With the heat comes the insects. As the season moves along more and more insects have begun to hatch, emerge, or arouse. As you already know (if you’ve been reading this journal), insects spend the cold months as either eggs, larvae, pupae, or even as adults, tucked away in some crevice, under the ground, underwater, or in the trunk of a tree or other such safe haven.
Spending their time underwater feeding, resting, and growing, odonata are now emerging from their watery worlds with increasing frequency to become dragonflies and damselflies.
Besides the Comet Darner above, I’ve also seen Swamp Darner flying about Catch the Wind.
It seems as though that each day that I step into the Wetlands I see a new species. Seventeen species have been seen this season (as of 5/11/10). Many more are sure to follow.
Keep an eye out for spittle along the paths of the outdoor exhibit areas. The spittle comes from the larvae of spittlebugs and is used as a protective coating and thermal regulator for the larvae that reside within the white foamy mass.
Spittlebugs are small, about 3/8″ or 8-10 mm in length. Some spittlebugs are brown hued while others are quite colorful. They all belong to a group of insects called hoppers. Although they can fly, they also have the ability to catapult themselves into the air for a fast escape from predators, or if being harassed by nosy entomologists.
Chinese Mantids (Tenodera aridifolia sinensis), as the common name implies, are not native to North America, they were introduced to control pest insects. These guys eat just about anything that walks, crawls, hops, or flies near them, pest or beneficial insect alike. However, they’re so widespread and successful that it seems as though they will forever be a part of our North American faunal inventory.
Beetles have been active. Several leaf beetles and a stem borer are noteworthy.
The Willow Leaf Beetle at right is apparently another introduced species, this time from Europe.
Lepidoptera, the butterflies and moths, have also been more obvious over the past several weeks.
American Snout butterflies have elongated mouthparts (labial palpi) which seem to help in this butterfly’s attempt at concealing itself from predators, a form of camouflage. The “snout” along with the cryptic coloration of the underwings give the appearance of a dead leaf with stem attached, the snout being the stem. This wouldn’t seem to work so well in spring or summer when the leaves are green, but this is a very common butterfly so whatever function the “snout” performs, it seems to be doing its job well.
And finally a moth.
There’s a cultivar of Eastern Redbud (Forest Pansy) next the Ornithopter in Catch the Wind. As I walked by this small tree one day, I noticed that one of the leaves was folded over onto itself. Folded leaves usually means “caterpillar inside.” Sure enough, a tiny caterpillar appeared when the leaf was unfolded.
Contrary to its name, this caterpillar, or moth, is not confused. It’s more the entomologists who are confused as to where to place this moth, taxonomically, that is.
If you’re confused as to where the woodgrain part of its name derives, worry no more. The adult moth’s wings have a woodgrain pattern.
Have a good one…