Insects

Dark Flower Scarab Beetle

Dark Flower Scarab Beetle

Dark Flower Scarab Beetles, Euphoria sepulcralis, have white markings on a black or dark brown body that reflects a metallic bronze or green color in the sunlight. They are daytime flyers and can often be found snacking on flowers in yards throughout Florida.

“The adults feed on tree sap, a wide variety of ripening fruits, corn, and the flowers of apple, thistle, mock orange, milkweed, dogwood, sumac, yarrow, daisies, and goldenrod.” Ratcliffe (1991). Occasionally, these common beetles are considered pests because they love to munch on the flowers of fruit trees, roses, and corn.

Dark Flower Scarab Beetles make tasty dinners for a variety of animals. Grubs, which hatch underground from eggs, are eaten by birds, moles, and skunks. Other animals such as frogs, bats, and birds eat adult beetles.

Photo Credit: Aymee Laurain

#IOF #ImagineOurFlorida #DarkFlorwerScarabBeetle #Beetle #ScarabBeetle
#GetOutside #ConnectRespectCoexist

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Garden flea hopper

Garden flea hopper ( Microtechnites bractatus)—

These tiny little insects lay eggs in the stems of plants. After about 14 days the eggs hatch and little green nymphs emerge. As they grow they turn black and their wings expand. These small pests tend to damage soft stem plants such as this scarlet salvia (Salvia coccinea). Luckily, parasitoid wasps are effective at keeping these little bugs from causing too much damage. Other insects have been suspected of managing their populations but there is not much research to determine how effective these are. Have you seen any mischievous pests in your garden?

Photo credit: Aymee Laurain

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Southeastern blueberry bee

Southeastern blueberry bee (Habropoda laboriosa)

Here’s something to buzz about. These southern blueberry bees use a technique called “buzz pollination” in which their buzzing allows tightly held pollen on the anthers of rabbiteye blueberries to loosen. These bees are most active in spring and are easily recognized by their large size and loud buzzing. Of course, they don’t just eat blueberry pollen. Here they are on some scarlet milkweed. You can attract these and other native bees by using native flowering plants in your landscaping. What is your favorite native bee?

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Ceraunus Blue Butterfly

Ceraunus Blue Butterfly

Take time to stop and look at the little things.

With a wingspan of only 1 to 1 3/16 inch, the Ceraunus Blue Butterfly, Hemiargus ceraunus (Fabricius), is easy to overlook. This tiny butterfly is commonly found flitting just above the vegetation in sunny habitats including parks, scrubs, along roadsides and in your Florida landscape.

Look for the prominent orange-rimmed black marginal spot on the hindwing. Females are usually a darker blue. Tiny blue eggs are laid on the flower buds of herbaceous legumes. The host plant provides food for the larvae with flowers, buds, and new growth. Multiple generations are born each year.

Do Ceranus Blue Butterflies live in your outdoor space? What butterflies have you seen in your yard?

Photo Credit: Aymee Laurain and Andy Waldo

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF
#CeraunusBlueButterfly #GetOutside
##Butterfly #ConnectRespectCoexist

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Ornate Bella Moth

Ornate Bella Moth (Utetheisa ornatrix)

Most moths are nocturnal meaning they are only seen at night but, this beautiful moth can be seen fluttering in the daytime. A very distinguishing feature of the ornate bella moth is the bright pink color seen when flying. When at rest this coloring is often covered by the top wings. Their coloration greatly varies which for a long time confused taxonomists who had multiple names for the species based on their appearance. It turns out they were all a single species.

These beauties can be seen through most of the Eastern United States through the Midwest. The eggs are small yellow spheres. The larvae are an orange color with black patches and white spots with many hair-like structures called setae. The pupae are encased in a brown and black sac covered in a light coat of silk. A common native host plant for these moths is the Crotalaria avonensis, a beautiful plant with yellow flowers. These plants produce pyrrolizidine alkaloids which are toxic to many species, but not the ornate bella moth. These moths consume the plants and thus become toxic themselves. This toxicity protects them for the short three weeks of their life.

What wild things have you seen this week?

#ornatebellamoth #mothsofNorthAmerica #moths #Floridawildlife #Florida #Entomology #ImagineOurFlorida #IOF

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Red and black mason wasp

—Red and black mason wasp (Pachodynerus erynnis)—

While everyone loves honeybees, wasps get a bad reputation. Although, both help as pollinators, both are capable of stinging. Wasps, such as this red and black mason wasp can usually be harmless.

Mason wasps are solitary and unless provoked they couldn’t care less about humans. Females will build nests made out of debris and mud. Each nest contains multiple compartments containing an egg and food source for the larvae to feed on once they hatch. Larval food consists of several garden pests such as cutworms and army worms. Adults feed on nectar from flowers.

Hopefully, you have a new respect for these busy garden buddies. Do you have a favorite type of wasp? What have you seen in the wild this week?

