Category Archives: Insects

Band-winged crane fly (Epiphragma fasciapenne)

band-winged crane fly

Photo by Alfredo Colon

Band-winged crane fly (Epiphragma fasciapenne) is a common, easily identified, moderate-sized crane fly. It occurs in the eastern United States and adjacent Canadian provinces east of the Great Plains. Eastern Minnesota is at the western edge of its range. It is found in floodplain woodlands and wooded areas adjacent to swamps.

Like all crane flies, the body is long and slim, the wings are long and narrow, and the legs are very long, very thin, and very fragile. The thorax has a distinct, V-shaped groove on top. The lower jaws each have a very long, antenna-like extension.

Band-winged crane fly is distinguished by the distinctive wing pattern with four bands of bordered brown spots, and by a dark brown band at the very tip of the third leg segment.

http://www.minnesotaseasons.com/Insects/band-winged_crane_fly.html

Lesser bulb fly (Eumerus spp.)

Lesser bulb fly (Eumerus spp.)

Photo by Alfredo Colon

Eumerus is a genus of small hoverflies in the family Syrphidae. With 281 known species, it is one of the largest genera of flies. It is found throughout the Palearctic realm, which includes Europe, Asia north of the Himalayas, North Africa, and the northern and central parts of the Arabian Peninsula. Several Eumerus species have been introduced into North and South America. Three of these are known to occur in the United States: lesser bulb fly (Eumerus funeralis), narcissus bulb fly (Eumerus narcissi), and onion bulb fly (Eumerus strigatus). Collectively, they are known as lesser bulb flies.

Adult lesser bulb flies are black tinged with bronze. They have pale longitudinal stripes on the thorax and silvery-white stripes on the abdomen. The larvae are considered pests. They tunnel into plant bulbs, causing the bulbs to rot. The bulb either dies or produces stunted growth in the following growing season. In some areas, up to 25% of narcissus bulbs are infected.

http://www.minnesotaseasons.com/Insects/lesser_bulb_fly_(Eumerus_spp.).html

Nomad bee (Nomada sp.)

nomad bee (Nomada sp.)

Photo by Alfredo Colon

There are more than 850 species of nomad bee (Nomada sp.) worldwide, more than 280 species in North America. Like other cuckoo bees (subfamily Nomadinae), nomad bees do not construct nests, but lay their eggs in the nests of ground-nesting bees. One to four eggs are laid in the cell wall of the host nest. The larvae have large, outward-facing, scissor-like mandibles. The first larva to emerge destroys all the other eggs, both those of the host and those of its own siblings. It consumes the pollen provisioned by its host, and emerges as an adult the same time as the host adults emerge.

Nomad bees are usually black, black and red, or entirely red, with yellow, white, and/or red markings. Many species have red legs. The genus Nomada includes the only bees in North America that are entirely red. They have short, thin, and inconspicuous hairs on the body and no pollen-collecting hairs (scopa) on the hind legs. They look more like wasps than a bees.

http://www.minnesotaseasons.com/Insects/nomad_bee_(Nomada).html

Iowa skipper (Atrytone arogos iowa)

Iowa skipper

Photo by Scott Leddy

Iowa skipper (Atrytone arogos iowa) is a species of special concern in Minnesota. Its populations are restricted to undisturbed tallgrass and shortgrass prairies in the Great Plains. Massive habitat destruction and excessively frequent prescribed burning on managed prairies are major threats to the subspecies survival. It is declining in the northern parts of its range. It is no longer found in 200 western counties it was once known from. It is estimated that there are over 100 remaining populations, but those are small and scattered. It is considered uncommon to rare wherever it occurs. In Minnesota, it is found mostly in the southwest quarter of the state.

Iowa skipper is a small to medium-sized grass skipper. The wings are yellowish-orange with a broad, dark border. The female has a thin black streak in the center of the forewing, but otherwise the wings are unmarked. When at rest, the forewings are held at a 45° angle and the hindwiings are held horizontal, a configuration that resembles an F-15 Eagle fighter jet.

Iowa skipper is similar in appearance to the Delaware skipper (Anatrytone logan), which is much more common. Iowa skipper is distinguished by the lack of any black veining on the upperside of the wings; lack of a black cell end bar on the forewing; wing undersides not as bright; and the hindwing fringe that is usually white, not tan or orange.

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

Wild indigo duskywing (Erynnis baptisiae)

wild indigo duskywing

Photo by John Shier

Wild indigo duskywing (Erynnis baptisiae) is a medium-sized spread-wing skipper. It is widespread, abundant, and increasing in the east and the Midwest, but rare in Minnesota.

Wild indigo duskywing was originally a species of open woodlands and shrubby prairies. The larvae fed on mostly on horseflyweed but also blue wild indigo and sundial lupine. With the decline of those species due to habitat loss, the skipper adapted to the introduced, locally abundant species crown vetch. Today, its range is rapidly expanding and its numbers are increasing wherever crown vetch has been widely planted.

