Bugs on Bluets

Yesterday afternoon I took a short walk before some much needed rain clouds settled over western Massachusetts.  I came to a patch of bluets (Houstonia caerulea), common wildflowers that often don’t seem to have much going on with them in terms of insect pollinators.  This patch seemed to be no exception, but I decided maybe I just wasn’t looking closely enough.

Bluets (Houstonia caerulea), about 1 cm across.

Sure enough, all I had to do was kneel down and I started spotting little specks moving about on the flowers.  The first turned out to be a tiny chalcid wasp:

Pteromalid wasp, ~1 mm.

I mostly only see these when they emerge from galls or leaf mines I’ve collected, having parasitized the insect I was trying to raise.  Ross Hill on BugGuide.net identified this as a pteromalid and suggested that it is a hyperparasitoid–a parasitoid that parasitizes other tiny parasitoids.  The next insect to which I turned my attention was a fly:

Wood midge (Cecidomyiidae: Micromyinae) with bluet pollen on its antennae. (1.5 mm)

John Carr quickly identified this as a wood midge (Micromyinae), a member of the gall midge family (Cecidomyiidae), but one whose larvae feed on fungus in fallen wood rather than dwelling in galls.  The tiniest specks I saw wandering around on the flowers were globular springtails of a sort I haven’t seen before:

Globular springtail (0.5 mm).

I sometimes wonder how the intricate, colorful patterns of springtails appear to their tiny, simple eyes.  I don’t know if these springtails had any particular interest in the flowers, but they were the only things I saw more than once while I was studying the bluets.  The last bug I was able to photograph was a thrips.  I normally think of these as feeding on the juices of leaves and petals, but this one was definitely going in and out of the flowers and picking up pollen on its back as it did so.

Thrips (Thysanoptera; 1 mm).

About Charley Eiseman

I am a freelance naturalist, endlessly fascinated by the interconnections of all the living and nonliving things around me. I am the lead author of Tracks & Sign of Insects and Other Invertebrates (Stackpole Books, 2010), and continue to collect photographs and information on this subject. These days I am especially drawn to galls, leaf mines, and other plant-insect interactions.
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8 Responses to Bugs on Bluets

  1. Ilona says:

    The colorful springtail looks like Katiannina macgillivrayi. They are really abundant around here in Wisconsin.

  2. Dave says:

    Thrips are common in flowers and,sSurprisingly, many are considered important pollinators. Some Australian cycads, for example, are pollinated by thrips.

  3. Ben says:

    Just last week, I was watching a cuckoo bee much like the one you posted a picture of in your post on ground bees visiting a bunch of bluets. I don’t know how common that is, but the bee was definitely interested in the flowers.

  4. Pingback: Wood-boring Beetle Parasitoids, Part 2 | BugTracks

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