Journal archives for September 2016

September 17, 2016

Tejon Ranch Bioblitz 2016 Gall Collection

A collection of galls observed at Tejon Ranch, September 2016. Most of these were found on Quercus, but 3 interesting ones were found on Rubber Rabbitbrush along with one flower gall from Solidago, and of course the ever ubiquitous aphid galls on Manzanita.

Posted on September 17, 2016 00:48 by psyllidhipster psyllidhipster | 15 observations | 1 comment | Leave a comment

September 23, 2016

Favorite finds from Tejon Ranch Bioblitz September 12-13 2016

Going into the Bioblitz, I had pretty modest goals. I wanted to photograph every arthropod I possibly could, with a primary focus on phytophagous insects. I hoped to find a few psyllids, in addition to some leafhoppers, planthoppers, and scales, and I wanted to photograph every grasshopper I saw, regardless of whether I thought it looked like a grasshopper I shot previously. By the end of the 2-day event I had shot about 900 photos of just over 130 unique animal species... not bad!

Over half of the species I observed were new to me. Here's a summary of my favorite finds:

Grasshoppers

I'm not very good with identifying grasshoppers, and because of that I tend to neglect them. Prior to the bioblitz, I had only ever photographed 8 species total. I decided to consciously pay attention to them this time though, and over the course of 24 hours I managed to photograph 10(!) species, nearly every one new to me. And that's not even the full extent of the grasshopper diversity on the ranch, as others managed to find ones that I didn't. Highlights for me included the beautiful yellow-winged San Gabriel Wranglers at the higher elevations, and the tiny Sierran White-Whiskered Grasshoppers that Laura chased down in the desert among the Joshua Trees. And then of course there were the Western Sagebrush Grasshoppers which were so abundant on Lepidospartum squamatum near our campsite at night, and the pygmy grasshoppers near the wetland. I left in awe of the grasshopper diversity and I don't intend to neglect them anymore in the future.

Wetland Critters!

Riparian habitats are some of my favorites. While the pond we explored was rather tiny, we spent nearly two hours there, and I'm sure most would agree that we could have spent much longer there if it weren't for time restraints. All sorts of biodiversity was represented: Baja California Treefrogs and Giant Water Bugs were the most visible aquatic inhabitants, but a closer look revealed much more: backswimmers, pygmy grasshoppers, and water scavenger beetles were all present, in addition to large aquatic larvae of horse and soldier flies. Minute ripple bugs were common on the water surface preying on other organisms, including a large gathering on a dead giant water bug that we originally mistook for water bug nymphs. Tiny aquatic mites and barely visible ostracods were abundant in the water, and a bizarre aquatic delphacid planthopper was also frequently seen hopping on the water surface. On the perimeter of the water, at least two species of damselflies and many different wasps could be found, and the goldenrod that grew nearby also supported quite a few different species. It was here that Kim found two noteworthy finds, a large congregation of Polistes wasps and a beautiful California King Snake.

Bicolored Manzanita Psyllid (Neophyllura bicolor)

It shouldn't surprise anyone that one of my primary goals no matter where I go is to find psyllids. And indeed, before I even set a foot on the ranch I had already consulted a local plant list to get an idea of the potential psyllid hosts in the area. California chaparral communities in particular boast considerable psyllid diversity, with plants like Ceanothus, Cercocarpus, Rhus & Arctostaphylos being particularly diverse. Finding native psyllids in September, though, can be a challenge. Most of our native species are univoltine with adults beginning to appear in Spring; as it becomes drier, adults of many species will migrate to other plants to overwinter.

On our drive up to the top of the mountain ridge, I noticed the prevalence of Manzanitas in the habitat and I began investigating them as soon as we got out of the van. In California, five species of psyllid in the genus Neophyllura are found on Manzanita, most of these endemic to the state. While I found Manzanita Leaf Gall Aphids and a probably-native armored scale on many of the plants, unfortunately I couldn't find any signs of psyllids, at least at the higher elevations.

Some hours later though, either Cedric or myself found what I thought was another kind of scale insect, without realizing at the time that it was actually a parasitized psyllid nymph. It wouldn't be for another hour that I finally found an adult psyllid, posed as a rather convincing axil mimic on the stem of the plant. While I was expecting to find the common widespread Manzanita psyllid Neophyllura arctostaphyli, I was instead greeted by the much rarer endemic Neophyllura bicolor. Several nymphs were also present on the plant. Coincidentally, directly adjacent was a California Flannelbush which hosted another psyllid species, the endemic Diclidophlebia fremontiae.

One last thought about that parasitized nymph: it's interesting to note that no parasitoid has been recorded from any of the manzanita-feeding Neophyllura. The identity of this wasp may be worthy of future study.

More!

If I wrote in depth about every cool thing we found, I suspect this journal post would be unbearably long. There were many notable finds: a gathering of blister beetles that we found on the Lepidospartum squamatum at night (along with many other insects on these plants); Joshua Tree Leafhoppers, which were common but characteristically uncooperative; two different Hyperaspis ladybeetles (pushing the total number of lady beetles I've observed in the wild past 30!); Blainville's Horned Lizard, which was pretty much the most adorable lizard ever; and so much more.

My favorite find of the whole trip, though? I would have to say that that title goes to this little guy:

This tiny 2mm leafhopper that Cedric found has not yet been identified, but I do believe that it may be something quite special. We found them in considerable numbers on Tehachapi Buckwheat, Eriogonum callistum, a rare and endangered plant that's known only from the southern Tehachapi Mountains in California. It remains to be seen if this leafhopper is specific to this type of buckwheat (in which case it may possibly be undescribed) or if it is oligophagous on other species of buckwheat as well. A very interesting find, regardless.

Posted on September 23, 2016 01:25 by psyllidhipster psyllidhipster | 27 observations | 2 comments | Leave a comment