2012 International Rock Flipping Day

September 10th, 2012 - 10:33 PM | Filed under Featured Photos | 3 Comments

Yesterday was International Rock Flipping Day. I’ve read about it in the past, but this is the first year I’m participating.

I don’t really need an excuse to flip a rock and explore what’s beneath, but the whole event certainly motivated me to get my blog posts going again. I have been busy outside of blogging, so there’s plenty of good stuff coming up, so don’t give up on me.

Yesterday was beautiful here in my area, so I already had plans to go bug hunting. Knowing I’d be looking for a rock to flip, I chose a nearby park where I knew there were lots of good candidates. Here’s the rock I settled on after being distracted by lots of other interesting critters along the way.

A stone lies on the sun-dappled floor of an eastern deciduous forest, begging to be flipped.

I carefully turned over the rock, hoping for something blogworthy. On the ground beneath, a centipede uncoiled, drawing my initial interest. Scanning the scene, I also saw a millipede and a few ants. Then, movement on the underside of the rock itself drew my attention. A harvestman in the family Cosmetidae betrayed its presence.

~5mm body | September 9, 2012 | Roswell, GA, USA

I’ve seen this type of harvestman before, and a photo of that one submitted to BugGuide has since been identified as belonging to the genus Vonones.

Here are some of my favorite shots of this harvestman, the only thing from that rock that I chose to photograph for the 2012 International Rock Flipping Day.

Coming over a ridge in the rock and exposing some interesting anatomy.

The harvestman shows its butt.

Having made its way around to the top of the rock, the harvestman continues its evasive maneuvers.

Tiring now from the constant corralling of the photographer, it attempts a stare-down.

The photographer having tired of the chase, the harvestman finally escapes.

 

Black-Dotted Ruddy / Holly Looper

July 23rd, 2012 - 11:10 PM | Filed under Featured Creatures | No comments

Being National Moth Week, I have every excuse to post about one of my favorite subjects. Admittedly, I get more excited about caterpillars, but I enjoy seeing the moths that most of them become.

Back at the end of April, I was distracted by something while going to check the mailbox. Actually, I’m often distracted any time I venture into my yard, but that’s kind of the point of having one for me. Anyway, some large hollies form a hedge along part of my driveway. I spotted a caterpillar dropping from from the holly to the ivy beneath it. I grabbed it for a closer look and started scanning the holly for others. I quickly found another one and brought them inside for rearing. Less than a month later, I was rewarded with a Black-Dotted Ruddy, Ilecta intractata.

25mm | May 17, 2012 | Twelvestones, Roswell, GA, USA

The common name refers to the four black dots, one centrally located on each wing, which help identify it.

The plumose antennae identify this specimen as a male.

Male, based on the feathery antennae

The caterpillars were plain green, which camouflages them well in holly foliage.

~19mm | Dorsal view of plain green caterpillar

Because of their plain appearance, I figured they would be difficult to identify. As it turns out, if I’d just cross-referenced the food plant, I’d have identified them pretty easily. The caterpillars are in fact known as Holly Loopers.

Demonstrating the source of its common name, looper.

They feed exclusively on holly, but don’t seem picky about which variety. I have a different type of holly in my backyard, and I found a dozen or so feeding on it as well. In fact, it was difficult to find a leaf that didn’t show evidence of their feeding behavior. As they feed, they notch out deep cuts.

Notching the leaf as it feeds

It didn’t spin a cocoon, so it probably pupates in soil normally. That would explain why it was dropping from the holly when I first encountered it.

10mm | Pupated around May 3, 2012

Here’s hoping that you’re distracted by a few moths this week. Just leave an outdoor light on for them, and you’re sure to be rewarded with something interesting.

References:

Peterson Field Guide to Moths of Northeastern North America
by David Beadle and Seabrooke Leckie
A Field Guide to Moths of Eastern North America
by Charles V. Covell, Jr.
Caterpillars of Eastern North America
by David L. Wagner

Aruba’s Fontein Cave Art

July 16th, 2012 - 10:30 PM | Filed under Featured Photos | No comments

Fontein Cave | April 23, 2012 | Arikok National Park, Aruba

Arikok National Park contains the most well known of Aruba’s caves. I visited one of them, Fontein Cave, guided by a park ranger.

Arawak indians inhabited Aruba around 1000 AD. They adorned the walls of this cave and others with petroglyphs.

At the park’s visitors center, a display suggested that the following petroglyph might be an ironclad beetle.

Ironclad beetle, stylized, so forgive the missing legs

My guide quizzed me on a few others. I was asked about this one first.

Bzzzzt, what do you think this represents?

I guessed honeycomb. My guide smiled and vigorously nodded.

Bees were definitely on my mind though. I had just seen a bee hive in the limestone not far from the cave entrance.

Bee hive entrance in limestone.

As I stared at the bees coming and going, I started to wonder if I might be watching killer bees, since I was well within their range. As that thought crossed my mind, I was suddenly stung on my arm. Fighting the urge to run, I calmly walked away, without further incident.