Wild indigo duskywing has dark brown wings; a pale spot at the end of the forewing cell; and four translucent white spots at the leading edge near the tip of the forewing. Along with columbine duskywing and Perseus duskywing, it is part of the “Persius species complex”. They are very similar in appearance and difficult or impossible to distinguish in the field. Columbine duskywing is smaller, lighter, and has shorter wings. Perseus duskywing has not been recorded in Minnesota.

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

Cocklebur weevil (Rhodobaenus quinquepunctatus)

cocklebur weevil

Photo by Alfredo Colon

Cocklebur weevil (Rhodobaenus quinquepunctatus) is a medium-sized snout beetle. It is widespread in the eastern half of the United States. Adults eat the stalks and leaves of cocklebur, ragweed, thistle, ironweed, Joe Pye weed, sunflower, marsh elder, and rosinweed. Larvae bore into the stems and roots of the same species. It is easily controlled and does not occur in numbers high enough to become an agricultural pest.

Snout beetles are identified by their very long snout. Cocklebur weevil is identified by the reddish-orange body; the oval-shaped black spot in the middle of the thorax; and ten black spots on the wing covers that usually merge to some extent with neighboring spots, especially toward the rear.

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

Pandorus sphinx (Eumorpha pandorus)

pandorus sphinx

Photo by Chad & Autumn Brekke

Pandorus sphinx (Eumorpha pandorus) is a very large, dramatically patterned, sphinx moth. It is common and widespread in eastern United States. Adults fly at dusk from May to September. They have a wingspan of 3¼″ to 4½″, and a pale green background with a complex pattern of dark olive-green markings.

Humans are more likely to encounter caterpillars than adults. Known as hornworms, the caterpillars are found on grape and Virginia creeper in Minnesota, and also on peppervine elsewhere. They are very large, up to 3½″ long, and consume copious amounts of foliage. They can completely defoliate young grape vines, ultimately killing them. Older vines can withstand the damage.

Pandorus sphinx is similar in appearance to Achemon sphinx (Eumorpha achemon). The latter species is smaller and less common, and the adults are brown, not green.

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

Rhubarb curculio (Lixus concavus)

rhubarb curculio

Photo by Alfredo Colon

Rhubarb curculio (Lixus concavus) is a large, easily identified, true weevil. It is common from New Hampshire, south to North Carolina, and west to Utah. It is uncommon in the upper Midwest, including Minnesota. At up to ⅝″ in length and 3 ⁄16″ in width, it is one of the largest snout beetles in the United States.

Rhubarb curculio adults are active from mid-May to September. They are found on stalks and leaves of thistles, sunflowers, docks, and rhubarb. They are one of only two weevil species that attack rhubarb. They can be a pest to crops of these plants but they are easily controlled.

Snout beetles are easily identified by their long, flattened or cylindrical snout that is at least as long as the pronotum. Rhubarb curculio is easily identified by the bright yellowish bloom on the head, pronotum, and wing covers.

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

Long-tailed dance fly (Rhamphomyia longicauda)

long-tailed dance fly

Photo by Alfredo Colon

Long-tailed dance fly (Rhamphomyia longicauda) is a small, black, long-legged fly. It is commonly found from May to July in deciduous woods near water. The wings are long and black. The head is round with large bright orange or red eyes. On the female, the middle and hind legs have a fringe of long, black, bristly hairs.

Every evening around sunset, males and females collect in same-sex swarms. Females and fly up and down, the behavior that gives this family its common name “dance-flies”. Females cannot hunt for prey. They receive protein from males as gifts in exchange for copulation. They swallow air, filling and extending their abdomen outward, saucer-like, falsely signaling males that their eggs are nearing maturity. The long hairy legs wrap around the abdomen, making it appear even larger. Males are attracted to females that have largest swollen abdomens and hairiest legs. An individual will break off and join the other swarm to select a mate.

http://www.minnesotaseasons.com/Insects/long-tailed_dance_fly.html

Colorado potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata)

Colorado potato beetle

Photo by Alfredo Colon

Colorado potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata) is relatively small for a beetle but relatively large for a leaf beetle. Adults are ¼″ to 7 ⁄16″ long and about ⅛″ wide. The body is oval when viewed from above and dome-shaped when viewed from the side. The wing covers are pale yellow with five black lines on each side. The are no similar species in Minnesota.

Prior to European settlement, the Colorado potato beetle was found only in Colorado and neighboring states. The potato was introduced into North America in the 1600s and began to be widely grown in the early 1700s. By 1840 the potato reached the insects home range. By 1859 the insect had switched to the potato as its preferred host, and by 1874 it had spread all the way to the east coast. It is now present across North America, Europe, and Asia.

Colorado potato beetle is a serious crop pest to potato growers. The insect rapidly evolves resistance to chemical pesticides. Many insecticides that once successfully controlled the beetle are no longer effective.

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