We did it! We finally sorted all the kits that we had turned in so far! There are still a few unaccounted for kits that I know exist, but we have successfully sorted the kits we do have, sorting the kits by S. Upperman (Wayne) and P. Dutton (Holmes) last week. We still need to wash and pin a few bees, but our current number of bees pinned and databased is close to 52,000.
These pizza boxes are almost all of our 52,000 bees. So there is plenty of work ahead to get these identified. We will slowly but surely make it through them.
Since we finished the sorting, I have started training our student assistants on identifying select groups of bees. So far, they have started pulling out the male Calliopsis andreniformis, m + f Melissodes bimaculatus, and the bright green bees. I have been identifying specimens as well, so we are now to almost 6k specimens to at least genus and almost 4k specimens identified to species. Several of these were identified back in February, so we really only added 500 species level IDs this week.
Left to right are Calliopsis, Melissodes, and Augochlorini. The male Calliopsis are distinct with their entirely yellow legs, yellow face, and otherwise black body. The Melissodes bimaculatus are also distinct with their larger size, mostly black hairy body, and two yellow spots on females (or diffuse white hairs on males). The bright green bees are distinctly bright green, though this group includes several different genera, so we will need to ID them lower once we get them all together.
The other update this week is that we got a demonstration of a Hirox 3D microscope.
In a matter of seconds, the representative had several high quality, high magnification stacked images of one of our Lasioglossum specimens. For those of you who have struggled to identify and see Lasioglossum, you know how hard this is.
Full body shot of a Lasioglossum specimen. Photographed by Christian L. Munoz.
We also convinced him to get a closer image of the thorax showing the pitting. We could have probably played around with the settings more to get a sharper image, but I was still very impressed with the result given that it only took a few seconds to get this image. Photographed by Christian L. Munoz.
Mayflies can be found all over the state of Ohio, but the largest numbers are found close to Lake Erie. Throughout June, large numbers of mayflies enter their final adult life stage and begin to swarm. In locations like Port Clinton, the mayfly swarms can blanket cars, roads, and houses. These swarms grow so large they can even be picked up on weather surveillance radar!
Caption: This video is an example of a mayfly hatch being picked up on weather surveillance radar over Lake Erie
So far, while sorting volunteer kits, only a small number of mayflies have been captured in the bowl traps. It is surprising that traps set in northern counties, specifically counties around Lake Erie, have not captured more mayflies in June. The mayflies can come in waves so thick they can be shoveled like drifts of snow.
Caption: Sensationalized news clips of a massive mayfly hatch
Adult mayfly photographed by MaLisa Spring
Immature mayfly in a stream photographed by MaLisa Spring
Caption: Image of mayfly and mayfly larvae captured by MaLisa Spring.
It is both fascinating and frightening to see plague-like numbers of mayflies but that is only a small portion of the mayfly life cycle. After hatching, most of the mayfly life cycle consists of various nymph forms. At this stage immature mayflies dwell at the bottom of lakes, rivers, and streams. They mainly feed on algae and leaf later until they reach the subimago stage. The immature mayflies undergo multiple molts where there is eventually a transition to a subimago, and finally to an adult or imago stage. After mayflies reach adulthood, they no longer eat due to their lack of functioning mouthparts. The subimago stage is a brief stage where the mayfly has functional wings but molts one last time. This final molt brings on the imago stage where mayflies swarm, mate, lay eggs, and die. As adults their primary goal is to quickly mate before death. The aftermath of the swarming is not only disturbing but smelly! The piles of dead bugs do not always go to waste. The city of Port Clinton has a mayfly compost site for these insects!
The large swarms are a good sign for Lake Erie. The size of the swarms is one way the health of the freshwater ecosystem can be measured. Mayflies are very sensitive to water quality changes and only thrive in clean, healthy ecosystems (Stepanian et al). If there is a decline in the overall size of mayfly hatches, the lakes water quality could be in decline. The mayfly hatches are also an important food source for other freshwater organisms, especially fish. As a fisherman, I personally have seen the shift in walleye feeding patterns that occur during mayfly hatches. The hatches are a great food source for hungry summer walleye, however they can gorge themselves and become so full they are harder for fisherman to catch!
