Columbia Ca 6-22-21
Winged female thief ant. 3/8 inches long.
Dr. Philip Ward confirmed the ID. He pointed out that the taxonomy of thief ants (Solenopsis species in the erstwhile subgenus Diplorhoptrum) is in a rather unsatisfactory state. This queen could be called Solenopsis molesta, the most common North American species, but the boundaries of that species remain unclear.
Erik Brians brought in these march flies. Sonora California, 22 April 2021.
Males and females.
This cone beetle, Phymatodes nitidus, is said to be important in helping giant sequoias in releasing seeds from their cones.
“The release of seed initiated by Phymatodes nitidus activity in the ovulate cones of the giant sequoia is of utmost importance from the standpoint of timing and point of release of seed from the tree. Cones damaged by this beetle will open after drying during the late summer and fall months, which, in effect, may lessen the exposure of the seed to lethal radiation and desiccation. Damaged cones will open several scales at a time over a period of six months to a year. Seed drop was also reported throughout the winter as evidenced by fresh fall on snow (Benner pers. comm.)”
This mutualistic relationship between the cone beetle and giant sequoias is discussed in The Unique Love Between A Sequoia, A Squirrel, And A Beetle. “This long horned wood boring beetle lays its eggs where the cone and scale meet. When the larvae hatch, they eat the flesh of the cone scales. Each cone scale has two layers of veins, which are often severed when the larvae eat their meal. Water can no longer reach the cone scales, so they dry up and release the seeds that they were holding in place. This is a perfect example of a mutualistic relationship, a special kind of symbiosis that benefits both partners in the relationship. The beetle larvae get a delicious food source, while the Sequoia tree gets help spreading its seeds before its cones get so old that the seeds lose viability, or before so many lichens grow on the cones and prevent the seeds from escaping.”
From a house in Dorrington, Calaveras County, California. That is adjacent to Calaveras Big Trees State Park.
1/4 inch long.
Thanks to Brady Richards, of California State University, Chico, for the ID.
Technician Andrew Springer turned over a rock and found an unusual ant colony. He collected specimens for us. They were pavement ants, Tetramorium immigrans. Not at all common in the foothills, we have found these ants, sporadically, over the last couple of decades. Thanks to Dr. Philip Ward for ID confirmation!
Marty Mills brought in two very large specimens of what appeared be huge lacewings. A customer in the Saddle Creek area gave them to him for identification, in Mid-February 2021. Ryder Richards then transferred the specimens to me.
Surprised by their large size, I asked Dr. Lynn Kimsey of the US Davis Bohart Museum of Entomology, for help with the ID. Based on photographs, she said it was its one of the giant lacewings in the genus Polystoechotes, probably punctata, and that they are not often seen.
We’ll be sending the specimens to Dr, Kimsey to add to the museum’s collections.
Here are some photographs.
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.