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blobs - Epicypta

blobs - Epicypta
Donalds, Abbeville County, South Carolina, USA
March 19, 2008
Size: ~3mm long
I realize these aren't bugs in the usual sense. I asked Dr. Steven Stephenson, a slime mold expert, to have a look and he says they aren't related to slime mold plasmodium. They move very slowly and seem to merge when two blobs get close to one another. When moving a black tip sometimes appears at the "head". They apparently leave the dryer material behind them where it stays smeared over the surface of the wood. Any help is appreciated! I'm keeping an eye on them.

Images of this individual: tag all
blobs - Epicypta blobs - Epicypta larva shedding covering - Epicypta

Moved from Unsolved bug-related mysteries.
Thanks for taking a look Chris! I've made a new guide page and added your comments to it. I realize the genus ID is not 100% certain, but people can take a look at your comment on this image to get the full story. I think these images are better placed here than buried in a sea of mycetophilids that have only been identified to family.

Moved from ID Request.

Kim, I moved these images to the page we have set-up for just such fascinating mysteries. As it had been about a month since you posted, I didn't want your photos to get totally buried in ID Request. I had been following the discussion surrounding your images with great interest and certainly hope that more information and/or opinions will surface regarding these strange beings. Either way, thank you so much for documenting and sharing with us!

Well, here's a lead to pursue, maybe. The larva reminded me of a very fat fungus gnat larva, so I just checked my notes on natural history oddities, and found this (from Packard 1878):

"the larva of Mycetophila scatophora carries on its back a sheath formed of its own excrements and molded by means of a peculiar undulatory motion of the skin. the pupae remain within the sheath, but before pupating the larva extends the sheath anteriorly in a short neck, and tapestries it on the inside with a pellicle, which renders it more tough and resisting."

The species referred to is now called Epicypta scatophora.

Defnitely a mycetophilid, likely Epicypta
These larvae do appear to be mycetophilids as suggested by Charley. There are two genera that are known to cover themselves with frass, Phronia and Epicypta and these are likely the latter as Phronia coverings are usually described as hard in the literature. Therefore this is likely an Epicypta larva though I would not be able to give this a species name with out seeing adult specimens as there are a number of species.
Were these reared out? If so it would be great to have associated larval and adult material!
In terms of biological info Epicypta larvae are know to feed on slime molds and other fungal hyphae on the surfaces of wet wood, which is what it looks like they are doing here.
Great pictures, thanks for posting them!

I'm so glad you all were able to figure out this mystery. No, I didn't try rearing them and very unfortunately my dog stepped on the log right in the area where these guys were and since the log was pretty rotten it completely demolished the area where I'd found them. I haven't seen any more since but I do have at least several hundred pics of these guys - they were very fascinating! Again, thanks so much.

sounds promising
Thanks, sounds very like these guys. I hope someone can shed more light on these creatures.

Wow. How interesting!
The behavior you described sure does sound like a slim mold. That's when they are about to send off spores. Keep an eye on'em.

Not consistent with slime mold behavior
I asked a mycologist collegue, Rosanne Healey, about this interesting posting; here is her perspective:

I don't know of any slime molds that have a retractable black "head" as described and depicted here. Also, once a slime mold has started to make a fruiting structure, it doesn't tend to move. Plasmodial slime molds can move in the zoospore or amoeboid stage, but are microscopic at that point. They can migrate in the plasmodial stage - which is distinctive because the plasmodium looks like egg white (or yellow, or red), and is amorphous. The things on [this BugGuide posting] have a definite, uniform shape, and apparently move - which is not consistent with slime mold behavior. Hope someone can shed some light on this!!

Maybe they are larvae covered in a protective substance that they shed, and when I saw one "separating" it was just shedding some excess material.

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