Not my best photo ever but saw this very attractive bug along the waterfall trail.
The order Hymenoptera includes over 100,000 species of ants, wasps and bees. Some key species I can identify but in general, well, no. Here are some wasps living under a leaf at the FCRE.
I have decided not to change the original blog post, but to update with a new, much more informed opinion about the cicada. I contacted Dr. David Hughes, one of the top researchers on zombie insects, and he reviewed the photos. His opinion is that this is not a true zombie but a secondary infection of a cicada that died naturally. I certainly will go with the expert opinion, so not a zombie, but sure looked like one. The following is the original posting...
Now that I covered the creepy-looking tail-less whip scorpion, I've got to go even further and show a real world zombie. Yes, a zombie.
This is really outside my area of expertise but there have been a number of articles about zombie insects lately and now I have seen my first one for real. In this case a larval stage cicada.
So what is going on, most likely since I have no information that this is known from cicada larvae, is that a fungus has attacked the cicada larva while it was living underground. The fungus then takes control of the insect's mind and delivers instructions for what the animal is to do. In this case most likely it was instructed to dig out of the ground, climb a short distance up, lock on to the tree, and die.
Then, the fungus puts out its fruiting bodies, those white blobs on the stalks, and can drop the spores to the ground in the preferred place the cicada was instructed to go to.
Now that's creepy! And here is what a zombie insect looks like, although I do note again that this really looks like one but I have not yet verified it.
And I have to do a close up of the head...
Stick insects seem to be almost invisible during the day and we almost never see them. They tend to be either leaf litter brown or leaf green and are really camouflaged. But for some reason they seem to be quite findable at night and I see loads of them. Here is one of the brown ones and is about 4 inches long not counting legs and antennae.
I don't know a whole lot about the behavior, but certain caterpillars will cluster together and make some very interesting designs when doing so. I thought these were really awesome-looking.
The first two photos are of large non-web building spiders. These are hunters not trappers and while the first one is not much to worry about even though four inches across, the second one is not something you would really want to nip you. In the photo is it eating a camel cricket.
This leaf-footed (or leaf-legged or leaf-kneed or flag-footed, etc.) bug looks to be in the genus Leptoglossus. It is another true bug.
The weather on day 1 was just so excellent that after dark I couldn't resist taking a short walk down along the Rio Cacao.
These are known as Heliconia bugs, and are, not surprisingly, true bugs that live and feed almost exclusively on the plant Heliconia. I see them every year in one patch along the river and they were there again this year. Attractive bugs that are territorial on the plant and males will defend their turf. If another bug approaches things can quickly escalate into a weird reverse wrestling match. The two bugs turn around and grapple backwards using their strong rear legs. Not sure how the winner is determined but something about who can jam their legs spines into the other one's belly the hardest and make them give up.
Tink frogs, so named because they make a very loud "tink" sound, are super common. But we have a number of species of them that require handling the animal to ID them so I will just show a photo of one without guessing at which one it is.
Harvestman aren't really true spiders, but have those creepy 8 legs and sure act like spiders. A tiny body and very long legs give these the common name "daddy long legs."
Okay, so let's get real creepy to finish this up. Another non-spider in the 8-legged category is the tail-less whip scorpion (Amblypygidae family). Latin factoid: amblypygid means "blunt butt" hence the "tail-less" part of the name.
There are two genera of these here, Phrynus and Paraphrynus, but you have to put the front spiny part (the pedipalp) under a microscope just to see a little obscure almost spine in order to figure out which genus it is. So no ID other than family on this character.
The body is about two inches long, so not a particularly huge one but decent sized. However the legs are very long and this animal would easily be 10 inches from leg tip to leg tip.
But these are WAY creepier looking that I can show in a full animal image, so here is a close up of the head area. Those spines are used for spearing insect prey, and although it looks nasty is essentially harmless to humans.
Darkling beetles are mostly medium to large, common black beetles. But with an estimated 20,000 species worldwide they really don't all look quite alike. And with +/- 225 species known from east of the Mississippi River in the US I am not going to try and guess which one this is exactly.
These beetles are flightless, having their Elytra (the hard wing caps) fused together so are most commonly seen on the ground or on the trunks of trees. But more likely one would be somewhat more familiar with the larval stage, commonly known as a mealworm, as these can be bought as bait for fishing or to feed pet lizards and such.
I am also continually amazed at the resolving power of today's digital cameras. This photo was taken with a Canon 80D using a Canon 60mm macro lens from a few inches away. But for this blog I reduce the size of the photos or the page size becomes much too large with a bunch of 5Mb images on it.
But when viewed at full resolution I found that I could pretty much count the individual facets on the compound eye of this beetle. Now that's some serious resolution given that could pretty much only be done with a stereoscope until fairly recently but is now possible with just a standard macro photograph.
I have been putting up a lot of cute animals and suchlike and wanted to get back to something this blog does a fair amount of. Creepy things. Stuff that comes out at night. The non-cute but totally cool.
While I will get much deeper into the night stuff in a couple weeks when I start blogging from Costa Rica, for now here is a shot of an assassin bug nymph I took this evening. It is still early here in northern Virginia for a lot of insect activity at night but things are starting.
The monarch butterfly migration was in full swing earlier this month, and I got a pic of this one at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Virginia.
Keith Christenson - Wildlife Biologist