Archive for the ‘Long-waisted Wasps’ Tag

Grasshoppers: Singing In The Sun   Leave a comment


Wildlife, nature, fauna and flora of Costa Rica.

Over the past week the rains have continued, now sometimes during the day as well as at night.  The water level in the creek has risen, not drastically, but enough so that there is a steady flow.  The mango orchard is the scene of a lot of activity with so many animals coming to feed from the bumper crop.  During the day spider monkeys and white-faced capuchin monkeys can be seen greedily feasting on the abundant and ripening fruits.  Monkeys are very wasteful feeders, they pluck a fruit from the branch, take a bite and throw the remainder to the ground.  Here the white-nosed coatis and agoutis take advantage of a free meal falling from above.

At night the mangoes are visited by kinkajous in the trees and pacas on the ground, the nocturnal cousin of the agouti.  All manner of insect life feeds on the fermenting mangoes, everything from flies, bees, butterflies and at night, moths.

Hopping Through The Grass

Grasshoppers are one of those creatures that tend to be a subject for more specialist study.  Walking around the gardened areas of the lodge, particularly if it is a hot and sunny day, the disturbance of the longer and more dense vegetation will cause a flurry of activity as various species of grasshopper do as their name suggests, and jump out of the way to safety, others have wings and fly.  Once they land, as long as you approach slowly, then you will be able to observe them at close quarters.

Orthoptera. Acrididae. Cytacanthacridinae.

Unidentified Spurthroated Grasshopper species

The order: Orthoptera is an ancient order of insects and it is divided into two groups, the long-horned orthoptera which includes the crickets and katydids and the short-horned orthoptera which includes the grasshoppers.  The horns referred to in the name are the antennae which in the grasshoppers are distinctively short and stubby.  The majority of grasshoppers belong in the family: Acrididae.

Most people will be familiar with grasshoppers and the way they look.  If it is a still, windless day then you will hear the male grasshoppers “singing” to attract a female.  The sound is generally produced by stridulation or the rubbing of part of the hind leg on the forewing.  If they are communicating with sound then they need receptor organs to hear it and the ears of a grasshopper are located on the first abdominal segment.  The calls may also serve to keep rival males at a distance from one another.

Orthoptera. Acrididae. Cyracanthacrinae.

Unidentified Spurthroated Grasshopper sp. The perfect color of grass.

The majority of grasshoppers live in grassland but there are a few species that inhabit the forest and those prefer the upper levels of the canopy layer.  Grasshoppers are almost without exception herbivores.  In turn grasshoppers, because of their abundance and the fact that they are up to 75% crude protein, provide a large dietary percentage a many mammals, birds and reptiles.

Due to the lack of reference material it is very difficult to identify the grasshoppers to species level.  The two that I photographed this week both belong to the subfamily: Cyrtacanthacrinae or Spurthroated Grasshoppers which are named for a small ventral spur between the front legs and which also includes the locusts.

Papering the Leaves

It does not require too much effort to seek and find the nests of paper wasps at the moment.  All around the grounds the nests which are grey, globular parchment-like structures can be found hanging beneath the leaves of various plants.  Some are small, some are large, some have the brood cells enclosed within a skin while others have the cells open.

I was watching butterflies flitting around the Lantana bush last week when I noticed this wasp on a leaf busying itself with something.  Not having a hand lens with me I could not see what the wasp was investigating.  Sometimes wasps are as difficult as butterflies to photograph.  They will not remain still but this one seemed to be preoccupied and not going anywhere.  I took the photograph but even after zooming in on the image was not entirely certain as to what the object was.

Hymenoptera. Vespidae. Polistinae. Myschocettarus sp.

Long-waisted Wasp, (Myschocittarus sp), investigating mystery object

The wasp itself was one of the social wasps in the family: Vespidae and this one a Long-waisted Paper Wasp of the subfamily: Polistinae.  The genus Mischocyttarus includes about 186 species and is therefore the most numerous of the paper wasps. The female Long-waisted Paper Wasps make a nest suspended by one or more stalks that she anoints with an ant repellant secretion she produces from a gland.  The stalks secure anywhere up to 100 brood cells beneath a leaf.  There is generally only one founding queen, (haplometrosis).  When the new workers emerge from the cells, they help with the care of young developing in the brood cells.  Eventually one of these subordinate female workers make take over dominance and drive the existing queen off.

The adult wasps catch prey and chew it up to feed the larvae as well as chewing up vegetative material to make the nest.  In this case it looked like it was quite possibly a caterpillar that had been caught as there seemed to be leaf material within an enclosing integument.  If anyone could shed any light on the object I would be happy to hear their opinion.

