Jan 17th – Weekly progress

Hi all!

Last week we sorted and pinned two kits: the kit by M. Freeland ( Tuscarawas County) and A. Kuflewski (Lawrence County). We are over 9,750 bees pinned!

I also started identifying some bees, and successfully identified 250 bees to at least genus. Once I start spending more time identifying bees, I will share more bee ID related things here. But for now, I will focus on the bycatch.


Bycatch:

Looks like poo, right? Well, you aren’t wrong, but there is more than meets the eye. Rice for scale.

This is poo, but instead of a little mouse pellet, this is actually a specially made poop suit that protects the tiny beetle larvae inside. This view, you can see the larvae sticking out the top of the fecal case. This is a leaf beetle larvae in the kit by Kuflewski. To learn more about case bearing leaf beetles and their weird camouflage and protection strategies, see: https://bugguide.net/node/view/13739

Kuflewski also had an Acorn ant. These aptly named ants can have an entire colony living in an acorn. Alex Wild has some really cool photos of acorn ants living in their acorn here: https://www.alexanderwild.com/Ants/Taxonomic-List-of-Ant-Genera/Temnothorax/

Although this makes a really convincing wasp mimic, this is actually a hoverfly! Note the shape of the antennae, the wing venation, and the halteres for why this is a fly and not an actual wasp. This is a particularly weird type of hoverfly, which has only 5 observations on iNaturalist. Because it is so uncommon, there is not that much known about the biology of this particular genus.

Another weird fly is this wood soldier fly. The halteres are much more visible and the wings are clearer, so you can more easily see the details.


Guess that body part:

Who knows what body part this is? This is a really zoomed in view of a larger structure. Bonus points if you can get 1) Order, 2) Genus, or 3) Species.


Covid news:
Nothing much new to say compared to last week, but I did hear that OSU Newark is going to become  a vaccination site starting this week. It will be interesting to see how that develops. There is promising news that the two major suppliers (Pfizer and Moderna) expect to have produced enough doses to vaccinate 70% of adults in the US by the end of July. This also does not account for any additional companies that might be able to get their vaccine approved in the next few months.


Bee Resources:
The other OSU has a cool series of bee videos as well, so if you are looking for more bee content to watch, see: https://extension.oregonstate.edu/bee-atlas/wild-world-bees


Other Events:

The Ohio Lepidopterists (aka the butterfly people) have an annual meeting Saturday, January 23 at 2 PM. It will be all digital due to covid, but they are having Sam Jaffe from The Caterpillar Lab speak. See more information here: https://www.facebook.com/events/887201068693056/

That is all for now,

MaLisa Spring

Jan 10 – Progress Updates and at home tasks

Progress of the week:

We sorted 2 kits last week: completely sorting and pinning a kit by J. Adams (Coshocton Co), and sorting the kit by J. Lansing (Franklin Co).


Bycatch of the week:
I didn’t photograph much this week, but we did see a few hairy ants and a twisted wing parasite.

Adam’s kit had some weird hairy ants, that were subsequently identified as “crazy ants” in the genus Nylanderia.

Adam’s kit also had a paper wasp that was parasitized by Twisted Wing Parasites! These are really weird insects that make up their own order (Strepsiptera). The females are essentially sacks of eggs that stick out of the host insect.

Male Twisted wing insects look vastly different. This is an image of a male that I photographed a few years ago. The eyes are like raspberries and the front wings are reduced to halteres (opposite of flies which have a pair of front wings followed by hindwings replaced with halteres)

The parasites often eat the internal organs of the host, leaving those most important to host survival. This paper wasp was found alive in January 2014, perhaps in part thanks to the strepsiptera. If you see a paper wasp out and about at this time of year, look closely at the end of the abdomen for little brown bits sticking out. You might find strepsiptera!


Covid Vaccine News:

Although technically not related to our sorting progress, but I was excited to hear a timeline for rolling out more vaccines across Ohio. Both a Pfizer and Moderna vaccine have gone through large clinical trials and been approved for use in the US after rigorous testing. The vaccines both require two doses and about two weeks for an immune response to build up to protect against COVID. So even if people get both doses, it is important to still follow the same risk reduction measurements (physically distance, wearing masks, etc) for a few weeks after getting the vaccine. To learn more about the available covid vaccines and potential side effects, see: https://wexnermedical.osu.edu/blog/covid-19-mrna-vaccine-side-effects

It sounds like most people over the age of 65 in Ohio will be eligible for the first dose of a covid vaccine by the second week of February. I don’t know the average age of our collectors, but at least some of you can look forward to some positive news. Dewine also announced that school personnel will be eligible to be vaccinated starting on Feb 1. As far as I am aware, the initial school personnel eligible are k-12 teachers and staff.


