Party on a pin oak

In September 2012 while collecting in western Oklahoma (Weatherford) I came across this interesting scene. It had been exceedingly dry in the area, and because of this few insects were out and about in the small city park that I stopped by to check for the presence of tiger beetles. I had nearly completed my circuit of the park when I came upon a moderate-sized pin oak (Quercus palustris) tree and noticed something on the lower trunk:

Six insect species representing five families in four orders share a sap flow.

Six insect species representing five families in four orders share a sap flow on the trunk of a pin oak.

No less than six insect species representing four orders were seen all huddled together at a darkly stained sap flow. This could be the result of slime flux, a bacterial disease that usually affects deciduous hardwoods that are under stress and results in darkly stained weeps on the trunk that are known to be attractive to a variety of insects. At the center sat a green June beetle (Cotinis nitida) and three bumble flower beetles (Euphoria inda)—all in the family Scarabaeidae (subfamily Cetoniinae). Covering the scarab beetles were half a dozen Texas Tawny Emperor (Asterocampa clyton texana) butterflies (family Nymphalidae, or Brushfooted Butterflies), and milling around the perimeter was a velvet ant (Dasymutilla creusa, I believe) in the family Mutillidae, an apparent flesh fly (family Sarcophagidae), and a true ant (family Formicidae). I guess this would be the equivalent to a watering hole in Africa with a lion, a hyena, a baboon, three vervet monkeys and six zebras all crouched shoulder-to-shoulder at its edge.

Euphoria sepulchralis feeds on a sap flow higher up on the trunk.

Euphoria sepulchralis feeds on a sap flow higher up on the trunk.

Further up on the trunk, yet another species of scarab beetle, a dark flower scarab (Euphoria sepulchralis) was found feeding on a smaller sap ooze. Unlike the diverse aggregation of insects on the lower ooze, this guy had managed to keep the ooze all to himself.

Cotinus nitidus | Weatherford, Oklahoma

Cotinis nitida | Weatherford, Oklahoma

Green June beetles, especially, are known for their feeding on sap oozes. The beetles are actually attracted to the odors caused by fermentation of the sap rather than the sap itself. It has been reported that the presence of alcohol in fermenting sap can affect the behaviour of insects that feed upon it, causing them to act “stupid and lethargic.” I did not see any such behavior, but I did notice that the insects were not at all skittish and loath to leave the sap.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2013

Bichos Argentinos #8 – “Mosca de la Carne”

Here is the full-sized photo from which the “super-crop” featured in Super Crop Challenge #4 was taken.  As many of you guessed, this is a higher fly (order Diptera, suborder Brachycera) in the family Sarcophagidae, with the photo crop showing frontal portion of the head and its associated structures.  While dubbed “flesh flies” due to the necrophagic habits of a few of its included species, sarcophagids actually display diverse life histories that include a wide variety of coprophagous and parasitic species (Mulieri et al. 2010).  The fly was one of the many insects I photographed in early March in Buenos Aires, Argentina at La Reserva Ecológica Costanera Sur, where it was found perched on dead wood (I found several individuals of apparently the same species perched on dead wood as well – whether this is significant or chance I don’t know).

The presence of a ptilinal fissure and lunule and a dorsal seam on the antennal pedicel identify this as one of the calyptrate “muscoid” (schizopheran to be more correct) flies.  Within that group, my determination as a member of the family Sarcophagidae is based on its fairly large size, dull gray coloration with three longitudinal black strips on the mesonotum, notopleuron with two strong and two small setae (Calliphoridae have only two setae), and meron with a row of setae (lacking in Muscidae and related families).  Admittedly these characters aren’t visible in the cropped photo that I presented, so guessing the proper family was a bit of a crap shoot.  As noted by (de Carvalho and de Mello-Patiu 2008), species determination of sarcophagid flies is complicated by their fairly uniform chaetotaxy and lack of useful external characters, leaving male genitalia as the only reliable characters for identification.  No suitable key for identifying Neotropical genera yet exists and the elaboration of one will be very difficult without analysis of the male terminalia.  Dr. Luciano Patitucci (Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas, Buenos Aires, Argentina) suggested this is perhaps a species of Sarcophaga; however, in a recent faunal study of Sarcophagidae at the reserve, two species – Tricharaea (Sarcophagula) occidua and Oxysarcodexia varia – comprised nearly 90% of the flesh flies encountered (Mariluis et al. 2007).

A single individual is shown in the first two photos, while this mating pair was seen a little later.  Although they seem to represent the same species, I can’t be certain of this, and the photo itself is not the greatest due to the female (bottom) being slightly off-focus.  Nevertheless, I had to show it, because – really – who can resist photographs of fly nookie?! 


de Carvalho, C. J. B. and C. A. de Mello-Patiu.  2008.  Key to the adults of the most common forensic species of Diptera in South America.  Revista Brasileiro de Entomologia 52(3):390–406.

