Apropos of nothing, I made a funnel trap to take care of a burgeoning fruit fly problem in the kitchen:
The design is simple. I rolled regular white office paper into a funnel and taped it into a container with rotting bananas as bait. Flies get in, they have a hard time getting out, and once a day I put the contraption in the freezer.
I recently had the opportunity to photograph one of the odder spectacles among insects: a common house fly emerging from its puparium using a giant inflatable head. What’s deal with this strange behavior?
Many millions of years ago, some flies figured out an ingenious way to protect their delicate developing pupae. Instead of shedding their last larval skin and discarding it, as do most insects, these flies (the Cyclorrhapha) retain it as a sort of armor- the puparium- and metamorphose inside. It’s a great example of evolution re-purposing an existing structure for a novel function.
Emerging as an adult inside an unbroken suit of armor has its own difficulties, however. What makes it hard for predators to get in also makes it hard for flies to get out. So they pump their heads full of hemolymph, inflating a balloon-like structure called the ptilinum, and burst their way to freedom using hydrostatic pressure.
Once the fly has emerged the ptilinum deflates back into the head, leaving a characteristic upside-down U-shaped suture.
Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x macro lens on a Canon EOS 7D camera
f/13, 1/250 sec, ISO 100
(top) background flash; (mid, bottom) diffused foreground flash
Nosodendron californicum – Wounded Tree Beetle
From the Department of Really Obscure Insects, here’s a beetle that few non-specialists will recognize. Nosodendron inhabits the rotting tissue of long-festering tree wounds. These beetles are not rare so much as specialized to an environment where few entomologists think to look. If you can spot the telltale stains of an old wound on the trunks of large trees, you should be able to find Nosodendron. They feed on the microbes- the yeast and bacteria- that grow in the sap leaking from the phloem.
There are, in fact, whole communities of insects associated with tree wounds. Several fly families are found nowhere else. I photographed this odiniid fly drinking from the yeasty slime:
photo details (both photos): Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x macro lens on a Canon EOS D60
ISO 100, f/13, 1/200 sec, flash diffused through tracing paper