As winter sets in in Wyoming, I’m finishing up my CLM internship with the Windy Bugs project. I have been spending the last month and a half in the lab since we wrapped up our field season. I have been identifying, sorting, and photographing the insects from our summer’s collections. We have collected quite a variety of insects! In the few thousand I’ve identified, there are representatives from 11 orders and 56 families. Of bees alone, we found over 20 genera.
I love photographing insects because it allows us to see them from a different perspective and appreciate the subtle characteristics that often go unnoticed with the naked eye.
Our primary focus for this study is bees (Hymenoptera: ) We found some very common genera, like Anthophora, Bombus, Melissodes, Osmia, Agapostemon, and Lasioglossum, as well as some rare and beautiful specimens.
We did have some interesting beetles and moths representing two extremely diverse groups.
My personal favorite group are wasps. Wasps are a paraphyletic group of insects in the order Hymenoptera. There is a lot of research to be done in this area, and I hope to study wasp behavior as a part of my graduate research. There are many beautiful, interesting, and ecologically important wasps found in Wyoming.
Our collections included velvet ants, a type of wasp with pronounced sexual dimorphism. Males are usually winged and females are wingless. They can be so different in morphology that some males and females were initially described as different species. We had quite a number of males in our collections, but no females. We did observe “cow-killer” females (Dasymutilla) in the field. They’re easy to spot due to their bright red-orange coloration.
We had some predatory sphecid or thread-waisted wasps. The silvery hairs on the face of the wasp appears metallic in the sunshine.
Some Vespid wasps are known as hornets and have a bad reputation. They are facinating social insects that include potter wasps.
Crabronids are one of my favorite wasp families. They are very diverse, always beautiful, and include cicada killers, beewolves, and sand wasps as well as many very small species that can resemble small bees.
My favorite wasp family as well as the most beautiful of the wasps are the cuckoo wasps. They are also known as jewel wasps — it’s easy to see why! Their multifaceted texture accentuates their often bright and multi-hued coloration.
As I complete my internship and move on, I am very grateful for the opportunities this CLM internship has provided me. I’ve learned a lot and enjoyed myself in many ways. Many thanks to my mentors, Drs. Lusha Tronstad and Michael Dillon, as well as to the Dillon lab, WYNDD staff, and the BLM. And of course none of this would be possible without Krissa and Wes of the CLM!! Thank you!!
Sadie Luna Todd
CLM intern, UWyo WYNDD/BLM