Tuesday, December 30, 2008

December 30, 2008

Just thought I'd pass along something interesting from the Fall 2008 issue of Wings (a publication of the Xerces Society). The Miller Moth (Euxoa auxiliaris) is found in Missouri, but the individuals living on the western edge of the Great Plains migrate into the Rocky Mountains during the summer. Most likely because nectar is more available there than on the hot dry prairie.

These migrating moths are an important food for grizzly bears which can eat an astounding 10,000 to 20,000 moths each day! In a 4-week period, this immense number of small prey items can combine to provide 300,000 calories. The moths are crucial for the bears as they pack on weight for survival during hibernation.

Source: Small Animals That Pack a Big Punch by Scott Hoffman Black and Matthew Shepard. Wings, Fall 2008, p 4-8.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Fall 2008

After a busy October and November with 2 due dates for a work project, I'm finally getting around to updating my blog with my last recorded sightings of a few insects.

November 4, 2008

Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae)
Polygonia sp.

While walking downtown, I noticed a praying mantis sitting on a building. I can't imagine that there were many prey items on the building, although in September, I collected a moth from a downtown building wall. It was only 2 blocks from Flat Branch Park and the trail, though.

November 3, 2008

Wheel bug (Arilus cristatus)

November 2, 2008

I haven't seen a dragonfly or damselfly for a while. Today I saw a Monarch (Danaus plexippus) flying through the parking lot at a grocery store. I also saw a Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae) briefly stop in our yard.

November 1, 2008

Chrysalis – first seen on October 30th. Collected.

October 31, 2008

A Common Checkered-Skipper (Pyrgus communis) was nectaring at a dandelion in our yard today. I saw another one somewhere else in town nectaring at Aromatic Asters.

October 30, 2008

Saw quite a few butterflies on a bike ride today. It's still really warm, although most of the leaves have turned. The Asian ladybugs were out in force swarming around looking for overwintering spots. I was bitten by one and took my revenge on about a dozen of this exotic species. Too bad stomping on a few won't even make the smallest dent in the population. Saw a green chironomid and an ichneumonid wasp near Perche Creek. Cicadas are still calling.


Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae)
Goatweed Leafwing (Anaea andria)
Polygonia spp.
Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia)
Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice)
Cabbage White (Pieris rapae)
Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme)

October 29, 2008

Wheel bug (Arilus cristatus)

October 27, 2008

Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae)

October 26, 2008

A Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) was in our yard. Saw a few insects on a bike ride – a distant unidentified dark swallowtail, an unidentified anglewing (Polygonia sp.) and Cabbage White (Pieris rapae). Highlight of the day were 3 Wandering Gliders (Pantala flavescens).

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

October 21, 2008

Few butterflies and moths around, but I found several in a small area with native plants. Most of the blooms were aromatic asters.

Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos)
Monarch (Danaus plexippus)
Sachem (Atalopedes campestris)

Corn Earworm Moth (Helicoverpa zea)
Yellow-collared Scape Moth (Cisseps fulvicollis)

I also saw lots of Syrphid flies.

Herald Moth (Scoliopteryx libatrix)
October 17, 2008

I photographed this Herald Moth about 25' inside of a Boone County cave; this moth overwinters as an adult inside of caves.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk (Sympetrum ambiguum)
October 16, 2008

I'm going to try to keep track of the last day I see some things this year, although I find that much more difficult than mentioning the first time I see something for the year. In addition to being more tedious to keep track of, it's also somewhat depressing.

Several Blue-faced Meadowhawks were in a downtown park along with numerous mating pairs of Great Spreadwings (Archilestes grandis). I couldn't find any water striders.

Festive Tiger Beetle (Cicindela scutellaris)
October 11, 2008

We went to a Horseshoe Lake State Park in Illinois to find Bronze Coppers (Lycaena hyllus). We did find several coppers, along with a variety of other butterflies.

Tiger beetles are pretty high on my list of favorite insects, and we found plenty of them. While I haven't put names on all of them, I did identify a gorgeous maroon tiger beetle as a Festive Tiger Beetle. A lifer. In eastern Missouri on the 10th, I also found a Cow Path Tiger Beetle, which I saw for the first time this spring.

