Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Buzzing Noise Was A Matter Of Scale

As I walked a tree-lined fencerow, I heard a buzzing noise like the sound of a hot beehive.  I was about thirty feet away from a spruce tree where the sound was coming from when I first heard it.  I went to investigate, thinking I would find swarming bees.  Instead, I found the buzzing noise was a matter of scale - Spruce Bud Scale insects - to be exact.
Yellow jacket feeding on Spruce Bud Scale honeydew
 When I arrived at the spruce tree to see what the buzz was about, I found myself standing in a honeydew rain and being buzzed by many yellowjackets.  The industrious Yellow Jackets were collecting honeydew from the Spruce Bud Scale insects infesting the spruce tree.
This next photo shows a Spruce Bud Scale with a droplet of honeydew.
Spruce Bud Scale and a drop of honeydew
The honeydew could be described as the waste product, or excess, from the scale insects processing of the spruce tree's sap. 
 The yellowjackets seemed to have a difficult time getting to the scale insects because of the pine needles.
Yellowjacket feeding on scale honeydew
  I saw the yellowjackets try all kinds of positions and maneuvers to get to the honeydew source.
Spruce Bud Scale look like buds on a spruce branch
 Here is a close-up photo of some Spruce-Bud Scale insects - they don't look like much more than some kind of lumpy growth on the spruce branches.
Here is another photo of the Spruce Bud Scale.
Spruce Bud Scale on a spruce branch
I guess you could say they look like buds, and come to think of it, that's probably how they got their name.
You would hardly know these were scale insects except for all attention those "lumps" or "buds" were getting from the yellowjackets and the occasional drop of honeydew.
Spruce Bud Scale with yellowjacket feeding on honeydew

   If you look deep into this glistening droplet of honeydew you can see the row of trees in the fencerow and the setting sun over Sideling Hill Mountain - It's rather odd for me to look at my boyhood home area through the lens of the waste product from a Spruce Bud Scale insect.
Spruce Bud Scale with droplet of honeydew
.... To think that I got to experience that view because of hearing a loud buzzing noise that was simply a matter of scale.


  1. Dana, I love how you walk with your eyes and your senses WIDE OPEN. Another fascinating post. The reflection in the droplet is stunning. Sybil

  2. Anonymous6/17/2014

    I was interested in using some of your insect photos (ants tending lycaenid butterflies) for a course I teach. I couldn't find any information on your permission policy. Would that be OK if credited? Thanks.Jennifer

    1. Jennifer,
      I may be able to help with that... I have some additional photos you might like. Message me at dana at naturewalks dot us or on facebook at