#fotofriday #redandblackmasonwasp #masonwasp #wasp #Florida #gardening #Imagineourflorida #IOF

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Cassius Blue

Cassius Blue Leptotes cassius

This common but beautiful little butterfly can be found in scrubs, open fields, or residential areas. They lay their eggs on flowers rather than leaves. Larvae feast on the leaves and seeds. They are small butterflies and can often be mistaken for a dried leaf. This little one was resting on a Simpson stopper and enjoying the sun. What is your favorite butterfly?

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Katydid

— Katydid, (family Tettigoniidae) —

Meet Katy! A Katydid to be exact. Listen to her chirp and you will hear “ka-ty-did.”

Katydids love to hang out on palmettos, scrub oaks, vine-covered undergrowth, and in damp areas. They are solitary and sedentary creatures. Their coloring provides a wonderful camouflage from predators and humans. The veins in their wings mimic the veins in leaves. This makes it easy to blend in with the tree or plant they are resting on. Katydids are tasty treats for birds, wasps, spiders, frogs, and bats.

Katydids are primarily leaf eaters and feast most often at the top of trees and bushes where there are fewer predators. They will dine on an occasional flower and other plant parts.

Katydids are related to grasshoppers and crickets. Like their cousins, Katydids have strong legs and jump when they feel threatened. They are poor flyers but their wings allow them to glide safely from a high perch to a lower one.

You can find Katydid eggs attached to the underside of leaves. They resemble pumpkin seeds and are lined up in a row. Adult katydids have a lifespan of about 4 to 6 months. They can grow up to 4 inches long and their antennas can be double the length of their body.

Katydids are nocturnal. The next time you go outside after dark, take a flashlight. How many Katydids can you find in your yard? When you spot one of these beautiful insects, be sure to say hi to Katy.

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #GetOutside #Katydid

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Halloween Pennant Dragonfly

The Halloween Pennant Dragonfly (Celithemis eponina)—-
This not-so-spooky dragonfly gets its name from it’s orange and black coloring. Yellow markings can be found on females and juvenile males. As males mature their coloring starts to turn a more vibrant color of orange. This is the largest species of pennant dragonfly in eastern North America. They can commonly be found around lakes, streams, or other wetland areas and are most active in the morning.

Photo Credit: Aymee Laurain
#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #dragonfly #Halloween

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Blue Dasher

—-Blue dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis)—

This male blue dasher is easily recognized by the vibrant blue body and metallic blue eyes. Females are not as colorful as the males. The difference between the appearance of males and females is called sexual dimorphism. As they age their bodies cast a more powdery overtone. These little carnivores will eat 10% of their body weight each day and are not picky eaters. They will eat almost any type of insect. Mosquito larvae are a common food source. They hunt by remaining still and waiting for food to come to them. In one swift movement they “dash” toward their prey to capture it.

Photo Credit: Aymee Laurain

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #BlueDasher #Dragonflies

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Saddleback Caterpillar

Saddleback Caterpillars, (Acharia stimulus), have hairs that cover their bodies which secrete venom. Contact with the hairs will cause a painful rash, burning, itching, swelling, blistering, and nausea. The cocoon and the larvae have the hairs as well. The hairs are hollow quills connected to poison glands beneath its skin. The venom will spread if the hairs are not removed from the skin.

Saddleback Caterpillars are easy to distinguish by their green-colored backs with a white-ringed, brown dot in the center. They are brown at either end, have skin with a granulated appearance and sport pairs of fleshy horns. The Caterpillar is one inch long with a slug-like body in its larvae stage.

The Saddleback Caterpillar is a general eater and can be found in oak trees, fruit trees, and many other plants. Females lay up to 50 eggs on the top leaves of a host plant. The eggs are tiny and transparent with a scaly look.

The adult Caterpillar is the Saddleback Caterpillar Moth which is dark brown with black shading. The dense scales on its body and wings make it look furry. The back wings are a lighter brown. The wingspan is between one to two inches wide. Near the front wing is a single white dot and another 3 white dots near the front apex.

The bright colors on this Caterpillar are a warning to predators. Never touch this or other brightly colored, hairy Caterpillars with your bare hands.
You can remove the hairs from the skin by using tape.

#Connect #Respect #Coexist
#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #caterpillar #saddlebackcaterpillar

Photo Wikimedia Commons

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Eastern Grasshopper Lubber

The Eastern Grasshopper Lubber, (Romalea guttata), is very distinctive in its coloration. They are yellow with black along the antenna, body, and abdomen. Their forewings which are rose or pink in color extend along the abdomen. The hind wings which are rose in color are short. They can grow as large as 3 inches and can be seen walking very slowly and clumsily along the ground. Lubbers cannot fly or jump but they are very good at climbing.

The Grasshopper Lubber can be found in wet, damp environments but will lay their eggs in dry soil. The eggs are laid in the fall and begin hatching in the spring. The female will dig a hole with her abdomen and deposit 30-50 yellowish-brown eggs. They are laid neatly in rows called pods. She will produce 3-5 egg clusters and closes the hole with a frothy secretion. Nymphs wiggle through the froth and begin to eat. The male will guard the female during this time.

