American Hover Fly


This insect was hovering over the sweet alyssum in the pot on my back deck. I just happened to catch him hovering and eating the nectar. I have been fascinated with his hovering and had always suspected he was some sort of bee. After doing some research online, I discovered in fact that he is an American Hover Fly or Metasyrphus americanus. Adults eat nectar but the larva preys on other insects such as aphids.

On page 10 in
The Handbook to Nature Study, under the heading of “The Uses of Scientific Names”, it says, “Disquieting problems relative to scientific nomenclature always confront the teacher of nature-study. My own practice has been to use the popular names of species, except in cases where confusion might ensue, and to use the scientific names for anatomical parts. However, this matter is of little importance if the teacher bears in mind that the purpose of nature-study is to know the subject under observation and to learn the name incidentally.”

So we now have a new purpose to our nature study: To know the subject under observation and not necessarily to name it. I am assuming the author means to not necessarily know its scientific name. I am no longer satisfied to just observe, I want to identify what I am looking at. Nature study has aroused in me a great curiosity to know more deeply the creation around me. Now I have a new friend, the American Hover Fly.

 

Daddy Longlegs (Harvestman):Not an Insect

I know this is a crazy photo of this daddy longlegs but he wasn’t going to cooperate with me at all. He had been sitting near his web waiting but when he saw me move closer, he went like lightning down to the bottom of the deck railing to a safe place. I zoomed in as much as possible and got this shot of him hanging out.
So here is what I learned from page 295 from the Handbook of Nature Study. “The word insect is often applied incorrectly to any minute animal; but the term should be restricted to those forms possessiong six legs and belonging to the class, Hexapoda. The name Hexapoda is from two Greek words: hex, six; and pous, foot. It refers to the fact that the members of this order differ from other arthropods in the possession of only six feet. Thus spiders, which have eight legs, are not insects.” So even though we are focusing on insects for the fall term, we still enjoyed seeing this creature that is really an arachnid.

What is a spider? Spiders are arachnids not insects, but both spiders and insects belong to the largest group of animals on Earth, the arthropods - animals with hard external skeletons and jointed limbs (greek arthro = joint, podos = footed). So there you have it the difference between insects and spiders. :)

Edit: Here are some more links to learn about daddy long legs.

Daddy Long legs or vibrating spiders
Daddy Long legs Myths

And I found an article that even says that daddy long legs are not even spiders. Here is an exerpt:”Although they resemble spiders, daddy long-legs, more correctly called harvestmen, are neither spiders nor insects. Taxonomically, they are arthropods, in the same class as spiders, Arachnida, but in a different order, Phalangida. Anatomically daddy long-legs differ from spiders because their three body segments — head, thorax and abdomen, are joined as one compact body segment. Spiders have two body segments — the head and thorax are joined as the cephalothorax, and the abdomen is the second body segment. Insects, which are taxonomically in the class Insecta, have three distinct body segments.” Found at Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine.

So now I can’t even say that the daddy longlegs is even a spider! It is technically an arthropod, an Arachnida, and in the order of Phalangida. Whew! This is getting hard to keep track of but I am learning a lot.

Red Aphids



Now that we are focusing on insects, it seems we find them everywhere we look. This morning we were out on the deck looking at the flowers and look what we found right under our noses!

These little red guys are just crawling all over the chrysanthemums.

These red aphids I believe are Goldenglow aphids.
Dactynotus rudbeckiaeHere is what Anna Botsford Comstock says on page 295 about insects, “The abundance of insects makes it easy to study them. They can be found where-ever man can live, and at all seasons. This abundance is even greater than is commonly supposed. The number of individuals in a single species is beyond computation; who can count the aphids or the scale-insects in a single orchard, or the bees in a single meadow?”

Indeed, after taking a look at these aphids on my chrysanthemum, I can only agree. We are just scratching the surface in really “seeing” all the insects around us everyday.