Insects Come Alive

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.

fam bluet
Some damselflies can only be identified through capture and close examination. However, I think that this one is a Familiar Bluet (Enallagma civile) based on the field marks that I can see.

(Reference the identification of the damsel here and here)

comet darner
This male Comet Darner (Anax longipes) appeared on May 7 and was accomodating enough to hover out in front of the Wetlands Overlook long enough for me to get several shots like this one.

Besides the Comet Darner above, I’ve also seen Swamp Darner flying about Catch the Wind.

cowt & blda
A Common Whitetail (Plathemis lydia) above and a Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis) share a perch just off the Wetlands Overlook. Both are males.
An Eastern Amberwing waits for the females to appear on the scene. These very small odes are one of my favorites and part of some of my earliest memories.

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.

This white frothy mass of spittle is formed by a spittlebug larva to act as a protective shield against predators, heat and dessication.
An adult Two-lined Spittlebug.

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.

This tiny Chinese Mantis (about 1/2″) was behind a bench next to the Ornithopter in Catch the Wind. Nearby was an empty egg case.
mantis egg case
A mantis egg case from which the mantid above, and perhaps a hundred or more like it, crawled from only days before this picture was taken.

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.

willowleaf beetle
This Willow Leaf Beetle (Chrysomela interrupta) was munching on Hazel Alder leaves in the Wetlands.

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.

flea beetle
This Passionflower Flea Beetle (Disonycha discoidea) is perched upon a Pickerelweed leaf next to the Ornothopter in Catch the Wind. Flea beetles are so named because they often prefer to hop like a flea away from trouble rather than use their wings to fly to safety.
clover borer
A Clover Stem Borer (Languria mozardi) atop the disc of a daisy in Catch the Wind. As you may have noticed, this is a rather small beetle.

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.

An American Snout on the wall of the Sailboat Pond in Catch the Wind. The camouflage
An American Snout (Libytheana carinenta) on the wall of the Sailboat Pond in Catch the Wind.
am snout
This snout is on one of the rocks of the Stream Table on the Wetlands Overlook. Snouts are more likely to be found on moist soil or rocks than flowers as they suck up nutrients from those mineral rich surfaces.
Two Pearl Crescents (Phyciodes tharos) mate on the Dinosaur Trail. This is another common species throughout our area.
banded hairstreak
A Banded Hairstreak (Satyrium calanus) readies to depart after nectaring on a daisy in Catch the Wind. Note the pollen on the underside of the insect’s thorax.
confuesd woodgrain
A caterpillar of a Confused Woodgrain (Morrisonia confusa) on a cultivar of Redbud

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…

2 responses to Insects Come Alive

  1. Karyn says:

    Wow! Great photos Ranger Greg. I’ve seen some of those out on the trail. Thanks for all the info.

    • Greg Dodge, Ranger says:

      Thank you Karyn!
      I saw yet another first-of-the-season dragonfly today (5/14), a Black Saddlebags.
      Thanks again.

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