Specialist bees to chase:

The bee bowls are pretty good at documenting generalist bees in an area, though a few specialist bees do occasionally accidentally get caught as well. However, many specialist bees evade capture in bee bowls, both due to their specialization and also due to their rarity. So, to get you prepared for the upcoming return of bee activity, this is a small section to cover weird specialist bees to look for.

A mining bee in the genus Andrena foraging in a willow tree (Salix spp)

Willows (Genus Salix): These wonderful trees are often abundant near wetlands and have 14 different species of bees that specialize on them! That also means willows are a great plant to target to document a lot of specialist bees at once. Most of the willow specialists are mining bees in the genus Andrena, but there is also a Perdita specialist too! See: https://www.discoverlife.org/mp/20q?search=Perdita+maculigera&guide=1

Not many people in Ohio get to see bees in the genus Perdita, so if you are up for a challenge, then start marking out the closest willows near you! See the Ohio Field Guide to Trees to see an example of black willows and their flowers (pg 57). Or see the list of willows documented on iNaturalist here: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?place_id=31&subview=grid&taxon_id=53453

That’s all for now,

MaLisa

If you are bored and want to do some annotation work from home, see the info below. (Though iNaturalist appears to be partially down as I set to have this blog go live, so if the page does not load, come back later).


Are you bored and need something to do from home? 
As I am working on the specialist bee guide, I have realized I need accurate flowering dates for various plant species in Ohio. I generally use iNaturalist, but many of those observations are not “annotated”  as flowering, so I cannot easily determine when most of them are flowering in Ohio.

Example plant phenology graph prior to me going through the observations and adding annotations for whether the plant is flowering or fruiting. The gray graph are the observations that have yet to be tagged as Flowering, Budding, Fruiting, or No evidence of flowering.

This is what the same graph looks like after going through about a dozen pages and adding annotations. In this case, it more accurately shows that this genus is most often reported as flowering in May and June for Ohio (since I have graph filtered for only Ohio data).

Annotations to flowers in Ohio can be added here (you need to be logged in to see):  https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/identify?quality_grade=needs_id%2Cresearch&taxon_id=53453&place_id=31&without_term_id=12

Focus only on the flowers or flower budding. If you find a patch of a lot of non-flowering observations, just skip the page to avoid wasting time. We are most interested in flowering, but things like trees have lots of observations when they are not in flower. Be sure to check that you know what the flower of that genus looks like before you start adding annotations. Some plants have buds or seeds that look like flowers or vise versa.

Once you click on the link above, it should take you to an identify page. From there, you can click on the annotations tab, which allows you to select the matching annotation from the drop down menu. I use the arrow keys to navigate between observations and quickly sort through observations.

Here is an example annotated observation showing my violet observation after I have clicked on the image and then clicked on the annotation tab. From here, you can naviate with arrow keys or by clicking the arrows on the right side of the screen.

More info on adding annotations can be found here: https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/using-identify-to-annotate-observations/1417

List of genera that need annotations: I’ll try to update as I get through the different genera. If you complete a set of genera, feel free to email me (spring.99@osu.edu) and I will take them off this list. 

List updated 22 Jan 2021.

Oenothera L.
Cornus (Swida) L.
Monarda L.
Physalis L.
Verbena L.
Campanula L., Triodanis Raf. ex Greene
Castanea Mill.
Erythronium L.
Geranium L.
Hydrophyllum L.
Ilex L.
Penstemon Schmidel
Rosaceae, e.g. Fragaria L., Potentilla L., Rubus L.
Cercis L.,
Polemonium L.
Potentilla L.
Uvularia L.
Viola L.
Strophostyles Elliot
Ceanothus L., Houstonia L.
Heuchera L.
Pontederia L.
Ratibida Raf., Rudbeckia L.
Rhododendron L.
Agalinis Raf.
Cuscuta L.

Begone 2020! Onwards to more bees and other finds

2020 Accomplishments:

  • If you are reading this, then we made it through the year 2020. Congratulations!
  • Despite the ongoing pandemic, we shipped 155 kits to 87 of the 88 counties in Ohio. Lisa Lebovitz and Denise Ellsworth were key in getting the kits put together and shipped across the state. Thanks Lisa and Denise! And thanks to everyone who signed up to set out a kit. We could not have done this without you.
  • Despite the ongoing pandemic, we had a return rate of over 75% of the kits we shipped! That is an amazing return rate on a normal year. I know a few more people still have kits that they hope to turn in eventually, so maybe we can get that return rate to 80 or 85%? Thanks so much to everyone who participated as this is a phenomenal  achievement!
  • Amy Schnebelin lead the charge in adapting a field guide to have our own Field Guide to Ohio Bees! Thanks to Amy for making that cool guide happen!
  • Despite limited lab visitation, we have managed to pin over 9,000 bees! We also pinned 700+ hoverflies (Syrphidae) and 200+ robberflies (Asilidae). This is from sorting just 19 of the 120 kits that were returned so far.
  • We hired a student worker. She applied and received funds to research the hoverflies from the bycatch of the project!
  • Over $1,200 was donated to the project to contribute to research supplies. These will fund much needed pins, boxes, and other sorting materials. Thanks to everyone who donated!
  • We posted over 40 blogs like this to keep everyone informed on progress and hopefully spread some buggy joy.

