Symphytos Contributed Pieces
Contributed Pieces


Neodiprion Collecting Report
Sawflies at NMNH
Sawflies in Poetry

Posted 4 September 2003:

2002 North American Neodiprion Collecting Report

In the summer of 2002, I made four trips to collect Neodiprion and other diprionids occurring in North America: a trip to the northwestern USA in early June, a trip to Ontario, Canada in late June; a second trip to Ontario in August; and a day trip to Plymouth, Massachusetts in late September. The following are descriptions of where I went and what I found on each trip. All species identifications are preliminary - they are my best guesses based on phenology, host plant, and larval coloration. I am currently rearing adults to confirm these identifications.

Northwestern USA, 14-21 June 2002

In early June, I flew into Sacramento, California to start my 2002 field season. I collected in several spots in northern California (particularly in the Shasta Trinity National Forest). I then headed north into Oregon, where my collecting was focused mainly in the Bend-Sisters area (Deschutes and Willamette National Forests). I was fortunate enough to spend a day collecting with Andy Eglitis, an entomologist at Deschutes. Finally, I continued heading north into Washington and collected in several spots in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest before flying out of Seattle.

Things were a couple of weeks behind this year, and I was mainly finding early instar larvae (first through third instars), but numbers were nevertheless high in some areas, and I brought home a good number of specimens. First, I collected numerous colonies of N. autumnalis feeding on ponderosa pine in northern California. In one location of planted pines (Living Memorial Sculpture Garden, near Weed, CA), numbers were so high that just about every tree had multiple colonies. I reared a subset of these larvae, and found that I had also collected what appeared to be N. mundus, which can be distinguished from N. autumnalis by a reddish brown head capsule in the pentultimate larval instar (Dahlsten 1966). Second, I collected numerous populations of N. abietis feeding on white fir, noble fir, and douglas fir, which preliminary molecular analysis suggests are quite divergent from one another. It is also possible that some N. abietis populations contained N. deleoni individuals, as these have been collected feeding on the same trees as N. abietis in northeastern California (Sheehan and Dahlsten 1985), but I will have to wait for further morphological and molecular analysis to confirm this. Third, I was happy to find several populations of N. scutellatus on douglas fir. These larvae were feeding on both the new and old growth and were often collected on the same trees as N. abietis, but were readily distinguished by their red head capsules and lime green dorsal stripes, especially in later instars. Finally, I suspect that I collected a few colonies on N. nanulus contortae feeding on lodgepole pine and ponderosa pine in California and Oregon.

Ontario, 25 June-2 July 2002

After tending to the live material I brought home from the Northwest, I rented a car and made the long drive from Cambridge to Ontario to collect the egg-overwintering larvae occurring there. I started out in the southeastern part of the province, collecting in several spots between Peterborough and Bancroft. I then drove Northwest to Sault Ste. Marie, where I spent just over a day looking at the Neodiprion collection and recording locality data at the Great Lakes Forestry Research Center. After my visit, I headed back east, making several detours to historically productive collecting locations along the way (some currently productive collecting locations included areas near Espanola, Cartier, and Chalk River).

I collected a good number of specimens on this trip, and in contrast to my first trip, was running into mainly late instar larvae. I collected buckets of N. abietis larvae feeding on balsam fir. These larvae seemed to have an affinity for roadside trees and were very easy to spot- the larvae feed exclusively on the old growth and skeletonize the needles, which subsequently turn a rusty color. I also collected a smaller number of N. abietis on white spruce, often in the same locations as balsam feeding colonies. Interestingly, preliminary molecular analysis is consistent Knerer and Atwood's (1972, 1973) hypothesis that balsam- and spruce-feeding populations of N. abietis may in fact be different species. N. sertifer numbers were also high, and I collected populations on mugho, red and jack pine. I collected several colonies of N. pratti banksianae on roadside jack pine in the more northwestern locations (e. g., Espanola) and N. pratti paradoxicus on jack pine in the more southeastern locations (e. g., Chalk River). N. nanulus nanulus seemed to be present wherever N. pratti was found, and I collected numerous colonies and individuals on roadside jack pine. Finally, I collected several non-Neodiprion diprionids, including Gilpinia hercyniae on white spruce, Gilpinia frutetorum on jack pine, and Monoctenus sp. on eastern white cedar.

