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Mystery Bugs


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Dear all,

For those of you who saw the mystery larvae at tonight's meeting, we have a copy of Aquatic invertebrates of Alberta by Hugh Clifford in the library, but it seems to be checked out. The alternative is to look up the web version of the book at Clifford on the web. The most likely candidates are from the order Diptera (purely speculative without the actual specimens for identification). You can do a search to see some interesting-looking larvae:

Ptychopteridae, 35mm not including respiratory tube, Fig. 42.O on p. 430 in the print edition

Syrphidae (rat-tailed maggots) 18 mm not including respiratory tube, Fig. 42.U on p. 435 in the print edition.

These are also pictured in McCafferty, Aquatinc entomology, p. 290-291 for key, or Merritt and Cummins, Aquatic invertebrates of North America, Chapter 22 part 1 (with pupae that look like that in part 2 of the same chapter).

A footnote. The scariest bug out there is Lethocerus americanus from the family Belostomatidae. This is like a giant back swimmer (family Notonectidae) with a proportionately nastier bite. All of these, together with our beloved water boatmen (family Corixidae) belong to the order Hemiptera. Hemiptera (true bugs) is a completely different kettle of fish from the order Coleoptera (beetles). The Dytiscidae (predacious water beetles) belong to Coleoptera and not Hemiptera.

Sorry for all the Latin; however, if you do a search, you will find exactly what I am talking about and Clifford is easier to navigate this way.



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Funny story. I'm looking at page 435 and I think it's pretty close, but I have doubts. The size sounds about right, but the "tail" in the drawing is curved up, and the bugs in the shotglass were distinctly segmented. Then, I flip back through the pages and see the very simple drawings on pp 421 and 412, and I read that the breathing tube can extend and retract. I think you're right Florin. They turn into "flower flies", apparently, which is funny. Such a nice name for a bug that hatches from a "rat-tailed maggot".


So then I get down to my homework for my presentation next week. I just thought I should leaf through it to make sure I wasn't forgetting about a whole order of insects or something like that. You see, I'm pretty familiar with the book, because Alethea used to work for the U of A Press, and got it for me years ago. So imagine my surprise when I noticed a "Property of Northern Lights" stamp. I guess mine got lost in the move.


I know I'm a creature of habit, but I'm a little surprised; once that book got here, it was like it had never left.


Conveniently, I had planned on bringing it on Wednesday, anyway.


Rick jr

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