New backyard bug: The eyes have it

I like to start the new month with a photo sweep of the yard, just to record what’s present. I’m still trying to re-establish my monthly inventory that got zapped when my hard drive failed and my backup wouldn’t restore, so I’m putting some extra effort into it these days. (And making sure that my data is backed up redundantly.)

This month I found a new species for the yard: the Band-eyed Drone Fly (Eristalinus taeniops) a flower fly from the Old World that was introduced (accidentally, I understand) into Florida back in the 1980s. (You can read more about it here.)

Like our common urban birds (Blue Jay, Cardinal, House Sparrow, etc.), it’s a synanthrope—an organism that lives in close association with humans and their modified environment. (Technically, they’re hemisynanthropes, “close associates of human ecosystems” but not completely dependent on them.)

Band-eyed Drone Fly (Eristalinus taeniops). Boca Raton, FL, February 1, 2015.

Band-eyed Drone Fly (Eristalinus taeniops). Boca Raton, FL, February 1, 2015.

It has a fat, bee-like body, like many members of this large fly family, the Syrphidae, but the eyes are completely distinctive:

Band-eyed Drone Fly (Eristalinus taeniops). Boca Raton, FL, February 1, 2015.

Band-eyed Drone Fly (Eristalinus taeniops). Boca Raton, FL, February 1, 2015.

They look a bit like the eyes of some horseflies, except that the stripes are vertical rather than horizontal:

Horsefly (Tabanus sp.) eyes. Boca Raton, FL, May 26, 2013.

Horsefly (Tabanus sp.) eyes. Boca Raton, FL, May 26, 2013.

These eyes are unique, as far as I know, in the “flower fly” family, but as far as I know doesn’t take you very far.

According to my “fly guy,” Stephen A. Marshall, drone flies (genus Eristalis) “are easy to find, especially at yellow flowers, around which they often exhibit stereotypical mating behaviors. Males sometimes defend limited mating territories and court flower-visiting females by ‘singing’ to them with a specific hum as they hover above prospective mates” (307).

According to the map on this species’ web page at the Biological Survey of Canada, its known range in North America is the two areas I’ve called home for most of my life: Southern California and south Florida.

North American distribution of >E. taeniops. From the BSC website.

North American distribution of E. taeniops. From the BSC website.

Etymology uncertain; the New Century Dictionary only notes Eristalis as “New Latin” coined by Latreille in 1804; its Latin meaning is a precious stone, although it’s not known which one. Eristalinus is the diminutive. Taeniops means “ribbon-eyed.”

References

Marshall, S. A. 2012. Flies: the natural history and diversity of Diptera. New York: Firefly.

Thompson, F. C., Fee, F. D., Berzark, L. G. 1990. Two immigrant synantrhopic flower flies (Diptera: Syrphidae) new to North America. Ent. News 101(2):69–74.

Green Herons in winter

Green heron (Butorides virescens). Boca Raton, FL, January 29, 2015.

Apparently Green Herons like to poke their long noses into everything in winter. I first found one hanging out in my yard a couple of Novembers ago; today, while searching for other things, I saw this one in a corner of the yard where the grass is longer. I’m guessing it’s going after the lizards that litter the place.

Green heron (Butorides virescens). Boca Raton, FL, January 29, 2015.

Nice to see something other than the “typical” blue jay/cardinal/dove conglomerate.

[…]

Ladybug life cycle

Ladybug_sequence_20150101-2

As the new year begins, one’s thoughts turn to renewal and the cyclical nature of time. However, I’m not going to bore you all with my ruminations on the nature of being and time. Instead, I thought I might try to illustrate renewal through a life-cycle entry. And, as luck would have it, I was able to document nearly the entire life cycle of a beneficial insect, the Asian multicolored lady beetle, on the first day of January, 2015 (although it took a few more days to get a real shot of the 3rd stage, the pupa).

There are many […]

New backyard bug: Asian mango flower beetle

Asian mango flower beetle (Protaetia fusca). Boca Raton, FL, December 17, 2014.