Also saw 2 moths:
Chickweed Geometer (Haematopis grataria)
Hawaiian Beet Webworm (Spoladea recurvalis)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Monarch (Danaus plexippus)
October 10, 2008

I frequently see bees plow into butterflies at flowers, chasing the butterfly from the flower so they can feed at it themselves. Today I finally managed to get a shot of this, even though it happens in a fraction of a second. My first thought was to be annoyed at the bee for chasing away the Monarch I was photographing, then I realized that unlike other times when I ended up with the insects either blurred from flight or moving out of the frame, I actually had a cool image.

Honey Bee (Apis mellifera)
October 5, 2008

Couldn't find many butterflies today, so I resorted to photographing honey bees. This one had its mouthparts extended as it flew away from the flowers.

Dagger Moth caterpillar (Acronicta sp.)
September 30, 2008

Found this gorgeous caterpillar crawling along a bridge railing crossing a stream on a wooded trail. No idea what it had been feeding on, but it shows only minimal differences with the Interrupted Dagger Moth caterpillar (Acronicta interrupta) pictured in David L. Wagner's Caterpillars of Eastern North America.

Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae)
September 18, 2008

I always think of Cloudless Sulphurs as fairly obvious, but when this one landed late in the afternoon on the underside of a leaf, I realized how cryptic they can be. The faint spots and overall color blended in perfectly with the underside of these leaves with the fading sunlight shining through.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Common Spragueia (Spragueia leo)
September 8, 2008

Have I just been overlooking these guys or is their population up this year? At any rate, I started taking insect photos in May 2003 and I saw one in August 2003 and then none until this year. I photographed one in captivity that had been collected at a mercury vapor light on August 15th, I saw one in Callaway County on September 6th but it flew off before I could take a photo, and then I saw a Common Spragueia nectaring at sedum today.

I'm glad I headed out for photographs, the forecast was for rain so I was working inside at the entomology museum. I noticed the sun was out and didn't want to waste a day at the end of the flight season, so I headed out. By the time I was out, it was cloudy and windy, but there were quite a few skippers feeding at the clump of sedum along with a Corn Earworm Moth (Helicoverpa zea). And then I noticed the Spragueia!

Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor)
September 7, 2008

We have so many Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars on our pipevines that we can hear them chewing the leaves when we walk by.

Cicada (Cicadidae)
September 6, 2008

We spent a cloudy morning at a central Missouri prairie, but didn't see much, I'm sure the weather didn't help. The highlight was finding a cicada being eaten by a praying mantis – unfortunately, it was an introduced species – a Chinese preying mantis. I didn't have a collecting permit for the area, otherwise I would have liked to have collected them – partly to be able to key out the cicada (hopefully I'll have an id to add to this page in a day or so) but mostly to kill an introduced species – even though that would obviously have no real effect on the population.

Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor)
August 27, 2008

Lots of Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars around this week. I slightly disturbed this one and it extruded its osmeterium – a defensive organ that expels chemicals to repel predators.

Pipevine caterpillars ingest plant chemicals that make them inedible to some predators, but they are still preyed upon by others, including ladybug larvae. Pipevines frequently defend themselves by biting the ladybugs, they are more likely to successfully defend themselves if they are bigger than the ladybugs. Caterpillars preparing to pupate are more likely to extrude their osmeterium than feeding caterpillars. Other defensive actions include thrashing around and regurgitating. (Stamp. 1986. Physical constraints of defense and response to invertebrate predators by pipevine caterpillars (Battus philenor: Papilionidae). Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society, 40: 191-205)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Common Spragueia (Spragueia leo)
August 15, 2008

I tagged along with a Master Naturalist program to collect moths at lights at Overton Bottoms in the Big Muddy National Wildlife Refuge. I was really excited to catch this brightly colored Common Spragueia and am still trying to shake the disappointment of having a Eumarozia malachitana land on my right hand and then fly off while I was trying to figure out how to collect it.

Other highlights of the evening were a Short-lined Chocolate (Argyrostrotis anilis), Basswood Leafroller (Pantographa limata), and quite a few Honey Locust moths (Syssyphinx bicolor).

August 9, 2008

I found this grasshopper with a white head and body while we finished up a butterfly count at the Prairie Garden Trust. I'm still working on an identification.

Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor)
August 2, 2008

As I got out of the car when we returned home from eastern Missouri, I noticed this chrysalis which a caterpillar had formed on my car tire. I'm really glad I noticed it, since it obviously would have been smashed as soon as I moved my car. About a week earlier we had counted 33 caterpillars feeding on the pipevines (Aristolochia tomentosa) we planted in our yards to attract the butterflies. It worked great – we have adult Pipevine Swallowtails in our yard almost every day, especially at the end of the summer.

