Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Winter Mosquito?

Our "mosquito" - a non-biting midge.  REK

In the last blog I posted "Two weeks earlier I saw an insect fly slowly and land on the kitchen counter.  It sat there patiently while I got my camera to document it as a visiting "mosquito" in mid- December.  I can't identify it to species."  Kevin Firth then sent me this suggestion.

"I think your winter mosquito might actually be a Chironomidae family (non-biting midge). From what I recall of my fishing days, midges are about the only aquatic insect that will hatch in every month of the year, so winter trout fishing (never something that held any appeal for me) is all about midge flies."

I think he is right and I missed it.  After a shallow dive into a deep subject here is what I have come up with.

  • Proboscis - Extends forward on a mosquito, non visible on this insect.
  • Antennae - Both have plumose antennae with the mosquito having shorter hairs in front and increase in length to the rear. (1)
  • Wings - Mosquito wings tend to be longer than their body.  The midge's wings do not extend beyond the end of its body. (2)
  • Midges hold their body straight on a side view while mosquitoes have a humped back. I noticed this but couldn't get a photograph.
  • Midges fly slower than mosquitoes, which was striking watching this insect hover slowly over the sink before landing. (3)
  • A mosquito's wings bear scales which create a fringe-like border on the trailing or posterior edge.  Because the midge's wings are not covered in scales, there is no visible "fringe" along the edge of each wing" and they are clear like a pane of glass.
  • Finally midges tend to fly in all seasons.  Winter trout fishermen use midge patterns because the trout know this.  "Midges are, basically, the most important source of food for trout. In fact, midges are the bulk of a trout’s diet November thru February. Midges are a major food source year-round for trout.  They hatch in freezing temperatures and hatch by the thousands.  When aquatic insects are less inactive in the winter, opportunistic trout key in on drifting midge larvae. Because midges mature and develop year-round, trout depend on them for easy pick’ins". (4)

I am grateful for Kevin's response and the education.  Until I hear different from a more authoritative source, I think this winter critter is a non-biting midge.


  1. Ask Nature 
  2. Thoughtco 
  3. Pediaa 
  4. Theflycrate

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Pests of Winter


I just had my first Christmas Day tick.  Just a little itching on the underside of my forearm led me to the surprise.  I have to give it points for tenacity, engorging on a 34 degree day but it didn't survive the tweezers.  Identification of an engorged tick is difficult but I can rule out a Lone Star tick.  This is most likely a Dog Tick.  

Deer ticks that can transmit Lyme Disease will occasionally come out of dormancy to bit on moderate winter days.  I have never seen a Black Leg Tick/Deer Tick (Ixodes scapularis) in 20 years and we are at the western edge of their territory according to the CDC.  Infectious disease doctors locally tell me that the uncommon Lyme Disease cases they see are generally acquired from the eastern US.

We tend to talk about late spring as tick season here in the Ozarks but apparently this one hadn't checked the calendar.   

"In general, the species of ticks that transmit diseases to humans in the U.S. tend to become inactive during the winter. The combination of cold weather and shorter days triggers a kind of hibernation, known as diapause, says Ellen Stromdahl, a retired entomologist from the tick-borne disease laboratory of the U.S. Army Public Health Center at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland."  Consumer Reports

Winter Mosquito - December 12, 2020

Note:  See next post, I now think this is a non-biting midge.

 Two weeks earlier I saw an insect fly slowly and land on the kitchen counter.  It sat there patiently while I got my camera to document it as a visiting mosquito in mid- December.  I can't identify it to species.

According to multiple sources in cold weather—below 50° F, according to the Connecticut Mosquito Management Program—mosquitoes aren’t active.  "Winter" is a relative term and the first first 12 days of December had 4 nights barely below freezing after a low of zero on December 1 according to the National Weather Service.  Either way this is one tough mosquito.

