Late July Miscellany

I’m going to be on the road early this week. As a result, today’s post is a quick overview of some recent photos and a few natural history stories to accompany them.

This is a cluster of male five-banded Thynnid wasps (Myzinum quinquecinctum) photographed one early morning last week. Males of this species tend to group together overnight and it’s not uncommon to come across those groups before they break apart as the day warms up.
The five-banded Thynnid wasps and others in the same genus are not aggressive toward people and males don’t even have stingers. What looks like a stinger on these males is just a curved spine that is apparently just there for looks.
Here’s another male from the above group of wasps. While males spend a lot of time hanging around and feeding on flowers, females do the same but are also hunting scarab beetle larvae, on which they lay eggs that hatch out and burrow into the larvae – eventually killing them from the inside.
This is just a charming grasshopper I found this weekend at our family prairie. Grasshoppers are cool too, but I’ve written plenty about them in the past. Did you know, though, that grasshoppers have 5 eyes? At least 4 are visible in this photo. (Click to see larger version)
This is Flodman’s thistle (Cirsium flodmanii) at our family prairie this weekend. It is one of five native thistle species in Nebraska that provide valuable nectar, pollen, seeds, and nesting material to numerous animal species.
I believe this is a ‘sharpshooter leafhopper’, characterized its the sharp pointed head. This group of leafhoppers feeds (mostly?) on grasses and sedges but this one was resting on a Flodman’s thistle stem when I snuck up on it.
I’m guessing this orange sulphur butterfly at our family prairie might have a protozoan infection similar to the one that can cause problems for monarch butterflies. With monarchs, caterpillars ingest protozoan spores as caterpillars and then when they emerge from their chrysalis they have deformed wings that prevent them from flying and – obviously – greatly shorten their lives. On the other hand, maybe this butterfly’s wings just didn’t dry out/expand correctly.
Sideoats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula) was blooming this weekend at our family prairie.
Here’s a fish-eye lens photo of wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) and its many neighbors at our family prairie. Bergamot is in the mint family, characterized by stems that are square in cross section.
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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.

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