The chrysalis had to have been formed sometime between July 31st and August 2nd
-- days I didn't drive my car. The female emerged mid-morning on August 25th. I cut the silk holding the chrysalis to my tire tread and used a dot of Elmer's glue to fasten it to a stick which I placed in a plastic aquarium with a screen lid. When I noticed her, I brought the container outside and removed the lid at about 10:15 am. (I had checked the cage sometime within the previous hour and she hadn't emerged yet.) When we went onto our deck for lunch, she flew off and landed on shagbark hickory leaves about 10' away and 15' high and remained there for about 20 minutes before flying off again.

Milkweed Tussock Moth caterpillar (Euchaetes egle)
August 1, 2008

This Milkweed Tussock Moth caterpillar feeding on milkweed leaves shows off bright colors warning that it stores toxic chemicals from feeding on milkweeds and is inedible.

This twirler moth (Gelechiidae Anacampsis sp.) is tiny, with a wingspan of about 10mm. While we watched and photographed it, occasionally it would spin in a circle.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)
July 31, 2008

While at the Cape Girardeau Nature Center taking down my July photo exhibit, I took a few photos of a black form female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.

In addition to the swallowtail, I was really excited to find this Reticulated Sparganothis moth (Sparganothis reticulatana) while we hiked one of the wooded trails.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Mydas Fly (Mydas sp.)
July 18, 2008

Highlight of the day was finding a group of 3 Mydas flies (guessing from size, 2 females and 1 male). The 2 females were seen laying eggs in a mulch pile along the edge of the trail. Later, one of the adults was observed feeding at Rattlesnake Master (Apiaceae Eryngium yuccifolium) flowers.

Barton County
July 11 - 13, 2008

Went to Prairie State Park hoping for good shots of Regal Fritillaries (Speyeria idalia) but came home without them. We did see a few male Regals flying back and forth over the prairie searching for females, but by this time of year, most of the females were no longer interested in the remaining males. One chase, however, was very interesting, since the male basically flew circles, similar to the path of a ferris wheel, around the female as she flew about 30' high. Several passing males were so close I almost could have reached out to touch them, and just before we reached our car when we were leaving the park, a final male passed close enough to brush its wings against the side of my head as I heard the sound made by the wings! Really frustrating not to be able to get a photo, but it's almost impossible to get a really great image of a butterfly in flight.

We did manage to find a few cool moths, the highlights were a Coffee-loving Pyrausta Moth (Crambidae Pyrausta tyralis) and a Black-bordered Lemon Moth (Noctuidae Thioptera nigrofimbria).

The highlight of the trip, though, were the fireflies. The most awesome firefly show I've seen since we went to Great Smoky Mountains National Park for the synchronized fireflies at Elkmont. We were in the campground, which is wooded, not prairie. When it started getting dark, just looking forward, there were about 50 flashes visible at any given moment. And it was the same in all directions! We were also seeing different species of fireflies in the group – the flashes were different. During the day, we were able to find resting fireflies in two different genera – Photinus and Photuris. Photinus spp. have defensive chemicals that provide protection from predators. Photuris spp. aren't chemically protected, so the females flash the pattern of Photinus females to bring males into striking range. The female then eat the male, acquiring the chemical defense of the other species. The Photuris female flashes the pattern for her own species, mates with an appropriate male, and provides the chemical protection from the Photinus firefly male to her own eggs.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Scissor-grinder Cicadas (Tibicen auletes)
July 7, 2008

This evening I was in the backyard and realized I was hearing cicadas. I grabbed my iPod and played the cicada section from the Singing Insects CD produced by the Missouri Department of Conservation and identified them as Scissor-grinder Cicadas. I recognized the sound as what I hear every year, but this was the first time I tried to identify the species by the sound.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

One-banded Sparganothis (Sparganothis unifaciana)
June 23, 2008

At the same location as my stint as an inadvertent food provider for a Cobra Clubtail on the 17th, I repeatedly flushed Haploa moths that wouldn't tolerate my approach within several feet. Oddly enough, one Haploa was nectaring at a Black-eyed Susan and tolerated me taking numerous photos from various positions around the flower.