Lots of other "bugs" show up in our creek house in addition to the ones we bring in for study.  Spiders, beetles, flies and crickets are common.  While most normal people bring out the insecticide, we tend to collect and identify them.  We are not alone in this.  Researchers at North Carolina State University have conducted a study of  Arthropods in our Homes.

As discussed in Zmescience, they studied 50 homes within a 30 mile radius.  

"In total, they searched over 500 rooms, and just 6 of them were insect-free. To be honest, they probably also missed some insects because they never checked underneath carpets and in drawers or cabinets."

“The vast majority of the arthropods we found in homes were not pest species,” Bertone says. “They were either peaceful cohabitants – like the cobweb spiders (Theridiidae) found in 65 percent of all rooms sampled – or accidental visitors, like midges and leafhoppers (Cicadellidae).”

Click to enlarge - Zmescience

I think you will find this detailed summary of their finds as interesting as I did, or else you will be putting in a call to your local exterminator.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Stinkhorn Eggs

I found these white rubbery eggs when I rolled over a rotting log.  I didn't know if they were animal or plant in origin but suspected they were fungi based on the stringy root like structures resembling mycelia.  Mark Bower quickly confirmed that they were stinkhorn fungus eggs.   Stinkhorn eggs commonly occur in mulch, gardens, etc, but also can be found in the forest or in grass. 

Curiosity overcame any sympathetic feelings of parenthood and I sliced one open with a razor blade.  The skin was thin and the green mass was jelly-like.  The white portion felt more like a mushroom in consistency.  Now feeling a moral responsibility for the young ones,  I quizzed Mark further.  I asked Mark to provide more information on fungus eggs. 


"Those stringy things are rhizomorphs, also called mycelial cords. Numerous parallel hyphae twist together like a rope. This allows for more efficient transport of water and nutrient than a mess of individual hyphae. What you have there is a stinkhorn egg. The ingredients should have been gelatinous. They are actually edible, people pickle them. This is something I would never recommend, since they can be confused with Amanita eggs."   (Bower)

It didn't take much prodding to get him to expand on his favorite subject.          ===================================================

Who doesn’t like to have eggs for breakfast? Well, before you dig in to your stinkhorn eggs and ham, make sure you know what you’re eating. There are other “eggs” in the woods which may not be so appetizing! A good practice when gathering round white fungi such as puffballs and stinkhorn eggs is to slice each one in half and examine the interior. Puffballs should have a solid white interior, with no “mushroom-like” structure present. Also, the skin of the puffball should be thin and easily torn. With stinkhorn eggs, you should see the structure of a nascent stinkhorn, with the olive-colored spore mass present.

Outline of cap

The eggs above look similar to stinkhorn eggs or puffballs, but the interior has the outline of a baby Amanita as seen on the right. Consuming one Amanita egg could easily kill a person (photo by Mark Stinmetz).  

(Editor's note: Never eat any fungus unless it identified by an expert like Mark, preferably one without his sense of humor.  If he hands one to you to eat and starts to photograph your expression, run away)

Here is another example of eggs you do not want to have for breakfast. They are “Pigskin Puffballs”. The interior is solid white when they are young, but quickly turns purple. The important identifying feature of these fungi is their thick, tough skin. They are poisonous, but probably won’t kill you.  
Seriously, you think anyone would consider eating that black mass?

There is only one thing more fun than eating an ugly, gelatinous stinkhorn egg. Take an egg or two home, along with some of the dirt. Place them in a bowl and keep them moist. Within a few days the eggs will “hatch” and the stinkhorn will emerge. Once they break through, they can grow to adulthood in a matter of a few hours! At right is Phallus impudicus, which I hatched on our kitchen counter. The aroma was delightful! You can see the action in this video.

Mark is a mushroom expert and a fantastic physician but a gourmet of eggs he ain'tPoor Jan!


Mark explained the speed of stinkhorn birth from an egg in this 2019 blog.
He showed us some different stinkhorn shapes in this blog.