Ontario, 8-22 August 2002

In August, I made a second trip to Ontario to collect the cocoon-overwintering species. Again, I started in the southeastern portion of the province, spending a day in Pembroke and Chalk River, before heading south to meet up with Ed Czerwinski (Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources) in Bancroft. We collected in the Bancroft area and along the way to Orillia and Sebrite. I then headed north through Parry Sound to Britt and spent a day or so collecting on jack and white pine in rocky outcrops along the road as I headed further north to Cartier and Espanola. I then turned west, stopping by Sault Ste Marie on my way to Thunder Bay. I spent several days in the northwestern part of the province, and on one day met up with Mark Breon (Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources) and Barry Smith (Canadian Forest Service) in Kenora and spent a day collecting with Mark. I then drove east, and spent a few days collecting in the northeastern part of the province (e.g., Chapleau, Timmins, Gogama, and Elk Lake areas) before heading back to Cambridge. By the end of this trip, I had covered close to 2500 miles and collected loads of specimens- by far my most successful trip of the season. I ran into Neodiprion just about everywhere I collected, especially in the northern part of the province. N. virginianus complex, which is thought to consist of two species in Ontario (N. dubiosus and N. rugifrons; Becker et al. 1966), was particularly common, and I encountered a great deal of variation in larval coloration, even between individuals collected at the same site. N. compar, a less gregarious species that can be easily distinguished from other Neodiprion by its mask-marked face, was also widespread, and I collected numerous individuals throughout the province by beating on jack pine. I also collected several populations of N. swainei on jack pine, which were feeding in massive colonies and were about two weeks behind N. virginianus complex in development. N. lecontei was very abundant in some areas, particularly in young red pine plantations in southeastern portions of the province. The rarest species I ran into was N. nigroscutum - I collected a few individuals by beating on jack pine in a couple of spots in the northwestern portion of the province. In addition to collecting loads of Neodiprion, I also collected many other diprionids: 1-2 species of Monoctenus on juniper and eastern white cedar, Diprion similis on white and jack pine, and Gilpinia frutetorum on red pine and jack pine.

Plymouth, 25 September 2002

After my success in Ontario, I was inspired to do some local Massachusetts collecting before the season ended. In particular, I wanted to collect N. pinusrigidae; Dave Smith (SEL) had informed me that this species can be found on pitch pine in late September. Therefore, I drove to Myles Standish State Forest and spent a full day beating on pines and looking for the feeding damage that is so characteristic of Neodiprion colonies (branches with a tufted appearance, owing to their habit of feeding on old growth, and in the cases of recent feeding, leaf fascicles still upon the branch, which give the branch a stubbly appearance). I collected several N. compar larvae, some of which were late instar and others which were in their first or second instar. I also found several white individuals that had the red head capsule and spotted pattern characteristic of N. lecontei. I had only seen the yellow form of N. lecontei, and upon my return I contacted Chip Codella (Kean University), who assured me that he had seen the white form of N. lecontei before. Preliminary molecular results also suggest that these individuals were in fact N. lecontei. Later in the day, I collected a single individual of N. pinusrigidae by beating, so I intensified my search and was rewarded with a small colony at the top of a 10-ft pitch pine. I also collected several cocoons throughout the day by beating, which will hopefully emerge sometime this year. Finally, I collected a single N. pinetum by beating on pitch pine. The normal host for N. pinetum is white pine, so I was a bit surprised, and interestingly, molecular analysis suggest that this individual is quite different from another N. pinetum specimen I collected on white pine in Massachusetts in the previous year.


The 2002 field season was a great success, and I collected over 3000 specimens of 20+ species of Neodiprion and other diprionids occurring throughout the northern USA and southeastern Canada. Over the next year I will work to confirm these preliminary identifications based on larval coloration, phenology, and host plant with adult morphology and, hopefully, molecular similarity to identified museum specimens. I will also venture out into the field in early spring and summer - I will be making two trips to collect the southwestern Neodiprion.

Literature Cited

Becker, G. C., R. C. Wilkinson and D. M. Benjamin. 1966. Taxonomy of Neodiprion rugifrons and N. dubiosus (Hymenoptera: Tenthredinoidea: Diprionidae). Annals of the Entomological Society of America 59:173-178.