Backstabbing Bug,

While walking through the forest I noticed a small creature stumbling awkwardly across the forest floor.  Sinking to my knees I could see it was an Assassin Bug.  These are true bugs in the order: Hemiptera.  Because they possess uneven wings they belong in the suborder: Heteroptera.  The Assassin bug are placed in the family: Reduviidae.

Hemiptera. Heteroptera. Reduviidae. Osa Peninsula. Costa Rica

Assassin Bug with the corpse of a beetle

All Assassin bugs, as is indicated by their name, are fiercely predaceous carnivores.  If you look closely at the photograph you will see protruding from the front of the head is the main weapon of death, a long, segmented beak that is normally held beneath the head and thorax until a victim is spotted that is.  The assassin stabs the dagger-like beak into the prey, piercing the exoskeleton and delving deep into the tissues.  The prey is held tight in the bug’s front legs while at the same time saliva is injected into its body.  The saliva paralyzes the victim and digests its internal organs which are liquidized and then sucked out leaving only a dry and drained husk.  Closer examination revealed the reason for the bugs ungainly gait across the ground, it was still carrying on its beak the now emptied body of a beetle.

Turkey Tail Perhaps

Sometimes there may be no other reason for photographing a subject other than its aesthetic appeal.  That was why I photographed this bowl-shaped fungal fruiting body with the concentric bands of color, I just found it pleasing to my eye.  I think this one is one of the Trametes sp.  Due to the banding these are commonly called Turkey Tail Fungi.  There are approximately 50 species in the genus and they are distributed globally throughout forest habitats.

Trametes. Felipe del Bosque.

Beautiful bowl-shaped Trametes fungus

Philip Davison Is a Biologist, Writer and Photographer Based in Costa Rica

 

Beautiful Blue Nymphs in a Death Cell   3 comments


Felipe del Bosque Blog September 3rd 2012

Lighting Up The Night Time Sky

The rains are now more constant but still not particularly heavy.  The thunderstorms have persisted well beyond that time at which we would have expected them to cease.  Some of those thunderstorms have produced spectacular displays of lightning which on occasion have struck close to the lodge.  Despite the fact that we are now entering September, the month that normally marks the beginning of the truly torrential rains, we are still receiving plenty of sunlight.  The days are bright with blue skies but as the afternoon progresses, the clouds gather and yet another damp night ensues.  As I sit here writing in the late afternoon, the sky has darkened, lightning is streaking from the sky, the thunder rumbles all around and the rain is falling.

We did have a blue moon last week as the lunar cycle was completed within the course of one month resulting in two full moons, one on the first day of the month, the second on the last day.  The phenomenon was not, of course, exclusive to Bosque but an event shared globally.

Carry On as Normal

It has been a quiet week with regard to animal sightings, nothing out of the ordinary.  The visitor figures to the lodge are a reflection of the time of year; the wet season, particularly September and October generally experience a fall in numbers.  There was one Puma sighting this week by one of the staff near the Titi Trail which is where most of cat sightings occur.  The Kinkajous can be heard at night up in the tree crowns.  There has been a Crab-eating Raccoon favoring a change in diet by feeding on some of the last remaining mangoes that have fallen to the ground.  All of the normally seen animals are still around in abundance, monkeys, agoutis, toucans, macaws and parrots.  This may be normal for the lodge but not for the visitors to the area who have never experienced seeing a monkey in the wild.  Even now in the wet season it is possible to go for a short walk and see a myriad of creatures in a matter of hours that you have only ever seen in televised documentaries.

Bursting Free

A few weeks ago I posted some photographs of an egg sac laid by one of the leafhoppers.  This week I noticed that the egg sac had changed appearance and was now surrounded by a large number of small black objects that on closer examination turned out to be the newly hatched nymphal form of the leafhopper.

Leafhopper nymphs

I went and got the camera, fitted the 105mm macro lens and a midsized extension tube and took some photographs.  The nymphs were tiny but viewed close up appear fascinatingly weird.  Progressively as they grow they will shed their skins several times and eventually once the wings develop they become an adult leafhopper.  These newly emerged nymphs had a strange broad bill-shaped head with what may be sensory hairs, one of which projected from either side of the head behind the eye.

Leafhopper nymphs

Blue Streak

With a reduction in visitor numbers it gives me the chance to get out on my own and see what is around.  Unfortunately it is raining, not heavily but enough to limit the number of excursions into the forest with the view of taking photos.  I did however make it out last week and although I did not get too many opportunities I did have my attention drawn to a small but beautiful glimmeringly blue butterfly flitting around close to the ground.  Once it settled, I slowly lowered myself down on my knees, lent forward until lying on my belly and gradually pulled myself forward until I had the subject full frame.

