The buzzing of flying insects coming from a clump of willows
caused me alter course to investigate.
There were hornets moving in and out of the tree canopy, making me think
I may be lucky enough to find an active nest.
Once beneath the tree, I could detect minute drops of
moisture hitting my face and arms. It
felt as though I was standing in a cool jungle mist, but I knew what it really
was and what was responsible.
I was in a rain of honeydew being discharged by colonies of
aphids. As a byproduct of their feeding,
these sap sucking insects expel droplets of sweet liquid.
Large aphid colonies can cause a steady downfall of tiny
honeydew droplets. The branches of this
willow were almost completely covered by aphids.
Many aphid predators are attracted by the odor of honeydew. This small fly larva, aka maggot, is the
larva of the Aphid Midge, Aphidoletes aphidimyza. The adult fly feeds on honeydew and lays its
eggs among the aphids. The larvae then
consume the aphids. The larva’s gut
takes on the color of the aphid juices being eaten. This coloration then shows through the
Plants growing beneath the willows have been completely
covered by honeydew. The primary buzzing
insects were various species of flies feeding on the sugary droplets. After a while a black mold begins to grow on
the leaf. Shed aphid exoskeletons, dust
and other detritus get caught in the sticky mess. This can’t be a healthy condition for the
plants. Fortunately, massive aphid
colonies are a product of late summer and fall, so the plants have already
completed their seed production and energy storage.
A variety of fly species was present. Leaves that hadn’t molded displayed an
unnatural shine. It reminded me of
houseplants that have received a coating of liquid wax to make their leaves
Of course, if there’s a sweet liquid to be had, the
Yellowjackets will be there to claim their share. They constantly skimmed over the leaves
searching for fresh droppings. Even when
they found one, they paused for only a second to lap it up.
The Bald-faced Hornets foraged higher in the tree and rarely
came down to ground level.
The hornets also took the opportunity to grab a live
meal. This guy is subduing a freshly
caught fly. The blue stripe is part of
the pattern on the fly’s abdomen.
Several butterfly species were present, dragging their tongues across
the leaf surface, sucking up honeydew.
Red-spotted Purple is one of my favorites. The blue, black and white pattern is quite
reminiscent of the colors in a Blue Jay’s feathers. Quite appropriate coloration for a resident
of Blue Jay Barrens.
Located in the Bluegrass region of Southern Ohio, Blue Jay Barrens contains excellent xeric habitat inhabited by a wide variety of rare native plant and animal species. Since 1985, this private property has been managed to improve the integrity of the special ecosystems found here. This blog provides information on the current activities at Blue Jay Barrens.
RESPONSE TO COMMON QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS BLOG
It’s my intent to share information on current events at Blue Jay Barrens. Unless otherwise noted in the text, all photos were taken by me at Blue Jay Barrens.
Plant scientific names are from Gleason and Cronquist 1991. I realize that some changes in preferred nomenclature have occurred, but this is the principle reference I have been using for flora identification. Knowing this, I believe most people can figure out just what plant I’m talking about.
My discussions of flora and fauna are not intended to be a complete life history. There are plenty of good references for this type of information. I am discussing my personal experiences with plants and animals on this specific property. Any other information I may provide is intended to help you understand the significance of my observations.
1- Of Mosquitoes, Moths and Mice, by C Brooke Worth. 2- Mosquito Safari: A Naturalist in Southern Africa, by C Brooke Worth. 3- A Naturalist in Trinidad, by C Brooke Worth.
MY 3 FAVORITE FICTION BOOKS:
1- The Witches of Karres by James H Schmitz 2- The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham 3- The Windhover Tapes (1st 3 volumes) by Warren Norwood
MY 3 FAVORITE MOVIES:
1- Vanishing Point 1971 with Barry Newman 2- Flim Flam Man 1967 with George C Scott - also like the book by Guy Owens 3- The Lathe Of Heaven 1979 with Bruce Davison - also like the book by Ursula K LeGuin
MY 3 FAVORITE TV SHOWS:
1- The Prisoner with Patrick McGoohan 2- Fawlty Towers with John Cleese 3- Kolchak: The Night Stalker with Darren McGavin