Monday, November 12, 2007
October 30, 2007
Back to the same clump of asters today, but not quite as good as it was on the 21st. Still fair numbers of sulphurs and skippers. Here's a photo of one of the Common Checkered-Skippers which are always so much easier to find at the end of the flight season instead of during the middle of the summer.
The bait pulled in a Gray Comma, but I didn't get a second chance at the Goatweed Leafwing.
October 21, 2007
Wow! I stopped by a small clump of aromatic asters in Boone County today and it was the best place for insects that I'd been at in a month! I think I really demonstrated the temperament of a macro photographer today – I stayed within a 10' diameter circle from 10:30 am until 4 pm.
Butterflies included Little Yellow (Eurema lisa), Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme), Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice), Red-Banded Hairstreak (Calycopis cecrops), Juniper Hairstreak (Callophrys gryneus), Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos), Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia), and Goatweed Leafwing (Anaea andria). Skippers included Sachem (Atalopedes campestris), Fiery Skipper (Hylephila phyleus), and Common Checkered-Skipper (Pyrgus communis). Moths included Yellow-collared Scape Moth (Cisseps fulvicollis), Hawaiian Beet Webworm Moth (Spolodea recurvalis) and Spotted Beet Webworm Moth (Hymenia perspectalis – here's a photo of this species from September).
My favorite image from today is this photo of a male Orange Sulphur engaging in courtship behavior with a female. The male is flying above the perched female. The female wasn't interested and is expressing that to the male by lifting her abdomen into the air.
The Goatweed Leafwing was attracted to bait I had put on several trees near the asters. I wish people who are afraid to get close to wasps could have seen how docile these wasps at the bait were. I had placed the mostly empty container on the ground. When I was ready to leave, I went over to pick it up – it was covered in flies, yellowjackets and paper wasps. I just grabbed the container and shook it to knock everyone off. Then I decided I should have taken a few photos, so I put it back on the ground and waited a moment. Several immediately returned, included this paper wasp.
October 11, 2007
We were out for a bike ride when I had to swerve around this Black Swallowtail caterpillar (Papilio polyxenes) crossing the trail, presumably out searching for a suitable pupation site to spend the winter.
I've also been noticing a group of Variegated Meadowhawks (Sympetrum corruptum) and managed to get a photo of this one resting on the trail.
October 9, 2007
My bait finally attracted a Gray Comma. I've been getting Question Marks and Eastern Commas, along with a variety of other insects. It was especially nice to get today, since the numbers of insects has started to drop as we move into fall. Other insects for the day included Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis), Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus), Red-Banded Hairstreak (Calycopis cecrops), Little Yellow (Eurema lisa), Fiery Skipper (Hylephila phyleus), Common Checkered-Skipper (Pyrgus communis), Sachem (Atalopedes campestris), Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis), Variegated Meadowhawk (Sympetrum corruptum) and an unidentified red male meadowhawk (Sympetrum sp.) I also briefly saw one of the rainpool gliders (Pantala sp.) but, typical for these guys, I never saw it land so I could get a good photo or at least a look to identify it to species.
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
October 5, 2007
I managed to take this photo of a praying mantis egg case while fighting the wind which not only kept making my photo out of focus, but was frequently pushing the entire plant with the egg case out of the field of view of my lens. I expect the eggs will overwinter and hatch in the spring.
October 1, 2007
Yesterday, I went for a walk and stopped at Flat Branch Creek where I noticed a dragonfly nymph crawling on underwater plants. I returned with my camera today, figuring I didn’t have much of a chance of relocating the nymph, but instead found about half a dozen of them. They are active predators, not sit-and-wait predators.
I’ll update this post when I have a positive identification.
September 28, 2007
We were in Greene County to take down my photo exhibit at the Springfield Conservation Nature Center and spent 2 days walking trails and taking photos at the nature center. This caterpillar was feeding on grass seed heads.
We also saw a few dragonflies and damselflies, including this male Double-Striped Bluet (Enallagma basidens).
September 23, 2007
I went out expecting to photograph damselflies at a creek, but found this group of Monarchs gathered together on a branch overhanging the creek. Perhaps the poor quality of this photo will convince me to always carry my wide angle lens even if I don’t expect to use it. A macro wasn’t the best choice for this photo, but it was all I had with me.
September 22, 2007
Since March, I’ve been putting out moth bait during the day trying to attract a Mourning Cloak. I’ve been suspecting that at least one visited my bait when I wasn’t there to see it. Today, my luck finally changed and I got a couple of decent photos of the ventral side of a Mourning Cloak. This isn’t one of the better shots, but I decided to post this one because it shows interesting behavior. The butterfly was repeatedly mobbed by yellowjackets trying to monopolize the bait.