Where will 2021 take us?

  • Sorting + Pinning: We still have over 100 kits left to sort. We had originally hoped that the pandemic would be better by now, but alas, that is not the case. We had a few people in the lab to help sort and pin specimens before cases got above 3,000 a day. I’m still waiting for those daily case numbers for Ohio to go back down before having people back in the lab. The exceptions I will make is if you have managed to get both doses of a covid vaccine or have already gotten covid, recovered, and can show both + then – covid tests. So for the time being, I don’t expect many people to fit into those exceptions.
  • Identifying: I will start identifying the pinned and labelled specimens soon. I’ve been spending every Friday working on Lasioglossum, but will likely switch one day of the week from sorting over to identifying. The pinned specimens are taking up a large section of the wall and at our current rate, we might run out of space in the lab for pinned specimens. I’m hoping I can at least identify a few boxes so those identified boxes can then be transferred to a space at Dawes where they can be safely stored.

These are filled with the 9000+ bees. We have already run out of shelf space, so sorting through a few is key.

  • Creating resources: I’m working on a specialist bee guide to make it easier to target specialist bees! TBD on how long it will take to create, but I’m optimistically thinking we might have something usable eventually. But as with all things during a pandemic, who knows.
  • Sampling: Pending progress on the specialist bee resource above and also on whether we manage to identify more specimens, we might have a new sampling project for summer 2021 that involves much more limited and targeted collection of specialist bees. However, lots of factors in play, so hard to say at this point. We are definitely not doing bee bowls for a second year to avoid even more overwhelming workload on my part.

Progress and Bycatch of the week:

We sorted 2 kits last week, completely sorting and pinning the kit from P. Boyer (Wayne Co.) and starting on the kit by D. Reiser (Summit  Co.).

We had another case of “I’m going to need a bigger vial.” This was definitely the largest caterpillar so far.

Boyer also had an abundance of tiny moths (little brown things in lower left corner with grain of rice for scale). Micro moths are extremely challenging to ID, but we still saved them in case someone is willing to try. Many micromoths are leaf miners. They tend to eat the inner layer of leaf tissue, leaving the outer layers as protection. To learn more about leaf miners, see the project: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/leafminers-of-north-america

Boyer had three types of ants common in the samples, so I decided to line them up for a group photo next to a grain of rice.

The kit by Boyer also had a cool weevil (left), and two dark ladybeetles (center and right). Most people overlook these tiny black ladybeetles, but they can be somewhat common in many areas. Rice for scale.

This lovely little larvae was clinging to one of the mining bees in the kit by D. Reiser. I believe this is a blister beetle larvae, which are known to parasitize bees! Adult blister beetles lay eggs on flowers. The larvae then cling to a visiting adult bee, thus hitching a ride back to the bees nest. See more on blister beetles here: https://bugguide.net/node/view/181 Rice for scale on the right and bee legs on the left.

And who doesn’t love a little Lace Bug (family Tingidae)? These tiny walking pieces of art are common on some types of trees. Alas, most lace bugs are much too small for the average person to admire them. This photo was taken by Bryan Zake and is of the same specimen photographed here: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/67358679

Here is our rice for scale for the same lacebug as above. They may be small, but they sure are beautiful.

Bryan also photographed this oddly proportioned fly that was found in Reiser’s kit. It is possibly a Tachinid or Bristle fly.


What is that bodypart?

Only one person guessed on our mystery bodypart from last week. Rich Bradley gets points for correctly guessing the order of the insect leg.

Who am I?

The leg above is the hindleg of a grasshopper, which would be order Orthoptera and family Acrididae.