Information about mayflies is from Stepanian et al. (2020) and Arghavan Salles (2000)
More information can be found at:
Salles, Arghavan. Ephemeroptera Mayflies.
https://ucmp.berkeley.edu/arthropoda/uniramia/ephemeroptera.html. Accessed 14 July 2021.
Stepanian, Phillip M., et al. “Declines in an Abundant Aquatic Insect, the Burrowing Mayfly, across Major North American Waterways.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 117, no. 6, Feb. 2020, pp. 2987–92.
A Short Update from MaLisa:
We sorted 8 kits last week: L. Mautz (Morgan), L. Dillon (Madison), D. Kadonaga (Franklin), N. Ganson (Shelby), L. Moore (Trumbull), A. Blyth (Hocking), P. Zelenik (Mahoning), and R. Bowell (Miami).
That brings us to 138 kits sorted and we are now over 50,000 bees pinned! We should finish sorting the kits we have left this week and I am starting students on identification. If you still have your samples from 2020 and want them processed and identified, please get them turned in ASAP.
Mystery body part answer:
Several people got close with the mystery image from last week!
What could this be? I’ll give you a hint: it is part of an insect 😉
We sorted 9 kits last week: K Hunter (Knox), B. Robb (Medina), M. Brennan (Geauga), K. VanDyne (Preble), K. VanDyne (Franklin), L. Lebovitz (Medina), M. Manzo (Cuyahoga), P. Knudson (Butler), J. Kralovic (Summit), and also the rest of the kit by R. Luff (Clinton). That brings us to 128 kits sorted and we are now over 48,000 bees pinned! We only have 12 kits left to sort and then we switch full time to identification.
Catching up from the past several weeks of guest posts, here are some of the cool things we have seen!
Guess what? This is not an ant! Although it looks very ant like, this is actually a Flat Wasp in the family Bethylidae. These wasps are thought to target beetle larvae. This was collected by M. Brennan.
This is also not an ant! Look closely at how many legs there are. This is our native ant mimicking jumping spider that made the mistake of jumping into one of S. Angel’s bowls.
Since our tiny ruler came in, I have been paying more attention to the small snails in the samples. At under 2 mm (a third the length of a grain of rice), these snails are easily overlooked. They are identified by the number of teeth seen on the inside of the shell, though there are apparently a lot of different species, so even if we get a clear shot of those teeth, it is not a guarantee that we will be able to identify them properly. This Vertigo Snail was from M. Shilling’s kit, but many other kits from the past few weeks also had a few of these little beasts.
This insect might look like a wasp, but it is actually a wood soldier fly in the family Xylomyidae! These flies are typically found near woodlands and the larvae are thought to live under bark where they are either predatory or eat fungi. This was collected by J. Kutzley
Guess that structure:
It has been a while since I have quizzed you all on a mystery structure. So, can you guess what the structure is in the image below? Bonus points if you can identify the correct Order and/or Family.
What could this be? I’ll give you a hint: it is part of an insect 😉
The vision of a robber fly is both miraculous and breath-taking. How can one tiny insect occupy such advanced vision? Their sight is one extreme example on how organisms have evolved to become amazing predators. The Ohio Bee Survey (2020 to the pres.) aims to identify and enumerate the bee species of Ohio. Bycatch specimens from our passive water bowl traps contain a variety of insects, including Asilidae, also known as robber flies. These insects are predators of flies, wasps, beetles, moths, and many other arthropods.
Example of a robber fly with prey that was collected in one of our bowl traps by H. Carpenter.
In addition to working as a research assistant in Dr. Goodell’s lab, I am conducting a research project to analyze habitat drivers of Asilidae abundance and diversity. I will examine how their abundance changes with landscape-scale habitat-quality. I will also test the hypothesis that robber fly abundance is positively correlated with that of two of their prey taxa: —bees (Anthophila) and hover flies (Syrphidae).