Nymphs have a completely different appearance from the adults. They are black with yellow, orange or red strips. They will have 5-6 molts to develop their coloration, wings, and antennae. The coloration of adults will vary throughout their lives as well and they are often mistaken for different species. There is no diapause in the egg development and they take just 200 days to develop depending on temperature. A month after the Grasshopper becomes an adult, they begin to lay their eggs.

Both females and males make noise by rubbing their front and hind wings together. When alarmed they will secrete and spray a foul-smelling froth. This chemical discharge repels predators and is manufactured from their diet. The Grasshopper’s diet is so varied that it makes it difficult for predators to adapt to the toxin produced. Their bright color pattern is also a warning to predators that they are not good to eat. Birds and lizards avoid them but nymphs will be infected by parasites from the tachinid fly. Loggerhead Shrikes will capture the Grasshopper and impale it on thorns or barbed wire. After 2 days, the toxins in the lubber’s body will deteriorate enough for the prey to be consumed.

Lubbers are long-lived and both the adults and the nymphs can be found year-round in Florida. This Grasshopper occurs in such large numbers in Florida that they can cause damage to your landscape’s plants. Lubbers will bore holes throughout a plant regardless if they are vegetables, citrus, or ornamentals. If their numbers are large enough they can decimate a plant.

Did you know:
Lubber is an old English word. It means a big, clumsy, stupid person, also known as a lout or lummox. In modern times, it is normally used only by seafarers, “landlubbers”.

Photo credit: Dan Kon

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #grasshopper #lubber

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Florida Leafwing

The Florida Leafwing (Anaea troglodyta floridalis), is native to Florida. It can be found in the pine rocklands of Florida. The Leafwing was once found throughout Miami -Dade, and Monroe counties. This imperiled butterfly is now found in only one place on Earth, the Everglades National Park. The causes of its decline are the destruction of pine rockland habitat, the introduction of exotic plants and insect species, fire suppression, the use of insecticides for mosquito control, and collecting.

When in flight the Florida leafwing’s upper side of its wings is red or bright orange. At rest, the lower side of the wings are visible and are brown or gray which makes the butterfly look like a dead leaf. The front wing is slightly hooked and the back wing has a pointed tail. Its dead leaf coloration is effective camouflage in its rockland habitat. A leafwing’s wingspan is between 3 to 31/2 inches wide.

Eggs are laid on the leaves of the host plant so caterpillars can eat the leaves. Young caterpillars will make a resting perch from a leaf vein. The older caterpillars live in a rolled-up leaf.

Florida leafwing caterpillars feed only on pineland croton (Croton linearis), which is its larval host plant. This shrub grows in the understory of pine rockland habitat. Leafwings are dependent on the health of its host plant. The croton and other plants in the pine rockland are dependent on fire to maintain an open rockland where it reduces the competition and infestation of non-native species.

The Florida Leafwing is federally endangered. Scientists at the Everglades National Park are working with conservation groups, to ensure that the endemic, Florida leafwing does not disappear into extinction.

Photo credit: USFW

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #FloridaLeafwing #Everglades

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Schaus’ Swallowtail

The Schaus’ swallowtail, Heraclides aristodemus ponceanus, is a large black and yellow butterfly endemic to Florida. This butterfly is found only in Florida and is restricted to intact tropical hardwood hammocks.

The Schaus’ swallowtail was listed as a federally threatened species on April 28, 1976. It was reclassified as a federal endangered species on August 31, 1984. Population estimates range from 800 to 1200 individuals. It remains the only federally listed butterfly in Florida.

Once ranging from the Miami area south through the Florida Keys, the Shaus’ swallowtail is currently restricted to only a few remnant tropical hardwood hammock sites on the south Florida mainland, northern Key Largo, and several small islands within Biscayne National Park. Adults fly slowly and leisurely and are very adept at flying through the dense hardwood hammock.

Adults have a wingspan range of up to 2.3 inches with females being the largest. Males have yellow-tipped antennae. The upper surface of their wings is black with a row of yellow or white spots and a broad yellow or white band. The hindwing tails are outlined in yellow. The undersides of the wings are yellow with brown markings and a broad blue and rust-colored band.

The Schaus’ swallowtail produces one generation each year from April to July with the peak time occurring typically from mid-May to mid-June. Adult emergence and reproduction are correlated with the beginning of the Florida rainy season. However, the pupae may remain in diapause for more than one year if optimal weather conditions are not present. Females lay green eggs singly on new growth. The developing larvae then feed on the young growth.

Listed as an endangered species, threats to the remaining population include the loss of genetic diversity due to inbreeding, climate-related impacts such as drought, habitat disturbance from fire, tropical storms or hurricanes, mosquito spraying, and loss of habitat. Hurricane Andrew left behind only 73 butterflies in 1992 after sweeping through the butterflies’ home range. Because their habitat is limited, it is possible that a single hurricane can make the Schaus’ Swallowtail extinct. However, the protected status and their rebounding numbers after Hurricane Andrew bring renewed hope that this gorgeous butterfly will survive and thrive in our beautiful state.

