Who’s been eating my what?

Charles and I went on a fungi-hunt, or foray, and we saw a ton of this kind of orange stuff on logs. In appearance it’s not unlike breakfast cornflakes. We took a million pictures or so, then submitted our “finds” to iNaturalist. If we don’t know what something is, there’s a chance that either the app’s artificial intelligence or a fellow-naturalist can ID it for us. We learned that this is a kind of Stereaceae fungi. It’s very common, it lives on rotting wood and it also likes to create rotting wood, says FungusFactFriday.com. This branch in our yard is soon to be a log.

Crowded parchment, Stereaceae complicatum

Like I was saying, fellow-naturalists can give you suggestions about what you see. Well, we didn’t see in person what he saw in my original picture. I’m learning that when you go outside, there is a lot more than meets the eye! He thinks that what is eating my Stereaceae are thrips! What the heck is that?!

See the little red critters? Especially at the bottom of the picture.

Google’s first response to “what are thrips” was to basically say, “they’re pests”. The concensus: they will damage crops and plants and reek general havoc to a gardener’s ideal situation. Wikipedia has it that the little varmints will get in your house too, and go after your chairs, tables and computers. Gosh! Nature-and-garden.com says that the majority of the more that 6,000 species-strong thrips family are garden-friendly. The nearly-microscopic insects enjoy dining on various mites, other thrips, plants, and fungi.

Look at ’em go! They’re really chowing down on that fungus!

NCSU’s General Entomology page tells us that thrips are thrips if they are singular or plural, i.e. there’s a thrips and there are some more thrips, (not thripses, my precious) and some thrips only eat fungi. BugGuide.net tells us: that some thrips have wings and some don’t, and even though they are very, very small, they can still bite. The naturalist who introduced thrips to me, said that their ancestors were fungi-eaters from the Mesozoic. Well, that makes sense that some are fungi-fans!

They even have nicknames, says Wikipedia. Something that didn’t seem to exist not too long ago even has other names. Nature is an endless wonder! My favorite of those listed: thunderbugs. Such a tiny creature?! Nature-and-garden.com explains: “A common name for thrips is thunderfly. This is because they drop to the ground in large numbers shortly before thunderstorms! The build-up in static electricity interferes with their flying and they simply drop from the sky.

The next time I go on a fungi foray I will take a closer look…and maybe bring an umbrella!