The robber fly predatory behavior is intriguing in that they use visual evolutionary adaptations that allow them to track and capture prey efficiently. This ocular capability is known to be comparable to humans as their eyesight functions similarly. To track their prey successfully, robber flies use an amazing angle and acceleration strategy. These insects use a “lock-on” targeting system in which they fly parallel alongside their prey and employ a constant bearing angle (CBA) strategy for their flight. An analogy to the CBA system of prey capture is found in the method used by two relay runners in the act of passing a baton successfully between them. A waiting runner will begin to accelerate in parallel to the approaching teammate— to facilitate baton transfer with as little loss of speed as possible. Asilids use this method to pursue and then grab its prey in midflight. This model allows the predator to respond to unexpected changes in their prey’s speed and position. An experiment was performed by a team of researchers, Wardill et al., who looked at the predatory behavior (see video below). A mechanism, a fishing rod with a bead on the end to represent the prey, was used to observe the pathway that the Asilidae takes when capturing their meal. They travel parallelly with the other insect until the point of interception to finally seize their snack. Interestingly, humans, dragon flies, and fish also use the CBA model to keep the view of their target constant over time, avoiding uncertainty. This method that robber flies and other animals use provides a reliable mechanism to catch their prey (Rothkopf and Schrater 2013).
The predatory strategy of Asilidae uses multiple types of visual cues, for example, optical tau and binocular cues. The optical tau is the ratio of an object’s diameter over its varying distance. These visual processes enhance the performance of reaching and grasping movements which is relative to the vision in humans. This allows the insect to obtain the right cues on when to approach their prey. An image of the structure of an asilid eye and body caught within the bycatch of the Ohio Bee Survey is displayed within Figure 2. It is amazing how the evolution of asilid eyes facilitate a mirror image of the functional aspects within human vision.
Figure 2. Asilidae collected by Cameron Svoboda on August 5, 2020 at Blacklick Metropark. (Photos by Vanessa Chilcoat)
Information about Asilidae was from Wardill et al. (2017) and Rothkopf & Schrater (2013).
Wardill, T. J., Fabian, S. T., Pettigrew, A. C., Stavenga, D. G., Nordström, K., & Gonzalez-Bellido, P. T. (2017). A Novel Interception Strategy in a Miniature Robber Fly with Extreme Visual Acuity. Current Biology, 27(6), 854–859. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2017.01.050
Rothkopf, C., & Schrater, P. (2013). Optimally adapting heuristics: humans quickly abandon the constant bearing angle strategy. Journal of Vision, 13(9), 122–122. https://doi.org/10.1167/13.9.122
Note from MaLisa on weekly progress:
We sorted 7 kits last week: M. Schilling (Clermont), J. Kutzley (Madison), A. Lighthiser (Licking), P. Siebert (Warren), J. Driscoll (Lorain), C. Beveridge (Columbiana), and K. McCoy (Fayette). The interesting bycatch from these samples will be shared at a later date. We are now over 46,000 bees pinned! We only have 20 kits left to sort and then we switch full time to identification.
We also got a new record number of bees in a single day at a single site! Coming in at an average of 27 bees per bowl on August 5th, M. Schilling’s sample has blown away the previous daily record (451 bees, also Aug 5 at Cedar Bog by J. Page) for a whopping 623 bees! So clearly something was happening on August 5th as we are seeing similar spikes, though not as dramatic, with other samples. It took Connor 3 hours just to pin all 623 of the bees from this one sample day.
3 hours of gluing and pinning later, and this is what we have to show for the record breaking sample. They still each need individual labels added to each specimen before we can identify them. So plenty of work left to do.
A few weeks ago the lab did an overnight trip to look for specialist bees. A group of five us set off for numerous sampling locations in southern Ohio. A couple hours drive from Newark had us arriving in Cooper’s Hollow Wildlife Area in Jackson County, OH.
The first pond at Cooper Hollow is also the same site as Double-ringed Pennants. We had hoped to find some rare bees, but the rare dragonflies were a consolation prize. Photo by M. Spring
Our first site at what we called “Cooper’s Hollow Fish Pond #1” was fruitful and delivered us with many species of plants to survey off of including White Clover, Red Clover, Daisies, Honeysuckle, Penstemon, and Narrow Leaf Plantain. Our lab crew braved the heat and spent a great chunk of the morning collecting here. It was a great start to the 36 hour trip.
