-shaped, indented at the base. Both leaf shapes may appear on the same branch. Flowers appear from July to October. The inflorescence may be long, narrow, and unbranched, or short, broad, branched, and plume-like, and it may be either shorter or longer than the nearest leaf.

Though one parent, Japanese knotweed, is listed as invasive in Minnesota, this hybrid is not … yet.

http://www.minnesotaseasons.com/Plants/Bohemian_knotweed.html

Green plant bug (Ilnacora malina)

green plant bug
Photo by Alfredo Colon

Plant bugs (family Miridae) is the largest family of true bugs (suborder Heteroptera). There are more than 10,000 known species worldwide, several hundred in North America. Green plant bug (Ilnacora malina) is a small, soft-bodied true bug, a medium-sized to large plant bug. It occurs in the United States east of the Great Plains, from Vermont to Minnesota south to Missouri and Virginia, and in adjacent Canadian provinces. Based on the number of reported sightings in North America, it is not very common.

Green plant bug is green with black spots on the forewings and thorax. The forewings have a black membranous section at the tip. The antennae are very long, as long as the forewings. The legs are long, delicate, and green.

Green plant bug is found from mid-June to late July in damp, shady, grassy and weedy areas. It sucks the juices from the leaves and stems of giant ragweed, goldenrod, and possibly other plants.

http://www.minnesotaseasons.com/Insects/green_plant_bug.html