Bee and relevant scientific articles:

On bowl color and wasp preferences: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/eea.13008
There has been a lot of work trying to figure out the best colors for sample traps. There are a lot of papers already written on what colors attract the most bees, but the paper linked above also highlights the ideal colors for other wasps. Perhaps unsurprising to most wasp researchers, yellow caught the most wasps (both in abundance and species richness), followed by fluorescent yellow, white, blue, and fluorescent blue. Red and clear traps caught only a fraction of wasps, which makes sense given the habitat (red traps are considered better in desert habitats, but this research was of forested habitat in Maryland). When looking at just bees, the yellow, fluorescent yellow, white, fluorescent blue, and blue all performed similarly (with the clear and red traps again performing poorly). They also found that despite the different colors of traps catching similar numbers of bees, some bees were only found in certain color traps. Thus, having a multiple colors of traps (not just all fluorescent yellow or all fluorescent blue) is important for sampling bees. Yay us for already using the multiple colors. 

That is all for now,

MaLisa

Dec 28th – Sorting more kits

Weekly progress:
Slow week in the lab, with work only on Tuesday and Wednesday. We pinned the last of Graham’s kit (Franklin Co) and sorted all of a kit by B. Heath (Portage Co). We are up to over 8,000 bees pinned and 17 kits sorted! We haven’t started identifying any bees, but we have started the second to last step that goes right before I can start identifying. So we are getting closer.

If we keep up our current rate of sorting and pinning, it would take about 40 more weeks for us to get through the samples (putting us out into September). This estimate does not account for any time identifying or any time doing any field work over the summer, so it still might take longer than that. However, I am hopeful that we will be able to get vaccines before then to have more people in the lab to help with sorting and pinning again. If you have gotten two doses of a covid vaccine and want to help out in the lab, let me know. Otherwise, we are still waiting for cases to decrease across Ohio before having people back in the lab.


Bycatch:
To see all bycatch photographed this week, see: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?created_d1=2020-12-21&created_d2=2020-12-23&place_id=any&subview=grid&user_id=malisaspring&verifiable=any

We often overlook our flies in the samples. However, if we take the time to look closely at them, they can be quite beautiful!

I mean, check out this crown of spines! This is the same fly as above, but looking from below.

Another fun bug from Heath’s sample is a tumbling flower beetle. These beetles are aptly named, as they are very quick to tumble off flowers when startled.

Another weird fly is this Wavy Mucksucker! It is actually a hoverfly in the family Syrphidae, but lacks the bright yellow colors of its cousins.

We also finally got an adult pincer wasp (Dryinidae), which is a parasite of leafhoppers! See more info about the family here: https://bugguide.net/node/view/26938


Guess that organism!
How good are you at recognizing obscure insect body parts? Do you recognize which insect this body part came from?

Who am I?

 

That’s all for now,

MaLisa

Dec 20 – Permit due dates? + ant updates & more weird bycatch

Permits:
Thanks to those who sent me the deadlines for when their respective reports are due. If you collected at a site that has a permit report due and have not yet emailed me, please reach out to me with any due dates (if you know of them). I tried to check all the permit forms that were turned in, but it seems like many of the permits did not have explicit dates where reports are due.


Weekly progress:
We sorted 3 kits this week including kits by L. Gilbert (Geauga County), R. Duval (Geauga County), and started on the kit by L. Graham (Franklin County). We are up to over 7,200 bees pinned! We haven’t started identifying any bees, but we have started the second to last step that goes right before I can start identifying. So we are getting closer.


Bycatch:
Apparently, it is the season for really tiny wasps. In fact, the one below might make a good backup to Rudolf and other reindeer.

Check out those antennae! I didn’t see a red nose, so I think we can safely say that I did not find Rudolf.

Bonus rice for scale too!

The same wasp as above, this time next to a grain of rice.

Not a wasp, but a cool soldier fly from Duval’s kit. My grain of rice is showing some wear already too.

The same fly also has some really neat eyes too! The grain of rice makes a very poor pillow.

Duval also got a neat wood boring beetle in their kit. Despite this being in the family of wood boring beetles, this specific species of beetle actually just lives inside the leaves of some oak trees! https://bugguide.net/node/view/27614

Another fun bycatch is this insect in Duval’s kit. This is NOT a stick insect, but actually a stilt bug! Many people see these and think they are tiny stick insects, but they are actually true bugs. I most often find these on night blooming prime rose plants.

The key way to differentiate a stilt bug from a stick insect is that stilt bugs are much much smaller and also have piercing straw mouths. True stick insects will be easily 10 grains of rice or more long and have chewing mouthparts.

L. Graham had several of these lovely little spiders. They had some nice metallic gold reflections, along with being somewhat hairy.

There was also this spider in Graham’s kit. It has quite the face.

Ant updates:

This is the mounted photo of a bycatch specimen from Babcock’s Wood county kit. The Sandusky county kit also had the same species. Photo taken by Cody Cardenas.