The road to the second Cooper Hollow Wildlife Area had plenty of small flowering plants along the edge. Photo by C. Mallory
Next, we drove about a half mile up the road to the next site which we called “Cooper’s Hollow Pond #2.” There were similar plant species here to Pond #1 however, we were glad to find some more bees to bring back to the lab.
Still in Cooper’s Hollow, we drove up the road to what we called “Joe Evans Road” site. Off the side of the road, this site was plentiful of plant species and bees. We collected Yellow Sweet Clover, Red Clover, and American Ipecac.
The main entrance to the United Plant Savers has a new building and interesting landscaping. Photo by M. Spring
After a full afternoon of collecting, the bees got tired and so did we. We retired to our campsite at United Plant Saver’s Botanical Sanctuary in Meigs County, OH. We enjoyed a campsite dinner, freshened up, and pinned the bees we had collected that day.
Our campsite at the United Plant Savers was just downhill from Heart Pond. Photo by M. Spring
On Thursday, we woke up excited to survey at United Plant Saver’s Botanical Sanctuary and patiently waited for the morning chill to subside so the bees would be airborne again. Here we sampled Chestnut trees, Yellow St. John’s Wort, and wild parsnip. We were all very excited by the diversity and friendliness the United Plant Saver’s provided us with.
After a few rounds of sampling, the group split up to maximize ground covered. My group traveled just up the road to the Meigs County Soil and Water Conservation site. We eagerly waded through tall grasses and plants to collect bees from Penstemon, Rose, and other plants. We then embarked for Liberty City Wildlife Area. Sadly, no plants were flowering at that time and it was shady, so we did not find anything to collect, but did have a nice drive there.
We then left for Zaleski State Forest in Vinton/Athens counties. We found only a few flowering plants. Nonetheless, we still surveyed three plant species and collected one bee. Though these last two sites were not very productive, we believe they could be plentiful deeper into the summer and may try to revisit and collect from them again. It was a productive and fun trip for everyone and we are glad to have been able to do some fieldwork ourselves. Otherwise, most of our time is spent in the lab processing the samples from 2020.
Several bumble bees were visiting the leathervine plant at Zaleski. Photo by C. Mallory
Guest Blog by C. Mallory
Note from MaLisa on weekly progress:
We sorted 8 kits the last week of June: M. Carsten (Summit), A. Miller (Carroll), S. Angel (Tuscawaras), K. Veve (Montgomery), C. Blake (Ashtabula), H. Hollis (Sandusky), J. Estep (Union – second site), and C. Frontz (Wayne). The interesting bycatch from these samples will be shared at a later date. We are now over 42,000 bees pinned!
Bees to watch:
A quick note to remind you that now is the time to look for digger bee (Anthophora) nests! These nests are likely around old stream beds, in barn floors, under decks, or in cobb houses. They seem to really enjoy the material of cobb houses, so if you know of someone with such a building that has started to get weird holes, go check them out! The outdoor bread oven at Wegertzen Gardens Metroparks in Dayton is one such example (Thanks Denise!)
We got back up to speed this past week, sorting 8 kits: B. Dewey (Harrison), C. Granger (Mahoning), K. Love (Athens), B. Bolyard (Carroll), J. L. Cordell (Noble), D. Bowen (Franklin), R. Thomas (Pike), and B. Marx (Miami). That brings us up to 104 kits sorted!
We are working on getting any straggler kits that have not been turned in from last year since we are finally getting down to the last few kits. We also pinned many bees this week, but did not get around to entering them into the database yet, so I do not have a solid number for how many we actually pinned.
Perhaps few people are surprised that there are yet more ants in the kits. There are way too many types in our samples to cover them all, but the minor variations in size, color, and morphological structures help differentiate them. This ant from the kit by Thomas is thought to be in the genus Temnothorax.
