It’s been just over four months since I last posted here, and I’ve got a few updates to share.
First of all, I’m alive and well; it’s just been an extremely busy field season! In contrast with last year, when I was minimally employed for a good chunk of the time and got to devote many hours to chronicling the goings-on in my yard, this year I’ve been working nonstop in various places that were mostly 1-2 hours from home. Things have finally slowed down in the past couple of weeks, and soon I’ll start going through all my photos from the past half a year and posting the highlights here.
Second, I just finished putting together my fourth annual Leafminers of North America calendar, and as with last year, I will send a copy to anyone who makes a donation of at least $30 (the amount WordPress charges me each year to keep this blog free of annoying ads) before the end of November, which you can do here (select “Send,” and then include your mailing address in the notes). This year each month shows a whole leafminer life cycle instead of a single full-page photo per month.
Third, today the much-anticipated July issue of Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington was finally published, and it includes a short paper of mine* that relates to two things I’ve written about here previously. In June 2018, I wrote about two lauxaniid flies in the genus Minettia I had recently met that seemed very interested in leaves that were being mined by other flies. In my concluding paragraph I wrote, “It’s tempting to think these flies are laying eggs on or in the leaf mines and their larvae will develop as secondary invaders in the mines, maybe after the original miners have left.” In June 2019, when I announced the completion of the first edition of Leafminers of North America, I mentioned that I had just been on a successful mission to collect more larvae of a Calycomyza species that appears only in early June, has only been found at a single location, and is so far known only from unidentifiable females, but almost certainly represents a new species. Well, I did manage to rear some more adults of that Calycomyza, including a single male (which Owen Lonsdale hasn’t yet had a chance to examine), but a couple of weeks after the last Calycomyza larva had exited its mine and pupated, a different kind of fly larva emerged from one of the now decomposing leaves:
I didn’t get around to photographing this larva’s puparium until the following spring (which is to say, spring of 2020), when the adult fly emerged:
Under magnification, I could see that the puparium was covered with the calcareous secretion that lauxaniid puparia have been described as having, and the adult proved to be a Minettia, the same genus I had suspected of sometimes developing in abandoned mines of other flies!
One of my manuscript’s reviewers, at least, thought that was pretty exciting.
And finally, although I haven’t had time to write any BugTracks posts in recent memory, I have been faithfully posting a photo of a different species from my yard on Twitter every day since October 14, 2020. If you’re so inclined, I think you can scroll through those photos whether or not you have a Twitter account. The first 250 are here, the second batch is here, and I recently started a third thread after the first year was up. In other spare moments while at my computer, I’ve been making my way through the backlog of observations in the “Leafminers of North America” iNaturalist project, where I’m currently up to August 3, with 7360 observations left to go. I’ve been sharing some highlights in another Twitter thread.
That’s all for now, but more coming (relatively) soon!
* Eiseman, Charles S. 2021. Minettia Robineau-Desvoidy spp. (Diptera: Lauxaniidae) as secondary invaders in leaf mines of other insects. Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington 123(3): 669–672.