Top Photo: Annual cicada.
Two more dragonfly species have made a showing in the Wetlands, Halloween Pennant and Banded Pennant. Halloween Pennants can often be seen in fields on the tips of tall weeds or the bare twigs of shrubs, facing into the wind and waving in the breeze like a tiny pennant. The male’s orange and black coloration gives them their common name.
If you look hard enough, you can find grasshoppers in just about every month of the year. However, over the past few weeks I’ve noticed more than just a few band-winged grasshoppers about. Band-winged grasshoppers have colored wings which are very obvious in flight (they may be mistaken for a butterfly or moth). These hoppers usually fly off about twenty feet or so when disturbed, but may make longer flights if necessary. The grasshoppers that I’ve been seeing are Carolina Band-winged Grasshoppers. Although they blend in very well with their surroundings when sitting on the ground, their yellow-white bordered, black wings make them very easy to spot and identify when they take to the air, which is usually when you’re just about to unknowingly step on them.
I thought I heard a cicada warming up its whiny, whirring song on the 21st, a Saturday. I’d forgotten about it until I heard several of them calling the following Wednesday morning. Annual Cicadas, also called Dogday Harvestflies, crawl up from their underground haunts, emerge from their nymphal skins, and start calling about the same time as the summer heat kicks in for good. Cicadas are the champion diurnal insect noisemakers. They’re still just warming up.
Recently, I’ve seen a dozen or so tiger beetles just off the paved path between Catch the Wind and Explore the Wild, on the back side of the Loop. I was finally able to catch and identify one of the beetles, Eastern Red-bellied Tiger Beetle. The abdomen is reddish in color (image here – abdomen sticking out from rear of wings or back of beetle). Several visitors were also able to get a close look at the beetle while I kept it in a small vial and showed it to whoever had an interest in seeing it (it was later released). They’re common and widespread among Tiger Beetles. Look along dirt roads. They usually see you coming before you see them, flying off and landing about 10-12 feet ahead of you.
I also caught and released a Dogbane Beetle, or Dogbane Leaf Beetle. These shiny, iridescent green beetles feed on Dogbane – the larva on the roots, the adults on the leaves. Dogbane grows in several places around the Catch the Wind/Explore the Wild Loop. One particularly easy to view location is just outside the Lemur House. You’ll see a group of these plants growing on your right when you make the right-hand turn towards Catch the Wind as you leave the Lemur House. If you look closely I’m sure you’ll see one of these small, handsome beetles, maybe even a mating pair.
If you’ve ever wondered what Bahiagrass and Peanuts have in common, your search is over. Bahiagrass is frequently planted as a rotation crop for Peanuts. Where Bahiagrass is used, the larva or grub of Derobrachus brevicollis or Bahiagrass Borer often kills some of the subsequent peanut crop by cutting off the tap root of the plants. An adult of one of these large, red-brown beetles with rather long antennae (they’re Long-horned Beetles), was aroused from slumber as the umbrellas at the Ornithopter were being opened for the day (the beetle was inside an umbrella).
Little Wood-Satyrs are dancing about the edges of the woods – the butterflies that is! These smallish, brown butterflies have two large eye-spots on each of their four wings. The spots are on both the upper and lower surface of the wings. Another related species, Carolina Satyr, lacks the spots on the upper surface of the wings. You’re most likely to see Little Wood-Satyrs down low, “bouncing” in and out of the shadows along the edge of the woods.