The Yard List(s), Part 20

Before I get to the latest additions, I’ve got a few updates on some previous finds. Two exciting (albeit nondescript) flies emerged on Tuesday. One was from the leaf mines on oregano I found by the front stoop on June 20:


He emerged from a moldy leaf, and some of the mold rubbed off on his head and thorax, but unkempt appearance aside, he is the first known North American specimen of Phytomyza origani. Or at least, that’s my assumption; I will be very surprised if Owen Lonsdale reaches a different conclusion when he examines the specimens (another three have emerged over the past few days).

The other exciting fly on Tuesday was this male Ophiomyia from one of the hawkweed stem mines I found on the other side of the front stoop on July 1.


In this genus, males can be recognized from their little Salvador Dalí mustaches as well as by looking at the tip of the abdomen. This fly is either another previously undocumented immigrant from Europe, or an undescribed species, or a named species that has not been reared from hawkweed before. We’ll see what Owen says…

Sawfly #32: On Wednesday I found a larva on a wild red raspberry that was clearly different from #30 on the same host, which had distinct black markings on its head in addition to being much darker overall.


Also on Wednesday, this entedonine eulophid (Chrysocharis, maybe) emerged from the Bohemannia pulverosella leaf mine I collected from the old apple tree on June 21.


Speaking of which, this skinny-waisted entedonine emerged from one of the oregano leaf mines on July 4:


So there are at least two different wasp species parasitizing Phytomyza origani in the little patch of oregano by my front door (I’ve also reared two female eulophines that are likely Pnigalio).

And while we’re on the topic of entedonine eulophids, here’s another one that emerged from a puparium of the hawkweed stem miner on Thursday:


This is why you don’t just collect a single example of a mine and assume what emerges will be the insect that made it! Sometimes there only is one mine though, as with the underside tentiform mine I found on our medlar on June 27, from which this eulophid emerged on Friday:


The host is probably the same as leafminer #115, the Parornix on the hawthorn by the mailbox, whose mines have a similar speckling on the lower surface.  Here’s the one on medlar from which the wasp emerged:


Leafminer #119 & sawfly #33: Schizocerella pilicornis (Argidae).  I saw several mines of this species on purslane while I was picking greens for breakfast in the vegetable garden on Thursday morning.  Adult males of S. pilicornis have fancy antler-like antennae, and one is pictured on the cover of my leafminer book.


Leafminer #120: Bucculatrix pomifoliella (Bucculatricidae).  On Thursday evening I found a single tiny mine of this moth on a black cherry leaf.  As with most Bucculatrix species, after making this mine the larva spends the rest of its life feeding in little patches on the leaf surface.


I also found a single mine of Bucculatrix pomifoliella yesterday on the hawthorn by the mailbox.

Leafminer #121: Coptotriche castaneaeella (Tischeriidae). There were little mines of this moth just getting started on a sapling in the “nut orchard” that is basically a red oak (Quercus rubra) but seemingly with a little black oak (Q. velutina) mixed in.


Earlier on Thursday I had noticed a completed mine of this species along the road by my incessantly ATV-joyriding new neighbor’s house. For whatever reason, Coptotriche castaneaeella decorates the ceiling of its mine with little brown crescents. The contracting silk of its pupal chamber causes the upper epidermis to tear all around it.


Leaf (stem) miner #122: On Friday I found another noteworthy fly mine right by my front door, this time on daisy fleabane (Asteraceae: Erigeron annuus). It was a stem mine made by an agromyzid fly, probably in the genus Ophiomyia, but there isn’t an Ophiomyia recorded from Erigeron. Last year on the other side of the house I found a stem mine on horseweed (Erigeron canadensis, formerly Conyza canadensis) with an empty Ophiomyia puparium in it; this new mine didn’t seem to have a puparium yet, but I’ll keep watching it.


Leafminer #123: Coptotriche citrinipennella (Tischeriidae). Another look at that same blackish red oak sapling revealed several mines of this moth. These mines are always formed along the leaf margin, and silk spun by the larva inside causes the leaf to curl over and conceal much of the mine.