Mariluis, J. C., J. A. Schnack, P. R. Mulieri and J. P. Torretta. 2007. The Sarcophagidae (Diptera) of the coastline of Buenos Aires City, Argentina. Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society 80(3):243–251.

Mulieri, P. B., J. C. Mariluis and L. D. Patitucci.  2010.  Review of the Sarcophaginae (Diptera: Sarcophagidae) of Buenos Aires Province (Argentina), with a key and description of a new species.  Zootaxa 2575:1–37.


This challenge concludes the 2nd BitB challenge session, with a record 17 participants in this final challenge.  For a while it looked like HBG Dave would become our newest champion, but Session #1 champ Ben Coulter swooped in, flogged us with terminology (all of it correct and undeniable), and won two of the last three challenges to edge out Dave and, once again, take the overall victory. Make no mistake – Ben knows how to play this game!  Morgan Jackson took second in this challenge and claimed the final spot on the overall podium, while Troy Barlett and newcomer Heath Blackmon tied for third.  Other strong contenders during Session #2 included JasonC and Tim Eisele.  Ben – contact me to claim your loot (and your loot from session #1 is in the mail).

Here is the final points tally for Session #2:

Place Commentor BB#10 IDC#5 Bonus
IDC#6 IDC#7 SCC#4 Total
1 Ben Coulter       10   41 51
2 HBG Dave   13 2 4 8 17 44
3 Morgan Jackson   2     4 29 35
4 Troy Bartlett 2 10 2     20 34
5 JasonC   8   4   18 30
6 Tim Eisele 1 8   6 6 8 29
7           20 20
8 TGIQ   2       17 19
9 Christopher Taylor   2       15 17
10 Dave Hubble   15         15
11 James Trager  1 1 2     9 13
12 Gunnar           12 12
        1 9 10
Dennis Haines 
          9 9
15 Max Barclay       3   5 8
            8 8
17 Charley Eiseman   6         6
18 biozcw           5 5
19 Brady Richards       4     4
  Henry         4   4
21 John Oliver     2       2
          2 2
23 Christy Bills       1     1
  Tucker Lancaster       1     1

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2011

Brazil Bugs #2

A few more photographs from this past week in Campinas, Brazil.  It rained during the afternoon but stopped by the time I arrived back at the hotel, allowing me to stroll the lavishly landscaped grounds during the mild evening hours.  There is a pink-flowered shrub forming a hedge row in back of the hotel that is highly attractive to many types of insects.  The identity of the shrub remains a mystery to me, and most of the insects I’m finding on it I can recognize only to family – I’m hoping the hotel staff will be able to name the former and that the readers of this blog might be able to provide IDs for the latter.

Calycopis sp. poss. origo (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae). ID by Dave Hubble and Chris Grinter.

It took a bit of effort to find an unobstructed view of this hairstreak butterfly (family Lycaenidae) as it visited the flowers within the shrub.  Every time I tried to move foliage out of the way to get a good view, the butterfly became alarmed and flew to another part of the hedge row.  My antics drew the attention of a hotel worker, who was apparently interested enough in what I was doing to act as a spotter whenever the butterfly flew to help me relocate it.  Eventually I got a few shots that I was happy with, including the above.

A flesh fly (Diptera: Sarcophagidae).

I presume this to be a type of flesh fly (family Sarcophagidae) based on the stout bristles and color pattern that seems typical for the family.  I like the striking contrast in coloration between the fly and the flower.  There are a few fly bloggers who I’m hoping might be able to give a better identification.

A potter/mason wasp? (Hymenoptera: Vespidae).

This appears to me to be some kind of potter or mason wasp (family Vespidae, subfamily Eumeninae) – it was a bit smallish at only about 12mm in length.  I hope one of the knowledgeable wasp bloggers out there (ahem… Eric?) can at least confirm this level of identification and perhaps the tribe or genus as well. 

Azya orbigera (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae). ID by Tucker Lancaster.

Every ladybird beetle (family Coccinellidae) I’ve ever seen is some variation of black and red/orange/yellow and has a smooth, glabrous appearance.  This beetle is cobalt blue with a dense pubescence over the dorsal surface, but it still seems to me to be some type of ladybird beetle.  It was a tiny little thing, so I suppose it could be one of the multitude of small beetle families with which I am unfamiliar.

Quedas sp.? (Hemiptera: Cicadidae).

This cast cicada exuvium was not on the shrub, but on a nearby tree at about eye level.  I really wish I could have seen the cicada that emerged from it, because this is certainly the biggest cicada exuvium I have ever seen.  I was about to simply label it “family Cicadidae” but seem to recall that cicada higher classification is in a bit of flux these days.  At any rate, given its great size I wonder if it might represent one of the giant cicadas in the genus Quesada.

I still have many more insect photographs from the past week and will certainly increase that number over the next week as well.  Stay tuned!

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2011