Recent Insect News

by Carl Strang

Red admiral butterflies have attracted a lot of attention in recent weeks. We are seeing many more than usual this year. According to authorities, including Chicago’s Doug Taron in his blog, these are mostly migrants coming up from the south.

Red admirals have been appearing in clusters at Mayslake Forest Preserve. I am counting dozens on a typical lunchtime walk.

I wonder, though, how many are local survivors of the mild winter. It might be possible to find out, by doing chemical or isotope analyses of tissues. That method has been used, for instance, to determine where breeding birds spent the winter, but it would be an expensive study to undertake.

Another migrant which has begun to show up in greater than usual numbers is the American lady, a butterfly in the same genus as the red admiral.

Last week I saw a few syrphid flies which proved to be indistinguishable from one of the species that were abundant last fall.

According to references I accessed through the BugGuide website, both these and the autumn ones are Helophilus fasciatus.

I also photographed a small bee that is colored like a carpenter bee.

This may be the mining bee Anthophora abrupta. If so, the pale face makes it a male.

These have tunnel nests in clay banks. The most likely nearby location is the friary demolition site. When my back has healed to the point where I can be more mobile, I’ll see if I can find a colony there. That would confirm the identification.



  1. May 8, 2012 at 9:27 pm

    The bees working on these flowers this morning appeared unusual to me. In particular, they all had these bulbous orange sack-looking things on their back legs. The orange bulbs were different for each individual bee. Some were larger than others. Here are a few photographs of different bees in which you can see these sacks. As you can see, the sack is much more pronounced in the second photograph. It almost looks like a tiny little orange balloon attached to the leg.

    • natureinquiries said,

      May 9, 2012 at 5:28 am

      Your photos didn’t come through, but from your description those are pollen sacs, structures which some bees have that allow them to carry pollen.

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