A new moth – Amydria effrentella

A new moth species for the checklist: Amydria effrentella. I photographed this one on July 23, 2022 during National Moth Week. My first thoughts were that this moth was some member of Family Tortricidae maybe in Olethreutini or Eucosmini two tribes in that family with long narrow-bodied moths. But that was far off the mark as repeated searches on the Moth Photographers Group bore out. All I could tell after that was this moth wasn’t like anything I’d seen yet.

One night I decided to use an image search. Of course, most of the results were wrong, but one tiny thumbnail linked to Bug Guide seemed close. So I clicked it and there was a photo of a moth that looked similar to mine. Amydria effrentella, is a moth in the Family Tineidae (Clothes Moths), Subfamily Acrolophinae (Burrowing Webworm Moths). The Moth Photographers Group provides a range map for Amydria effrentella showing it to be widespread.

Tineidae contains at least nine subfamilies north of Mexico with 190 species in 54 genera. For those genera and species whose life histories are known the larvae feed on things such as fur, feathers, skin, scales, bird and small mammal dung, fungi, lichens, and detritus (detritivores) the dead particulate organic material such as is found in leaf litter. Only a few species are known to feed on living plants.

What little information there is on Amydria effrentella indicates that its larvae typically construct “long silken tubes underground or on/in plant detritus and feeding primarily on plant debris as well as living plants, rarely coprophagous or mycetophagous.” Other reports have found it feeding on dried nest material in the burrows of mountain beavers. Pupation takes place in a coarse cocoon or in the larval tube.

Taxonomy

Kingdom Animalia (Animals)

Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)

Subphylum Hexapoda (Hexapods)

Class Insecta (Insects)

Order Lepidoptera (Butterflies and Moths)

Superfamily Tineoidea (Tubeworm, Bagworm, and Clothes Moths)

Family Tineidae (Clothes Moths)

Subfamily Acrolophinae (Burrowing Webworm Moths)

Genus Amydria

Species effrentella (Amydria effrentella – Hodges#0334)

Sources Cited

Bug Guide

Moth Photographers Group

Neotropical Tineidae. II: Biological Notes and Descriptions of Two New Moths Phoretic on Spiny Pocket Mice in Costa Rica. (Lepidoptera Tineoidea). Donald R. Davis, Dale H. Clayton, Daniel H. Janzen and Anne P. Brooke. Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington. 88(1). 1986. pp. 98-109.

The Tineoidea and Gracillarioidea. (Donald R. Davis & Gaden S. Robinson, 1998) from “Handbook of Zoology / Handbuch der Zoologie

Flower flies

Syrphid fly on flower
Helophilus fasciatus on Lindley’s aster (Symphyotrichum ciliolatum) looking for pollen and nectar.

On a warm late summer day if you walk into a field of flowers particularly yellow flowers like goldenrods you might think you have stepped into a swarm of bees or wasps. There is intense buzzing and many small yellow and black insects on the flowers and flying all around you. But despite all appearances these are not bees or wasps at all. They are flies. Syrphid flies, also known as flower flies and hover flies, to be more exact, and there are many species that mimic bees and wasps, a good strategy if you are trying to fend off predators.

Syrphid flies are true flies in the Order Diptera (“two wings”) and Family Syrphidae. Adult syrphid flies feed on nectar, pollen, and sugary secretions from aphids. You can use their love of sweets to attract them with mixture of sugar or honey and water sprayed on surfaces like tree trunks in open areas. When moving about on flowers syrphid flies assist in the pollination of many plant species including crops we grow.

The larvae have more varied diets depending on the species. Some syrphid fly larvae feed on decaying plant matter, damp wood (perhaps for the bacteria and fungus which are more nutritious?), and subterranean parts of plants. Others prey upon aphids, scale insects, thrips, and similar sap-sucking insects and can be beneficial in crop fields and gardens. Some species lurk in ant nests where they disguise themselves with chemical secretions and eat ant larvae.

Syrphid larvae in the tribes Eristalini and Sericomyiin live in muddy stagnant water, even cesspools, where they feed on detritus. A long breathing tube from the anal segment pokes above the water to access the air. This long breathing tube has earned them the name “rat-tailed maggots”.

I recently bought “Field Guide to the Flower Flies of Eastern North America” and have found it very helpful in figuring out species of syrphids that live in my area. The book is well illustrated and includes descriptions and range maps. In the descriptions, the authors have included flowers that species typically visit if known. I have been able with this book to identify three syrphids (Eupeodes americanus, Sericomyia chrysotoxooides, Toxomerus marginatus) that had been in my “unknown” files for several years. And I’ve identified three others I photographed last week (Eristalis dimidiata, Eristalis transversa, Sphaerophoria philanthus).

Below is a small gallery of some of the syrphid flies I’ve seen here over the years.

SOURCES

Field Guide to the Flower Flies of Eastern North America. Jeffrey H. Skevington and Michelle M. Locke. Copyright 2019 Princeton University Press.

Sword-bearing Conehead

My mothing nights find more than moths. Beetles, bugs, flies, wasps, spiders, and crickets, even snakes and frogs, are frequent visitors to the porch light. The latest non-lepidopteran to make an appearance is the sword-bearing conehead (Neoconocephalus ensiger). It is a new addition to my insect checklist and is one of five species of Tettigoniidae (Katydids) that I’ve identified from here.

The sword-bearing conehead is a large insect with males growing 4.5 to 5.5 cm, and females 5.2 to 6.4 cm. The head is conical with the sides pinched-in and black below. The body’s lower surface is edged in black. The stridulatory vein, which is used to make the call song in males, is long and weakly swollen. The ovipositor is blade-like and nearly the length of the body hence the name “sword-bearing”. Two color forms, green and brown, exist.

The call song of the sword-bearing conehead is a series of rapid tsst-tsst-tsst sounds. At higher temperatures the call song is faster. Singing begins at dusk and may continue all night if temperatures are warm. Singing Insects of North America (SINA) and Songs of Insects have recordings of this species and others on their websites.

Sword-bearing conehead is common across much of the eastern and north-central US and ranges as far north as Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick in Canada. Habitat includes damp grassy areas, roadsides, and weedy areas where they feed on grasses and sedges including the flowers and developing seeds.

Range map of the sword-bearing conehead.

SOURCES

Bug Guide
Singing Insects of North America
Songs of Insects

Hitchhiker

 

I’ve been pretty busy with work these last several weeks but on one of my free days I was out walking my dog and saw this little black wasp on a milkweed leaf. I managed to get a few photos of it with my cell phone before it flew away. Judging from its long ovipositor this is a species of ichneumon wasp although at this point I do not know much more than that. When I looked closely at the photo I noticed there was another little animal with the wasp that was clinging to it by tiny pincers (circled in red in the lower photo). It is a type of arachnid a group of arthropods that includes spiders and scorpions. This tiny arachnid is commonly called a pseudoscorpion. Pseudoscorpions are tiny and when they are not hitching rides on insects they are searching leaf litter for prey such as ants and mites. Although pseudoscorpions do not sting they do have poison glands in their pincers which they use to subdue prey. They are harmless to larger animals. My best guess to the identity of this pseudoscorpion is that it is probably in the superfamily Cheliferoidea. Without an actual specimen that I could spend some time examining that is about as far as I can get.