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.
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
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.
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.