Photo credit:entnemdept.ufl.edu

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #butterfly #swallowtail

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Hanging thief robber fly

The hanging thief robber fly (Diogmites crudelis) is an ambush predator that catches prey by either catching it from the ground or by catching it while on a plant. Once they obtain their food they will use two legs to hang from a leaf or stem and use the rest to maneuver the food as they consume their catch.

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Florida Woods Cockroach

The Florida Woods Cockroach (Eurycotis floridana) is more commonly known as the palmetto bug.

The roach measures 1 to 1 1/2 inches long to 1 inch wide. They are reddish brown to black and do not have fully developed wings. They appear wingless but have short vestigial wings. These roaches are larger than other species so are easier to spot.

Florida woods cockroaches are usually found under palmetto leaves and decomposing matter. Contact with the bug may cause skin irritation as they secrete a chemical from a gland under their abdomen. This chemical secretion is used to ward off predators and it stinks.

With or without fertilization, the Florida woods cockroach produces an egg case known as an ootheca. The egg cases contain an average of 20 to 24 eggs and will hatch after 50 days. Without fertilization, only about 60% of the eggs are viable and those that hatch will not live to adulthood. The nymphs undergo 6 to 8 weeks of molts before becoming adults. They can live over a year.

Florida woods cockroaches rarely enter the home since abundant food is found outdoors. They eat mold, moss, lichens, and other organic material found in dark, damp places. However, they are primarily a detritivore since their diet consists mainly of organic waste and dead plant matter such as bark and leaves, thus returning vital nutrients to the ecosystem.

They may not be the most loved bug in our state, but the Florida woods cockroach plays a very important role in our ecosystem.

Connect. Respect. Coexist.

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #palmettobug #cockroach

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Miami Blue Butterfly

(Cyclargus thomasi bethunebakeri).

Miami blues are as big as a blueberry and have the weight of a dandelion puff. They were once found abundantly through 700 miles of Florida coastline, up and down both of Florida’s coasts and the Florida Keys. Their preferred habit is the beach berm. These butterflies pollinate the shoreline which helps prevent shore erosion. Due to the development and remodeling of the natural seashore and mosquito control spraying, Miami blues were unofficially declared extinct after Hurricane Andrew wiped out their last known colony in 1992.

Wildlife biologists found a couple of small populations in an uninhabited island in the Florida Keys Wildlife Refuge and began a breeding program. The butterfly uses two coastal plant species to lay its eggs, blackbead and gray nickerbean. Each can be found in abundance on many of the untouched Key Islands. These plants are ideal for the butterfly, who in its caterpillar stage, feeds on new growth found on the branch ends.

Adult Miami blues have a lifespan of between one and two weeks. They will stay within 30 feet of their birthplace. During that time, the females will lay between 20 and 100 eggs a day on host plants. It is suspected that when there is no new growth on the plants for them to feed on, ants colonies are store the butterfly eggs until more favorable conditions arise for them to hatch and become caterpillars. In exchange for this, the ants receive a sweet sugar substance from the caterpillar cocoon and do not harm it.

Miami blues are an endangered species and part of a 25-year long conservation effort. Vulnerable to hurricanes and climate change, this endemic butterfly can now be found only in Key West National Wildlife Refuge.

Photo: Mark Yokoyama

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Sweat Bee

Sweat Bees (Halictidae) are also known as Halictid bees. They vary greatly in appearance. The majority are dull to metallic black, with the remaining species being metallic green, blue or purple. These bees do not sweat, they are attracted to human sweat. These non-aggressive Bees use the salt from human sweat for their nutritional needs. Sweat bees are important pollinators for many wildflowers and crops, including stone fruits, pears, and field crops. Halictids typically nest in bare soil located in a sunny location. Most halictids nest underground, but some will nest in rotting wood. The bees help speed the decay and decomposition of deadfall trees. In the spring or summer the female mates. She then begins digging a nest and providing cells with pollen and nectar. Cells containing an egg or larva are lined with a waxy substance which is extruded from a gland on the underside of the bee’s abdomen. In each cell, a single egg is laid. When the larva hatches it eats the pollen provided. Once that is eaten it must become self-sufficient and find its own food source. Males will usually resemble the female of the same species but the male sweat bee does not have an area of long dense hairs on its hind legs used for carrying pollen. They may have a yellow spot below the antennae on their face. As these bees feed on nectar and pollen they are pollinating in the process. These technicolor bees do add a flash of brilliance to a spring garden.

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Lightning Bug

—Let’s be a kid again – the Firefly/Lightning Bug—
Remember those nights of wandering outside in the spring and summer and being surrounded by amazing little flying strobe lights. They would come out at dusk and stay only for a few hours. We captured them in glass jars and looked in amazement as we tried to figure out how their lights worked.
Fireflies are a good indicator species for the health of an environment. Unfortunately, these little miracles of life are on the decline throughout the world because of overdevelopment, pesticide use and yes, light pollution.
The best thing you can do to support fireflies is to stop using lawn chemicals and broad-spectrum pesticides. Firefly larvae eat other undesirable insects. They are nature’s natural pest control.
If you miss seeing these little buggers, you’ll be happy to know Central Florida’s firefly season is the end of March and early April. In fact, Blue Springs State Park stays open a little past their usual closing time and has guided tours at this time so you can enjoy nature’s light show. 

