These photos from reader Mark Sturtevant, which just arrived, jumped the queue as it’s much easier for me to use new photos on the road than retrieve old ones. But to those who have photos in line: don’t worry—they’ll be posted, and I’ll let you know when they are up.
We have a couple of apple trees in our yard, and in the Fall there are numerous wind fallen apples. These bring in squirrels that gnaw open the apples, and the resulting scent and sugars attracts a wide range of insect congregants. The whole effect is a bit like how elephants dig water holes on the Serengeti, and then the water holes bring in diverse gatherings of thirsty and hungry wildlife.
My kids were rather embarrassed by my attention to this drama under our apple trees. Walking home from school with their friends, they would at times see dad sprawled on the grass in motionless attention. Is he.. dead? No, just watching his bugs.
So here are some pictures that I had taken of insects that are drawn to the exposed flesh of wind fallen apples. Lets’ start small, and work our way up.
First we have the most numerous visitors, which were ants. Among the species are the ubiquitous winter ants (Prenolepis imparis). Note how several of them have crops swollen with apple juice.
Next are the fruit flies. I found at least three different species, but these (I think Chymomyza amoena) were the most peculiar. Rather than feeding, they seemed more interested in each other as they strutted around, waving their patterned wings. I am not sure what is going on here except that possibly these are males trying to signal to any passing female. [JAC: yes, fruit flies often court females on the food, for that’s the best place to find them!]
Numerous other species of flies were also found, but I will move on with just one more example which is a green bottle fly (probably Lucilia sericata) and a companion multicolored Asian ladybug (Harmonia axyridis). This turned out to be one of my favorite pictures from last year, as I rather like this odd couple. It must be admitted that green bottle flies are gorgeous, even though they frequently visit poo and rotting meat.
In the next picture is a downy yellow jacket (Vespula flavopilosa), by far the most common wasps on the apples. Although wasps were sometimes tolerant of other insects, many would show agonistic behavior toward each other or toward large flies. In that case if another wasp or large fly landed near them the ‘owner’ of the apple would shoo it away. In a later posting I will return to this subject and show an Epic Wasp Battle between two yellow jackets who could not sort out which one owned the apple.
Here’s a close-up of one of the yellow jackets. At the time I was experimenting with combining extension tubes and a reversed lens for extra magnification.
Finally, we have the King of the apples, which were the rather large paper wasps (I think Polistes bellicosus). These were not common, but no one questioned their authority. If a yellow jacket landed on an apple claimed by one of these beasts, they would quickly skedaddle after the merest glance by the much larger wasp.