Saturday, June 27, 2009


This is the first of the Pacific Grove/Big Sur/Santa Cruz/Muir Woods batch - a Snipe Fly, family Rhagionidae. These flies are medium-sized and have large legs with three-padded tarsi, as opposed to most flies which have two-padded tarsi and a middle claw. Most snipe flies are brownish, gray, or black with spots of white, yellow, or green. They may have bare bodies or short hairs. They are common in woods, especially moist places (such as Muir Woods), and the larvae feed on small insects. A few snipe flies are biting pests.

Diptera; Orthorrhapha; Tabanomorpha; Rhagionidae; Rhagio
Snipe Fly

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Back from Monterey

Well, there will be no official collection entries until I return to San Diego where my pinning and identifying equipment is, but here are some teaser live photos of insects and other animals spotted during the trip to Santa Cruz and Monterey. Those pictured below include a moth, a stone fly, two ants (I am 99% certain that that second ant is a winged reproductive individual, not a wasp), a beetle (fairly certain), and two bees, in addition to a banana slug and a salamander/newt - I'll wait for Phil to respond with an identification since he is the amphibian expert. Also, contrary to the popular myth, the underside of a banana slug does NOT numb the tongue. I very thoroughly tested this. The two bees are not common bumble bees or honey bees, so I look forward to keying them.

It ended up being quite a productive trip, since we found a caddisfly and a stonefly, both new ORDERS, not just new families. The stonefly, of family Plecoptera, is one of the older insect orders. They start their lives as aquatic nymphs, as do dragonflies. I will elaborate more on this order once I key the specimen to family - it will probably be one of my first entries after this hiatus!

Monday, June 1, 2009


Surprisingly, the weather in San Diego has been pretty chilly and foggy lately, precluding any insect hunts. Since it has been some time since I posted, due to a lack of new material, I am pulling a few more favorites out of the boxes. Today, the spotlight is on members of family Sphecidae, one of the first few of the order Hymenoptera that I caught. The current families Sphecidae, Crabronidae, and Ampulicidae were once all grouped in the family Sphecidae, but have been separated. The family Sphecidae now contains "thread-waisted wasps," so named for their long slender petiole (first abdominal segment in Hymenoptera). Most are 25mm or more long.

Hymenoptera; Apoidea; Sphecidae (all-black wasp)

Hymenoptera; Apoidea; Sphecidae; Sceliphron caementarium (black and yellow wasp)
Common Name: Black and Yellow Mud Dauber

The Black and Yellow Mud Dauber is a very common member. Mud daubers construct nests of mud and provision them with spiders. The nests usually contain many cells, each about as long as the wasp, placed side by side. They are commonly found on ceilings or walls of old buildings. The two most common mud daubers are S. caementarium and C. californium, the latter being metallic blue.