December has been chilly here; the longest stretch of cold nights I can remember, punctuated by lovely cool and ever-so-slightly-warm by the afternoon days. After nearly fifteen years here, I feel like I’m finally getting my money’s worth out of living in the Sunshine State.

The cool weather, though, has slowed the flowering in my yard, and with the smaller nectar and pollen crop that’s available in these shorter days, I’ve seen fewer insects, and with fewer insects, there have been fewer birds around. I still see the wintering palm warblers, and now and then the kestrel shows back up […]

November inventory

Hammock Skipper (Polygonus leo). Boca Raton, FL, November 27, 2014.

November was an interesting month here. Spells of cold, wintry air alternated with spells of heat and high humidity that spoke of summer. The bugs in the yard were confused, and the winds whipped up by all the changing weather made photography tricky. Nevertheless, I did manage to get a few new species, and to welcome a few returnees. The Atala hairstreak butterfly, considered extirpated from Florida (its only U.S. home) over fifty years ago, is now a fairly routine guest near any place that contains a sufficient supply of its its host plant, coontie (Zamia punila):

Atala hairstreak […]

Atalas in November

Atala hairstreak (Eumaeus atala), Boca Raton, FL, November 23, 2014.

It seems that every November the Atalas cruise through my neighborhood. There are supposed to be several broods per year, but each and every documented sighting I have had on my property has been in the month of November. And last December I installed their larval host plant, coontie (Zamia pumila), so they might have a reason to stay:

Florida coontie (Zamia punila). Boca Raton, FL, November 24, 2014.

Of course, not every butterfly that stays is happy to have done so:

Atala (Eumaeus atala) hairstreak butterfly that has seen better days. Boca Raton, FL, November 13, 2014.

[…]

October inventory, part two

Wasp, Conura species. Boca Raton, FL, October 30, 2014.

October of 2014 was a tale of two months, it seems. The first half of the month continued the late wet season trend of several days with rainfall, which seems to have increased the number of dragonflies and damselflies in the yard compared to the second half of the month, which had about as many days with rain, but not clustered together as much.

New species for the second half of the month:

Hummingbirds returned; I actually got buzzed by one as I was out lamenting the latest scale infestation on the firebush; they love the red tubular flowers of […]

New Backyard Butterfly: Martial Scrub-Hairstreak (Strymon martialis)

Martial Scrub-Hairstreak (Strymon martialis). Boca Raton, FL, October 17, 2014.

With my new “monthly inventory” program underway, I’m taking a bit more time in the mornings and at lunch out in the yard, weeding when windy, taking pictures when calm. And one day this month, I found something quite rare: a butterfly that’s normally seen (when seen at all) in the Keys or in Cuba! Martial Scrub-Hairstreak (Strymon martialis) is an unassuming little guy, like most hairstreaks on the small side. But two curly tails add some visual interest, and the rarity adds even more.

Cech and Tudor, authors of the definitive butterfly guide to the East Coast describe its […]

Monthly inventory

Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis genera). Boca Raton, FL, October 3, 2014.

October is a month of transition here in south Florida. The wet days of the rainy season start to taper off, giving way to the first few cooling breaths of our short-lived autumn, eventually to be followed by the drier and steadier days of our wintertime dry season (which usually arrives around November). That doesn’t mean it won’t rain; we still get appreciable rainfall in this last month of the wet season, but the rains are punctuated by spells of drier, cooler weather, that is much welcomed after the long, hot days of summer.

The first […]

September equinox today, 10:29 p.m. EDT

Today, at 10:29 p.m. Eastern “daylight” time, Earth’s equatorial plane intersects the center of the Sun’s disk.

Sunrise and sunset occur due east and due west, respectively, from all points on Earth’s surface.

Equinox, man!

Days and nights will continue to get shorter in the northern hemisphere, as they’ve been doing since the June solstice, culminating in the shortest day of the year (and longest night) at the December solstice.

Enjoy the equilibrium today!