September 19, 2007
Each year when the goldenrod in our front yard blooms, we get butterflies, blister beetles, and a variety of bees and flies. Just about every year, we get Red-Banded Hairstreaks in late summer / early fall. Some years (but not this year), we luck out and also get White-M Hairstreaks.
September 9, 2007
I was sitting outside eating lunch when I noticed this potter wasp had started building a nest on the railing. I took the first photo at 1:27 when the nest had a small circular rim. At 2:33, the nest was completed and the wasp laid eggs inside. The next day when I was on the deck for lunch, she showed up with a small green caterpillar and stuffed it into the nest – unfortunately, my camera was inside. I didn’t see her again, but the next day the hole in the nest had been plugged. On October 7, I noticed a small hole in the side of the nest – it appeared that a bird had raided the wasp nest.
September 4, 2007
I was really glad to get a few photos of this Spotted Beet Webworm Moth today. I was out for a walk the day before (without my camera) and saw one of these. Went back to the same place with my camera and found several of these. This and a couple of others were at mints but the one I saw yesterday and a few others were nectaring today at Sedum.
There were reasonable numbers of both male and female Pipevine Swallowtails (Battus philenor) at the Pipevine (Aristolochia sp.) growing along 15’ of a fence. Females were repeatedly briefly lighting on a variety of leaves and stems and would occasionally stop to oviposit. Arriving males would fly near females, but were at first ignored, and then if they persisted, the female would fly off away from the vines with the male in pursuit. I never saw any pairs mate.
August 21, 2007
I’ve been spreading moth bait (a mixture of overly ripe bananas, brown sugar, and beer) onto tree trunks since March. I think this Lunate Zale is my favorite insect that showed up at the bait this year. I almost didn’t get to see it. As I walked up to the tree at about 10:30 pm, it was at the bait about head-high. It flew at my approach when I was about 3’ or 4’ away. Fortunately, it circled the tree trunk and landed again. I took another step and it flew, but once again landed on the same tree trunk, only this time not at the bait, but just about 10” above the ground where I was able to take a few photos.
August 20, 2007
I never thought I’d be glad it was mostly cloudy and I was leaning toward not going to the pool to swim laps. I kept walking outside to look at the sky and on one of those trips, found an Eight-Spotted Forester nectaring at these white flowers. It hung around for about 20 to 30 minutes. I was hoping to see it again, but it never appeared again. We’ve been in this house for years, but this was the only time I’ve ever seen this species here, although I’ve seen others in Boone County.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
August 1-2, 2007
We made a circle through Missouri, picking up my photo exhibit from the Green Center in University City near St. Louis and bringing it to the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Springfield Nature Center. While in Springfield, we spent 2 days at Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield, one of my favorite places to find butterflies in Missouri. There were literally thousands of Hackberry Emperors – at one point, while trying to take photos, I actually brushed a few butterflies off of my shirt because there were so many they were distracting me. Wilson’s Creek allows horse riding on at least some of the trails, and the droppings prove irresistible for many butterflies. As we’d walk past a pile of dung on the trail, masses of butterflies would rise up. Laying on the ground next to it for photos was fairly unpleasant. Species highlights included Gemmed Satyr (Cyllopsis gemma) and Hoary Edge (Achalarus lyciades).
Most Chalcid wasps are parasites in pupae of either flies, butterflies or moths. This one was at a bagworm.
July 15 - 21, 2007
We headed to the Austin area for a week after managing to get a reservation for one of Bat Conservation International’s members night to watch millions of Mexican Free-tailed Bats (Tadarada brasiliensis) fly out of Bracken Cave. This was definitely one of the most amazing experiences ever. We arrived at the cave entrance at about 6:30 pm on July 21st; quite a few bats were milling around just inside the cave. At about 8:15, we were standing on the roof of the sinkhole cave when the bats began pouring out of the opening and passed right over our heads on their way out for a night of hunting moths. When we left at 9:30, the stream of bats exiting the cave hadn’t slowed down yet – it takes a while for 20 million bats to leave. While waiting for the bats to exit, I enjoyed watching a pair of Giant Walking Sticks (Megaphasma dentricus).
The bats capped off a week spent hiking trails and watching insects. We saw lots of butterflies, including Texan Crescent and Pipevine Swallowtail. Other visitors at Pedernales State Park thought it was odd when I was in the bathroom taking photos of a moth on the wall, but they were impressed when they got a look at the Painted Lichen Moth before I released it onto a nearby tree trunk.
