Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Winterberry with a Fungus Gnat Visitor

Winterberry is most recognizable in the winter, after it drops its leaves but still has clusters of bright red berries. A lot of times those berries persist well into winter and become a food source of seemingly last resort for birds. (I cannot recall ever seeing a bird eat a winterberry, even though I have seen birds eating many other types of fruit.) In warmer months, its appearance is less obvious. It has narrow, toothed leaves and bears tiny white flowers at the base of the leaf stalks.

When I photographed those flowers yesterday, I noticed a tiny black insect visiting one of them. It turned out to be a dark-winged fungus gnat, a member of family Sciaridae. As the name suggests, fungus gnats are found primarily in moist areas. Their larvae feed mainly on fungi but may feed on plants or leaf litter. Adults live for less than a week and may consume fluids like nectar during that time.