Sawyer

Most insects avoid us or scuttle out of sight. Not these guys. White-spotted sawyers are big, noisy and show no fear. It’s unnerving when one flies right at you.

This female landed on the steps about an arm’s length away from me. She paused, then opened her hard wing covers (aka elytras) and unfolded her sturdy wings.

IMG_7040 - Version 2
Wing covers open, wings extended. Notice the bent wing tip.

With soft clicking and chuffing sounds she became air-borne again — doing little touch-and-goes on the steps like a novice pilot, each hop bringing her closer to me.

I blinked first: I moved. She ignored me and eventually disappeared into the grass at the end of the step.

IMG_7049 - Version 2
White-spotted sawyers reach body lengths of 20 mm or more (about 0.75 in).

Should you encounter such a magnificent beetle and wish to know whether it’s male or female (assuming you haven’t flown off in a fright), check out the antennae length.

Females, like the one shown here, have antennae about the same length or slightly longer than their bodies.

Males (for whom size seems to matter) have antennae 2 to 3 times their body length. I assure you, you’ll definitely know it’s a male.


White-spotted (spruce) sawyer   Monochamus scutellatus

Spit Season

Yes, it’s that time of year. Shiny, wet, white foam. Blobs of it. Sticking to stems of paintbrush and clover and young poplar shoots.

It’s the work of master bubble-makers — immature leaf hoppers.

These delicate bubbles provide the perfect home for baby beetles, known as nymphs. It protects them from predators (bad taste.) It keeps them at the right temperature (not too hot or too cold). And prevents them from drying out.

This isn’t your average mouth-made spit. Spit bugs (aka spittle bugs) use their needle-like mouthparts to pierce the plant stem and suck up sap. Mixed with air and some of the sappy material, this fluid is forced out the other end of their abdomen. They then use their legs to move it into position. Clever little guys.

The nymph grows and molts several times. The first photo below shows an empty nymph shell (aka exoskeleton) — an adult beetle may have emerged from that, then set off into the non-bubble world.

Smaller foamy clumps may house only one or two nymphs, larger ones a dozen or more. Unless you grow crops or have an infestation on your favourite flowers they don’t do a lot of harm. Much more interesting to watch than waste.

FYI
For an incredible photo of a nymph “blowing” bubbles, check out this one by Canadian photographer Adrian Thysse.


Best guess?  Don’t even have one for this tiny little guy.  🙂