I saw my first ever Citrine Forktail (Ischnura hastata) at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center a day or so after her funeral. Unfortunately, I missed getting a photo. I did get a few exciting dragonfly and damselfly photos -- particularly these shots of Green Darners. A female Green Darner was ovipositing in water plants in a concrete pool near the LBJ Wildflower Center entrance when a male swooped over, grabbed her and flew off with her. We also saw Desert Firetail (Telebasis salva), Rambur’s Forktail (Ichnura ramburii), and Black Setwing (Dythemis nigrescens), and Neon Skimmer (Libellula croceipennis)at the Botanical Garden in Zilker Park, and an as yet unidentified Setwing (Dythemis sp.) at Wild Basin Nature Center. Several pairs of damselflies were mating and ovipositing at the top of the waterfall in Wild Basin. Most of these species were also at other sites we visited including Hamilton Pool and Enchanted Rock. I spent about half an hour watching an actively hunting damselfly nymph in an ephemeral pond at the base of Enchanted Rock, even getting to see it grab and devour a tiny insect. Quite a few people stopped to ask what the heck I was photographing while sitting on the ground next to a tiny pool of water with my camera a couple of inches from the water surface.
A family with 3 young boys stopped to watch me take photos of these leaf-cutter ants. The middle boy seemed particularly intrigued with the idea that a person could grow up and, instead of having a real job, spend all day taking photos of insects.
Despite the fact that I don’t really like to be too close to lizards and related animals, I couldn’t resist trying to get photos of these young Greater Earless Lizards (Cophosaurus texanus) at Pedernales State Park. In a nod to my irrational fear, I put a tele-extender on my 180mm lens. I guess I did a pretty good job of sneaking up and putting the lizard, at least, at ease, because while he was running around on the rocks hunting, he ended up running at me once. So I’ve got a full frame image of this lizard, and all of a sudden I see through the lens that it is running towards me. Given the terrain, I’m lucky I didn’t fall over in my haste to escape this “dangerous” 2-inch long baby lizard!
Friday, July 13, 2007
July 9, 2007
This was a frustrating day when I seemed completely unable to get close to any insects without spooking them. Fortunately, those days are infrequent.
But a couple of photos made up for the whole irritating experience. I managed to sneak up on this Halloween Pennant; you know it’s hot when the dragonflies start to overheat. Obelisking dragonflies orient their bodies so the abdomen points toward the sun, minimizing absorption of the direct rays of the sun.
These treehoppers (Homoptera Membracidae) were being tended by ants. Treehoppers produce honeydew, which is consumed by ants. In a mutually beneficial relationship, the ants protect the treehoppers from predators in exchange for the food.
July 7, 2007
Is there any better way to spend a summer morning than sitting at the edge of a pond watching dragonflies? I watched a wide variety at a pond created decades ago when the land was strip-mined: Twelve-spotted Skimmer, Eastern Pondhawk, Blue Dasher, Halloween Pennant, Banded Pennant, Red Saddlebags, Slaty Skimmer, Widow Skimmer and Eastern Amberwing.
I noticed this Black and Yellow Mud Dauber (Hymenoptera Sphecidae Sceliphron sp.) gathering mud at the edge of the pond.
July 3, 2007
A pair of dung beetles were rolling a ball of dung just to the side of a trail through the woods. Different species of dung beetles exhibit a variety of behaviors: some construct a nest and bury dung below the ground where it was found, some lay eggs directly in the mound of dung, and others, such as these, remove a small portion of dung, form it into a ball and roll it to a spot they have selected to bury it before oviposition. Some species of dung beetles opt to steal dung that other dung beetles have buried.
Friday, June 22, 2007
June 14, 2007
I was photographing this American Snout when it moved to a different plant and I noticed it appeared to be laying an egg. After the adult butterfly moved on, I went back to the leaf and searched and found an egg.
Some butterfly species only lay a single egg at a time, others lay several eggs, while others lay dozens of eggs in a cluster. Some of the factors which contribute to laying large egg clusters are a relative scarcity of appropriate plants on which to lay eggs, opting for the benefits of gregarious caterpillars, or a lower population density which results in a butterfly needing to spend more time locating a mate.
June 3 , 2007
Today I finally got a good look at an adult antlion in our yard. For years, we’ve had a large group of pits dug by larvae in the dust by our front door. You can see photos of one larva that I dug up for photos on my October 9, 2006 entry.
