Some more flies 4 U

When I finished my previous post, I checked my email and discovered that my third paper with Owen Lonsdale has just been published*. In it we describe another ten new species of agromyzid flies, which brings our total to 49 (not counting those Owen has described on his own or with Sonja Scheffer). Not all of these are species I “discovered”; two of the latest batch were reared by Mike Palmer in Oregon and Oklahoma, and two by John van der Linden in Iowa (including Melanagromyza vanderlindeni, a stem borer in Joe-pye weed). Today I’ll quickly introduce you to the other six, in the order I found them.

Ophiomyia antennariae is a leafminer of plantain-leaved pussytoes (Asteraceae: Antennaria plantaginifolia). Julia and I found the mines at Cane Creek Canyon Nature Preserve in northwestern Alabama in April 2013, during our only Southeastern leafminer expedition to date. Similar mines found elsewhere in the US have proven to be the work of O. coniceps, and even one of the females I reared from Cane Creek Canyon seems to be that species. The mines of the two species don’t seem to be reliably distinguishable, and the adults are pretty darn similar too; in fact, the reason O. antennariae didn’t make it into our first paper is that I was trying to convince Owen that the two are the same species, but he finally prevailed.

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At the Connecticut BioBlitz in June 2016, Julia and I found a leaf mine on black raspberry (Rosaceae: Rubus occidentalis) that was a little different from the usual linear ones made by Agromyza vockerothi. Unlike the mines of that species, this one had the frass in two distinct rows at the beginning and widened to an irregular blotch at the end (though it could well have been a purely linear mine that was simply highly contorted toward the end). Also unlike A. vockerothi, I had to wait a whole year for the adult fly to emerge. When Owen told me he needed a name for this new species, Prince’s “Raspberry Beret” popped into my head, so I decided to call it Agromyza princei.

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Early in 2017, Julia and I drove to southern California to see the super bloom. We explored some canyons in Arizona on the way there and back, in both cases finding agromyzid leaf mines on a shrub called Wright’s silktassel (Garryaceae: Garrya wrightii). Then we spent a day at Ann and Bruce Hendrickson’s ranch in Edwards County, Texas, where we found what seemed to be the same mines on eggleaf silktassel (G. ovata). Adults from both hosts did in fact prove to be the same species, so the type series of Liriomyza garryae includes specimens from both Arizona and Texas.

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Right in the Hendricksons’ yard, we found mines on three different species of wild sage (Lamiaceae: Salvia spp.), all of which turned out to be the work of another new fly species, Phytomyza salviarum. Owen determined this to be a close relative of P. verbenae, a leafminer of western vervain (Verbenaceae: Verbena lasiostachys) that we described in our first paper.

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I’d been wondering about the linear mines in the phlox (Polemoniaceae: Phlox paniculata) in my mother’s garden for five years before I finally managed to rear a single adult in July 2017. It’s always possible that linear agromyzid mines on an unusual host are the work of a generalist species like Liriomyza sativae or L. trifolii, but I have yet to encounter either of these in New England, and the adults I rear here always turn out to be something more interesting. Unfortunately I never saw the unique holotype of Liriomyza phloxiphaga alive, but I reared a bunch of adults from woodland phlox (P. divaricata) in Iowa this summer and got photos of them; maybe they will turn out to be the same species.

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Two years ago this month, Julia and I met up with Noah Charney and his family at Noah’s mother’s house in Nashville to witness the full solar eclipse. One of my favorite parts of that experience was when I realized that the katydids were in full chorus at the height of the eclipse, and then listened as they seamlessly turned back into cicadas as the sun reemerged. It was also neat how the the light coming through the tiny gaps between the tree leaves caused a million little crescents to appear in the shadows on the ground.

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Anyway, just around the corner from Noah’s mother’s house, we spotted some whitish blotch mines in a little patch of hairy leafcup (Asteraceae: Smallanthus uvedalius). These were apparently the same mines that Spencer & Steyskal (1986) discussed as “Unidentified mine No. 9” in their manual of US Agromyzidae, but the adults I reared are the only known specimens of Calycomyza smallanthi.

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That’s it for this installment, but never fear, still more descriptions of new fly species are already in progress!

* Eiseman, Charles S. and Owen Lonsdale. 2019. New state and host records for Agromyzidae (Diptera) in the United States, with the description of ten new species. Zootaxa 4661: 1–39.

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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1 Response to Some more flies 4 U

  1. Cool blog start to finish, but I especially like the part about cicadas turning into katydids and back again during the eclipse!

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