Female Amanda’s Pennant

October 8th, 2012 - 9:07 PM | Filed under Featured Photos | 3 Comments

~30mm long | August 22, 2012 | Allen David Broussard Catfish Creek Preserve, Haines City, Fl, USA

A female Amanda’s Pennant, Celithemis amanda, perches along a sandy trail in a relatively unvisited state park.

BugShot 2012: Wolf Spiders

September 26th, 2012 - 9:55 PM | Filed under Featured Photos | 1 Comment

I enjoyed BugShot 2012, but didn’t take as much advantage of the setting as I’d hoped. By the time I got to Archbold Biological Station, I was coming down with what turned out to be an upper respiratory infection that would last for several weeks. At the end of each day I mostly just wanted to sleep. Not wanting to totally waste the opportunity, I did venture out for several hours on the final night.

Wolf spiders were everywhere and were easily found by the reflections of their eyes from my headlamp. This lighter colored one was my favorite.

Wolf Spider | August 25, 2012 | Archbold Biological Station, Venus, Fl, USA

That initial shot was more for documentation purposes to aid in potential identification later. With that out of the way,  I decided to get closer…

A closer view

and lower.

Side view

Having been stationary for awhile, my headlamp started attracting insects. The wolf spider capitalized on the situation, yielding my favorite shot.

A wolf spider with prey attracted by the photographer’s headlamp.

To get these shots I ended up chasing it around quite a bit. Each time, I’d try to carefully remove as much debris as possible from around it for a cleaner background. I got rid of the bigger bits, but there was still lots of smaller stuff left. I suppose controlling that sort of thing is one advantage of studio shots.

I ended up with a few decent shots and lots of sand all over myself and my equipment.

There were also some darker colored wolf spiders that really stood out against the white sand. When viewed amid the dry vegetation, however, they were difficult to spot.

Wolf spider camouflaged in grass

This particular spider captured my attention in a way I hadn’t expected. When you’re shining for spiders using a headlamp, you usually see just a few reflections from their large forward facing eyes. When my lamp light shone on this one, however, I thought I’d found a walking jewel. Light reflected from all the eyes of the babies she carried on her back, as if from a multifaceted gemstone!

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

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.

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.

Poison Ivy Caterpillar / Dimorphic Macalla Moth

May 20th, 2012 - 4:36 PM | Filed under Featured Photos | 3 Comments

For many years I’ve noticed colorful little caterpillars that live individually in silken retreats on the surface of leaves of poison ivy. At a recent BugGuide gathering, a photo of one of these caterpillars was shown and I realized we still didn’t know what these were. I resolved then to rear a few to try and arrive at an identification. There’s plenty of poison ivy near my home, so I didn’t anticipate much trouble finding a few.

Here’s the first one I found. The white area just behind the head is atypical. The caterpillar is smaller than usual, so it might be an early instar. It could also represent some sort of injury.

13mm | August 20, 2011 | Roswell, GA, USA

The next day I collected another one, larger.

20mm | August 21, 2011 | Roswell, GA, USA

The next weekend I collected one more.

20mm | August 27, 2011 | Roswell, GA, USA

Here’s a cropped version of the image above, showing the head. Checking these specimens and other photos on BugGuide, there appears to be quite a bit of variability in the head coloration. They all have a white band across the lower part of the head capsule though.

Closeup of head

At that point I figured I had a good chance of successfully rearing at least one.

The last one I collected was the first to pupate. A few days before pupating it started to change color. That’s not unusual for caterpillars as they prepare to pupate. In this case it darkened to become more orange.

Prepupal stage of final instar | 9 September 2011

Another closeup of head

I neglected to photograph any of the pupae.

Earlier this month, an adult eclosed. It’s attractive and quite distinguished looking with an elaborate headdress.

20mm wingspan | 4 May 2012

Lateral view

Front view

Closeup of head

After searching through various guides, I decided this must be what’s currently known as Macalla superatalis. My books actually identified it as part of a genus it was previously placed in, Epipaschia. The common name, Dimorphic Macalla (previously Dimorphic Epipaschia), refers to the fact that it comes in two color forms: green as above, or tan.

Having arrived at the identification, I checked BugGuide and found that someone had beat me to the identification based on a literature search. Oh well, it looks like I might be the first there to have successfully reared them though.

References:

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