Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Sap Tree

I don’t even know what kind of tree it was. But as I made my way from the parking lot down to the lake shore (segment 12) I noticed that a number of insects and butterflies gathered at the base of the tree. Only this tree among all the others along the bank.

There was a large black area at the base of the tree.

A closer view.

At first I thought a mushroom had ‘decomposed’ to leave a black patch which has been common in the woods this Fall. However, the tree appeared to be oozing sap and quite a diverse variety of creatures were puddling. A Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) and an Eastern Comma (Polygonia comma) stopped by for a few seconds but didn’t settle.

A Gemmed Satyr (Cyllopsis gemma)

Sharing the same space with an ant

At first I thought it was a cicada skeleton but a close look revealed it was a beetle. I don’t know what it is. I don’t know if it was alive or not. It looks like it’s cemented in. And it was sharing space with an Eastern Yellowjacket.

The Eastern Yellowjacket (Vespula maculifrons) was dwarfed by a European Hornet (Vespa crabro).

And a closer view of the European Hornet. I’d seen a few of these along the trail over the last few weeks but they were twitchy and flew away as I approached. This one was posing.

I usually go down to the lakeshore by a different route. I’m not sure why I went this way on this day but this was a serendipitous find.

I checked the tree a week later
1. It's an oak.
2. The sap had stopped oozing.
3. The beetle had disappeared so I guess it was alive and not permanently 'glued' into the crevice.
Click on an image to view a larger image

Identification resources:

- Butterflies and Moths of North America: Gemmed Satyr (Cyllopsis gemma)

- BugGuide: Eastern Yellowjacket (Vespula maculifrons)

- BugGuide: European Hornet (Vespa crabro)

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