For those reading closely last week, the final bycatch was a weird ant. Well, I managed to get that ant and several that looked like it to the ant lab in Columbus! Cody Cardenas mounted and imaged them for us to officially confirm that we did have the first known specimens of D. mariae for Ohio! There are some older photo records from a few years prior, but these would be the first known physical specimen records, so still cool. Also, I realized after looking back that these ants were in both of Babcock’s kits, so there are both Wood and Sandusky county records. Woohoo! Thanks to user madbiologist18 on iNaturalist for the initial genus ID for the ant and to Cody for mounting/imaging/confirming IDs.

Since Cody was looking through our bycatch vial to pull out the D. mariae specimens, he also pulled out a few more ants for imaging. Ants are quite neat once you look at them up close. Image taken by Cody Cardenas.

Photo by Cody Cardenas. Antennae are being weird on this one, so that lower beaded thing on the front is actually an antennae and not some weird mouth appendage.

If you are like me, and wondering how Cody got these cool images above, well have no fear, because I asked Cody to share that too!

This is the ant lab’s new ant photography rig. They use a super magnifying lens (Canon 65mm MP-E), lots of light, and focus stacking to stitch together the images above.


Bee Literature:

Bored and need more things to read? Well, an article on the bees of Illinois was published! They are recording 491 species of bees for the state of Illinois. I wonder how many we will report once we get through our Ohio project? And if you are wondering about the Ohio/Michigan rivalry, Michigan also has reported only 465 specie of bees, so that is the number we are hoping to beat. 😉
Link to the state list of bees for Illinois here: https://bioone.org/journals/journal-of-the-kansas-entomological-society/volume-93/issue-1/0022-8567-93.1.34/Preliminary-Illinois-Bee-Species-Checklist-Hymenoptera–Apoidea-and-use/10.2317/0022-8567-93.1.34.short

Also, short note about journal articles: academia is weird and most scientific journals are behind a paywall. However, authors are allowed to give out pdfs of articles for free if you email them directly (or if they put them on their lab website or similar). So if you want to read the articles above beyond just the abstract, that is one possible route. I cannot legally give out the pdfs directly here as I am not an author on any of these articles. Here is a short video that explains some other ways to get access to academic articles for free that do not involve Scihub. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I3ErD5vBNO4&feature=youtu.be 

That’s all for now,

MaLisa

Dec 13th – Smallest number of bees per kit record + a weird ant

Permits and reports:

For those who applied for permits to sample bees, can you reach out to me listing when your reports to your sample site are due? I am trying to get as many kits sorted as possible to include more information in various parks reports, but as you can tell, progress has been slow. So if your permit says that you are required to turn in a report soon, please send me an email (spring.99@osu.edu).


Kit sorting progress:

Eleanor finished pinning the rest of Hearn’s kit this week. We also managed to sort 3.75 more kits this week too! A record making week, though our speed this week was partly due to the odd lack of abundance of specimens in 3 of the kits sorted. The kits we started sorting were D. Babcock (Sandusky co), D. Babcock (Wood Co – second kit), J. O’Brien (Portage Co), and C. Stanton (Columbiana Co).

So far, we have filled over 40 boxes with pinned specimens. We have pinned over 6,200 bees across that 12 kits that have been pinned! However, 1,539 of those were from one kit (J. Page in Champaign Co), which was also the first kit I sorted. Hence my extreme concern over how many bees we had waiting in our boxes. However, this week, we had our lowest number of specimens in a kit yet (and not for a lack of sampling, soap type, or loss of cups over time), with a total of only 12 bees across the entire season for Babcock’s Sandusky county sample site.

Many of Babcock’s samples had only small numbers of bees or bycatch. This kit only had two flies, though there were several springtails, ants, and a few slugs.

This is all of the petri plates of sorted bees from Babcock’s Sandusky county sample. Although there were only 12 bees, there were still probably 8+ species, including at least one parasitic species!

Of the 12 kits that have been pinned so far, the average number of specimens per kit is about 500 (unless we exclude the record high, then the average goes down to only 400 bees per kit). So there seems to be a somewhat wide variation in the number of bees that end up in different kits. Why there is such a wide variation remains unclear. There are still plenty of kits to sort through, so the record high and record low might change, but fingers crossed for my part that they do not.


Interesting bycatch:

Lots of leafhoppers, ants, and slugs this week. I did not take that many photos, but there were a few cool things. To see all bycatch photographed this week, see: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?created_d1=2020-12-07&created_d2=2020-12-11&place_id=any&subview=grid&user_id=malisaspring&verifiable=any

Inexplicably, one of Babcock’s samples had a mantid head and piece of an arm (but no other body parts) in the sample. How did this happen? That is unclear. There were also stories of other people observing mantids eating specimens out of the bowls, but this seems more likely that a mantid was getting eaten above the bowl, and the predator dropped the head.

