A light trap in the city

I have always been interested in biodiversity. The incredible array of shapes, sizes, colors, habitats and adaptations of organisms is something I find fascinating.

I have been fortunate enough to have done field work in many different locations, from beaches to the cloudy rainforest to the Andes, and as a result I have seen incredible forms of life, particularly insects: snake mimicking caterpillars, antlion larvae, tarantula hawks, lanternflies, wasp mimicking katydids, grasshoppers the size of my hand and an array of shapes, colors and behaviors that defy belief. Yet I’m aware that most people that live in cities will only see these organisms in TV documentaries; biodiversity in urban environments is usually much, much lower than in places with little or no human intervention. Part of my current work focuses on finding out just how diverse insects are in urban environments, how human intervention is affecting insect populations (or will affect them in the future) and what we can do to preserve or increase this diversity. That means that we have to photograph/collect insects, so last night we set up a light trap in an arboretum in the middle of the city. There were plenty of other light sources nearby, as well as streets, cars, houses, small shopping centers and the like, so I wasn’t expecting much; a previous attempt yielded only two microleps to the light trap. Still, I wanted to see what would come.

Not two minutes after setting up the trap, we had our first visitor, a crane fly. We had a few microleps, some bark lice, a few different beetles (Cerambycidae, Staphilinidae and other tiny ones), several wasps and a butterfly or two, among others. It was barren compared to any light trap I’ve set up in the field, but there was something interesting: it was surprisingly diverse! Out of all the insects that came to the trap, I only saw three species that had more than one specimen, and none had more than four. Almost all were very small (under a centimeter), save for three butterflies, one true bug and a wasp. Nevertheless, I considered it a success. More light traps will be set up in the coming months to see just how diverse the arboretum really is.

I’ll leave you with a few pics of some of the insects we saw! Any help with IDs will be greatly appreciated, particularly for the last one.

Compared to the other wasps, this ovipositor was tiny

That tiny “neck” makes me giggle (Braconidae: Microgastrinae)

Another parasitoid with a long ovipositor

Another parasitoid  with a long ovipositor

Bug with two parasitic mites

Each little black mark on this bug is a tiny spine

Lacewings are regular visitors at urban light traps

Lacewings are regular visitors at urban light traps

Palps on this moth look like little horns

Palps on this moth make it look like a furry, winged babirusa

This butterfly looked brown. Use a flash and iridescence does its thing.

This moth looked brown. Use a flash and iridescence does its thing.

An ichneumon wasp, the giant of the light trap (~3 cm)

An ichneumon wasp, the giant of the light trap (~3 cm)

Dorsal and lateral view of the same butterfly

Dorsal and lateral view of the same moth

This ovipositor is almost 3x the wasps body length

This ovipositor is almost 3x the wasp’s body length

Miniature wasp. 1.76 mm long. Yes, millimeters.

Miniature wasp. 1.76 mm long. Yes, millimeters.

Tiny bark louse (Psocidae)

Tiny bark louse (Myopsocidae)

Pterophorids are always fun to watch

Pterophorids are always fun to watch

No clue regarding ID. Ideas?

No clue regarding ID. EDIT: Derek Hennen (@derekhennen) and Wikispecies Editor (@stho002) ID’d it as a dustywing (Neuroptera: Coniopterygidae)

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