Sunday, April 1, 2012

Snowbound Sunday: Bugs from the Sun that was

Autumn turns a Green Lacewing brown
Edmonton is experiencing its weekly blizzard and one hopes that the insects that were rash enough to stick their antennae out in last week's sun have found safe places to rug up. Other than a Milbert's Tortoiseshell butterfly, the largest insect I saw sunning was a confusingly brown Green Lacewing. Two type of lacewings can be commonly found around Edmonton: the Brown Lacewings (Hemerobiidae) and the Green Lacewings (Chrysopidae). Brown Lacewings are mostly a reassuringly tan to brown as larvae and adults. Green Lacewings, however, are not green as larvae and only mostly green as adults. This picture is probably of a species in the Chrysoperla carnea group - green with golden eyes in the summer, but a pleasant reddish brown when preparing to overwinter.
Inquisitive Ash Leaf Cone Roller antennae out
The most abundant insect was, unfortunately, the euphonious but pesky Caloptilia fraxinella - the Ash Leaf Cone Roller that makes a mess of the Green Ash leaves in the summer.
Unobtrusive Cone Roller with antennae retracted
Although these tiny moths have an interesting stance and pleasant pattern, no one really likes them. They make the ash trees look a bit ratty, but apparently don't hurt them much. But their tiny green caterpillars dangle from the street trees by silken threads and get in one's face, hair, and clothing.
Cluster Fly in the outdoor sun, where it belongs
Cluster flies (Calliphoridae: Pollenia spp.) are another insect that people tend not to like, but because of the adults, not the larvae. Their maggots are parasites of earthworms, so gardeners might have two minds about them, but the adult flies have the annoying habit of entering homes in the autumn and clustering on sunny windows. This can drive even entomologists up the wall. Fortunately, the species in Edmonton do not seem to indulge in the home invasion behaviour.
Meniscus Midge Dixella sp.
On the delicate and delightful side of the Diptera were the Dixidae. The adults of the Meniscus Midge that lives in our pond overwinter as adults and emerge well before the pond has thawed. A couple of weeks ago I thought they might be Winter Craneflies, but I was wrong. The one above is patiently awaiting a better day.
A lauxaniid fly Sapromyza sp.
Do to some confusion about the difference between a postsutural inter-alar seta and a postsutural alar seta, I was nearly wrong about a small fly in the family Lauxaniidae too, but a friend put me right. The little grey Sapromyza  sp.  
has an unfortunate generic name (Greek for 'putrid sucker'), but is a pleasant enough companion on a sunny spring day.
A pair of Sapromyza enjoying the spring sun and preparing to do what flies do so well


  1. That's quite a haul for a day like this. I'm going to Opal Natural Area this Tuesday to see what's active - the forecast is good.

  2. Looks like a boreal fauna on an early spring day!