Getting back to the cave though, my guide shone his light on another spot. Here, I had no clue what the petroglyph might represent.

Can you guess what this might be?

I’ll leave that one as a challenge of sorts. Feel free to comment with your guess. I’ll post a comment later on with what my guide told me.

Striped Anole, Displaying

July 14th, 2012 - 10:22 PM | Filed under Featured Photos | No comments

April 23, 2012 | Arikok National Park, Aruba

The Striped Anole, Anolis lineatus, was probably the species of lizard I most encountered in Aruba. I assume the common and scientific names refer to those dark broken lateral stripes, but it’s known locally as Waltaka.

Here’s another one, a female perhaps.

Female? Or a young male?

My earlier post of the lizard on a tree is also one.

After a good bit of googling, I came across a good free resource on the reptiles and amphibians of Aruba, link below.

Reference:

Amphibians and Reptiles of Aruba
by R. Andrew Odum
PDF hosted at WildAruba

Yellow/Black Treehoppers with Ants

July 14th, 2012 - 9:06 PM | Filed under Featured Photos | No comments

~5mm | January 7, 2012 | Tupaciguara, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Here’s yet a different species of colorful treehopper. These too were found in association with ants.

A busy photo, but packed with natural history.

Roosting Bats in Aruba

July 10th, 2012 - 11:31 PM | Filed under Featured Photos | No comments

April 23, 2012 | Arikok National Park, Aruba

While hiking around in Arikok National Park, I spotted from a distance some bats flying around below a small limestone overhang. I approached just close enough to snap a few pictures for possible identification.

I’m not nearly as close as this picture might suggest. I used my 100mm macro with a 1.6x teleconverter. This is also a significant crop from the original photo.

It appears I may have upset them, although I didn’t know that at the time. I’m surprised by their reaction. I didn’t figure my activity would disturb them. They weren’t in a cave, just beneath an overhang where there was plenty of indirect light. They were restlessly flying around even before I approached, perhaps trying to find a dark corner.

Those are some sharp little teeth! I assume they are bared for effect, since they seem to be staring straight in to the camera lens. It was a hot day though, so maybe they’re panting?

I found a couple of possible species for these bats, but I don’t have any confidence in saying which one these might be.

Ants Tending Treehoppers, Poorly Perhaps

July 9th, 2012 - 11:36 PM | Filed under Featured Photos | No comments

~3mm | January 7, 2012 | Tupaciguara, Minas Gerais, Brazil

I had planned to post just a single photo of this scene with ants tending treehoppers. Here we see at least two different colorful treehopper instars, with one actively molting. Ants like the one shown above tended to this small grouping of treehoppers. As I was choosing a photo to post, I noticed something strange about the treehoppers though. Do you see it too?

Look closely and you’ll see that a few nymphs have parasites. I wasn’t sure at first, so I started looking through my other photos. Sure enough, almost every one had one or more parasites. The parasites seem to prefer hiding under the wing pads and below the thorax.

Note the orange parasites hanging below the uppermost treehopper nymphs

See the parasites peeking out from beneath the wing pads of the lower nymph?

Most of the parasites were small, but there were at least a few plump ones.

Note large parasite on uppermost nymph

None of the photos provided a clear view of the parasites, but I suspect they are mites. In any case, apparently the services provided by the ants don’t include grooming.

Lynx Spider Guarding Egg Sac

July 8th, 2012 - 5:56 PM | Filed under Featured Photos | No comments

~10mm | January 7, 2012 | Tupaciguara, Minas Gerais, Brazil

On the underside of a leaf, an attractive lynx spider guards her egg sac.

Dorsal view

Aruban Lizard on Tree

July 5th, 2012 - 9:01 PM | Filed under Featured Photos | 1 Comment

April 23, 2012 | Arikok National Park, Aruba

Aruba could easily be called “Lizard Island”. You can’t take a step without seeing a few scurrying away. I don’t think there’s a square inch of sand that doesn’t have a lizard track in it.

Checkered-Fringe Prominent Rearing

July 4th, 2012 - 5:43 PM | Filed under Featured Photos | No comments

30mm | 29 October 2011 | Suwanee, GA, USA

This was one of the last caterpillars I collected last year for rearing. I generally stop looking around the end of October.

This particular caterpillar is fairly distinct and easily recognized as Schizura ipomoeae. The stripes on the head capsule are diagnostic.

Head on view

The adult on the other hand is more difficult to recognize, I think. I’d have probably given up identifying it if I didn’t already know what it was based on the caterpillar. This particular one emerged in early May.

20mm long | 11 May 2012

You might have noticed I haven’t posted anything in awhile. I get a lot of enjoyment from posting here, and I remain committed to doing so whenever possible. Lately it just hasn’t been a priority for many reasons. Hopefully, I’ll now be able to get back to posting more regularly.