Chloreuptychia arnaca

The gorgeous little creature was one of the satyrs or browns, Chloreuptychia arnaca.  The rich and subtly ground color of reddy browns was suffused with an overlying veneer of iridescent royal blue.  I managed to get two or three shots before it took off and disappeared into the forest.

Not too far from where it had been perched there was another butterfly, a skipper, Synapte silius, I think.  There are so many skippers and many of them look almost identical that it is hard to identify them unless you place them under the magnifying lens of a laboratory based microscope.  I was happy to simply shift body position and take another photograph.

Synapte silius

Philip is a biologist, writer and photographer as well as the onsite naturalist guide at Bosque del Cabo Rainforest lodge on the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica.

www.bosquedelcabo.com

 Photo Feature

 Communal Death Cells

Last week I noticed a group of wasps all sitting on top of a parasol shaped paper nest under a leaf.  On closer inspection I could see they were Long-waisted Wasps.  They were large enough and the nest was at the perfect height to take some photos.  It was late in the day and the natural light was dimming fast.  I managed one shot but thought I might wait until the next day to finish the task.

Long-waisted Wasps

The following afternoon when I returned to the location of the nest I could see the wasps were now sitting on the tops of leaves in the vicinity of their papery abode.  The nest itself had become detached, maybe due to its daily increasing weight, and had fallen to the ground.  Several of the wasps were hanging from the thin stalk that had anchored the original nest to the underside of the leaf and now seemed to be engaged in making new cells as the start of constructing the nurseries for their eggs and larvae.

Long-waisted Wasps         Long-waisted Wasps         Long-waisted Wasps

The Long-waisted Paper Wasps belong to the genus Mischocyttarus.  The name leaves nothing to the imagination morphologically speaking.  These wasps like the majority of other wasps are carnivorous.  They catch the prey which is chewed up and fed as a proteinaceous mush to the larvae.  The sting is reserved for defensive purposes and to that end the venom is very painful, an evolutionary development designed to provide the maximum deterrent effect.

Long-waisted Wasps

The nests are made from carton, a material produced by the wasps chewing up and gluing together wood pulp and plant fibers.  The nest is generally suspended from a small cord which is often impregnated with an ant inhibiting substance.  The cord is attached to the underside of a leaf which subsequently makes an umbrella.  The cells containing either larvae or eggs are downward facing so that rain blowing in from the side does not fill them up.

The paper wasps are social wasps belonging to the family Vespidae.  Bees, wasps and ants commonly exhibit similar hierarchies that differ somewhat in their social structuring.  The wasps tend to have a dominant female that is nominally designated with the title of queen.  She serves the main reproductive purpose; the other females in the colony usually have reduced reproductive capabilities and are employed in the raising of the brood, food foraging and nest building.  This is the normal state of affairs with the Long-waisted Wasps but occasionally the subordinate females may displace the established queen and take over the running of the nest.

While I was out walking I did see another type of wasp, one of the Pompylids or spider hunters.  The spider hunters are solitary wasps and there is no co-operation between the mothers, daughters and sisters, although they sometimes form nesting aggregations.  They may nest in burrows in the ground, cavities in trees or cells shaped from damp mud.

As the name suggests they are specialized feeders on spiders.  The female deliberately hunts down her eight-legged prey and when she finds it which she stings.  The venom paralyses the spider but does not kill it.  The unfortunate victim is then air lifted by the wasp and placed inside one of her death cells.  There she lays an egg on the now immobilized prey, seals the entrance to the cell and leaves the ill-fated creature to its grizzly demise.  When the larva hatches it has fresh living tissue to consume resulting in the poor spider literally being eaten alive.

Spider Hunting Wasp

The spider hunters are generally a rich bluey-black in color.  They only land momentarily and are always appear busy.  Their wings flick constantly when they alight and their movements are very quick and jerky, in human terms you would describe it as a being very nervous. But given the size of prey they sometimes tackle, nerves are not something the wasp ever suffers from.

Text and Photographs are taken from the forthcoming book:

The Natural History of Bosque del Cabo by Philip Davison

Temperature and Rainfall

Average Daily Rainfall 0,21 ins.  Total Weekly Rainfall 1.48 ins

Average Daily Rainfall 5.38 mm.  Total Weekly Rainfall 57.68 mm

Highest Daily Temp 89°F.  Lowest Daily Temp 74°F.