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Red Velvet Ant

—-Red Velvet Ant—-

The name is a bit misleading. These fuzzy little insects aren’t actually ants but rather wasps. The males have wings and can fly but are harmless. The females, however, can deliver a powerful and painful sting. Fortunately, they do not have wings and can easily be avoided. These differences in sexes are called sexual dimorphism.

These wasps create burrows in the ground that look like small holes. Chances are you have walked by the burrows without noticing. These photos were taken at Circle B Bar Reserve in Polk County.

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Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly

— Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly Family: Papilionidae —

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail can be found from Ontario Canada down to the Gulf states and west to the Colorado plains. There are 10 swallowtail species in Florida10 among. The most familiar is the yellow and black striped Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, which can be seen from the Georgia border south to the Big Cypress Swamp.

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail has an average wingspan of 2 1/2 to 4 1/2 inches. They love to eat the nectar of many plants including wild cherry, honeysuckle, lilac, Joe-Pye weed, azalea, and milkweed.

This beauty is identified as a male because there is no blueish coloring in the hindwings. Some females are melanic (dark colored). An adult swallowtail’s lifespan is only about 2 weeks. They produce 2-3 broods a year in the south. Females lay a single egg on host leaves. Caterpillars will eat the leaves and rest on silken mats on the upper surface of leaves. The caterpillar is brown and white when it is young, but it changes color as it grows older to green with orange and black false eyespots. The eyespots are thought to scare away predators.

Photo credit: Dan Kon.

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Lovebug

The lovebug, (Plecia nearctica), is one species of insect that I think everyone in Florida knows and can identify. But, do you know ABOUT this species? There is a lot of misinformation about this species. Add to that, apart from the “flights” that occur, most know nothing else about the natural history of this species.

Let’s start with the one huge myth about this species. they are NOT a man-made insect, created in a lab at the University of Florida. This is a pervasive myth that has circulated for decades. They are a non-native species in Florida. The first time they were documented in Florida was 1947. They are found across the gulf coast and as far north as North Carolina.

In Florida, lovebugs can be found throughout the year. But, there are 2 big “flights” of lovebugs, when they occur in huge numbers across their range. As many already know, the first flight occurs in late spring in the months of April and May. The second flight occurs in late summer in the months of August and September.

The lovebug has some interesting reproduction behavior. When females emerge from the ground, they are met by swarms of males. The male will clasp a female in the air and the two will fall to the ground. When the males first begin to couple, the male and female are facing the same direction. Then, the male turns 180 degrees and remains that way for the duration of mating.

Large females lay an average of 350 eggs before they die. Adult lovebugs have a short lifespan with females living up to 7 days and males up to 5 days. The eggs hatch in 2 to 4 days. The larva feeds on decomposing vegetation in moist, grassy areas such as pastures. In this way, they are extremely helpful in converting decaying vegetative matter into organic matter.

The adults feed on the nectar of numerous species, particularly sweet clover, Brazilian pepper, and the goldenrod seen in these photos.

There are few predators of the adult stage of lovebug as their slightly acidic insides make them unpalatable. The larva is food for birds such as robins and quail as well as spiders, earwigs, and other insect predators.

They do not bite or sting, but they are considered a pest species. The huge flights often occur near roadways and interstates (think of all the moist grass of cow pastures and roadsides which is a wonderful home for larva). It also appears that the bugs are drawn to the exhaust of cars. It has been proposed that the chemicals in car exhaust, aldehydes, and formaldehyde, are similar to the chemicals released by decaying organic matter. This means that lovebugs think they are hovering over a great spot to lay their eggs. Older car paints used to be damaged by the acidic internal organs of the lovebug, however, they do not have the same effect on new cars. Lovebugs can be very difficult to remove from the fronts of cars after the bodies dry and can clog radiators.

Love Bug Season usually occurs during May and September. Love Bugs (Plecia nearctica), are not a genetic experiment. They are actually a small black fly, with a velvet looking appearance and a red area on the back of the head.

Love Bugs were not created and released by the University of Florida to control mosquitos. They do not eat mosquitoes. They are nectar drinkers and pollinators. They feed on Brazilian Pepper, sweet clover, and goldenrod. Adult Love Bugs do not eat at all.

Love Bugs are an invasive species from South America and have been in Florida since the 1940s. They are attracted by car exhaust, lawnmowers, other engines, and heat. The white splat on your car is their eggs. Love Bugs do not bite, sting, or transmit diseases.

Love Bugs serve an important ecological role in Florida. Their larvae convert plant material into organic components which growing plants recycle for food. Love Bugs live between 3 to 4 days.