Also on the 17th, I had a brief look at a One-banded Sparganothis moth, but didn't manage to take any photos because of its position in the vegetation. Today, I walked through the same area for over an hour hoping to spot another individual. I got my photos today, but paid for them with over 200 chigger bites. I guess that should be expected when not only walking through tall vegetation, but also stopping occasionally to sit in it.

Shoot First, Ask Questions Later
June 22, 2008

I need to work on taking photos before I approach close enough for a full-frame shot. I believe I got a quick look at a Striped Hairstreak (Satyrium liparops) yesterday, but never even looked at it through my camera lens. While thinking, "Is that really a Striped Hairstreak?", I took a step for a closer look, the butterfly took off, and I was left thinking that at least a photo from far away would have let me zoom in for a longer look back home on the computer.

Later the same day, I remembered the lesson and took a photo of a Pink-bordered Yellow (Phytometra rhodarialis) from a few feet away. I need to find another individual of that species for a decent photo (this one is seriously cropped), but for right now, I can at least prove to myself that my id was correct.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Haploa sp.
June 17, 2008

I kicked up quite a few moths (and found a few perched on top of leaves, looking very much like a brown area of leaf damage) while walking through prairie plants. An unmarked Haploa flew at my approach when I was 8' to 10' away. I followed it for a while, each time as I got close (but still too far for a good photo), it would fly away – sometimes just a few feet, sometimes up to 30', but the white inch-and-a-half wingspan was easy to follow. After several chases interspersed with breaks to photograph a geometrid moth and a milkweed beetle, I once again failed to sneak up close enough for a frame-filling image of the Haploa despite slowly crawling through the 2' tall vegetation.

Feeling guilty about repeatedly flushing the moth, I decided that I'd make one last approach and then leave it alone. But when I was about 10' from the moth, I noticed a clubtail perched on the plants just about halfway between me and the moth. I immediately decided to abandon my pursuit of the moth in favor of Cobra Clubtail (Gomphus vastus) photos. I snapped one from where I was and then crept closer to the clubtail for better shots.

Now I was only 5' from the moth, its average level of tolerance, but because of its position in the vegetation, it wasn't very visible and I wasn't even looking for it anymore. Suddenly it bolts – at least by its definition of bolting – which is actually a slow flutter. My eyes instinctively leave the clubtail to glance at the moth – just in time to see that I'm not the only one who noticed it. My reflexes aren't quick enough for a photo – all I could do was scream “NO!” inside my head as the clubtail screamed “LUNCH!” and flew to the top of the nearby oak tree.

Later in the day, I found a dead mole alongside the trail and took photos of flies laying eggs on the carcass.

New species for the year:
Painted Lichen Moth
Cobra Clubtail

Van Meter State Park
June 11, 2008

Found a Stilt-legged Fly (Micropezidae) waving its front legs with white tarsi in front of its head in an effort to resemble a wasp. It's thought that looking like a wasp provides some protection against predators.

Blacklighting for Moths at Overton Bottoms, Big Muddy National Wildlife Refuge
June 10, 2008

Highlight of the evening – prize find of the night goes to Jim who found an Eyed Paectes (Paectes oculatix) feeding on the bait we put out.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Glorious Habrosyne (Habrosyne gloriosa)
June 5, 2008

It was raining when we went to sleep on June 4th, and I almost got up to turn off the deck light. But within a few minutes, the rain stopped, so I left it on. I'm glad I did. When I got up on the 5th, I found this gorgeous creature sitting on the outside of the kitchen window. I lucked out and managed to coax it into a net – I couldn't swing the net at the window and I couldn't use a jar because the window is about 6' over my head. Fortunately, when I placed the net over the moth and dragged the net towards it, the moth crawled into the net and didn't fly away when I lowered the net to the ground. I shot a few photos in captivity and then released it.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Orange Bluet (Enallagma signatum)
June 1, 2008

We spent the afternoon kayaking in Boone County. Several Orange Bluets were the highlight of the day. Males were resting on floating plants. I saw one pair ovipositing into a floating plant with the male holding the female just behind the head while his body was angled up at a 45 degree angle. The female was grasping the vegetation with her legs. No photos, though. It's hard to manage insect photos while sitting in a kayak, although I've occasionally pulled it off.

Other firsts for 2008 included Blue Dashers (Pachydiplax longipennis) and Black Saddlebags (Tramea lacerata). I watched a pair of saddlebags oviposit. Every few moments, the male would let go of the female, she would drop to the water and dip the tip of her abdomen into the water while the male hovered just above her, then she would fly up to the male and he would grab her by the head with the claspers at the tip of his abdomen and they would fly off to a different spot to lay more eggs.