I noticed an adult on the screen of a basement window just above the pits while I was inside framing photos for an exhibit at Runge Nature Center. I went outside, but couldn’t photograph it from it’s perch. I chased it off of the window and watched it’s weak flight through the nearby plants. Fortunately, it stopped nearby instead of taking off, and I was able to shoot a few photos.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
May 29 , 2007
The Beautiful Wood-Nymph is often mentioned as a bird dropping mimic, but I just don’t see it that way. I had intended to go to sleep at a decent hour, but had turned the deck light on when it got dark. At 10 pm, I stepped outside to just take a quick look, figuring I’d be out for a moment then turn off the light when I saw this gorgeous animal on the wall. I could have gotten a good photo a lot quicker if I’d asked for an assistant right away. It was a lot easier to focus the camera once Jim pointed a flashlight at it – amazing how much easier it is to focus on an insect when you can actually see it!
May 25 , 2007
I’ve been photographing moths at the Missouri Department of Conservation office where I used to work as a research tech for the state waterfowl biologist. The building lights stay on all night and moths are frequently found on the exterior walls the next day. Friends have been phoning me when something cool shows up and I was really excited to see this Green Marvel. According to Butterflies and Moths of Missouri by Heitzman and Heitzman, this moth is fairly common in the Ozarks, but not as frequently found in the rest of the state.
May 18 , 2007
While out riding bikes, we saw this really cool caterpillar, which we identified as a Question Mark, a common woodland butterfly, crawling on a bridge railing along the Katy Trail. My March 12th blog post mentions an adult Question Mark coming to bait. The butterfly is named for the white Question Mark on the underside of the hind wing.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
May 12 , 2007
I ran a mercury vapor light as part of a BioBlitz organized by the Columbia Audubon Society. An 8 hour walk as part of the International Migratory Bird Count left us pretty tired and since we needed to set the alarm early the next morning, we weren’t able to stay very late.
But we had a few interesting insects, including a Black Corsair (see the April 2nd post) that I kept an eye on. My favorite moth for the night was this Warm-chevroned Moth (Limacodidae Tortricidia testacea).
May 11 , 2007
I finally took a few reasonably acceptable photos of this common geometrid moth. According to Heitzman and Heitzman (Butterflies and Moths of Missouri), the Chickweed Geometer occurs in all 114 Missouri counties in vacant lots and roadsides.
May 8, 2007
I got covered in ticks and got spit from a spittle bug in my hair while laying down taking photos of moths on a levee surrounding a green tree reservoir at a friend’s house. His daughters were grossed out at the thought of insect spit – I kept it to myself that it came out of the other end.
Two cool moths in exchange for the ticks: Grape Leaf-folder Desmia sp. and The Begger (Eubaphe mendica).
May 5, 2007
I spent most of the day at a pond in a small prairie. The 7 male Common Whitetails at the pond were frequently engaging in chases, and at one point the chasing seemed to intensify and I could hear them actually making contact with each other in flight. A quick search confirmed my guess as to what caused the commotion – the 7 males at the pond had been joined by a single female.
I also saw a frog capture and eat a small black spider while I was increasing my tolerance for frogs at the pond – it is inundated with small frogs and tadpoles. I guess I just wanted to look at the insects more than I wanted to get away from the frogs. A friend insists that most people like frogs. They’re fine, as long as they aren’t too close, but today I managed to remain sitting with one only 2 or 3 inches from me. It was worth it while I watched several species of water beetle and took this photo of the first backswimmer I saw in 2007.
Thursday, May 03, 2007
May 2, 2007
It rained off and on throughout the day. We were out hiking from 5:30 pm until dusk – it rained only at the beginning and end of the hike. It was fairly warm, so it wasn’t too bad despite being wet.
Just as the rain started, we saw a small black-and-white moth rushing for cover under a leaf. I didn’t get a great look (or a photo since I left my camera at home because of the rain), but I thought it was a Grape Leaf-folder Moth. The caterpillars feed on grapevines and construct small shelters by folding leaves over and securing them with silk. Here’s a photo of an adult on our tent in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park a few years ago. (replaced with photo from 2009).
May 1, 2007
Ninebark shrubs were blooming, attracting a variety of flies, bees, butterflies and moths. A species of attractive Leaf Beetles (Chrysomelidae: Calligrapha spiraeae) live on Ninebark and the plants can tolerate their feeding on the leaves. Butterflies included Eastern Tailed-Blues (Everes comyntas) and Painted Ladies (Vanessa cardui).
Two diurnal moths - an Eight-Spotted Forester (Lepidoptera Noctuidae: Alypia octomaculata) and a Mournful Thyris (Lepidoptera Thyrididae: Pseudothyris sepulchralis) – were also nectaring at the ninebark blooms. The Mournful Thyris sat for a number of photos, but every time I clicked the shutter, the Forester bolted. At first I thought the flash was spooking him, but he kept taking off with each shot even after I turned off the flash. I eventually got a single decent shot, but I kind of liked this mistake. The moth was sitting still on the flower when I pushed the shutter, but he flew the instant the flash went off.