Female Love Bugs lay between 100 to 350 irregular shaped, gray eggs on decaying topsoil material such as cut grass or thatch. Once the eggs hatch the larvae will live and feed in the organic material until they turn into a pupa. The larvae are gray with a darker head. They will stay in the larvae stage between 120 to 240 days depending on the season. They are in the pupa stage 7-9 days. Mating takes place right away once they emerge as adults. The male emerges first then waits for the female. Females fly into the swarming males. Once the adults copulate they will remain joined until the female is fertilized. The male stays attached to the female to prevent another male from fertilizing her. This takes 2-3 days, then the female detaches, lays her eggs, and dies.

Remember, if the University of Florida had created Love Bugs, they would be orange and blue, not black and red. : )

Photo Credit: Andy Waldo

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Slaty Skimmer Dragonfly

— Slaty Skimmer Dragonfly. (Libellula incesta) —
The Slaty Skimmer is one of the most common species of the dragonflies. They are found in marshy ponds, lakes, and slow-flowing forest streams with muck bottoms. This male landed on a sand pile.
Females stay away from the water’s edge except during mating and when laying eggs in the water. After the eggs hatch, they emerge as wingless, water-breathing, immature forms called naiads. Naiads will live in the water for up to four years. Even as a naiad, the dragonflies are carnivores. They dine on mosquitos, butterflies, moths, mayflies, gnats, flies, bees, ants, crickets, termites, and other dragonflies. In short, if the Slaty Skimmer can catch it, it will become dinner.
The Slaty Skimmer dragonfly is found in all 50 states, Canada, and Mexico. Scientists are researching why their population is declining in Wisconsin.
Slaty Skimmers can see almost 360 degrees, however, they can not see what is behind or below them. The Slaty Skimmer’s vision lacks the clarity that we see. They can see ultraviolet and polarized light which allows them to navigate easily.
The dragonfly is one of the most beneficial insects to humans. They are revered in Japan as the country’s national emblem. Over the ages, dragonflies have been viewed as omens, a sign of good luck, a warning of caution, magical, and were once considered real dragons. When you see a dragonfly as beautiful as the Slaty Skimmer, just remember this – Dragonflies pre-date dinosaurs and had a 3-foot wingspan.
Connect. Respect. Coexist.

Photo Credit: Dan Kon

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Hanging Crane Fly

—–The Hanging Crane Fly—–

Can you spot this stealthy insect? If you are out and about you may miss them. Much like stick bugs, the hanging crane fly blends into its surroundings by pretending to be a hanging twig. This male hanging crane fly was observed performing a mating dance. This dance involves very quick shaking motions. Having more little hanging crane flies in this wet area of Alderman Ford park would be very beneficial since their diet consists of eating mosquitoes. Do you have a favorite mosquito eating predator?

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Gulf Fritillary Butterfly

From forest floors to urban landscapes, the Gulf Fritilary can be seen playfully frolicking throughout Florida. The life of a Gulf Fritilary usually starts as the tiny larvae emerge from their eggs which the mother usually lays on a passion flower vine. This little red caterpillar with black spikes quickly begins munching on the passion flower leaves. In about 20 days the caterpillar goes into its chrysalis to pupate. You can see in this first picture the Chrysalis is forming by breaking the skin. The exoskeleton of the caterpillar will form the chrysalis which looks like a dried leaf. This camouflage helps protect the caterpillar during this vulnerable stage. In about 5 days the butterfly will emerge with it’s beautiful red, black, and white wings. When the butterfly is ready it will search for a mate who will help bring about the next generation of Gulf Fritilaries. These butterflies are capable of mating while in flight and it can be very fascinating to watch their graceful dance.

What is your favorite butterfly?

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Blue-Green Weevil

These little bugs get a bad reputation but such is the life of a weevil. The adults, such as this one, munch on plant leaves. The larvae fall to the ground and will munch on roots. This can be quite annoying in agriculture, especially citrus. For most plants, they aren’t much of a problem but if they seem to get overwhelming, the USDA recommends the Trichogrammatidae family of wasps can help by preying on their eggs.

Have you seen any little bugs that don’t get much love today?

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Monarch Butterfly on Milkweed

The Monarch Butterfly population is in trouble due to loss of habitat, pesticides, and climate change. As the only butterfly who migrates, a single Monarch can travel hundreds to thousands of miles. Monarchs are born with an internal compass that guides them on their migration. Each year, three to five generations will be born. A Monarch’s lifespan is6 – 8 months but will live only 2-6 weeks as a butterfly.
—— You can Make a Difference —–
Plant native milkweed and nectar plants that have been grown organically.
Milkweed contains glycoside toxins that are harmless to the Monarchs but is poisonous to its predators.
—– Conservation Begins in Your Backyard ——

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Black soldier fly

The black soldier fly is an excellent pest control companion. The larvae help break down organic matter for fertilizer and help reduce damage from manure pollution. Their presence will also keep those other pesky flies away. If you have a composter the larvae from this guys can help compost organic matter much faster. This fly is a Batesian mimic of the wasp. It resembles a wasp but isn’t harmful.

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Little Brown Cicada

Cicadas are some pretty neat little creatures that are all around us but go largely unseen. They do not, however, go unheard. I bet, at some point, just about everyone has heard these guys screaming from the treetops at some point in their lives. But, did you know that most of their lives are spent underground?