Here’s an adult Coptotriche citrinipennella that just emerged from a similar mine on scarlet oak (Q. coccinea) we collected on July 2 while conducting a leafminer survey in Rhode Island:


I hadn’t really focused my attention on this blackish red oak sapling before, maybe because it’s so close to the ATV tempest that keeps erupting nextdoor lately, but in this moment of calm I looked up and saw an impressive density of leaf cuts made by leaf-rolling weevils.


There is one leaf roll still attached near the middle of the photo.

Sawfly #34: Diprion similis (Diprionidae).  This introduced European species feeds on needles of white pine (Pinaceae: Pinus strobus), and I had found larvae in the woods behind our house a few weeks ago but I’m keeping this list strictly to what I can find in the yard. There are hardly any pine needles near ground level around our yard, but there are some pine trees along the boundary between the “lower nut orchard” and our neighbor, and a larva dropped down from one of these to spin its cocoon on a twig of the blackish red oak sapling.


The other day I showed an example of a “grass sheathminer fly” (Agromyzidae:  Cerodontha dorsalis) mine that was entirely in the sheath of a corn leaf.  I mentioned that on smaller grasses the mine begins as a long track in the leaf blade before entering the sheath; here’s an example on reed canary grass (Poaceae: Phalaris arundinacea), which used to be a dominant feature in the “nut orchard” before we let it become overgrown with shrubs, vines, and small trees.


The “nut orchard” is a little strip of land that was sold to the previous owner of our house by the previous owner of the house nextdoor.  Before that acquisition, I’m guessing the previous owner of our house got a package of assorted tree seedlings from the Arbor Day Foundation or something like that and planted them all together—way too close together—along what was the property boundary at the time.  So there is now a dense clump of trees that don’t naturally grow in this type of soil, and in some cases aren’t native to New England: there is a big nonnative poplar that I haven’t been able to identify; a silver maple; a pin oak; a red pine; a pitch pine (now deceased due to overcrowding); a European larch; and several nonnative spruces (a couple of which we cut down, along with some white pines that may or may not have been planted, to let some more light into our yard).  Most of the silver maple foliage is well out of reach, but looking up at it on Friday I noticed a few characteristic leaf rolls ten feet or so above me:


Leafminer #124: Caloptilia sp. (Gracillariidae).  The rolls were made by one of several maple-feeding species in this genus, which need to be reared to adults to be identified. The larvae form inconspicuous leaf mines and then exit them to feed in lopsided leaf rolls like the ones shown above (below the big one is a smaller one that the same larva made at the tip of another leaf lobe). The little dark smudge below and to the right of the big roll may or may not be the larva’s initial mine.

Leafminer #125: Phyllonorycter trinotella (Gracillariidae).  I did find one leaf mine that was within reach, on a young sprout from the base of the silver maple.  Although there are three eastern Phyllonorycter species that make underside tentiform mines on maples (all of which have been reared from silver maple), this one should be P. trinotella based on its small size.  Naturally, it already has an exit hole made by an emerging parasitoid wasp, so I can’t rear an adult to verify.


Yesterday morning, as I was passing the shadbush we planted next to the garage—on which I found the leaf-rolling sawfly a month ago—I noticed this caterpillar sitting atop some webbing spun over the upper surface of a leaf.


It seemed like an odd thing to do; usually the point of spinning webbing is to hide under it, or to create a leaf shelter to hide in. It’s still sitting there this morning, with denser webbing but no further curling of the leaf.

Anyway, when I stopped for a closer look at the caterpillar, I noticed a bunch of sawfly larvae working on defoliating part of the bush. And looking around the bush a bit more, I found two other species, for a total of four different sawfly species found feeding on this one little bush this season.

Sawfly #35.  Not sure how long these have been there, but they’re certainly making their presence known now.


Nice of them to leave the fruits, at least.


Sawfly #36.  Once I was in a sawfly frame of mind, I noticed a few leaves near the ground with brown patches on them and wondered if they were made by Caliroa larvae feeding on the lower surface.


They sure were!


Although they look much like the ones I found on the aspen sapling in the front yard, I assume they are a different species based on the unrelated host plant.


