Behind Door #1…

When Julia was in high school, she built this little cabin in the woods behind her family’s house in central Ohio:

One chilly morning last April, when we stopped there on our way to spending a week exploring the Ozarks, we took the door off the hinges so that its rotten bottom could be repaired (the result can be seen in the above photo). We carried it back to her parents’ driveway and laid it on the ground, with the inside facing up, and I was surprised to see a greater bee fly (Bombyliidae: Bombylius major) clinging to it.

I’ve rarely even attempted to photograph these flies because they are normally in constant motion as they buzz from one spring wildflower to the next like tiny hummingbirds. I guess they have to sleep sometime though, and this one hadn’t yet thawed out from the previous night’s freezing temperatures, so I was able to get a close look.

As the above photo makes clear, it was resting on the webbing associated with a cottony-textured spider egg sac. Fluffy ones like this are usually the work of either orbweavers (Araneidae) or cobweb spiders (Theridiidae). Right next to it was a smooth, disc-shaped egg sac like this one:

Egg sacs of this form are generally the work of hunting spiders (e.g. crab spiders) as opposed to those that spin webs to catch their prey. These particular eggs sacs had distinctive radiating “spokes” of silk around their margins. That may be indicative of a particular species, but I have no idea which one!

Also note that in the crack right next to the above egg sac, there is a web of a tube web spider (Segestriidae: Ariadna bicolor). These spiders wait in their tubes and dart out to grab passing insects that bump into the fine strands of silk that radiate from their entrances. Here are two more tube webs:

While I was taking pictures of all these things, some tiny, previously unnoticed bugs started to warm up enough to wander around on the door. One was this ~3.5 mm long moth:

This is Phyllonorycter celtifoliella (Gracillariidae), which as a larva forms underside tentiform mines in hackberry leaves. Most Phyllonorycter species seem to overwinter as pupae in their mines, but the one time I reared this species, the adult emerged in October. This one found under loose bark in Iowa in January confirms that this species overwinters as an adult. …Okay, it’s dead, but I’m pretty sure the photographer killed it to take the photo. Here is a live one that was among a group of 60 or so found in Nebraska in November, which “were tucked behind the bark of a dead oak tree and were hiding amongst the silk cocoon, larval and pupal exuviae, left over from a Giant Leopard Moth.” So I may have been witnessing this moth waking up in the spring for the first time, after having spent the winter behind the door of Julia’s cabin. (This was not the case for the bee fly, which overwintered as a pupa in the burrow of a ground-nesting bee.)

And wandering about among all of these things were numerous garden springtails (Bourletiellidae: Bourletiella hortensis), at most 1 mm long, which came in a variety of colors:

Beyond what lives behind the door to Julia’s old cabin, the woods immediately surrounding it are the type locality for Phytomyza aesculi and P. hydrophyllivora (Agromyzidae), and are also where I found this lovely moth that bores in Ohio buckeye petioles, and where I photographed a bunch of different bugs visiting narrow-leaved spring beauty flowers a few years ago.

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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5 Responses to Behind Door #1…

  1. Garth Harwood says:

    Thanks as always for your compassionate observances of Earth’s smaller citizens. I learn as much from your enthusiasm and boundless curiosity as from the factual information that you share so generously. Much appreciated.

  2. Marsha Hamlin says:

    In September 2017 I noticed what looked like frass coming out of holes in my Red Buckeye nuts. I collected the nuts and on September 23, 2017 pre pupal larvae came out of the holes and formed pupae in wet tissue. On 10-4-2017 an adult eclosed and I assumed it was Proteoteras aesculana. The adult was approximately 9 mm. long, with an at rest wing spread of 4 mm. I have a picture but I don’t know how to post it for confirmation.

  3. bradley102015 says:

    Wow, such a wonderful story. I’m particularly impressed by the beautiful egg case near the entrance to the Ariadna tube. It doesn’t resemble any spider egg sac that I’ve ever seen. I agree it might be some sort of hunter. Possibly a member of the Phrurolithidae. They make flatish dome egg cases attached to the substrate, but the amazing little tabs along the margin are unfamiliar. I checked and according to Kaston (who refers to Montgomery’s 1909 paper) Ariadna “…eggs are laid in June and July, and are not enclosed in a cocoon, but merely held together insecurely by a drop of saliva.” So at least we are safe to assume it isn’t associated with the tube dweller next door. How could anyone not think Collembola are cute!

  4. mobiwarren says:

    So many wonders!

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