December Bugs

It’s been quiet here on the BugTracks front lately, as I’ve been devoting all of my computer time to working on the leafminer book. As a result, I’ve decided to take a break from “monthly mysteries” for the winter, since all the mysteries I’ve been puzzling over lately are related to my research, and I don’t want to try my faithful readers’ patience by posting one unidentified leaf mine after another. Instead, I’m going to devote one post a month to taking a walk and challenging myself to get some decent photos of bugs that are out and about despite the cold and snow.

So this morning I dusted off my macro lens and headed into the woods behind my house. After seeing nothing but snow fleas for a while, I decided to peel a flake of bark off of a dead sapling and see if that’s where everything was hiding.  At first glance, I just saw some more snow fleas (Hypogastruridae: Hypogastrura)…

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…but on closer inspection there were some other, better camouflaged springtails (Entomobryidae) running around as well.

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The stripey ones are Entomobrya clitellaria.  The plain (second) one is E. griseoolivata.

A few inches away, I peeled back another bark flap to reveal a pair of crab spiders (Philodromidae, or “running” crab spiders).

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Apparently they weren’t hungry for snow fleas.

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Another bark flap on a different sapling yielded a different type of crab spider (another philodromid, or “running” crab spider.).

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Heading back toward my house, I saw a winter crane fly (Trichoceridae: Trichocera) alight on the snow long enough to get its picture taken.

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There were quite a few other kinds of flies buzzing around, but this was the only other one I saw land (John Carr has suggested it is a heleomyzid in the genus Orbellia):

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Back in my yard, I encountered yet another crab spider walking on the snow (yet another philodromid, and probably all of these are in the genus Philodromus)…

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…as well as this ground beetle larva (Carabidae: Harpalini), which might be a little intimidating if it were more than 1 cm long.

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I’m hoping that by the end of the winter I’ll have photos of one of those wingless crane flies that walks around on the snow. So far the only ones I’ve met since I’ve had a proper macro lens have been missing legs and not very photogenic.

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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6 Responses to December Bugs

  1. You make all that you photograph come to life with such personality and beauty. Thank you for opening my eyes in a new way to the insect world.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Nice photos! Just wanted to let you know that those spiders weren’t true crab spiders (Thomisidae), but “running crab spiders” (Philodromidae). Look like the genus Philodromus too. Anyway, thanks for the post!

    • Yup, I put a “Philodromidae” tag on this post but didn’t use the Latin name in the text. I think I left out the “running” to avoid confusion, since these were all more or less sitting still. I was pretty confident that the two brown ones were Philodromus, but I wasn’t sure about the gray ones… checking BugGuide quickly just now, I see that this one is a good match. I’ll edit the post to clarify for the other sticklers out there. 🙂

  3. kentiki says:

    Just the kind of post I like: informative and entertaining! Fantastic photos. Don’t you love how macro photos reveal so much more than your eye originally spotted?

  4. Pingback: In Search of Snow Bugs | BugTracks

  5. Pingback: Quinquennial Snow Flea Session | BugTracks

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