Stanton had a colorful (and slightly iridescent) wood boring beetle. Rice for scale.

Hearn had a brightly colored grapevine leafhopper (rice for scale in the lower corner)

Hearn also had a spider with some weird tufts of hair on the top of its head.

And finally, the ant people are debating on the ID of the black and red ant, which may or may not be a really rare species and or the first specimen record ever for the state of Ohio. The jury is still out as of this writing and I need to get a specimen to an ant expert to confirm for sure. TBD.


COVID and volunteer pinning updates:

As I have hinted to previously, we have paused any additional people in the lab for a bit given how high the case numbers for covid are in Ohio. We are now averaging 10,000 new cases of Covid a day in Ohio compared to our 1,000 new cases/day over the summer and COVID is quickly becoming one of the top causes of death in Ohio. So to be extra safe, we are going to just take it slow in the lab with just Eleanor (student worker) and I. However, there is some bright news, with vaccines finally rolling out! There were several shipments of one of the covid vaccines to 8 sites across Ohio, so at least some people will start to get vaccinated. If you are able to get the two doses of vaccine and wish to help in the lab after being vaccinated, email me directly. Otherwise, we will continue to wait to have any more people in the lab to reduce risk for everyone involved.

 

Quick bonus edit to add a nice poster on Polistes wasps: https://twitter.com/MCAsche/status/1338501533596434437/photo/1

That is all for now,

MaLisa

Dec 6: Specimen Updates and more bycatch fun

Overall, this week we finished pinning one kit by K. Capuzzi from Hocking County and started sorting a kit by S. Hearn from Belmont County.

One thing that people seem to enjoy is that their “messy” filters with masses of insects still manage to come out intact, with lots of little bees hiding in their midst.

An example filter right after I open it to sort the specimens. Everything is still stuck together in the filter shape.

I have to agree that when they are in the filter, they do look beyond saving, but they actually preserve really well in the freezer!

Once thawed, the same mass in the filter above can be carefully separated and sorted.

We sort the specimens into 7 main groups: bees, hoverflies, robberflies, all other true flies, moths/butterflies, all other bycatch, and spiders (for select locations).

This is a sorted sample from S. Hearn. She also had some damselflies in her kit, so we separated those out too, but most kits do not have any damselflies.

The bees, hoverflies, and robberflies get put into petri dishes temporarily. When we have enough batches, we then wash the bees, and pin the hoverflies/robberflies without washing. These are the remaining 10 weeks of samples from the kit by Capuzzi. There were a lot of bees in the later weeks.

After sorting, washing, and drying the bees, we move on to pinning them. This is a very labor intensive step and most of what people were helping with when they came to the lab. There will be no visitors for the next month or so until the Covid cases in Ohio start to decrease, so we have been going much slower with kit processing.

One sample by Capuzzi had over 100 bees that needed pinned! We glued the small ones to the pins and saved the larger bees for last, which we pinned through the thorax.

The only other update is that Eleanor (student worker), successfully put together 46 specimen boxes and colored bee stencils on them. These bioquip boxes are somewhat expensive and variable quality, so we are going to experiment with some pizza boxes and foam to save money and space.

With the 8 kits sorted so far, we have already used 38 of these boxes! There are many more boxes in our future.


Interesting bycatch:

We may gripe about them, but deer flies do have amazing eyes! Check out those facets! And rice for scale visible here: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/66053054

Also, remember those tiny snails from weeks ago that I was excited about? Well, I found more, and added in a grain of rice for scale! I told you they were small!

This full grown snail would be easily missed in the field, as it is barely larger than some sand grains. Now I really want to find one alive and try to photograph it.

Another thing that throws people off is how much colors change in the water. In June, I covered Snipe flies as bycatch. But the color of snipe flies becomes dulled once they get wet, so they are not nearly charismatic. Well, check out the same species below, once I let it air dry for a few minutes!

Check out those golden hairs on this Golden-backed Snipe fly! It looks positively huggable, if it wasn’t so small and human hugs so large. There is also a grain of rice for scale, but the rice got overexposed so it is just a white blob.

Other fun bugs included more tiny beetles with rice for scale, a scorpionfly, a hister beetle, a fungus gnat, a velvet mite with rice for scale, and a Big-eyed bug.


Recently published scientific articles of interest:
Need even more things to read in your life, check out the article below.

Decline of six native mason bee species following the arrival of an exotic congener. – As it sounds, the paper highlights the decline of 6 species of Mason bees (Osmia spp) in the northeastern United States, whereas the exotic Osmia species is having a population boom. They used pan trap data across 15 years of sampling to figure out that the native species were declining over that time frame and the exotic species were increasing.


