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Sunday, January 04, 2009

10 Days Preceding the End of Year Bug Count



















I was called away on solstice this year and so couldn't take a survey of the bugs on the estate on that auspicious day. Part of this year's count, therefore, was done on 12/27 and finished on 12/30 and 12/31. 12/27 was a sunny day following several days of rain surrounding the 25th. The other two days featured foggy mornings, clearing about midday with temps in the mid-60s. When conducting annual population surveys it's the norm to take the count on a specific day or days to control the temporal relevance of the data. What about weather variance year to year, however? Is it more valid to stick to the exact date, or to choose a date within a reasonable range with the desired (consistent) weather conditions? Anyway, my problem this year was not weather but an overloaded schedule neither of which will stop the accumulation of data, to wit:

ARACHNIDS

*(1) Hololena curta, funnel weaver spider, preying on a treehopper.
*Green lynx (Peucetia viridens) spiderlings (10 or more) and (1) adult female.
*Some (3) small brown jumping spiders, most likely Habronattus sp. One of these was hanging out with the Bagrada bugs in an almost friendly way.
*I've always known these as trash web spiders, Cyclosa turbinata. They spin a small orb web and accumulate trash, insect carcasses and old silk in the middle. Our spiders (4 of them) weave elm (ulmus parvifolia) samaras into the web center to form a tent-like structure in which the small spiders hide in wait for prey.

INSECTS

*Tropical house cricket, Gryllodes supplicans, adult (1) and nymphs (2).
*(1) Forktailed bush katydid, Scudderia furcata, nymph.
*Ootheca (3) of Stagmomantis californica; next year's crop of mantids asleep in their foamy wombs.
*(2) adult European earwigs, Forficula auricularia. This seems like a ridiculously low number of these insects that often mount populations of pestiferous proportions. Of course I do not turn over every rock or pot, or poke into each pile of duff. Suffice it to say they are not now reproducing at the same rate they do in high summer.
*One assassin bug, Zelus renardii; an adult.
*Some (20 or so) Murgantia histrionica (harlequin bugs) split between adults and nymphs. One of the adults was hanging out with a large group of Bagrada hilaris. These two species feed on the sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima) and since their arrival this year the Bagrada have taken control of that resource, resulting in much lower population of Murgantia.
*Like I said: 100s of Bagrada hilaris adults and nymphs in all stages.
*One leaf-footed bug (Leptoglossus zonatus) among the myrtle berries.
*Yet-to-be-identified mirid-style bugs, (1) adult and (1) nymph both on my famous Everlast gerber flowers still in full bloom in the so-called dead of winter.
*Lots (50+) nymphs and about (10) adult large milkweed bugs, Oncopeltus fasciatus. These were mostly clumped together away from the milkweed as is their habit in the cold. The adults seem to position themselves on the outside of the clumps; whether this is due to an adaptive behavior that better protects the smaller ones, or just a result of the smaller ones being able to better squeeze into the center, I dunno.
*(1) unidentified brown plant bug. Now that's leaving it wide open.
*The huge summer population of Niesthrina louisianica (mallow seed bugs) has disappeared, leaving just (1) medium sized nymph that I could find and a few eggs. The Abutilon palmerii they were living on has suffered a setback; I believe tissue saturation from the recent rains, and the leaves on half of the plant have withered. Is this why the bugs moved on, or is it just the cold?
*Aphids are hard to identify except for Aphis nerii, the oleander aphid. There are hundreds of them on the milkweed.
*There are also 100s of aphids (likely rose aphid, Macrosiphum rosea) on the Euryops virgineus. By the way, this plant is one of those surprise acquisitions that has proved to be very rewarding. Usually sold as tiny perennials for color pots, its fairy-like ferny foliage and tiny flowers do not predict its ultimate size of about 6 feet. The stems remain soft, though, and burst into flower in very early spring.
*Aphids also have colonized the Salvia madrensis flower spikes. 100s of them, not sure which species.
*Leafhoppers: Scaphytopius sp (1), Empoasca sp (numerous on dodonaea), the green + pink jobs (3).
*As previously mentioned, there was (1) keeled treehopper, Antianthe expansa, being predated by a spider.
*Citrus mealybug (Planococcus citri) is a terrible pest of citrus trees around here. Oddly I found just two. Now if I had killed those two would the scourge of the coming summer be averted?
*Likewise scale insects can be damaging to woody perennials, shrubs and trees if not controlled. But I saw just (1) adult black scale (Saissetia olea) and (2) Wax scale (Ceroplastes sp) so not to worry . . . famous last words.
*There was (1) Fuller rose beetle (Pantomorus cervinus, aka Asynonychus godmani) found in (of all places) a rose. All Fuller rose beetles are female, by the way.
*Some (3) Asian ladybird beetles, Harmonia axyridis. They were very sluggish, hunkered down into leaf folds. See aphids, above. Let's get going, girls.
*Numerous honeybees, Apis mellifera.
*Just (1) green metallic bee, Agapostemon sp.
*An ichneumon wasp, Diplazon laetatorius, was cruising among the aphids on the milkweed. However this wasp parasitizes syrphid fly larvae, not aphids as one would hope. Oh the complexity of the insect world.
*I saw a braconid-style wasp, no idea which one.
*And (1) paper wasp, Polistes sp. was cruising the shrubberies for caterpillars which I did not see.
*A small dumpy looking fly that quite possibly could be an aphid fly, Leucopis sp.
*One tachinid fly, unknown species.
*A couple of syrphid flies, also of unknown species.
*Trupanea nigricornis, a cute little fruit fly that lays its eggs in composite flower heads, was frequenting the Copper Canyon daisies in moderate (10 or so) numbers.
*There were three monarch (Danaus plexippus) caterpillars chomping away at the cold-purpled milkweed leaves.
*And one beautiful Cloudless Sulfur butterfly (Phoebis sennae) cruised by in the warm December sun, maybe seeking the feathery cassia to lay eggs on or maybe just as a reminder of how great it is to be able to count bugs on a couple of calm winter days in Southern California.

**Peace to all, and happy new year.

1 comment:

Ira said...

A low cost, green eco friendly, healthy natural way to deal with aphids is to make a homemade liquid from soapberries which grow on the Chinaberry tree and have been used for thousands of years. They work very effectively.