Congratulations to those of you who correctly guessed the identity of the “subject” in ID Challenge #16 as the ladybird beetle Eriopis connexa (family Coccinellidae). This is one of the most common ladybird beetles in Argentina, and during the past few weeks I have seen large numbers of these beetles in the soybean fields that I have been visiting. Coccinellids in Argentina are among the easier the groups to identify to species thanks to the excellent website Coccinellidae of Argentina. Identifying the “meal,” however, proved to be a little more difficult. Most people guessed aphids, a natural choice, but soybean aphids have not yet made it to the soybean fields of South America (thankfully!), so the victims of these predaceous beetles must be something else. There was a clue in the challenge photo that at least one person picked up on (but didn’t make the connection) in the form of small black globs stuck to the hairs of the plant on which the beetle was sitting. These are actually the fecal deposits of the bean thrips, Caliothrips phaseoli (order Thysanoptera, family Thripidae) (which I covered a year ago in A thrips is a thrips…), which for the past two seasons now has built up large populations on soybeans in Argentina. In fact, an adult bean thrips (yes, “thrips” is the correct singular form) can be seen in the above photo (which I did not notice while I was taking the photo). I’ve not yet witnessed these beetles actually feeding on a thrips, but the large numbers of thrips and beetles and near absence of any other suitable prey item makes the association almost a given.
Not only are the adult beetles numerous on the plants, but eggs and larvae as well. Larvae are every bit as brightly colored as the adults, with a color scheme that leaves little doubt regarding their association. In the case of this larva, I watched it roam back and forth across the soybean leaf, pausing momentarily and apparently eating something—thrips eggs I presume.
Congratulations to Mr. Phidippus and Dennis Haines, who tie for the Challenge win with 14 points each, while Gustavo and Dave tie for the final podium spot. Mr. Phidippus, however, easily takes the overall win in BitB Challenge Session #5 with a whopping total of 57 points. Mr. Phidippus—contact me for your loot! Dennis Haines and Tim Eisele take 2nd and 3rd overall honors, and full standings for BitB Challenge Session #5 are shown below.
Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2012