That is all for now,

MaLisa

Nov 29th – More Bycatch Updates

Last week was slow, with Eleanor and I only spending one day in the lab. As such, we only sorted through 4 weeks of a kit by K. Capuzzi in Hocking County. I did try to do something a bit different, which is to add a grain of rice for scale in a few images.

Just saying the wasps are small doesn’t put them into context properly. So let’s try a grain of rice for scale! Some of the parasitic wasps as so small that we could easily fit dozens of them on a single grain!

It can be a bit hard to get the camera to focus on both the tiny insects and the grain of rice. But at least this image you can see the tiny hairs on the wings.

Thrips are also really small, but hard to wrap around just how tiny they are. We could fit a couple dozen easily onto this grain of rice. There were a TON of thrips in this particular week.

Check out the Thrips with their fringed wings! This is the closest that the microscope can zoom in. Of course, this is much too close to get any of the grain of rice in.

Rice for scale really throws you for a loop when you realize that a dull green sweat bee (Dialictus sp) is about the same size as a grain of rice.
And I wasn’t kidding that there were a lot of thrips in this kit.

This is one of the bigger flies in the kit. This is also the most zoomed out I can be with the microscope camera, so I was unable to fit the whole fly into the frame at once.

There were also three wood boring beetles in one sample.

We have also almost completely filled one index card box with envelopes containing the skippers and other butterflies.

Also, in the blog last week I shared a very rough sorting of species from a late summer sample. I did a rough sorting of a “typical” spring sample to show the different genera that are much more common in the spring versus late summer.

This spring sample has a lot of Andrena, Osmia, and Nomada. Those three genera are not typically as abundant later in the season.

That is all I have for now.

Best wishes,

MaLisa

Nov 22 Update Post – more weird bycatch and some bees

I had an extra day in the lab last week, so we made better progress than normal. We successfully sorted and pinned 3 more kits this week! They were kits from N. Helm (Warren Co), C. Biegler (Madison Co), and J. Hinterlong (Preble Co). As always, lots of fun things, bees and otherwise, to keep us busy.

The kit by J. Hinterlong had a LOT of longhorn bees. This black mass is mostly the two spotted longhorn bee.

The kit by N. Helm had a nice assortment of bees each week.

The moment where I think: “I’m going to need a bigger vial.”
Normally we can fit our bycatch into these small vials, but sometimes beetles make it so we have to upgrade. We got a donation of an assortment of old vials from Thorne Hall (Thanks BugZoo Woo!), so we have a variety of vials to pick through.

Example of sorted week from Biegler’s kit. He had an excessive number of small carpenter bees (Ceratina spp), so it took a while to get his kit pinned. The big beetle fits nicely in the larger scintillation vial.

Rough sorting of specimens to show the variety of bees found in one week of Biegler’s kit.

We also had some people in the lab to help sort and pin, so that made us progress faster. However, we won’t be having people in the lab for a few weeks (aside from myself and Eleanor), so this will probably be the most updates I have for a while.

We haven’t started identifying many bees yet since our focus right now is mostly sorting and pinning. I did photograph two bees through the microscope, so I will go ahead and include them below.

Most people have the bright green bees in the genus Agapostemon in their kits. They tend to look much darker when in water, but brighten up as soon as they dry. This one had a large population of mites still clinging to its abdomen (the brown patch that looks like dirt).

Zooming in closer to see the dried up mites, you can see that hundreds of mites were closely clinging to the bees body. Also note the distinct ridge on the top left of the image that separates the genus Agapostemon from the other bright green bees found in Ohio.

Another bee that was photographed is one that most people might not realize is actually a bee. Nomad bees (genus Nomada) are parasitic bees and most abundant in the spring across Ohio. These bees tend to be combinations of red, yellow, and black. They also tend to die in a weird position where their butt gets upturned, though they do not normally position like this while alive.

A typical nomad bee, which is likely a nest parasite of Andrena mining bees.


Bycatch:

Although the bees are the main goal of the project, we are still sorting out the bycatch to give to other researchers and institutions. I’m trying to not be too distracted with all the cool bycatch, but I figure taking a few photographs here and there to show everyone would be appreciated.

As an entomologist, I got particularly excited to find what is an otherwise boring looking brown bug. See below.

A Unique Headed bug is very small, with several of them easily sitting on a grain of rice. I should try photographing things next to a grain of rice in the future for comparison.

The reason for excitement is that Unique Headed bugs are not regularly found, and you normally have to be digging through leaf litter samples. So I was particularly surprised to find one in a bee bowl sample! This was collected by N. Helm and she had at least two of them in that sample!

Looking at them up close, they have big eyes that almost wrap around their heads.

