Jacques Hausser in Switzerland (the World’s Happiest Country) sent some lovely insect photos and one mountainscape. The beetle he shows has a truly bizarre life history, so do read about it below:
Recently (December 26) Mark Sturtevant showed us a very strange Coleopteran with a very strange life cycle, Rhipiphorus. Here is another one, Stenoria analis, family Meloidae [“blister beetles”], which shows an even more complicated kleptoparasitic life cycle:
1) The female lays her eggs on plants.
2) After two weeks, the larvae (called triungulins) hatch, but remain closely packed together (although they are highly mobile). Their work: producing bee’s sexual pheromones to deceive males of solitary bees, usually Colletes hederae. When a drone lands on the heap of triungulins, the little larvae quickly jump on the bee and cling on its hairs.
Here’s a photo of the aggregated tiungulins that I [JAC] took from flickr:
3) When the male finds a real female and attempts to copulate, the triungulins transfer themselves on the female – and so they are carried to her nest.
I found a photo (from a paper by Veerecken and Mahe) showing a bee flying toward a larval swarm (8) and trying to copulate with it (9), whereupon the triungulins jump on the bee:
4) In the nest, the triungulins install themselves in a cell, and wait until it is filled with honey; then the bee’s egg is deposited and the cell is closed.
5) They eat the egg and moult several times, transforming themselves in a kind of white grub, slowly growing on the honey and finally producing a nymph that will hatch next september. This process is called hypermetamorphosis and is well illustrated for another species here.
The triungulins who didn’t have the opportunity to attract a drone will form a “drop” of individuals mixed with silk. The drop will ultimately fall on the soil and the little larvae, apparently, will look for a second chance, tiny pedestrians walking around to find a suitable bee nest by themselves.
An adult Stenoria:
Female laying eggs on a dry Armeria maritima:
Another one on a Festuca:
I met Stenoria on Sark Island (C.I.) in the beginning of September, on a bank of loess riddled with solitary bees’ holes. But I didn’t see any Colletes [a ground-nesting bee]: the active bees were mostly Dasypoda hirtipes (here a female). Perhaps the Colletes were present, but didn’t hatch yet – or Stenoria is more euryoecious than described in the books.
And a lagniappe: Sunset on the Mont-Blanc seen from my home yesterday evening [Jan. 27] (with a F100 tele, it is actually 80 km away):
Reader Jim Thompson sent some mountain goat photos (we had some a few days ago, but you can’t see enough of these noble beasts). The species is Oreamnos americanus. Jim’s notes:
Curious goats following me up Maroon Peak in Colorado a few years ago.
There are some really tame ones on summit of Evans. There is a road up to very near the summit and there are public restrooms there; the goats just hang out for handouts. Somtimes you have to shoo them away to get into the restrooms.