A Closer Look
Category: Birding at the Chico

 Home to cattle, cowgirls, cowboys, birds, fishes, horses and on occasion goats, sheep and chickens, there is another, hidden side of the Chico Basin Ranch that you have to get down on your knees to see.  Over 300 insect species have been identified here to date and that is only a beginning. If I was still a biology teacher, I would bring all of my classes to the Chico in order to take a closer look.                  

While waking in Chico Basin Ranch’s northeastern most pasture with Maddie and Richard, looking at migrant flocks of Chestnut-collared Longspurs (one of the few bird species endemic to the Great Plains), I heard the distinctive buzz of a robber fly. Robber flies are the wolves of the insect world, swift flying, winged predators. Some robber flies are mimics, looking very similar to bumblebees. This large, drab robber fly, however, has large bulbous claspers on its posterior identifying it as a male in the genus Efferia.  It landed near me and it wasn’t until I returned home to look at my photographs that I saw why the robber fly was spending so much time in one location.  It was sucking the body fluids out of a leafhopper. There are over 2500 leafhopper species in North America. Leafhoppers and close relatives, sharpshooters, use their mouthparts to extract fluids from plant stems. Leafhoppers are often brightly colored and frequently have their hind legs cocked and ready to leap away from would be predators, but not quick enough to leap away from this robber fly. While out in the field next time, take a closer look. 

Posted by Bill M. on 10/04/2017
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