I made a video of one of my favorite insects you will see here in the San Juan Islands. This is a bumble bee mimic, but it’s not a bee at all. It’s a fly. Not only is it not your ordinary fly, it’s a fly with a very interesting life cycle that requires a host. This particular host relationship has evolved between the fly and our local black-tailed deer. It’s not feeding on the deer because these adult flies don’t even have mouthparts to eat. Their sole mission is to reproduce and they need an incubator for their “babies.” If you see a deer and notice it coughing, watch the video to find out why. **Edit *** Update to post… I misspoke in the video and state that the fly oviposits onto the deer which is incorrect. The eggs actually hatch inside the fly body and the fly larviposits onto the deer muzzle. Either way it’s got to be pretty terrifying to the deer! 🦌
Menacing Murder Hornets are making headlines everywhere these days and giving many of our beneficial wasps a bad rap. Before you grab that can of bug spray, follow along for the next week or two while I profile the good guys and give you tips on how to ID the ones you’ll see on the San Juan Islands.
Wasp #1 – The Western Sand Wasp (Bembix americana)
On San Juan Island, if you’re out along the beach bluffs on the west side or anywhere at American Camp, Eagle Cove, or Jackson’s Beach and the nearby quarry, you may notice them hovering and darting about above the sand or spots of bare earth. Western Sand Wasps are solitary digger wasps in the family Crabronidae. Males and females emerge simultaneously and their entire adult life is to sip nectar from flowers, mate, and reproduce.
After mating, it is the female who will provision her nest. She scours the sand and nearby areas, hunting insects and arachnids to supply her developing offspring in underground burrows. She will oviposit one egg in a single burrow, leaving it with a zombied insect, continuing until all her eggs are laid. But her work is not over. She must continue to check and feed each of her larvae in their individual burrows after the eggs hatch, making sure that they do not starve as they develop. Fast fact…a single larva can eat more than 20 flies before it pupates!
So she digs…and digs…and digs! These wasps are able to dig so fast, they can disappear under the sand in a matter of seconds.
Human or Pet Risk factor – LOW
Unless you are walking barefoot in the sand and mange to step on one of these, you are highly unlikely to be stung. Wear foot coverings and enjoy your hike or picnic. They’re not going to murder you!
I really enjoy the days when I have an opportunity to go over insect images I’ve taken, but haven’t yet had the chance to identify. This small (approx 7-8mm), metallic beetle is a leaf beetle in the family Chrysomelidae. It’s a Long-horned Leaf Beetle (Plateumaris germari). They are associated with aquatic habitats and this specimen was found near a wetland habitat on San Juan Island, WA., May 12, 2015. Yes. I’m slow at getting around to sorting things, but was happy to share this one today.