Mysteries

Wednesday Afternoon Mystery

Owing to a magical combination of travel and norovirus, I missed the Monday Mystery. To make it up to you, here’s an ant for you to identify:

mystery11
 
I won’t award any points for our belated ant challenge, but you should feel free to bask smugly in the knowledge of your myrmecological acumen.

 

Answer to the Monday Mystery

As commenter Jenna B picked within minutes, Monday’s mystery flower was Theobroma cacao– the magical plant that so generously provides the world with chocolate- and it is pollinated by midges in the family Ceratopogonidae. In particular, the cacao pollinators are found in the large genus Forcipomyia. Here is one feeding not on a cacao nectary but from the hemolymph of a caterpillar.

Biting midge
Forcipomyia sp. (Belize)

So. Ten points to Jenna.

This brings us to the end of the month, and I am pleased to report we have a two way, ten point tie for March between Jenna B and Dave Almquist.

Congrats, Jenna & Dave! Email me for your loot.

Monday Night Mystery: Flower Power

Tonight’s challenge is more botanical than our usual fare. Here, for your consideration, is a flower:

mystery15

1. What species is this? (4 points)
2. What insect (Family or genus) pollinates this plant? (6 points)

To earn points, be the first person to correctly answer each question. The cumulative points winner for the month of March will win their choice of:

1) A guest post here on Myrmecos
2) Any 8×10 print from my insect photography galleries
3) A myrmecos t-shirt

Good luck!

Monday Night Mystery: A Hairy Situation

Tonight’s mystery is an extremely close look at somebody’s fur coat:

Nice try spidey, but I am not giving you any information here.

 

Which of the organisms below is the one depicted at high magnification in the micrograph?

 

mystery_answers

The first person to pick the correct species from the list gets 5 points for the number, and 5 for the genus. Each person is allowed only one guess. The cumulative points winner for the month of March will win their choice of:

1) A guest post here on Myrmecos
2) Any 8×10 print from my insect photography galleries
3) A myrmecos t-shirt

Good luck!

 

Answer to the Monday Mystery: Stigmatomma pallipes

What was last night’s oddly unplaceable waspy insect?

The female of the species, photographed at the same location in upstate New York, is more commonly recognized:

Stigmatomma_pallipes
Stigmatomma pallipes, alate females (South Bristol, New York, USA)

Points are awarded as follows:

2 to Guillaume D for guessing the order (Hymenoptera).

5 to Boud for guessing the family (Formicidae), and the sex (male), along with an extra point for being the first to the subfamily (Amblyoponinae).

4 to James Trager for getting the correct genus and species, Stigmatomma pallipes.

Stigmatomma pallipes is one of my favorite ants. North American myrmecologists must remember their first field encounter with this unusual animal. The initial impression is not antlike at all, but of a small, stubby worm. Its movements are sluggish. The segments of the elongate abdomen are visible. And the long, thin, toothy mandibles are unlike anything else in our fauna. And as you’ve seen from last night’s mystery, males of Stigmatomma pallipes are themselves more generically wasp-ish in appearance than those of most other ants.

 

Monday Night Mystery

Tonight’s challenge is a straightforward whatsit.

mystery12

So. Whatsit?

I will award points to the first correct entries as follows: Order (2 points); Family (2 points); Genus (2 points); Species (2 points); Sex (2 points).

The cumulative points winner for the month of March will win their choice of:

1) A guest post here on Myrmecos
2) Any 8×10 print from my insect photography galleries
3) A myrmecos t-shirt

Good luck!

 

Answer to the Monday Mystery, and How to Identify Bee Feet

It was no small feet.

Well, maybe not. I take that back. It was many tiny feet. But last night’s tarsal task was eventually guessed in its entirety by Dave Almquist, for 10 points. The bees were B,C,E, and F. All the other feet were non-bee wasps.

usgs

The images were from the USGS Bee Inventory & Monitoring Lab, a tremendous resource for free public domain insect images.

The trick to the mystery is knowing that the basitarus in bees is typically broader and flatter than in non bees. Like so:

beewasp

 

Some bees, including common honey bees, have a simply massive basitarsis. Others are much more subtle. I deliberately made this challenge difficult by including a couple parasitic bees in the genus Nomada. These insects are not as fuzzy as most bees, and their basitarsi are just barely flattened. Kudos to Dave for his sharp eyes.

I’ve put the original challenge below, if you’d like to try again.

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Monday Night Mystery: A Leg Up

A classic bird joke:

The final exam arrives for Ornithology 101, and students enter the classroom to find a considerably more challenging test than expected. Instead of a general written exam, the professor has set up a long table. On the table is an array of 100 bird’s feet. Just the feet, nothing else. The student’s entire grade is to be based on how many of the feet they can identify to species.

Half-way through this difficult exam, a frustrated student storms up to the front of the room and throws his crumpled up answer sheet at the professor.

“I refuse to take this exam!” yells the student. “It’s unfair, it’s impossible, I studied  hard and there is still no way I will pass. I’m going to report you to the dean.”

“What is your name, son?” demands the prof.

The student puts his foot on the professor’s desk and says, “I don’t know. You tell me.”

Anyway.

In the spirit of impossible feet, tonight’s mystery concerns the following:

 

mystery_feet

 

For all 10 points, be the first person to correctly pick which of these insect feet belong to bees.

The cumulative points winner for the month of March will win their choice of:

1) A guest post here on Myrmecos
2) Any 8×10 print from my insect photography galleries
3) A myrmecos t-shirt

Good luck!

(Image credit: Sam Droege/USGS)