Storey brought in this excellent specimen of a California Horntail. It was one and half inches long, dark blue to black, with a spot behind each eye. California horntails are the most commonly collected horntails in the state.
This species, Urocerus californicus, appears to prefer to lay its eggs in fire or wind-damaged fir, spruce, or, in California in particular, pine trees. The female inserts her long ovipositor into a crevice in the bark and when she finds the right spot, will actually drill into the heartwood, where she deposits her eggs.
The larvae are commonly said to feed on the heartwood, which struck me as peculiar, as I don’t see how they could digest it. So I dug deeper. Turns out that a researcher discovered that a species of horntail, Tremex fuscicornis, in the Czech Republic, actually places spores of a symbiotic fungus, in with her eggs. The fungus is necessary for survival of the woodwasp larvae, and it’s clear that the larvae are feeding on the fungus that is feeding on the wood. So all that talk that woodwasp larvae eating the wood is wrong; they are eating the fungus and, presumably, its digestive byproducts. It’s a potentially slow process, as it can take 1-3 years for the larvae to reach the stage to pupate. By the way, that fungus is one you have probably seen growing out of dead trees. The woodwasps and the fungus have a nice symbiotic relationship.
Since that 2007 Czech publication, more work has come out to show that woodwasps live in an obligatory relationship with fungi. A 2010 paper coauthored by Miroslav Kolarik (he is on this site in relation to foamy bark canker), specifically states “Siricid woodwasps live in obligatory nutritional symbiosis with fungi”.
15 October 2020. Shell Road area, Jamestown Ca.
John Duarte brought in a large number of psocids he collected from a house. Their dead bodies are numerous in many areas of the house. The residents have a number of large bags of rice, which appears to be the source. There is, from what I understand, one large bag in the kitchen, with additional bags in the garage.
Apparently these bags of rice have moisture contents high enough to support fungal growth, and the booklice are feeding on the fungus, not the rice.
“The elevated moisture content (.13%) of commodities allows microorganisms (e.g., fungi) to grow and consequently to affect their properties [25–29]. Psocid infestations are favored when the moisture content of commodities is high, and psocids can feed on fungi” Source: Competition among Species of Stored-Product Psocids (Psocoptera) in Stored Grain
Branden Runyan brought these specimens from a customer’s house in Dorrington.
Dr. Philip Ward identified then as alate queens, in the subfamily Formicinae, probably a species of Lasius.
11 September 2020
These ants were collected on a manzanita in Pine Mountain Lake, Groveland, California by Ryder Richards. 12 August 2020.
The ants are Pseudomyrmex apache, identified by Dr. Philip Ward. He states “an elegant arboreal ant that belongs to a predominantly Neotropical genus. One of my favorites.” Indeed, this ant is special. (and they never invade homes)
Dr. Ward has published a number of papers on this family of ants. Here are just a few, of many:
There is no common name for this particular species, but members of the subfamily Pseudomyrmecinaeenus are often called big-eye arboreal ants, Dr Philip Ward tells me.
Ryder Richards brought in two glueboards that had a total of six adult cockroaches, three females and three males, on August 4, 2020, from a home in Valley Springs.
These specimens represent the first confirmed sightings, to my knowledge, of the existence of Turkestan cockroaches in Calaveras County, and maybe this part of the state. I have recently, in the last two weeks, seen some specimens that the staff has brought in from parts of Tuolumne County that were very similar, and strongly suggestive of Turkestan roaches, but this sample leaves no doubt.
The Turkestan roach was first reported in the US at the Sharpe Army Depot, near Stockton, in 1978. But we have never seen this roach here, in the foothills, until now.
These specimens came from a house in Valley Springs, Calaveras County, California. These glueboards captured the roaches inside the house, in a bedroom and in the closet of the same bedroom. The roach is seen as primarily an outside pest, but that is clearly not their only choice of habitat.
Note. It might be that our mild winter, with almost no freezing days, have allowed these cockroaches to rapidly expand their population up here in the foothills.
8/17/2020 Update. We found Turkestan roaches in another home in Valley Springs, on Hartvickson.
I spoke to the homeowner. They had a mouse problem and had put out these glueboards to catch the mice. One did catch a mouse, as you can see hair on one of the boards. She said her dog ate the mouse off the glueboard. (I thought that was interesting.) She said that she’d seen one roach in her garage and had stepped on it. She spoke to a neighbor who told her that they, too, had seen roaches in their garage. She saw these roaches on her glueboards on Sunday and then called us on Monday. She started a pest control service, today, Tuesday.
76 October 2020 More Turkestan roaches, off Hartvickson: These nymphs were captured on a glueboard that was under a sink. There were adults and additional nymphs on the outside at this location, harboring under some potted plants.
Part 1, problem reported:
June 22, 2020. Jason Price brought in samples of drugstore beetles infesting a bathroom in a house in Valley Springs, Calaveras County, California. This is unusual, indicating a food source in that area. The problem started, to my knowledge, at least in May of 2020.
It turns out that this house had a bad mouse infestation in the past (prior to the new owners), and we are now going to search for rodent bait or a rodent cache in this area, beneath or within the wall.
Part 2, problem resolved:
Nothing was working to stop the infestation. The beetles kept reappearing after every treatment.
Manager Ryder Richards took on the job. He crawled the subarea and found nothing. That left the bathroom as the area that must have the food source issue. Ryder spoke with the homeowners, and the husband then used a hole saw drill bit to open an access for examination under the bathroom cabinet. Ryder used his cell phone to examine the void, and WOW, what a find!
The camera revealed a huge amount of dog food in the void under the cabinet! Ryder and the homeowner used a shop vacuum to clean out the area. The dog food was old, and, cumulatively, had hundreds and hundreds of little holes.
The homeowners had purchased the house less than a year previously. The house, although very nice, had a history of mouse problems prior to their purchase of it. Apparently the previous owners also had a dog, and a mouse had been moving and caching the dog food in this convenient area. Being that drug store beetles can infest dog food, we presume the previous owners had purchased some dog food that had at least a few drug store beetles eggs in it. The beetles were able to expand their population in this undisturbed setting.
Since the removal of the dog food, there have been no further beetles seen. The problem is resolved. What a great cooperative effort between Ryder and the homeowner.
Photos from part 2:
Photos from Part 1
Ryles Richards brought in samples of an unusual ant he saw at a home in Pine Mountain Lake, Groveland, California. He said the ants were very fast and ran in erratic paths, not following trails. We took photos and sent them to Dr. Philip Ward for ID. Based on these photos, he thinks they might be Formica aerata.
12 June 2020