Butterflies and Bees: out takes

Pollination is serious business--get in line, busy bee!
You find some funny things when you start reviewing your photo files looking for images to delete (file sizes are big these days!). So the other day I posted a photo sequence of a Lasioglossum bee [UPDATE: chalcid wasp] lying in wait inside a flower to surprise a Cassius Blue butterfly in the act of taking a drink. In case you missed it, here's one of the images: Yup. But I'm not sure I want it now! Another image I took that day was one that I hadn't even considered posting. It was a typical throw-away image of a Martial Scrub-Hairstreak nectaring so deep behind a flower cluster that you couldn't even see its head. It was both underexposed and (at first glance) uninteresting. Here's a crop of the main subject, with a bit of Photoshop processing to try to bring out some detail in the badly exposed image (shooting darkish wings against a brightly sunlit white wall isn't easy):
Martial Scrub-Hairstreak (Strymon martialis), head-deep in the weeds.

Martial Scrub-Hairstreak (Strymon martialis), head-deep in the weeds.

Normally I discard these underexposed images without even a second thought, but for some reason right before I hit "delete" my eye was drawn to the left of the image. I decided right away to save this one despite its rather poor technical quality because it was such an interesting and serendipitous capture of insect behavior: Pollination is serious business--get in line, busy bee!There's another (maybe even the same one as in my previous post!) bee waiting in line for this flower! Here's the full size detail of the bee; just enough to see that it is indeed a bee, and most likely in the genus Lasioglossum[UPDATE:wasp in the family Chalcidoidae]. Lasioglossum_20150903 If I'd been trying, I'd probably have had to spend hours and hours, and I still might not have been able to get even this nice an image of this tiny bee in flight. I'm amazed by the people who can take good images of flying bees insects.  

October inventory, part two

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 this Florida native plant. A syrphid fly that relies on the fact that it looks like a bee, Palpada vinetorum:
Syrphid fly, Palpada vinetorum, Boca Raton, FL, October 17, 2014.

Syrphid fly, Palpada vinetorum, Boca Raton, FL, October 17, 2014.

Also the Martial Scrub-Hairstreak butterfly (see my brief write-up):
Martial Scrub-Hairstreak (Strymon martialis). Boca Raton, FL, October 17, 2014.

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

And, let's see, what else? An army worm caterpillar:
Army worm caterpillar, Spodoptera species. Boca Raton, FL, October 27, 2014.

Army worm caterpillar, Spodoptera species. Boca Raton, FL, October 27, 2014.

The smallest halictid bee I've ever seen. Species unknown (too many to choose from here in south Florida), but it's in the genus Lasioglossum:
Halictid bee, Lasioglossum species. Boca Raton, FL, October 22, 2014.

Halictid bee, Lasioglossum species. Boca Raton, FL, October 22, 2014.

While I'm showing tiny hymenopterans, how about an in-focus (nearly) shot of a conurid wasp? These are also impossibly tiny, but this one, instead of hanging out in the mexican clover, spends its days cruising the wild lime and firebush in the back yard:
Wasp, Conura species. Boca Raton, FL, October 30, 2014.

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

Looking for something even smaller? How about this agromyzid (leaf miner fly)?
Leaf miner fly, photomyzinae family. Boca Raton, FL, November 1, 2014.

Leaf miner fly, photomyzinae family. Boca Raton, FL, November 1, 2014.

This particular photo doesn't count for the October report, since it was taken on November 1, but still, I saw this fly throughout the month and it fits here thematically as a tiny yellow flying insect with black markings on its back, so why not? Plus it provides a nice segue into the November report, which will be a-buildin' over the next few weeks.

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

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 abundance as follows (writing in 2006):
We are aware of comparatively few mainland sightings of Martial since the early 1990s. And not having seen the species north of the Keys ourselves, we cannot confirm its reported association with Nettletree (Trema micranthema) as a mainland hostplant.
Another field guide, while not commenting in so many words, restricts its reported range in Florida to south (locally uncommon to locally common) and the Keys (again, locally uncommon to locally common), saying "Best bet is to find good stands of the foodplant. The extensive stands of bay cedar at Cactus Hammock have recently [1998] been destroyed by Hurricane Georges. Hopefully, they will recover." Here are the two meager shots I was able to capture of this rare visitor to my yard, which is completely lacking in its two known hostplants (Bay Cedar [Suriana maritima] and Florida Trema or Nettletree [Trema micrantha]):
Martial Scrub-Hairstreak (Strymon martialis). Boca Raton, FL, October 17, 2014.

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

strymon_martialis_20141017-2

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

I don't know whether I'm going to add either of these hostplants in hopes of attracting this rarity to our yard on a more regular basis. Nettle tree is not attractive from an aesthetic point of view, although it is very attractive as a flowering and fruiting tree to all kinds of wildlife; Bay  Cedar is prettier, but I don't have an ideal spot in the yard for it—unless I finally do something about a mistake I made four years ago. (That mistake was planting red-tipped cocoplum right up near the sidewalk. It grows too tall for the low shrub I want in that situation. However, Bay Cedar can grow to head height as well, so it's not automatic that I'll want to plug it in.) Nettle tree is a bit of a weedy species; when a site is thinned by fire or hurricane, it's among the first to move in and repopulate the area. And that's a plus for the wildlife, since the insects appreciate the abundant flowers, and the birds and small mammals appreciate the abundant small fruits, but its growth habit is sort of  scraggly and leggy at the same time, and it quickly fills in and tries to take over an area. There's a pretty good write-up of it, with many pictures, on backyardnature.net. Here's a picture of it from the closest locale to my yard, Pondhawk Natural Area:

Nettle tree, Trema micrantha. Pondhawk Natural Area, Boca Raton, FL. September 13, 2012.

For now, I'm content to sit back and let the garden grow, trimming and weeding as necessary; I'm not looking for too much more work. What the future holds in store, we shall see! References Glassberg, J., M. C. Minno, and J. C. Calhoun. 2000. Butterflies through binoculars. New York: Oxford University Press. Cech, R. and G. Tudor. 2005. Butterflies of the East Coast: an observing guide. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.