This blog provides an informal forum for terrestrial invertebrate watchers to post recent sightings of interesting observations in the southern Vancouver Island region. Please send your sightings by email to Jeremy Tatum (jtatum@uvic.ca). Be sure to include your name, phone number, the species name (common or scientific) of the invertebrate you saw, location, date, and number of individuals. If you have a photograph you are willing to share, please send it along. Click on the title above for an index of past sightings.The index is updated most days.

January 21

2019 January 21

 

   Just to let viewers know that we now have a volunteer to coordinate the sending of butterfly records to eButterfly.   We’ll let you know closer to the butterfly season, and when we have thought through how to organise it, and who is going to do what, just how it will work.   Just a few more weeks before butterflies re-appear!  Jeremy Tatum

 

 

January 17

2019 January 17

 

   Les Petersen sends a photograph of an unhappy third instar caterpillar of a Large Yellow Underwing Moth Noctua pronuba, seen on January 12 at Cedar Hill Golf Course.

Large Yellow Underwing Noctua pronuba (Lep.: Noctuidae)

Palm Warbler Setophaga palmarum (Pas.: Parulidae)

Les Petersen

 

January 14

2019 January 14

 

   Jeremy Tatum writes:  Sonia Voicescu, who has contributed a number of observations and photographs to this site, has carried out an excellent study of the  Ringlet Coenonympha tullia at Rithet’s Bog.  I am going to test my primitive computer skills to the limit by attempting to attach her Report and its Appendix to this Invert Alert posting.  I don’t guarantee it will work.  Several regular contributors to this site sent Sonia some butterfly photographs from Rithet’s Bog.  You will find these photographs in the Appendix.

   So far I haven’t had any response to my January 6 appeal for someone to send local butterfly observations to eButterfly.

January 12

2019 January 12

 

   Jeremy Tatum writes:  Sher Falls sends a photograph of an insect from Nanaimo in the summer of 2017. While we usually show pictures of recently-photographed invertebrates, we’ll show this one, partly to keep Invert Alert going during the winter months, but also because it is an interesting insect, and to teach me a lesson.

 

  When I first saw the photograph, I took a quick glance at the narrow, constricted abdomen and confidently declared it to be a hymenopteran of the Family Ichneumonidae.  Beware of people who confidently identify an insect after a brief glance!  It is not a hymenopteran at all – it is a fly!  It is a dipteran of the Family Conopidae.  My book by Colyer and Hammond with the unlikely title of British Flies says that conopids “often bear a striking resemblance to solitary wasps and other hymenoptera”.   Well, I shan’t use that as an excuse, although the insect does do quite a good job of deception. 

 

  It is a parasitoid of bees, including honey bees and bumble bees.  Apparently the fly attaches itself piggy-back to a bee in flight and lays its egg on the victim.  I quote from  British Flies:  “The larvae are to be found in the front part of the host’s abdomen…  Pupation takes place within the larval skin…  The pupa occupies most of the abdominal cavity of the host…  When the adult conopid emerges, it ruptures the puparium and the enclosing abdominal segments at the same time.”

 

   We don’t know if the fly is aware of the spider lurking under the flower.

 

Thick-headed Fly  Physocephala burgessi (Dip.:  Conopidae)  Sher Falls

 

January 6

2019 January 6

 

   Jeremy Tatum writes:  I quote from page 3 of the January-February Victoria Naturalist:  

 

“For more that six years, an army of citizen scientists across Canada has been scouring gardens, trails and vacant lots, in search of butterflies..  Their observations have poured in by the tens of thousands, arriving at an online depository known as eButterfly…”

 

  You can guess the rest of the gist of the article, or read it in the VN.  In any case I wonder if anyone is contributing observations to eButterfly from our area, or if anyone would like to undertake to do so.  Not me, because I’m a computerphobe, but I’m sure that, among our viewers, there are some who are already familiar with eBird, and who could relatively easily handle eButterfly.  Collectively we are pretty familiar with the butterflies of this area, but are our butterflies more widely known?  If anyone would like to investigate eButterfly and to contribute local butterfly observations to eButterfly, please let us know.   We have some butterflies that are regular, but which fly at different times of year.  Some are single-brooded; others are double-brooded.  There are some, including migratory species, whose numbers vary greatly from year to year  (e.g. Mourning Cloak).  There are some whose numbers seem to be declining drastically (Satyr Comma,  Anise Swallowtail,  Mylitta Crescent).  I can’t offhand think of any whose population is increasing.  There are occasional stray rarities (e.g. Monarch).  And new discoveries (Johnson’s Hairstreak).  Thus there are lots of things that we are familiar with, but which should be reported and which ought to be entered into the national body of butterfly knowledge.  So, if anyone is interested in reporting our observations to eButterfly, let us know!