The Annual Cicadas have come into full song. Not surprising, the first Cicada Killer of the season was seen on July 8th while I Explored the Wild with a group of Museum Summer Campers. The large wasp was spotted on the rocks just outside the entrance to the Lemur House and was in the same location as one of its kind last year at this time (see Cicada Killer, July 1-15, 2008). These wasps are intimidating for their large size, but I personally don’t know of anyone that has been stung by one. The males can’t sting — they don’t have stingers.
Milkweed Leaf Beetles (Labidomera clivicollis) have chewed through most of the Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) in Catch the Wind. There are four plants next to the Bird Feeder Exhibit which are now nothing more than leafless stalks, although the seed pods are still intact.
If, on your stroll around the Explore the Wild/Catch the Wind loop, you happen to spy tiny black objects on the leaves of Butterfly Weed, look on the underside of the leaf above those leaves. The black objects are frass, or beetle poop. The presence of the frass can only mean one thing: there are beetle larvae somewhere nearby. The three beetle images below are of the frass, larvae, and, finally, an adult beetle.
Although I’ve seen a few Eastern Tiger Swallowtails (including a dark morph — all dark morph Eastern Tiger Swallowtails are females), Pearl Crescent, Hackberry Emperors, American Snouts, Silver-spotted Skippers, and a few other species of butterfly, numbers in general have been down. July is traditionally a slow time for butterflies in our area. We should begin to see more diversity soon.