Saturday, June 11, 2011

Life in a Mugwort Patch

Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) is an herb native to Europe, Asia, and Africa that was introduced to North America. It is not particularly eye-catching; instead it appears as a waist-high, gray-green plant.  (See a line drawing for identification.) In its native range, it was traditionally used as a substitute for tea (when tea was extremely expensive) and as a treatment in Asian medicine. In North America, its propensity to grow in dense clumps and spread quickly makes it highly invasive, and it can take over disturbed areas quickly. Once it gets established, it is very difficult to remove.

My patch, unfortunately, has a lot of mugwort, in addition to other native species. Yesterday morning, one particularly bank of mugwort drew my eye for having a lot of insect activity. Most noticeable were the Multicolored Asian Lady Beetles, which were plentiful in all of their life stages. Above are two lady beetles mating; below are a larva and a pupa. Like the mugwort, this is a nonnative species; it was introduced repeatedly in the 20th century as a control measure for agricultural pests.

Aside from the lady beetles, there were a lot of wasps, especially grass-carrying wasps like the one below, which I think is Isodontia apicalis.

Another insect in the mugwort patch was the soldier beetle below, which I think is Podabrus rugosulus.I should caution, though, that the genus Podabrus has a lot of species in it, many of which look very similar.

In a mothing session earlier in the week, I recorded another member of the Podabrus genus that looked very similar to this one, except that its pronotum was entirely orange. So there are at least two species from that genus wandering around the neighborhood. I recorded a lot of moths that night, and I will share some of them here once I get more identified.