Highest Daily Temp 31.7°C.  Lowest Daily Temp 23.0°C.

Species List for the Week

Mammals

  • Howler Monkey
  • Spider Monkey
  • White-faced Monkey
  • Agouti
  • Red-tailed Squirrel
  • Crab-eating Raccoon
  • Kinkajou

Birds

  • Mealy Amazon
  • Red-lored Amazon
  • Scarlet Macaws
  • Great Curassow
  • Grey-necked Woodrail
  • Crested Caracara
  • Roadside Hawk
  • White Hawk
  • Golden-naped Woodpecker
  • Pale-billed Woodpecker
  • Chestnut-backed Antbird
  • Black-hooded Antshrike
  • Rufus Piha
  • Short-billed Pigeon
  • White-tipped Dove
  • Long-billed Hermit
  • Stripe-throated Hermit
  • Red-capped Manakin
  • Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
  • Long-tailed Woodcreeper
  • Bright-rumped Atilla
  • Great Kiskadee
  • House Wren
  • Riverside Wren
  • Great Tinamou
  • Blue-crowned Motmot
  • Black Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture

Reptiles

  • Barred Ameiva
  • Boa Constrictor
  • Cat-eyed Snake
  • Central American Smooth Gecko
  • Central American Whiptail
  • Clawless Gecko
  • Common Basilisk
  • Four-lined Ameiva
  • Golfo Dulce Anolis
  • Terciopelo

Amphibians

  • Banana Frog
  • Black and Green Poison Arrow Frog
  • Fitzinger’s Rain Frog
  • Gladiator Frog
  • Golfo Dulce Poison Arrow Frog
  • Marine Toad
  • Red-eyed Green Tree Frog
  • Smoky Jungle Frog

Butterflies

  • Anartia Fatima
  • Anartia jatrophae
  • Chloreuptychia arnaca
  • Chlosyne theona
  • Dryas iulia
  • Eueides lybia
  • Glutophrissa drusilla
  • Heliconius cydno
  • Heliconius erato
  • Heliconius ismenius
  • Heliconius sapho
  • Hermeuptychia hermes
  • Junonia evarete
  • Morpho helenor
  • Morpho menelaus
  • Pareuptychia ocirrhoe
  • Parides erithalion
  • Philaethria dido
  • Phoebis argante
  • Phoebis sennae
  • Pierella luna
  • Pseudolycaena damo
  • Pyrgus oileus
  • Pyrrhogyra crameri
  • Urbanus tanna

Plants

  • Alamandra  cathartica Flowering
  • Alpinia purpurata Flowering
  • Apeiba tibourbou Flowering
  • Arachis pintoi Flowering
  • Arundina graminifolia Flowering
  • Bauhinia variegata Flowering
  • Brassavola nodosa Flowering
  • Cananga odorata Flowering and Fruiting
  • Cascabella thevetia Flowering
  • Citrus spp  Fruiting
  • Clusia rosea Flowering
  • Clusia vallerii Fruiting
  • Cocos nucifera Flowering andFruiting
  • Crestentia alata flowering and Fruiting
  • Costus speciosus Flowering
  • Couroupita guianensis Flowering and Fruiting
  • Dypsis lutescens Flowering and Fruiting
  • Etlingera elatior Flowering
  • Ficus insipida Fruiting
  • Heisteria accuminata Fruiting
  • Heliconia chartacea Flowering
  • Heliconia latispatha Flowering
  • Heliconia pogonantha Flowering
  • Heliconia psittacorum Flowering
  • Heliconia rostrata Flowering
  • Hibiscus rosa-sinensis Flowering
  • Hymenaea coubaril Fruiting
  • Hymenocallis littoralis Flowering
  • Ixora coccinea Flowering
  • Lacmellea panamensis  Fruiting
  • Lantana camara Flowering andFlowering
  • Lagerstroemia speciosa Fruiting
  • Mangifera indica Fruiting
  • Morinda citrifolia Fruiting
  • Musa acuminate Flowering andFruiting
  • Naucleopsis ulei Fruiting
  • Nephelium lappaceum Fruiting
  • Piper auritum Flowering and Fruiting
  • Piper nigrum Fruiting
  • Piper umbellatum Flowering and Fruiting
  • Pleiostachya pruinosa Flowering
  • Plumeria rubra Flowering
  • Psidium guajava Fruiting
  • Psychotria sp Fruiting
  • Stachytarpheta frantzii Flowering
  • Terminalia catappa Flowering
  • Thunbergia grandiflora Flowering
  • Zammia sp Flowering