We also had this perfectly squishable thrips in the kit by Thomas. We now have an actual mini ruler to measure the bycatch. One grain of rice is the length of the whole miniscale. Most kits have many thrips, but this is a slightly different type than what we normally get. There are not as many people interested in identifying thrips since they are so small, so it will be a while before we get confirmation. It is possibly a tube tailed thrips like these posted on bugguide: https://bugguide.net/node/view/216069
We also had several more types of wood boring beetles like this buprestid. The reddish color is actually from tiny hair-like structures. The larvae of this beetle feed on oaks.
What is this tiny bulge sticking out of a side of a paper wasp, you ask? Well, it is not something that is normally in a paper wasp! This is a strepsipteran, or a twisted wing parasite. These weird beasts have a gnarly life cycle whereas the female lives inside the abdomen of her host. She eats the host, often starting with the reproductive organs earlier in the host development, so the host looks like an intersex of their species thanks to the hormone munching parasite. The parasite typically leaves the essential organs alone so the host can still take her to ideal habitat for her offspring to infect more potential hosts. Learn more about twisted wing parasites here: https://www.wired.com/2015/01/absurd-creature-of-the-week-strepsiptera/
Our last weird bycatch of the week is this wasp with greatly reduced wings. Although not much to look at, this wasp lives a big life as a rare cricket parasite! (Thanks to Miles Zhang and Matt Bertone for the ID!) This is the only observation of the species in Ohio on iNaturalist, so these are rarely reported despite being a somewhat large wasp. It is not surprising that few people find them if they spend most of their time underground searching for unsuspecting cricket hosts.
But check out just how small these wings are! The are barely longer than the thorax with hardly no veins. The wasps definitely cannot fly with such small wings. The antennae are still plenty long and are curled up back and over the wing in this image.
We sorted 4 kits this week: V. Eichof (Richland), K. Bowers (Montgomery), A. Schnebelin (Lorain), and L. Lowe (Union). We pinned and databased over a thousand bees, bringing our total to almost 38k bees from 96 kits sorted so far.
We had a few people out last week and had our first overnight field trip on Wednesday and Thursday, hence the only 4 kits sorted. We will have a blog post on the trip eventually along with more guest posts by the students.
To tide you over until we are able to write a blog devoted to the field trip, here is one of the moths that came to a moth light at our camp site.
We sorted 8 kits this week and started on a 9th: M. O’Donnell (Jefferson), R. Fromer (Warren), A. Mackey (Vinton), C. Thompson (Columbiana), L. Glade (Greene), E. Heiser (Coshocton), E. Robinson (Cuyahoga), K. Salvagno (Morrow), and started the kit by V. Eichof (Richland).
We also had a record number of bees pinned this week courtesy of our student workers! Several of the kits from this week were very large, but they were able to keep up with our sorting progress. They pinned over 4,100 bees just this week! That brings our total number of bees pinned to just shy of 37k. We have sorted 92 kits and have another 44ish kits to be sorted. At our current rate, we will hopefully be done sorting specimens in the next month and a half! Then we can move on to focusing entirely on identifying all of these specimens and I will work on sending interim reports to all of the collectors.
We still have not beaten our record for most number of bees at a site (holding strong at 1539 bees from Cedar Bog). Our second and third highest abundance sites were by people who did multiple transects at their site (H. White in Ashland and D. Winstel in Delaware) and thus had significantly more sample effort. No other kit so far has gotten over 1,000 bees, with the average number of bees collected still around 400 bees per kit (median number of bees per kit is only 320). Only 6 kits have gotten fewer than 50 bees, but even those few bees can still tell us a lot about what species are present in an area.
Lots of fun little things this week!
There were lots of the tiny snails this week. I have misplaced my grain of rice in the move, so you will have to suffice for a small carpenter bee for scale instead (which is conveniently almost the size of a grain of rice). These little vertigo snails were found in Glade’s kit, but we have now found similar snails in many kits.
It’s a wasp! It’s a bee! No! It is a hover fly?!?
Robinson had this lovely hover fly that makes a great wasp mimic! With these bold patterns of black and yellow, it is easy to overlook the single pair of wings, large eyes, and short antennae that help indicate this is actually a true fly (and therefore harmless to us).
Another insect that really throws off people are these tortoise beetles! The larvae of these weird beetles are equally interesting, as they glue their poop to themselves as a poop shield! They wave around the shield of poop disturbed. Who wouldn’t stay away when someone is waving a log of poop the size of their body at you? This was from Mackey’s kit.
