Looking Down

Sometimes, it pays to look down. There are many creatures going about their lives at ground level. So, while you’re not looking up at the trees or the skies for birds or at the flowers for butterflies and other nectaring insects, keep at least one eye down where you walk, the ground, you might see something interesting.

 

Eight-spotted forester larva.
Eight-spotted forester larva.

 

At first, I wasn’t quite sure what the caterpillar in the above photo was. I thought it might be one of the prominents (Notodontidae), a group of nondescript moth species whose caterpillars are often colorful and interesting. It turned out to be a forester (Noctuidae, subfamily Agaristinae), an eight-spotter forester. I’m familiar with the adult eight-spotted forester, but don’t recall seeing the caterpillar here at the Museum. The adults often visit viburnum in spring.

 

Adult moth eight-spotted forester.
Adult moth eight-spotted forester on viburnum leaf.

 

Further along on the trail, I spotted a green frog sitting quietly in the middle of the path. It cooperated with me in allowing me to take several photos of  itself.

 

Green frog.
Green frog.

 

Looking up briefly, I noticed a large dragonfly, a darner, in a redbud tree in Catch the Wind. It was a female comet darner.

 

comet darner, female.
Comet darner, female.

 

Male comet darners have bright red abdomens.

 

Male comet darner.
Male comet darner.

 

And finally, looking down again, this time into the water, I noticed a backswimmer stroking along the surface of the water in the Wetlands.

 

Backswimmer.
Backswimmer.

 

Backswimmers are predatory aquatic insects who get around by stroking their long hind legs much like you would use oars to row a boat. They do this while upside down, on their backs. By the way, their method of preying on other insects, fish fry, and tiny tadpoles is by grabbing the prey with their shorter front legs and piercing the victim with their beaks, or proboscis. Backswimmers can also pierce your skin with the beak, so careful picking one up.

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