Saturday, June 4, 2016

Neighbourhood Watch

Kidney-marked fairy, Psyllobora renifer.
I dropped by the gully behind our apartment complex again today, seeing if I could sweep out some more specimens of the corona sigil I found a few days ago. First I swept the Encelia bushes along the roadside, just of interest since I have not checked out the insect life of this plant before. Unfortunately there was not a great deal, and my net was choked up with horrible clingy seeds. Note to self: don't sweep Encelia in summer. I also checked the buckwheat, but oddly it was not very lucrative.

I suppose I should explain what sweeping is to. Well, imagine a crazy person with a ridiculous sunhat, an OCD amount of sun tan lotion on the back of their neck, swiping a net back and forth through vegetation with a camera swinging from their neck. That's me, sweeping vegetation. Sweeping follows the process of gravity. That is, knock a plant, insects fall out, and into the net. It works for some insects, but not others. For instance some species will just cling on, and some will fly up. And generally you won't catch insects that live on the base of the plant, since the flailing stems of the vegetation block you from reaching it. It is maniacal in practice but strangely productive.

In any case, there was one highlight from the Encelia-buckwheat move. While checking out the net contents I saw a micro sitting at the bottom of the net among a series of other crawling bugs. On closer look, I saw he was bright orange! Oooo! I scrambled a box out of my pocket and managed to contain it. Unfortunately a suddenly rapid gust of wind sucked it out of the box after I had the lid off while trying to photograph it, but I still have something to show. Behold, the illustrious flame of Embola powelli!

The illustrious flame of Embola powelli.
A little later I felt a pinch on my arm. This pinch came from an angry dried fruit beetle, a species which is not commonly seen because of its preference for, well, fruit. I then moved down into the gully proper, and that's when the insects started flooding the net. Most of them were the same kind, though, but there were some highlights. Unfortunately a few highlights escaped before I could properly identify them. Ah well. But what did stick around was marvelous nonetheless.

A particularly pinchy dried fruit beetle, Carpophilus hemipterus.
Sweeping the telegraphweed here I found species such as the march fly Dilophus orbatus, the damsel bug Nabis alternatus, an ornate fruit fly associated with Asteraceae Trupanea wheeleri, and another telegraphweed associate, the spittlebug Clastoptera lineaticollis. Other species were more common to me, such as the ever ubiquitous pirate bug Orius tristicolor, and more of the mystery Pissonotus species from before. In fact I found so many Pissonotus that I was lucky enough to find a few winged males this time. Both genders are usually apterous (= wingless), but occasionally winged ones occur.

Trupanea wheeleri.
Clastoptera lineaticollis.
The ever ubiquitous pirate bug, Orius tristicolor.
Winged male of the mystery Pissonotus sp.
I was also lucky enough to find several more of the uncommon ladybeetle from earlier, Hyperaspis cincta. This time there were males present too, so I made sure to take a few home to photograph properly. Another new ladybeetle for me was a fuzzy and just as tiny member of the genus Scymnus. This is the first time I have seen one of these "dusky ladybeetles". There are nearly 100 species, almost all requiring male dissection. So I can't even guess what species it is although it is most likely S. luctuosus. There are 6 identical possibilities for this region of CA though so I'm not yet confident!

Dusky ladybeetle, Scymnus sp.
Further sweeping and a Sonoran bumblebee whizzed past, circled briefly around some perfectly good nectar flowers, and buggered off without stopping. This is the second time I have seen it but the first time I have photographed it...although this yellow blur in the center of the image is hardly worth it! I don't know why bumblebees are so picky here. The honey bees are perfectly content with swarming any and every flower here. My disgust was removed when an odd lynx spider turned up in the net, by the name of Hamataliwa grisea. I don't know how common this spider is but it is poorly documented from this state, but it was a new one for me so I was happy nonetheless. By this point I had already seen double digits of its more common relative, the green lynx spider, which is oddly abundant on the telegraphweed heads.

The lynx spider, Hamataliwa grisea, a name I seem to spell incorrectly
every single time.
With some interesting backyard finds, I headed back. Just before I left the gully a reptile scattered out of sight in some tamarisk shade. However it was not the usual dart-and-freeze motion of the usual lizards, but more continuous and wary, like a whiptail. On closer examination this lizard was brightly striped, not like any dry habitat lizard or whiptail I've seen before. What an earth was it!? But then I remembered there was one lizard in these parts I had not found before, the orange-throated whiptail. Ah, so it was a whiptail after all.

No comments:

Post a Comment