I also found a single tiny larva of a third species on the underside of one of the leaves at the top of the plant.


At this point I’m not sure whether or not this is different from sawfly #14 (see the bottom of this post), which I found on the little Amelanchier laevis we planted on the other side of the house.  I’ll have to watch and see how it develops.

I spent a good chunk of yesterday afternoon gathering several quarts of black and red raspberries from around the yard, pausing occasionally to collect of photograph another new leaf mine or sawfly larva. This one on blackberry is probably the same as #32 on red raspberry:


After I photographed that one, I noticed that #32 had molted to a prepupa; I dropped it in a jar of soil and it immediately disappeared into it.


While I was at it I got a quick shot of #30, the original red raspberry sawfly, who curls up at the slightest provocation.


Over the next hour I found two larvae on black raspberry:


I put them in the same rearing jar together, but I’m wondering now if I should separate them in case those prominent dark spots on the first one’s prolegs and abdomen are significant. I imagine at least the second one is the same species as the similar ones on blackberry and red raspberry… I sure hope I can rear them to adults so I can get this all sorted out.

While picking berries near a red oak sapling along the south edge of the yard, I found another lovely Coptotriche castaneaeella mine like the one along the road, though a predator apparently tore the larva out of this one before it started making its pupal chamber:


Leafminer #126: Phyllonorycter sp. (Gracillariidae).  There was a single underside mine on that same red oak sapling.


There are many oak-feeding Phyllonorycter species, but based on the way the frass is scattered rather than consolidated into a neat pile at one end, I suspect it is one of the species that gathers up its frass when it’s done feeding and incorporates it into its cocoon. I’m guessing P. basistrigella; hopefully I’ll be able to confirm that later. I don’t remember ever seeing Phyllonorycter mines on oak in my yard before.

Leafminer #127: Calycomyza promissa (Agromyzidae).  There are now numerous mines of this fly on the calico asters (Asteraceae: Symphyotrichum lateriflorum) along the west side of our house.  Here is a nice pair that shows how the mine develops: it starts as a green line leading to a digitate blotch that is centered over the leaf midrib; this blotch expands and becomes puffy and whitish, often obliterating the initial linear portion.  The puparium of this species is formed within the mine, atop a long, narrow pedestal of frass.


I wasn’t the only one who spent the day gathering raspberries. These were on the chipmunk’s favorite perch at the end of a garden wall.


I wished I had a zoom lens handy when I spotted her hanging out with a rabbit on the other side of the vegetable garden.  Look at those cheeks!


Leafminer #128: Agromyza pseudoreptans (Agromyzidae).  I mentioned the other day, when I found the blackish mine of A. reptans on stinging nettle, that the greenish-brown mines of A. pseudoreptans are much more common in my yard.  I’ve been watching some mines on a nettle plant right by the chicken run for a few days; I was pretty sure they were paler than A. reptans, but now they’re far enough along to be sure:


(Stinging nettle plant at left.)

A few more edible plants to log:

83. Basil (Lamiaceae: Ocimum basilicum) – leaves
84. Lowbush blueberry (Ericaceae: Vaccinium pallidum) – fruit
85. American black currant (Grossulariaceae: Ribes americanum) – fruit
86. Gooseberry (Grossulariaceae: some other Ribes species) – fruit
87. Chamomile (Asteraceae: Matricaria chamomilla) – flowers (tea)


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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3 Responses to The Yard List(s), Part 20

  1. Peggy Richardson says:

    Not apropos of your above saga, but regarding your wonderful Milkweed/Monarch rant from a while back, my memory came up with the following book by my local wonderful naturalist/photographer Mary Holland, should you be interested. Here’s the Amazon blurb:
    Milkweed Visitors uses simple text and exquisite photography to provide a close look at many of the the creatures that visit her common milkweed patch in Vermont. The text introduces concepts including predator, nectivore, herbivore and pollination. The book was designed for both home and classroom use: the pages are numbered and there is a glossary.

  2. Pingback: The Yard List(s), Part 22 | BugTracks

  3. Pingback: The Yard List(s), Part 24 | BugTracks

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