Flip them upside down and you can see their claws! It turns out that the claws are key to differentiating the various species, but this particular genus needs revision, so we likely won’t get a species level ID for this.

Another fun bycatch was this parasitic wasp collected by C. Biegler. Check out those bright colors and legs!

Something something, leg day, something something.

There are 56 species in the genus Conura, so who knows if we will get a species ID from this photo. Still cool to see one showing off its legs so well. They are all parasites of different insects. https://bugguide.net/node/view/83330

J. Hinterlong had a cool wood boring beetle in their kit, which illustrates the “typical” buprestidae shape. It is only the third record for this species listed on iNaturalist for Ohio. It is a rather small beetle, so it would be easily overlooked.

C. Biegler also had a weird buprestid beetle. I initially thought one of the abdomens broke off one of our bees, but then I looked at it under the microscope and was surprised to see the broken “butt” was actually a beetle!

If you squint, it looks like a Ceratina butt. Thankfully, it is actually just a beetle.

Other noteworthy bycatch included a leafmining beetle adult, a carrion beetle larvae, an adorably small dung beetle, and possibly a horsehair worm,

All bycatch that was photographed this week can be found here: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?created_d1=2020-11-16&created_d2=2020-11-19&place_id=any&subview=grid&user_id=malisaspring&verifiable=any


Lab Updates:

We finally got a cabinet that we ordered on a grant months ago! We are happy that it is safely in the lab and we have a little more secure storage for our bugs. We also got a shipment of more pins and cardboard specimen boxes. We have already used over 3,000 pins with just 7 kits sorted so far!

A previous grant had funds that allowed us to buy a single cabinet and some drawers for safer specimen storage.

Insect cabinets reduce the risk of getting dermestids. The beetles can eat our hard earned insect collection, so we like to make it as hard for the dermestids as possible. It is also nice to have a cabinet to easily pull out drawers.


COVID Updates:

Given our continued rate of covid infections across Ohio, we will not be having any more visitors in the lab to help pin until things calm down a bit. The numbers of new cases have gotten so high that Ohio is no longer able to keep up with they daily reports, with the backlog of antigen tests that need to be double checked as somewhere over 12,000. I also live in Franklin County, which is the one “purple” county in the state that also has health orders to stay home if possible. The specimens are safe in the freezer for now, so slowing down for a few weeks or months will be okay. In positive news, a third vaccine has also just been reported to be effective against coronavirus, so we are getting closer to some relief from this pandemic.

 

Best wishes,

MaLisa

Nov 15th updates

Need even more bee info in you life? Check out this online bee exhibit which goes over a lot of information on bees across the world! https://www.museumoftheearth.org/bees/


Specimen Progress:

We only sorted through one kit last week, both because we only had 2 days in the lab and because this kit had a lot of sample dates and specimens. This was collected by C. Diltz in Allen Co. With the 5 kits so far, we are up to over 2,500 bees pinned.

Example sorted sample from this kit. Lots of bigger bees in this kit (predominantly Melissodes bimaculatus). Location hidden since I believe this is private property.

 

This seemed to be the most abundant sample week (99 bees!) in this kit. Still nowhere close to the 450 bees from the other kit, but 99 bees is more than enough to start figuring out the species present.

 

This kit had an unusually high number of butterflies and skippers each week. I’m not sure why there were so many in this kit compared to other kits. Location hidden since I think this is a private property.

As for notable bycatch, there were several colorful/weird leafhoppers, a striped tortoise beetle, and a spider with some very rotund palps. Lots of other cool things, but we didn’t have a lot of time this week to take photographs.


Covid Updates and Impacts on Progress:

Unfortunately, the transmission rate for covid is getting too high for comfort across Ohio. We hit 7,000 new cases a day in Ohio on Thursday, 8,000 new cases on Friday, and 7,500+ both Saturday and Sunday. That is compared to our average of 1,000 new cases a day over the summer. I do not want any of us to be one of those numbers. I know a few of you have already had it or know someone who has suffered immensely because of it.

We have plans to reduce capacity in the lab to a maximum 2 people (instead of 3, counting me), so people will mostly be pinning alone with me stopping in the room periodically to check up. We got permission to use the classrooms down the hallway, which have been unused most of the semester, so it is easier for us to spread out. Masks are also to be worn the entire time, even when alone. I have not added any additional sign up slots for now so we can see how this week progresses and already asked those who signed up to reconsider pinning for a bit.

There is some hope for a vaccine soon, with a few studies providing positive results. So hopefully we will be able to get a vaccine in a few months. Once people are getting vaccinated, I will feel better with having people in to pin, but for now, hold tight.

Stay safe,
– MaLisa