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Places Caraça Natural Park : Nature Closeups

Silver Argiope with Wasp Prey

November 20th, 2010 - 9:42 AM | Filed under Featured Photos | 2 Comments

January 27, 2010 | Caraça Natural Park, Minas Gerais, Brazil

This spider was on an exposed ridge overlooking the sanctuary. She appears to have caught a nice sized wasp.

This species often creates an X-shaped design (stabilimentum) in their web, and you can just see a hint of one extending to the lower right.

The common name Silver Argiope is consistent with the scientific name (argentata = silvery). Even the common name in Portuguese, Aranha-de-prata, translates as Silver Spider. It is indeed silvery.

Immature Stink Bugs

November 15th, 2010 - 6:00 PM | Filed under Featured Photos | 1 Comment

January 26, 2010 | Caraça Natural Park, Minas Gerais, Brazil

The nymphs of some stinkbug species will stick together, as shown here.

Blow Fly

November 8th, 2010 - 7:33 PM | Filed under Featured Photos | No comments

January 28, 2010 | Caraça Natural Park, Minas Gerais, Brazil

I like the detail in this crop from the first image below. You can even see some pollen grains on and around the foreleg.

I’m pretty sure this is a blow fly, not unlike the common blue bottle fly.

Side View

Dorsolateral View

Velvet Ant

November 7th, 2010 - 1:57 PM | Filed under Featured Photos | 2 Comments

January 27, 2010 | Caraça Natural Park, Minas Gerais, Brazil

I like finding velvet ants, but boy are they tough to photograph in the field. They don’t stand still unless they’re hidden. This crop is the best I could do for this one. I saw one other one like this.

Orb Weaver

November 6th, 2010 - 10:58 AM | Filed under Featured Photos | 1 Comment

January 27, 2010 | Caraça Natural Park, Minas Gerais, Brazil

This orb weaver was safely tucked away inside a leafy retreat.

The general shape puts me in mind of Acanthepeira species here in the US. There is at least one species, A. labidura, in Brazil. I couldn’t find any information on it though.

Crypsis Challenge #5 Reveal

November 2nd, 2010 - 8:50 PM | Filed under Crypsis Challenges | No comments

At least a few people found the caterpillar outlined below, from the last crypsis challenge.

January 27, 2010 | Caraça Natural Park, Minas Gerais, Brazil

I like how effectively it blends in. The dorsal markings match up pretty well with the damaged areas on the leaf.

It has spun a sort of silken lair across the entire leaf as well.

Closer view

Pelecinid Wasp

November 1st, 2010 - 6:31 PM | Filed under Easter Eggs, Featured Photos | 1 Comment

January 28, 2010 | Caraça Natural Park, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Wasps in the family Pelecinidae are distinctive and easily recognized by that long thin abdomen. I’ve see them closer to home as well, but I can’t recall if I’ve ever gotten a decent photo. I do remember chasing after quite a few in vain or watching as one teased me from someplace just out of reach. I got lucky with this one.

What I thought was a red marking turns out to be a small mite.

There’s only one genus, Pelecinus, for this family. There appears to be at least two described species in the tropics.

That long abdomen is used for ovipositing in the soil. Females probe for and oviposit on scarab beetle larvae.

Reference: Wikipedia

Some Army Ant Observations

October 31st, 2010 - 11:06 AM | Filed under Featured Photos | 8 Comments

January 27, 2010 | Caraça Natural Park, Minas Gerais, Brazil

That’s the general scene. I encountered these army ants on the side of the trail towards the end of the afternoon. The odd thing is that I didn’t see much more than what’s shown here. There were a couple of holes in the ground, outside the shot above, but roughly in the upper left and lower right. Despite some searching in the nearby vicinity, I didn’t find any other ant trails. But there were ants streaming in and out of the two holes, forming roughly two paths. The bottom path was moving to the right and the top to the left.

Usually when I encounter army ants, I’m hesitant to get down on my hands and knees and start taking pictures. I’m always afraid they will branch off in my direction while my vision is reduced to what’s in the viewfinder, and the next thing I know I’m covered in them. Having said that, army ants don’t generally give me much pause. Even if they have spread out across the trail, it’s pretty simple to just walk right through them.

On this occasion, they seemed pretty contained, so I sat down and started looking closer. It didn’t take long before I started seeing some myrmecophiles (things that live among the ants). Mostly I saw these:

Myrmecophile

Like the ants, they are fast moving and difficult to photograph. I’d spot one, but it would then be hard to frame it. I decided to mostly keep the camera trained on one of the holes, wait to spot one approaching, and then try to get a picture of it before it disappeared underground. What you see above is the best shot I managed to get of one. I believe it’s a beetle, a rove beetle perhaps.

I also occasionally spotted ant pupae being transported.

Ant pupa

Another ant pupa

Here’s one of the larger soldier ants.

Ant soldier towering over workers

Darkness was approaching, and then something unusual happened. The scene became one of chaos as the paths all but disappeared and instead the ants just sort of carpeted the area. Then, paths became discernible again, but the ants had switched directions!

I would have loved to have watched longer, but there just wasn’t enough light so I continued on the path back towards the sanctuary.

I know that some species of army ants are subterranean, so perhaps these are one of those species.

References:

Latin American Insects and Entomology
by Charles L. Hogue
American Insects:
A Handbook of the Insects of America North of Mexico

by Ross H. Arnett, Jr.

Unexplained Beetle Behavior

October 30th, 2010 - 9:36 AM | Filed under Featured Photos | 1 Comment

January 27, 2010

Caraça Natural Park, Minas Gerais, Brazil

This beetle looks like a buprestid to me. The interesting thing is that it’s splitting this leaf lengthwise. In the second photo, you can see where the cut starts in the upper right. That would seem like an odd way to eat, so I suspect there’s some other purpose. Is anyone familiar with this behavior?

There’s also what appears to be a small wasp hanging out on the elytra.

Velvety Yellow Snout Beetle

October 28th, 2010 - 7:28 PM | Filed under Featured Photos | 2 Comments

January 27, 2010 | Caraça Natural Park, Minas Gerais, Brazil

I resisted the urge to touch this one. It just looks so soft.