Photo of the Week – June 1, 2018

I ran into a couple mysteries this week.  I enjoy mysteries, whether they get solved or not, but I’m wondering if maybe we can crowd source answers to both of these.  Stay tuned to the comments section for potential answers, and add your own suggestion if you have one.

First, when I was out at our family prairie last week, I found something interesting along the edge of our wetland.

Mystery #1. Who ate this bullfrog on top of this fencepost and left the remains hanging there afterward?

Something is helping us control our invasive bullfrog population, which I’m grateful for, but I’d like to know who to thank!  What kind of creature would pick up a full sized bullfrog, move it to the top of a nearby fence post and eat it?  The remains of another frog were on the next post over from this one, so it’s not an isolated event.  I’m thinking it has to be a bird, and a large one at that.  Herons like to eat frogs, but as far as I know, they leave the remnants floating in the water.  Do hawks eat frogs?  Owls?  Osprey?

The second mystery is a little different, and I’ve already had help solving part of it.  I’ve been walking past a couple New Jersey tea plants recently (on the way to my square meter photography project site).  Each time, I’ve noticed a particular kind of insect hanging around on and near the flowers.  The way the bugs (because they are clearly Hemipterans – true bugs) are sitting poised and apparently waiting for something, I’ve been assuming they are predators.

This bug, and several more like it, have been hanging around on a couple New Jersey tea plants lately.

I recognized the bugs but didn’t know what they were.  They reminded me of leaf-footed bugs, but instead of the flattened “leaf” structure being on their legs, this bug had them on its antennae.  I submitted the above photo to Bugguide and got a quick response, identifying it as a Euphorbia bug (Chariesterus antennator) – a kind of leaf-footed bug, after all.  That was easy, but my next step was to try to learn more about it, and that’s where I got stuck.

I found information on a couple other leaf-footed bugs, but not the Euphorbia bug.  It appears most leaf-footed bugs are plant feeders, with some doing minor damage to crops or garden plants.  Photos of the Euphorbia bug I can find on the internet often show it on Euphorbia plants (spurges), which makes sense, but I can’t find anything that says it actually feeds on spurge plants themselves.  Maybe that’s a favorite plant, but not its only food source?

So, I want to know what Euphorbia bugs eat.  Are they predators that hang out on plants waiting for opportunities to catch prey?  Or are they plant feeders that may or may not prefer spurge species?  While we’re at it, what do their larvae feed on?  Where do they live?  Is there anything else interesting about them?  Mysteries.

Help?

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About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is the Director of Science for The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska. His main role is to evaluate and capture lessons from the Conservancy’s land management and restoration work and then share those lessons with other landowners – both private and public. In addition, Chris works to raise awareness about the importance of prairies and their conservation through his writing, photography, and presentations to various groups. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press. He lives in Aurora, Nebraska with his wife Kim and their children.
This entry was posted in Prairie Insects, Prairie Natural History, Prairie Photography and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Photo of the Week – June 1, 2018

  1. Laura Domyancich says:

    HI Chris! About the bullfrog on the fence post, could a shrike have impaled it there to eat later or as a display?

  2. Christie Soderling says:

    I don’t know who eats bullfrog, but we did watch a young hawk once, high atop a tall stump, eating a mouse very messily, dripping entrails all down the stump. So I can picture the scene that resulted in your photo.

  3. steve says:

    Small prey on posts and wire barbs says shrike but a full sized bull frog! As a youth, I has a great horned owl (it was legal back then) and I gave him the remains of bull frogs after I’d removed the legs. He really didn’t like them but sometimes ate them if nothing else was coming. I never saw a bird of prey with a frog but they catch and eat a lot of snakes so I guess it’s possible.

  4. James C. Trager says:

    Wikipedia “Coreidae” says this, which I think is a bout right:
    Biology and habits
    The Coreidae generally feed on the sap of plants. There have been claims that some species are actively carnivorous,[9] but there is a lack of material evidence and in the field some are easy to confuse with some species of Reduviidae, so doubt has been cast on the reality or significance of the claims.[10]”
    My take is that they are all sap feeders, and some may be opportunistically scavenging on dead critters.

  5. Kelly Haller says:

    Chris,
    Northern Harriers, Red-tail Hawks, and Barred Owls have all been known to take frogs as prey on occasion. My guess would be that it is most likely a harrier.

    Kelly

  6. Donald Lewis says:

    https://bugguide.net/node/view/20160

    BugGuide says the food of Chariesterus antennator is Euphorbia plants, “Food hosts: Euphorbia spp., particularly E. corollata.” They would feed on sap as you mentioned.

    • Chris Helzer says:

      Well how did I miss that?? Thanks for sharing. It’s still curious that they’d be on New Jersey tea so consistently, though. There are Euphorb plants around…

  7. Patrick says:

    Some good pics on the internet of a red tailed hawk eating frogs
    http://www.windowtowildlife.com/tag/red-tailed-hawk/

  8. Maria dB says:

    Red-shouldered hawks will eat frogs; I wrote about one hunting frogs in my little backyard pond: https://mybeautifulworldblog.com/2017/12/30/my-pond-and-the-cycle-of-life/

  9. Reid Barclay says:

    How about a Black-crowned Night Heron?

  10. Savannagal says:

    Why are the bugs “clearly Hemipterans – true bugs”? What makes them clearly so?

    • Chris Helzer says:

      good question. Long piercing/sucking strawlike mouth part, wing covers that only cover a portion of the wings, and a triangle shape between the wings and right behind the head. There’s more, but those are easy to see.

  11. lauriehodges says:

    Intrigued. Found following: https://bugguide.net/node/view/472186 on the Ontario prairie insects cited in the Bugguide link earlier to have insight on this leaf antennae bug. Ecology. Includes info on insects restricted to specific prairie plants.

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