Sunday, April 29, 2012

Xylocopa varipuncta

The carpenter bee Xylocopa varipuncta is probably the biggest bee we have in California – bigger even than most bumblebees. It’s unusual as far as carpenter bees go because the male is a light orange/gold color with green eyes. Most carpenter bees are black.

In the last couple of weeks This bee has been buzzing resolutely around neighborhoods and parks looking for exposed wood to bore into. If your unlucky enough to have a vulnerable wood home, garage, or shed, you know the buzzing critters quite well. There are a handful of control options around but the best method I know of is the wood/plastic bottle trap that is just recently catching on. Type in “carpenter bee wood trap” in to your search engine or You Tube and you’ll find out how to make one (or several). They’re worth the time to make if you want to save your wood structures.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Meloe opacus

Blister beetles in the genus Meloe feed on solitary (native) bees as larvae. I have seen several species through the years and almost all of them have been clambering along the ground – often in pairs. This individual I found at Wishon Campground east of Porterville, California (in the Sierra Nevada) a couple of weeks ago. In this group the unusually-shaped middle segments of the antennae indicate that it is a male.

In collections, these beetles appear much smaller than they do alive. Most of the abdomen is hollow and, in pinned specimens, it shrinks into a wrinkled and asymmetrical piece of exoskeleton. This one was nearly an inch long alive.

The campground habitat is mixed pine and oak. As far as bees go, There were a few bumblebees about and colletid bees. And just a few hundred feet above the campground (which is at around 4,000 feet) was a blanket of snow. Clearly these beetles are fine with cold weather.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Litocala sexsignata

The day-flying moth Litocala sexsignata is out and about these days in the foothills of Southern California. We found this one a few days ago above Porterville (in Tulare County, California). It was sunning itself on a large riparian boulder and, as you can see (or can you), it fits in very well with the background color. It’s really only the abraded thorax that makes it easy to see.

It’s about the size of a typical night-flying noctuid – about an inch long and the larvae are known to feed on oak and possibly manzanita.

The habitat shot is of the North Fork of the Tule River at Wishon Campground. At 4,000 feet you can see that there is still a lot of spring yet to come.