Readers’ wildlife photos

Today we have another batch of lovely photos from Mark Sturtevant, which of course means insects and other arthropods. His notes are indented:

Here is the last batch of photos taken in 2017. The first two pictures are of insects that were attracted to apples in my back yard that had been preyed upon by squirrels. First is a downy yellow jacket (Vespula flavopilosa), and the second is the very odd picture-winged fly (Delphinia picta). These flies do not seem to be able to walk without waving their wings.

A black-and-yellow “argiope” garden spider (Argiope aurantia) is shown in the next picture. Here I had just given it a red-legged grasshopper, and she was quickly wrapping it up. Note the fangs.

A weird little beetle had come to my porch light. It is a Hister beetle, belonging to the family Histeridae. These beetles are built like little tanks with interesting recesses to tuck in their legs and antennae. Many of them are rather flattened for hiding under bark and stones. This one obviously has a lot of mites which seem to be ‘phoretic’, meaning that they are using the beetle to get around and meet up with others of their kind. The mites were in constant motion and would not leave their host. I think the species of beetle is Hololepta aequalis.

Next is another spider. This is a nursery web spider (Pisaurina mira) that is a striking color variant within this species. I had never seen one that looked like this, but the link shows this color form along with other ones.

The final pictures are of velvet ants, which are actually a kind of wasp in which the females are wingless. The first two look like Sphaeropthalma pensylvanicaThey are normally very restless wanders, and the females search for a hidden entrance of a burrowing bee or wasp, which they parasitize, but this one had briefly stopped for an exploratory dig. This species is fairly small, but there are significantly larger species of velvet ant that I have not seen where I currently live, and those are infamous for their exceptionally painful sting. Large velvet ants are widely named as  ‘cow killers’. Here is a video of Coyote Peterson taking one for the team to show you that these things are pretty painful. [JAC: Coyote Peterson is nuts; watch the video.]

Male velvet ants have wings that help them hunt for females. The winged male looks to be the same species as the above female, and he was exploring my backpack.

Velvet ant males are larger than females, as shown in the last picture. This mating pair landed in front of me. I had no idea what they were at first, so I quickly leaned in and got this rather bad picture before they flew off. They look to be in the genus Timula.


  1. Jonathan Wallace
    Posted February 13, 2019 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    Great set of pictures and informative text as always, Mark!

  2. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted February 13, 2019 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    Well – PCC(E) said “watch the video”. I did. I’ll leave it at that…. I mean, I don’t say this often but OMFG.

    As for the posting: Nice collection!

    • Posted February 13, 2019 at 9:09 am | Permalink

      Be sure to see its sequel:

      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted February 13, 2019 at 9:16 am | Permalink


      • David Coxill
        Posted February 13, 2019 at 9:51 am | Permalink

        When we were in Texas in August 2009 ,we were staying in a motel at Marathon .I took a photo of one of them critters .
        I was thinking about picking it up and moving it to get a better shot ,glad i didn’t .
        Incidentally ,when we arrived it started to pee down ,could hardly see out the car windscreen even with the wipers going full blast.

    • Posted February 13, 2019 at 9:19 am | Permalink

      and the last of the series

      • Posted February 13, 2019 at 9:26 am | Permalink

        Darn, there’s one more:

        • ThyroidPlanet
          Posted February 13, 2019 at 9:41 am | Permalink

          I noticed there’s 21,000 dislikes (thumbs down – is that the same) on the velvet ant one. What’s the breakdown for these?

          • Mark Sturtevant
            Posted February 13, 2019 at 9:52 am | Permalink

            I don’t know, but it could be that people don’t like to see someone really hurt themselves for ratings. There is that admittedly negative aspect.

          • Posted February 13, 2019 at 10:01 am | Permalink

            There’s also his video of the Executioner Wasp….worse than the Bullet Ant

            I’ve been stung twice by Bullet Ants so I feel his pain!!!

          • Posted February 13, 2019 at 10:12 am | Permalink

            I think these are well done. I’m interested to see what damage these critters can do; might give me courage some day if I get stung by one of them. I already have been stung by several on his list. It is comforting to know that the pain doesn’t last long, and the stings don’t do lasting damage (except for the Executioner Wasp).

            • ThyroidPlanet
              Posted February 13, 2019 at 10:39 am | Permalink

              I understand the appeal and value of this exhibition


              Wouldn’t it have been way more interesting to look into the chemistry, the meaning of this sting pain phenomenon, the density of nerve endings in skin, and perhaps get a sting in the area with least dense nerve endings? Or consider the biochemical reaction going on in real time that we can see – perhaps Test it with his epi pen-or even ask if he got even way more psyched up with lots of adrenaline, would the sting hurt less? Etc.

              It can obviously go from “nuts” to insane stupid rapidly, for instance, if someone says “hey, what happens if you get stung in the eyeball?”

              • Posted February 13, 2019 at 11:03 am | Permalink

                Yes, I thought his getting bit by a Gila Monster and by an alligator were perhaps unnecessary..but memorable nevertheless.

          • Posted February 13, 2019 at 10:50 am | Permalink

            “I noticed there’s 21,000 dislikes (thumbs down – is that the same) on the velvet ant one.”

            ThyroidPlanet, I find most normal Youtube videos have 10% dislikes/likes. These video are doing better than average at 3%-5% dislikes/likes.

  3. rickflick
    Posted February 13, 2019 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    Great pictures Mark.

    Digging close in on the nursery spider, I can see the tiny eyes set about with a luxurious coat of brown fur. Lovely.

  4. Mark R.
    Posted February 13, 2019 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    Splendid photos. That Hister beetle is cool. Nice to see Summer photos since we’re presently buried in 18” of snow. NW.

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