So, I poked around a while trying to figure out exactly what my winter top-o-the-snow bugs were when I stumbled upon a fabulous website! It’s called…
I searched around their site for a while hoping someone else had submitted something similar to what I had seen, but I couldn’t find anything… so I decided to use their “submit” feature. A recent post on their site let me know that the authors are busy getting a book ready for publishing, so not to be sad if they didn’t get right back to me… And yet, it took no time at all for Daniel to send me this email:
While the creatures in your photographs are all similar in that they were discovered in the snow, taxonomically (and that is how we try to organize on our website) they are unrelated. We are going to split them up and post them independently of one another. We are most curious about the first image, which is obviously a Hymenopteran, but not an ant. We did a web search of “wingless wasp in snow” and were led to a BugGuide page on Gall Wasps. Interestingly, there was an individual found in Massachusetts also walking on the snow in January 2008. It was identified as being in the family Cynipidae, but the species was not identified. Gall Wasps are most difficult to identify to the species level. The posting contained this comment from Richard Vernier: “More accurately a so-called ‘agamous’ female. Just like palaearctic Biorrhiza pallida, this winter generation contains only females, who lay eggs inside winter buds of oak-trees, after having grown-up at the roots of the same host plant.” Encyclopedia.com has a link to a UTube video of a Gall Wasp walking on the snow in Japan. We also recommend the Snow Critters web page.
While I was reading that email, a second email came in:
Your second image is of a Caddisfly, but we don’t want to try to identify it any further than the order Trichoptera, or possibly the Northern Caddisfly family Limnephilidae. We did find a reference on a fishing website to Winter Caddisflies in the genus Psychoglypha that are called Snow Sedges. Troutnut.com also has this comment posted: “Dr. George Roemhild explained to me how he finds these winter caddisflies in February and March: ‘They crawl up on the snowbanks, but when the sun hits their dark wings they melt down out of sight. That’s how I collect them, by walking along looking for holes in the snow.'” We also found a reference to Snow Sedge on the Flyfishing Entomology website, our new favorite etymology reference page. Your third image, the caterpillar, is some species of Cutworm.
Many thanks to Daniel Marlos from What’s That Bug? website for taking the time to identify my bugs for me… (You really shouldn’t have enabled my sloth, Daniel… but thanks, anyway!) Click over his way and send him a donation for the fine work he does!