Sunday, June 20, 2010

Another Cool Bug

Sunday morning I was helping with a breeding bird survey at Eagle Creek Park. We had a few points to cover, out near the reservoir. I was listening to birds, when an insect caught my eye. It was very colorful, and was hopping from leaf to leaf. It had antennae that were constantly in motion and the tips of the antennae were light in color. I was temporarily fixated on this creature, watching it as it bounced around at my feet. I didn't have my camera, so I studied all of its parts closely so I could remember it later.

I checked on BugGuide, going to the Hymenoptera section (Wasps, Bees and Ants). I was pretty sure it was a sawfly, but it was more colorful than other ones I had encountered.

Macrophya varia, Copyright 2010 by Tom Murray

Sure enough, there it was. I found this beautiful image by Tom Murray. I asked permission to use it and he gladly obliged.

Such fascinating creatures, sawflies. They start out as a larvae that look very much like caterpillars. They have six or more pairs of prolegs, the fleshy appendages on the back of the caterpillar. Most caterpillars have five pair. Here is an image I took a few years back. This is a different species, from the genus Nematus called Willow Sawflies, but one can see how much they look like caterpillars.

Most sawfly larvae feed on leaves of trees and shrubs and many can be considered pests. Some of the adults feed on nectar or pollen, but many do not feed. (Do not feed! What is wrong with these things! ) The adults get their name from the sawlike ovipositor (looks like a stinger) that can cut into plants to deposit the eggs. Despite the ominous sounding name, they do not sting.

Another interesting creature, right here in Indy! You never know what you might find while exploring outside.


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