Fake Eyes, a Lady with a White Spot, and a Skipper with a Silver Spot.

Top Photo: Eyed click beetle prepares to take flight.

Fake Eyes

Eyed click beetles (Alaus oculatus), or eyed elaters (elators), are large beetles in the click beetle family (Elateridae). Click beetles can launch themselves into the air via a spring-loaded latch and hinge mechanism between their abdomen and thorax. If you place the beetle on its back, and it still has plenty of energy stored in its body, it will flip several inches straight up into the air accompanied by a loud CLICK.

The reason for the behavior is not necessarily understood though it’s been suggested that it’s an escape mechanism to perhaps startle a potential predator. It usually does just that to naturalists who handle these beetles for the first time. It may also be a mechanism used by the beetle to right itself when on its back. Beetles do sometimes find themselves upside down, legs kicking at the air.

According to what I’ve researched, the name elater comes from the Greek ELAUNÓ meaning “to drive, propel.”

The climb up.
Over the top.

The beetle in the photos attempted to take flight several times, failing each time. It finally climbed to the top of a seven foot pole, part of a playscape here at the museum, giving it the height it needed to become airborne.

Up go the elytra, out go the hindwings, and in a blur, the beetle’s off.

Eyed click beetles can reach nearly 2 inches in length. The big, black “eyes” are false and apparently meant to scare away those that would harm the beetle.

Eyed click beetle larvae eat the larvae of wood boring beetles.

White Spot

American lady butterflies are attractive, medium sized butterflies which may be found nectaring in our gardens here at the museum. Their flight period on the piedmont is a long one. It’s possible to see a lady nectaring on the current flower of the season from late February to November.

American ladies are members of the “brush foot” family of butterflies (Nymphalidae). The front two legs are reduced in size and have special bristle-like sensory structures attached.

Note the white spot in the pink or orange rectangular portion of the American lady’s forewing, a distinguishing characteristic.

American lady. Arrow points to white spot.
Another American lady nectaring on Virginia sweetspire.
Silver (white) Spot

Silver spotted skippers are large, frenetic members of the skipper family. They’re widespread and common throughout the state. The one pictured is nectaring on verbena-on-a-stick, or Verbena bonariensis, a favorite of many butterflies.

Silver spotted skipper on verbena.

The silver spot is actually white.

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