The species in the photos are of the Little Brown Cicada (or grass cicada), Cicadetta calliope. This is a small species of cicada, growing to just under 1 inch in size. Unlike its larger cousins to the north, this is not a periodical cicada. Those cicadas emerge every 13 to 17 years in numbers as great as 1.5 million per acre. For our residents who hail from the northeast, Florida has no periodical species. The closest location to observe the emergence of periodical species would be one of the 13-year varieties. Southeastern Louisiana will have its next emergence in 2027, and in central Alabama and Georgia, the next emergence will be in 2024.

So, some cool facts on these amazing insects. We all know their sound but did you know only the males actually make noise. Cicadas make noise using timbals, a drum-like structure on either side of their abdomen. Only males possess this structure. They make different songs, calling songs to attract mates, protest songs when captured by a predator, and in some species, courtship calls, which are softer and made when the male is in visual or physical contact with the female.

The nymphs feed on the xylem sap from the roots of grasses and trees. This low nutrient sap is partially the reason for their long duration as a nymph. The minimum time a cicada spends as a nymph is 4 years but, in the case of the periodical cicada species, can be as long as 17 years.

Every cicada species molts 4 times as a nymph. For its fifth molt, the nymph emerges from the ground and molts into its adult form.

Cicadas do little to no harm to plants. They are harmless to food crops and landscape plants. They do not bite or sting and are an important food source for wildlife.
Watch our video here: https://youtu.be/be80lm4fn7k

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Thread Waisted Wasp

The thread-waisted wasp (Ammophila pictipennis) is an ambush predator that will attack small worms, spiders, or other insects. It carries the prey back to the nest made out of packed dirt and stores it with its eggs. When the eggs hatch the larvae feed on the treat left by the mother. Adults are excellent pollinators and feed on the nectar from flowering plants, such as this firebush, or from small insects including those pesky aphids. They are relatively docile but if they feel threatened will attack defensively. However, they would much rather save their energy for something they can eat. What is your favorite native pollinator?

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Southern Carpenter Bee

What could be nicer than a native pollinator and a native flower. This southern carpenter bee, Xylocopa micans, is stopping by a flowering pennyroyal, Piloblephis rigida. The carpenter bee is a solitary bee that lives for one year. They nest in the wood of dead trees. Like other pollinators, carpenter bees are important to the survival of many species of plants. Pennyroyal is a member of the mint family and can be found in sunny areas of sandy soil along forest edges. It can be brewed into a tea as well.
Get ready for spring. The woods are beginning their transformation now and in a few weeks should be all dressed up in the spring attire! 

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mosquito Aedes aegypti

The most common mosquito in Florida is the Aedes aegypti. The females are carriers of West Nile Virus, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, Dengue fever, Chikungunya, and Zika virus. Female mosquitos need blood to produce eggs, therefore they love to live where people and pets are abundant.

You might be surprised to hear that 80 species of mosquitos call Florida home. This means that Florida has more mosquito species than any other state in the country. Of those eighty species, only 33 bother people and pets. We can narrow it further than that, 13 make people sick.
Some species are only located in certain areas of the state and others throughout the state. Mosquitos can spread a host of diseases from yellow fever, Zika, dengue, encephalitis. In your pets, they can spread heartworm and equine encephalitis. You can’t really avoid mosquitos as some feed during the day and others at night. You will run into one or the other eventually. In Southern Florida, mosquito season begins as early as February and continue through most of the year. In Northern Florida, mosquito season starts in March and follows a similar pattern. The warmer it is, the more active mosquitoes will be, especially at dusk and dawn. Permanent water mosquitos are attracted to standing pools of water which they need for their eggs to hatch. Females will lay their eggs on the water surface and the eggs will typically hatch in about 24 hours. Water is necessary to complete the life cycle, and soon the larva will change into a pupa and then emerge into an adult that is hungry for blood. Florida permanent water mosquito species include Anopheles quadrimaculatus, Culex quinquefasciatus, and Mansonia dyari. Make sure your house and yard are free of standing pools in flowerpots, buckets, and containers. Cut back overgrown yards. Lush plant life can be beautiful, but it’s also a mosquito magnet. They love resting in dense vegetation that can keep them warm and moist. Floodwater mosquitos, lay their eggs in moist soil, not standing water. One female floodwater mosquito has the potential to lay 200 eggs per batch in moist areas. The eggs need to dry out before they can hatch into larvae. The eggs survive in the dry soil, in cracks and crevasses. Once the rain from storms begins, the areas become inundated with water and the eggs are able to hatch. Florida floodwater mosquito species include Culex nigripalpus, Ochlerotatus taeniorhyncus, and Psorophora columbiae. Seal up cracks and holes in windows and doors, anything that may let a mosquito in. If you have a patio which is not enclosed use mosquito netting. It is recommended that you use a net that is sturdy and contains 156 holes per square inch at a minimum. Frogs, birds, dragonflies and certain kinds of fish all eat mosquitoes. Attract birds by putting up a bird feeder or introduce beneficial bugs into your garden to help keep mosquitoes away. You won’t get every mosquito, but it may help in cutting down the numbers.