Hoary Edge (Achalarus lyciades)
May 29, 2008

Wow! I've never seen so many Hoary Edge skippers in a single day – I'd guess we saw between 30 and 40 while hiking about 2 miles along trails in Miller and Camden counties. I spent 21 minutes photographing a group of Hoary Edges and a Northern Cloudywing (Thorybes pylades) at a very fresh and unpleasant smelling pile of dung. Not a great substance to have 9” away from your head.

A few new species for 2008: Little Wood Satyr (Megisto cymela), Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae), alderfly (Neuroptera Sialidae Sialis sp.), and a scorpionfly (Mecoptera Panorpidae Panorpa sp.).

We found a few carrion beetles on the trail, and a Calligraphy Beetle (Calligrapha spiraeae), but a dung beetle rolling a large ball of dung definitely was a highlight of the day.

Just before heading home, we topped off the day with an Orange-patched Smoky Moth (Zygaenidae Pyromorpha dimidiata) resting on top of a leaf.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Termite Swarm (Isoptera Rhinotermitidae)
May 21, 2008

Syrphid flies were visiting the blooming Ninebark today, but not as many flies or bees were around as I would have expected. A Red-banded Hairstreak (Calycopis cecrops) and an Eastern Tailed-Blue (Everes comyntas) were also at the Ninebark, in addition to my first Sachem (Atalopedes campestris) of the year. Another first for 2008 was a male Zabulon Skipper (Poanes zabulon) – but this was in the woods, not at the ninebark. Overall, butterflies were pretty scarce today, especially compared to late April. I flushed a single Goatweed Leafwing (Anaea andria).

I was still seeing a few Calligraphy Beetles (Calligrapha spiraeae), but they were harder to find today. Possibly because the blooms partially covered the leaves the beetles were on.

A Leaf-footed Bug (Leptoglossus clypealis) reminded me that I neglected to mention my first of the year. I had a leaf-footed bug on April 30th in St. Louis County.

During lunch, I noticed a small insect fly a few feet in front of me and idly wondered what it was. When a second one flew past, something finally penetrated my brain – all 4 wings were the same. When I looked around, I noticed quite a few in the air on the other side of the parking lot. I was hoping to find the termite swarm on the ground and lucked out – they were in mulch right at the edge of the parking lot.

Although I've had spittlebug adults, I found my first nymphs of the year today.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Black-sided Pygmy Grasshopper (Tettigidea lateralis)
May 18, 2008, Johnson County

We found a caterpillar (Erebidae Catocala sp.) crawling on the sidewalk near the campground shower house at 5:30 am. A Bronzed Cutworm (Noctuidae Nephelodes minians) was crossing a park road late morning. I moved both of them into the grass nearby.

I found the Black-sided Pygmy grasshopper (Orthoptera Tetrigidae Tettigidea lateralis) in a savanna. On the same savanna trail, we also saw a Bird-dropping Moth (Antaeotricha schlageri) and Long-necked Seed Bug (Heteroptera Lygaeidae Myodocha serripes).

Quite a few Eastern Forktails (Ischnura verticalis) were in tall vegetation bordering a large lake. A Skimming Bluet (Enallagma geminatum) was found along a trail in a savanna restoration area.

Tortricid Moth (Ancylis divisana)
May 17, 2008, Johnson County

Still seeing lots of Goatweed Leafwings. I also saw a black form female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus).

New species for 2008 included a stinkbug (Parabrochymena arborea), 2 Pistol Casebearers (Lepidoptera Coleophoridae Coleophora sp.) and a tortricid moth (Ancylis divisana).

Monday, May 19, 2008

Red-banded Hairstreak (Calycopis cecrops)
May 16, 2008

While packing the car for a weekend trip to photograph insects, a Red-banded Hairstreak briefly landed in the driveway. No photos of it, but here's a look at one from September 19, 2007 (also in our yard).

Monday, May 12, 2008

Nessus Sphinx (Amphion floridensis)
May 4, 2008

Two highlights of the day – a Nessus Sphinx (Amphion floridensis) flying amazingly fast and a millipede (Narceus sp.) being harassed by a pair of flies. The millipede kept changing direction, rolling over, and thrashing around but never managed to shake them in approximately 10 minutes I watched them until the millipede disappeared in the surrounding vegetation.