Dahlsten, D. L. 1966. Some biological attributes of sawflies in Neodiprion fulviceps complex in a brushfield pine plantation (Hymenoptera: Diprionidae). Canadian Entomologist 98:1055-1082.

Knerer, G., and C. E. Atwood. 1972. Evolutionary trends in subsocial sawflies belonging to Neodiprion abietis complex (Hymenoptera - Tenthredinoidea). American Zoologist 12:407-418.

Knerer, G., and C. E. Atwood. 1973. Diprionid sawflies: Polymorphism and speciation. Science 179:1090-1099.

Sheehan, K. A., and D. L. Dahlsten. 1985. Bionomics of Neodiprion species on white fir in northeastern California. Hilgardia 53:1-24.

-Catherine R. Linnen (MCZ, Harvard)

Posted 5 October 2002:

Sawfly Workshops at NMNH, Washington, DC

Yearly informal meetings in Washington are becoming a nice tradition. In April of 2001, S. Blank, M. Ivie, and A. Zinovjev visited D. Smith for discussions and a collecting trip. In August of 2002, S. Blank, T. Nyman, A. Zinovjev, D. Smith and C. Apgar (formerly Anderson) all convened in Washington.
Mike Ivie and Alexey Zinovjev in front of the NMNH building, April 2001 (photo by S. Blank) Stephan Blank and David Smith collecting sawflies at Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, Maryland in April 2001 (photo by A. Zinovjev) Alexey Zinovjev, Tommi Nyman, Cathy Apgar (formerly Anderson), Stephan Blank, and David Smith, NMNH, August 2002 (photo by Michael Gates)

-Stephan Blank (DEI)
-Tommi Nyman (Joensuu University)
-David Smith (NMNH)
-Alexey Zinovjev (Zoological Institute, St. Petersburg)

Posted 18 September 2001:

A Sawfly Poem From Rocky Mountain House

I am surprised and happy to report the existence a poem that mentions sawflies! There are many works of written and oral literature that use insects as a source of imagery*, but as far as I know this is the only reference to the Symphyta in verse or prose. The piece is by Henry Stelfox, and it appears in his collection When the Sawflies Mate in Summer and Other Alberta Poems (Alberta: Rocky Mountain House, n. d.). Stelfox was born in Cheshire, England and settled in Canada around 1907. He was a noted conservationist and received numerous awards in his lifetime. Mount Stelfox in Alberta is named in his honor. Apparently, the poem is not copyrighted; if anyone knows otherwise, I will gladly correct my oversight.

-Sylvio Codella (Kean University)

*If you're into this sort of thing, see my
Insects in Literature

When the Sawflies Mate in Summer
by Henry Stelfox

When the sawflies mate in summer and the moose

are in their wallows

In the draws which circle round the jack pine hill,

A squaw quite near her cabin stretches moose hides

with her bobbin

While her husband roams the woods more moose to


Killdeer in the lowlands, their plaintive calls are


As coyotes seek to make their morning feast.

There is wildlife in the woodlands, lots of wildlife

in the waters;

It is Godís made Eden land for man and beast.

A wild goose honks its mating call while soaring oíer

the river,

And a mallard drake is calling to its mate;

The southeast wind is soughing through the aspen

and the willow;

As the dawn of day is breaking, the feathered world

is wide-awake.

Glancing down an arbored valley

Which girts around a mountainís base,

In a dreamland where oft I tarry,

I see the hand of God: His face.

As I view the scenic grandeur, mountains silently

standing guard:

My heart is full of rapture, my joy nigh bursts its


Iím viewing natureís wild life pictures, listing to

the wild life Bard;

To the sweetest songs and music, composed by

natureís sounds.

Oh how I love to gaze at the mountains, how I love

to swim in the streams,

In those crystal pure, icy cold fountaions, those rivers

Iíve traveled and seen.

Those pictures which Godís hand has painted,

crowned with the setting sunís beams

And steeped in the nectar of nature, are in this life

like a beautiful dream.

It is after the end of winter,

It is after the breaking of spring,

When nature is clothed in her summer mantle,

It is time when nature is king

When the sawflies mate in summer.

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