Hello folks who wonder if pigeons are the raccoons of the sky or raccoons are the pigeons of the land,

Pigeons are universally hated for thriving in our cities and pooping on parked cars. But life is not all that rosy for those pigeons, they constantly have to forgo their Weight Watchers point system diet when humans feed them junk delicious food like bread and pringles. Also they are constantly harassed by an ectoparasite called Pigeon louse fly.
Below are a bunch of pigeons acting like geeks and scrambling around when the jocks(read Canada Geese) walk down to show their presence.



One may run into a Pigeon louse fly only if you had a pigeon in hand, since they rarely survive on hosts other than pigeons. Pigeons are their ideal feeding grounds where they parasitize the bird and reap the social security benefits for life by sucking on the blood of their host. They are endowed with specialized claws which help them move through the plumage of the pigeon. To protect them from being crushed they have a hard exoskeleton.

Below is a pigeon louse fly showing its claws and piercing-sucking mouthparts.


But that is not the only threat a pigeon faces from this parasite, the pigeon louse fly routinely provides free rides to another group of hitchhikers who intend to settle in pigeonland to reap the social security benefits.

Avian mites from the family Epidermoptidae are often spotted holding on to this fly so they can be transported from one pigeon to another. But here comes the catch, these mites are hyperparasitic, which means while the young and male mites will happily feed on the pigeon, the females will attach to the pigeon louse fly and lay her eggs on the fly's abdomen. One wonders who had the last laugh in this scenario.


Below is the female attached to the fly abdomen with the cluster of eggs around her.


While we are talking about parasites on birds and parasites on parasites, let's take a look at another parasite often spotted on plants. Scale insects are parasites which make their living feeding off the sap from a plant's vascular system.

One family of the scale insects, Wax scale insects remind me of the spiny shelled turtles commonly spotted on Mario Bros. games. Since they need to suck a lot of sap to get enough nutrients, they will constantly expel the excess from the other end. Honeydew is the sweet, sticky substance that comes out of their rear end. Deposition of excess honeydew on the plant leaf encourages the growth of a fungus called sooty mold.


Below are a group of immobile wax scale insects on the Coyote brush plant.



"When opportunity presents itself, don't be afraid to go after it" is what ants learnt in business school and they make sure they follow it to a tee. Seeing excess honeydew being wasted is not acceptable when there are so many hungry mouths to feed in the colony. 
So some ants like Argentine Ants learnt to hang around these scale insects and collect the excess honeydew, so they do not have to spend time foraging for sugar rich foods.

Below is an Argentine ant determining if the wax scale is ready to take a potty break.



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