Early Spring Bugs in Missouri

Red Velvet Mite (Trombidiidae)

In the forest, the various bugs common to the leafy undercover were waking up, too.

This is a red velvet mite (Trombidiidae).

They play a critical, if slightly surprising, role in the health of the forest. Namely, the larval stage is parasitic and effectively controls populations of locust, grasshoppers and other plant destroying insects.

As adults, the red velvet mite is a ferocious predator that will take out mites and insects many times it size. In particular, the mite seems to favor insects that eat bacteria and fungus.

Thus, the mites help ensure that fungus and bacteria remain abundant within the forest and, by doing so, help ensure that the decomposition process remain high.

While the red velvet mite is related to chiggers and ticks, they do not bite humans and are quite the sociable little bugs.

Blue Metallic Bug Detail

I have no clue what this bug is other than “beautiful”.

It has gigantic jaws for its size, clearly designed for biting and ripping.

The bug really is that brilliant color of metallic blue. Even more amazing, the bug flew a few feet and landed on a tree. When the sun strikes it at a different angle, it turns a gorgeous metallic green.

Unfortunately, it moved too quickly for me to snap a photo, but I’ll definitely be keeping a lookout for these on our next visit.

More bugs on the click-through….

Big Pile of Big Red Ants

While wandering through the woods, we would flip over the occasional rock to see what might be hiding underneath.

Occasionally, this would reveal a five lined skink or some fat grubs (like these that I shot last year).

More often than not, the rock would have a nest of ants under it. Not just any ants, but big red ants.

Given that it was relatively cold out, they were fairly docile. Good thing, too, as I really wouldn’t want to deal with a pile of inch long active ants.

Odd, though. I have been flipping rocks in these woods for a good part of my 38 years on this earth and I honestly don’t remember seeing big red ants much at all, much less under just about every other rock.

Eastern tent caterpillar (Malacosoma americanum) WebEastern tent caterpillar (Malacosoma americanum) After Rain

In one section of the forest, we ran into a ton of Eastern tent caterpillar (Malacosoma americanum) webs. Each web was built into the nooks of branches off of the main trunk of a set of small trees (species unknown).

The only difference between the two pictures was the ambient air temperature. The little caterpillars that weave these amazing multi-layered tents are masters of temperature regulation.

The tents are designed to capture the heat of the morning sun and the caterpillars — of which there may be hundreds per tent — can easily regulate their temperature by moving between the different layers of the tent.

In particular, the caterpillars always build the largest part of their tent facing the brightest light source in the area. In a forest, this typically means that the tent will face whatever break in the trees allows in the most line from the sun.

While tent caterpillars can largely defoliate whatever tree they are living on, the trees generally don’t seem to suffer any permanent damage and will re-foliate within a matter of weeks.

One must wonder how important said caterpillars are in weeding out week trees and otherwise turning live leaves into a potent green fertilizer right at the beginning of the season when there is so little new biomass being added to the forest floor.

Water Drops in Spider Web (One Orange)

This last photo is of a bug product that completely mystifies us.

This is a random spider web in a field that has collected rain drops (or dew overnight).

Every now and then, one of the drops will be quite distinctly tinted a rather instance hue of some color between red, amber and yellow.

Rarely, a web may even have multiple colored drops. Mom captured a photo of a web with three colored drops out of several dozen; one red and two yellowish amber.

Baffling and beautiful, nature often is!

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7 Responses to “Early Spring Bugs in Missouri”

  1. Early Spring Bugs in Missouri | Photography Digest says:

    […] Go to the author’s original blog: Early Spring Bugs in Missouri […]

  2. annbb says:

    Did you or mom take that last picture?
    Makes me homesick.

  3. bbum says:

    I took all the photos, though Mom has some spectacular bug and web photos.

    Dad took a photo of an orb weaver’s web hanging between two trees, covered in dew, with the pond in the background. Spectacular.

  4. Jason Adam Young says:

    I’m sure you’ve mentioned this somewhere before – but what lens and setup (tripod, etc.?) do you use to shoot these? I enjoy your macro posts very much.

  5. what do ants eat says:

    […] […]

  6. Cindy says:

    What kind of inscest looks like a mixture of a dragonfly and a large beetle with long pinchers an a large fat body and big head? I have seen three of these days after moving to Missouri.

  7. Dino says:

    Wow , If I’m not mistaken that shiny blue beetle is a tiger beetle , predatory little guy that chases down it’s prey and chews it to pieces with it’s massive jaws.

    I’m also intrigued by those clusters of ants you found, 1 inch wow the largest ants we have here are about only a tenth of an inch. I really enjoyed your pics thanks^^

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