A few people have asked me about keys for identifying things. Here is a copy of a version of an Andrena key that I have been using that I found easier than the discoverlife key. Note that it is a bit dated at this point so some species are no longer considered valid and others have been described since then, so it is not a perfect key. Andrena Key
Progress was slower than normal last week as we spent even more time packing up our lab and moving to the new spot. That on top of the holiday on Monday means we only sorted 3 kits this week: B. Stitt (Medina County), C. Cottrill (Ross County), and J. Howard (Adams County). We pinned a small number of bees on Thursday, but did not get around to entering them into our database, so our databased number of specimens is the same as last week.
We are at least halfway moved in to our new lab! We at least got most of the supplies moved over that we needed to keep processing specimens.
On top of all the moving and packing, we took 20 minutes to remove the non-native thistle from the pollinator garden. The garden is somewhat small, but that did not stop us from still having 4 bags of thistle!
We are adding a smile to your day with this leafhopper that has a froggy face on it’s back. There are several leafhoppers that have this face-like pattern, but they are always fun to find.
Check out this wasp with it’s tiny abdomen in comparison to it’s large thorax! These evaniid wasps are parasites of cockroaches. Some people like finding them as it means fewer cockroaches in the world. But if you are finding a lot of them inside a building, that indicates that building might have a cockroach problem. In this case, this was found outside where we expect woodland cockroaches, so they are not an indication of an issue. Learn more about these wasps here: https://bugguide.net/node/view/14164 and here: https://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/urban/roaches/ensign_wasp.htm
Last week we finished sorting 7 kits: C. Corney (Crawford), K. Elliot (Monroe), R. Luff (Clinton), J. Nelson (Morrow), B. Klips and R. Bradley (Marion), C. Gottfried (Wyandot), and B Twaddle (Stark). We are over 32,851 bees pinned and databased!
Our progress of bees pinned per week was pretty good this week despite so much effort spent towards moving.
I dropped off more bycatch specimens to the Museum of Biological Diversity. There are lots of ants and tiny parasitic wasps that will go to good use.
We also spent a lot of time packing up the lab and moving specimens over to the new lab space. We should finish moving over to the new space this coming week!
We have half of the lab packed up and ready to go in the storage room, but still plenty to go. Thanks to our student workers for getting so many of these packed!
The cleanest the new lab will be before we fill it up with all of our supplies!
One of the kits from this week had a very large grasshopper! I’m surprised it got stuck in the bowl, though it looks like it is missing its large hindlegs that they normally use for jumping, so that would explain why it was unable to get out.
A very easily overlooked insect, this ambush bug was waiting for me to find it in Twaddle’s kit.
Ambush bugs are predatory and have raptorial forelegs like praying mantises that they use to grasp prey. However, mantises have chewing mouthparts, whereas ambush bugs have piercing mouthparts (imaging straw for a mouth), so they have to slurp up their prey like a Capri Sun.
Most people overlook ambush bugs because they blend in well with flowers. I find the bugs most often when I find a bee that is weirdly positioned on a flower and not moving. Then I realize an ambush bug is holding it! In this image, I startled the ambush bug, so it dropped the bee. The bug is on the left side of the flower.
We had yet another forcepfly in our samples. I have commented on these weird insects a few times now, but we really do not know that much about them so every time we find a new one is exciting. This was in K. Elliot’s kit.
We had our largest robberfly to date in Elliot’s kit. Normally insects this large can crawl out of the bowls, but every so often a large insect still manages to get stuck. Robberflies are predatory and will eat a variety of other insects. Some of the larvae also live in wood, so you might see something like this poking out of older wood piles: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/80186860
Have you always wanted a stegosaurus, but lamented the fact that those dinosaurs are no longer around? Fear not, as we have a miniature stegosaurus just for you! Well, it is actually an immature form of a treehopper, but it looks like a stegosaurus if you squint hard enough. These insects suck the juices of plants and are easily overlooked given that they are about as long as a grain of rice. This one was also from Elliot’s kit. Check out a living one here: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/80825593