Monday, April 04, 2011

Backyard Hymenoptera

It has been really exciting to watch the re-emergence of bees and wasps this spring. There had been hints of insect activity before, but in the last week the activity has become much more noticeable. I actually heard bees buzzing and saw my first butterfly of the year while I was hiking in the Catskills last week. The last two days, I have found several bees and wasps in the backyard. Here are a few of them.

I put out my moth light on Saturday night since the temperature at sundown was above 50°F for the first time in a couple weeks. Unfortunately I did not identify any moths. The only moths I saw – medium-sized, noctuoid-looking moths – fluttered around the light and never settled down enough for me to photograph or capture them. However, I did get a very cooperative Ichneumon wasp that appears to belong to the Ophion genus. These often are attracted by lights, and in fact, I had another individual from the genus at my light back in September.

Here is a view of the same individual from the side.

During the day yesterday, a few other bees and wasps were active. One that was really tiny landed on my arm. I could tell it was a wasp by its general shape and its antennae, but I couldn't see much detail beyond that. It was barely 2 mm long. The sweat bee above was a little larger. It appears to be in genus Lasioglossum.

I originally thought this insect was a wasp, but after perusing my guides, I think it is a sawfly. In that case, it is the first sawfly I have identified. Like bees and wasps, sawflies are members of the order Hymenoptera; unlike bees and wasps, the adults are stingless. Sawfly larvae may be mistaken for caterpillars since they look similar and feed on plant material. This individual appears to be in genus Dolerus; it may be Dolerus nitens, an early spring species.