Although I rarely photograph anything other than insects, I like this image of a Pileated Woodpecker that flew overhead while I was photographing a dragonfly.
April 29, 2007
On April 17th, I took a photo of the other North American species in this genus (C. strigula). I was pleased to get a few decent shots of this one as it displayed on a tree trunk. This one holds its wings straight up similar to a male peacock.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
April 2, 2007
I recently bought a mercury vapor light and ran it for the first time in my backyard tonight. It attracted quite a few insects from virtually the moment I flipped the switch. A variety of moths (mostly Noctuidae), a few leafhoppers, wasps and beetles showed up. Highlights were a Banded Hickory Borer (Coleoptera Cerambycidae Knulliana cincta) and a Black Corsair – an assassin bug.
Unfortunately, the reason the Black Corsair was a highlight was because I was careless enough to get bitten by it. I was taking photos of it and when it flew away it landed on my leg and I didn’t notice. If I had, I could have just brushed it off my leg and not been bitten. It clearly had no interest in biting me because it was on me for about 2 minutes before it bit me. After it flew away, I went inside to download my photos onto the computer. It only bit me after I sat down, trapping it between my leg and my shorts. Even then, at first it was a minor bite, I’m guessing that it had just jabbed the tip of the beak into my leg. I should have immediately stood up, but instead I grabbed the edge of my shorts to lift them and inadvertently placed my hand on top of the assassin bug. From the bug’s perspective, I imagine that it thought it was in more danger and it thrust the internal mouthparts farther into my leg. At least that’s what I’m assuming happened – all I really know is that when I touched my shorts there was a second, much more painful bite. It hurt much worse than being stung by a wasp, but after about 30 or 40 minutes, it had pretty much stopped hurting. The next day, all that was left was a spot of coagulated blood at the puncture wound and a few intermittent pains in my leg.
March 28, 2007
I found a group of very small (1/4”) tent caterpillars on a tree that had 3 egg masses on twigs. I also found large numbers of velvet mites (Acari Trombidiidae) crawling over tree trunks. I discovered two pairs of mites that were apparently involved in some type of aggression. Two Orange Wing moths (Lepidoptera Geometridae Mellilia xanthometata) were flying through the woods near dusk.
March 24, 2007
While riding bikes on the Katy Trail in Boone County, we saw quite a few Spring Azures puddling at what appeared to be fox scat.
I also took photos of a blister beetle in our yard. I’d never seen one like this before and then I saw another one the same day at the nest colony of bees in Peace Park. After a bit of research I identified it as Tricrania sp. The beetle larvae develop in nests of Colletid Bees.
March 23, 2007
Walking through Peace Park, I found several hundred Colletid bees digging nest holes along the bank of the creek. Back the next day with my camera, I saw several bees entering and leaving holes. One bee was in a hole facing out of the entrance when another bee approached. They faced each other close together at the entrance for a moment, then switched locations with the bee originally in the hole leaving the area and the newcomer taking up watch at the entrance.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
March 12, 2007
Lots happening today! Over 70 F for the first time in 2007. This morning, I noticed a few antlion pits in the dirt by our front door. I’ve been using a paint brush to put moth bait (mashed bananas, brown sugar, honey, yeast, beer – all stirred together and fermented on the countertop for 2 days) on tree trunks in the yard for the past few days. Just after lunch, I wondered if there might be a Question Mark at the moth bait and went out back to check. Got a few nice shots, eventually seeing 2 individuals.
An assassin bug also found the bait useful, capturing a wasp at the bait station on one of the shagbark hickories.
We ate dinner on the deck and a froghopper hopped onto Jim's plate. Hazards of being married to an entomologist -- he was under strict instructions to not scare the insect off of his plate while he finished eating!
At 9 pm, I found a couple of moths, an ichneumonid wasp, and a few chironomids at the bait and deck light.
March 10, 2007
A mix of 2 seasons today – saw both an overwintering bird and a butterfly. I got a lifer this morning at Bradford Farm – Lapland Longspur. Then during a bike ride on the Katy Trail, a Mourning Cloak flew over our heads. First butterfly of the year. I’m starting to see enough insects that I need to start taking along my camera – here’s a photo of a Mourning Cloak from June 2005.
Sunday, March 11, 2007
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
February 20, 2007
While on campus at the University of Missouri, I stopped by to see if the witch hazel was blooming.There were blooms, but it looked as though they had been hit by freezing temperatures.I saw a fly leaving one of the trees, but couldn’t identify it with the brief look I had.