What can you do to stop mosquito breeding in your yard?
Mosquitos only need 1-2 centimeters of stagnant water to breed.

1. Change water in birdbaths 2x/week.
2. Be sure flower pots and the dish underneath does not contain standing water.
3. Be sure gutters are debris free so water will not collect in a leaf “dam.”
4. Bromeliads are a perfect habitat for mosquitos to develop. Flush bromeliads with a garden hose 2x/week.
5. Check yard toys and yard ornaments for standing water.
6. Check for leaks from outdoor faucets and around your air conditioner.
7. Is there standing water in your boat or any other vehicle stored outdoors?
8. Look for standing water near your swimming pool, pool equipment and pool toys.
9. Check for standing water in holes in trees and bamboo.
10. Walk around and look for water in things like trash cans, trash can lids and any container or object where water can accumulate.
—— Install a Bat House ——–
Bats can eat up to 600 mosquitos in an hour!!

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Hanging Thieves robber fly

Hanging Thieves robber fly, Diogmites salutans. This large fly hangs from leaves and branches waiting for its favorite food, bees, dragonflies, and biting flies like horse flies to pass by. It then takes chase and captures its prey in flight. It takes its prey to a branch or leaf where it pierces it victim with its mouth parts and drinks its fluids.

In this photo, you can see the behavior that earned this fly its common name of Hanging Thieves.

The genus Diogmites consists of 26 species in the United States, with 12 of those species living east of the Mississippi river. This species is best found in damp, sandy areas that are more open with tall grasses. This photo was taken in just such a spot on the edge of a pine forest.

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Shield-backed Bug

This little guy is a Shield-backed Bug, Orsilochides guttata. The shield-backed bugs are related to the stink bugs and are true bugs, unlike the beetles they closely resemble. Like other true bugs, shield-backed bugs go through several stages of development (instars) of nymphs until they reach adulthood.

They feed on plants, including many commercial crops.

There are hundreds of species of shield-backed bugs ranging in color from rather drab to bright metallic greens and reds. Like stink bugs, when disturbed, shield-backed bugs will emit an odor to deter predators.

This little bug is perched on a goldenrod flower in late September in the Lower Wekiva Preserve State Park in Seminole County, Florida

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Palmetto Tortoise Beetle Larva

These little beetles undergo metamorphosis. They start as a segmented cluster of eggs that look like a tangled mess. They then enter the larval stage, progress to a pupal stage, and then become adults. During the pupal stage they create an umbrella out of dead cells and feces. It’s held on by what is called anal forks. These beetles also create an oil that helps them suction to leaves with a force up to 60 times it’s own weight. This prevents most predators except the wheel bug from eating them.

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Dragonfly

Dragonfly warming up before getting to work.

Did you know dragonflies inhabited earth before dinosaurs? These amazing arthropods can be found near lakes, ponds, rivers, swamps and marshes. After hatching from eggs, dragonflies spend much of their life as nymphs. In this stage, they breathe through gills located in their anus and feast on tadpoles, worms and small fish. After shedding their skin, the adults crawl onto land. Dragonflies must warm up before setting off to do important work in our ecosystem. You will find them soaking up the sun early in the morning before spending the rest of their day on a search for food. Dragonflies control populations of many insects including those pesky mosquitoes. Known as nature’s helicopter, the wings of a dragonfly work both together and independently. This is why we see incredible aerial feats such as hovering, turns and backward flying. The next time you see a dragonfly, spend a few minutes watching one of nature’s wonderful gifts.

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Zebra Longwing Butterfly

The Zebra Longwing Butterfly has been the Florida state butterfly since 1996. Starting out as tiny yellow eggs they grow into caterpillars who are a white to pale yellow and have black spines. Like all butterflies, they enter another stage of metamorphosis by developing a chrysalis. The color of their chrysalis can change depending on the surface it is attached to. This is an evolutionary mechanism they acquired a long time ago. Once the butterfly reaches adulthood it becomes a beautiful pollinator like the one shown feeding on a shepherd’s needle. What’s your favorite butterfly? Share with us in the comments below.

#zebralongwing #ImagineOurFlorida#Floridanativewildlife

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The Milkweed Assassin

The Milkweed Assassin (Zelus longipes ) might sound like a villain but think of him as a vigilante for your garden. They are fantastic at catching invasive or hard to manage insects that would otherwise damage your garden. These funny little bugs set a sticky chemical trap before hiding in the foliage. Once they catch their prey they use a long feeding appendage referred to as a beak which is used to suck the fluids out of their prey. They will eat almost any types of flies, aphids, and broom moths. If you see them in your garden don’t be alarmed. They are there to help. Just don’t touch them. Their bite can leave a burning sensation that swells for a few days.

https://www.facebook.com/imagineourflorida/videos/1866477470270770/

#Florida #milkweedassassin #insects #ecology #interdependence

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