Chrysis sp. “Cuckoo Wasp” Chrysididae

Missoula, MT
May 17, 2016
Robert Niese

Cuckoo Wasps are a massive, possibly polyphyletic group of parasitic wasps. More than half the members of this giant family are placed in the genus Chrysis (more than 1000 species!). Undoubtedly, in the coming years this genus will be stripped, split, and reorganized in favor of a more monophyletic and phylogenetically accurate set of genera. As their common name might suggest, cuckoo wasps lay their eggs in the nests of other wasps, and many specialize on a single host species. This lovely individual appeared to be waiting outside an old nail hole on the side of my house that was occupied by a cavity-nesting wasp of some sort.

Niebla spp. “Fog Lichen”

Mt. Tamalpais State Park, Marin County, CA
December 29, 2015
Robert Niese

So far in my brief foray into lichenology, I have yet to encounter a fungus so hotly debated as the “Niebla” fog lichens (members of a complex of “Ramalina-like” maritime lichens). Rather than venture an opinion as to the identity of these species (or just one species?), I’ll just leave the name at the genus level (although even THAT is debatable). For those of you interested, various parties claim everything from 1 to 42 to 100s of species of Niebla occur on Pacific Coasts of North America. Most agree, however, that diversity is much lower north of Baja California and the Channel Islands, and that the PNW is only home to one (N. cephalota) or, at most, three species. Although some sources state that no species occur north of Humboldt County, CA…