Toadbug (Gelastocoris oculatus)
May 3, 2008

First toadbug of the year seen along Hinkson Creek in Boone County.

Blue Corporal (Libellula deplanata)
May 1, 2008

Two new species of dragonflies for the day: a Blue Corporal and a teneral (just emerged) clubtail.

Cow Path Tiger Beetle (Cicindela purpurea)
April 29, 2008

It warmed up during the day, but someone told me that they had to scrape frost off their windshield when they headed for work this morning! I saw significantly fewer butterflies today than on April 23 when I saw about 50 Falcate Orangetips and 25 Goatweed Leafwings. Today I didn't see any Goatweed Leafwings and fewer than 6 Falcate Orangetips.

The best sighting of the day was a Cow Path Tiger Beetle – the first one I've ever seen. It was absolutely gorgeous. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get as close as I'd have liked.

Chickweed Geometer (Haemotopis grataria)
April 26, 2008

No photos taken today, but saw Chickweed Geometers (Haemotopis grataria) for the first time this year. Also my first syrphid fly (Diptera Syrphidae).

Eastern Tailed-Blue (Everes comyntas)
April 24, 2008

First Eastern Tailed-Blue (Everes comyntas) of the year seen on gravel during a bike ride. Also saw a Celery Looper Moth (Noctuidae Anagrapha falcifera) in the grass, but it was easily spooked and I couldn't get close enough for photos.

Ninebark Calligrapha Beetles (Chrysomelidae Calligrapha spiraeae)
April 23, 2008

First sighting of whirlygig beetles (Heteroptera Gyrinidae). Today also marked my first 2008 observations of Ninebark Calligrapha Beetles (Chrysomelidae Calligrapha spiraeae) on, well what else?, Ninebark (Rosaceae Physocarpus sp.)

I searched the same tent caterpillar web as on the 21st and today found a mating pair of Anchor Stink Bugs (Stiretrus anchorago). I am assuming the largest one was the female. Really cool bugs – the male green and white, the female orange and black. After the male left, the female ate a caterpillar; she caught one inside of the nest which apparently was a little too close to the outside layer of webbing. A small piece of the caterpillar had been pulled outside of the web by the stink bug and she was busy sucking out all of the body fluids. A few of the caterpillars were wandering on the outside of the web, when they would touch the stink bug's legs, the stink bug would pivot with its beak inside of the caterpillar it was feeding on to get away from the other caterpillars.

Anchor Stink Bug (Stiretrus anchorago)
April 21, 2008

Really upset to be without my flash (which is on the east coast being repaired) today when I saw an anchor stink bug for the first time. I found it crawling on an Eastern Tent Caterpillar web and flushed it. Later in the afternoon, I checked the same web and it was back – this time eating a caterpillar.

Tons of Goatweed Leafwings (Anaea andria) and Falcate Orangetips (Anthocharis midea) flying around Cole County today.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Common Green Darner (Anax junius)
April 15, 2008

A day of first sightings for 2008. I've never had a day when I've seen so many cool things combined with taking so few photographs – I spent much of the day trying to get close to Goatweed Leafwings (Anaea andria). They were jumpy enough that I was occasionally flushing them from 10-15 feet away.

For a list of first sightings of the year, I'll start with the one that felt the most like “summer's coming” -- Common Green Darner (Anax junius)! It's been a long 6 months – my last Missouri dragonfly was a Variegated Meadowhawk last October.

Another first for spring of 2008 was a Six-spotted Tiger Beetle (Cicindella sexguttata). And a few new butterflies (and a moth) for the year: Falcate Orangetip (Anthocharis midea), Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme), Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus), Henry's Elfin (Callophrys henrici), Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta), Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) and a Snowberry Clearwing (Hemaris diffinis) moth.

In addition to the easily startled leafwings, other butterfly behavior lead to the low number of photos. Butterflies were continually jumping up to chase other butterflies. At about 5:30 pm, there were several episodes of 5 individuals engaged in chases: a Painted Lady, a Red Admiral, and a Goatweed Leafwing taking turns at the front trailed by 2 unidentified spreadwing skippers.
Snow Flurries!!!???
April 13, 2008

That's just wrong!
April 9, 2008

We decided to join Randal Clark's wildflower walk tonight, but typical of this spring, wildflower sightings were scarce. Someone on the group found a very tiny caterpillar on gooseberry. Unfortunately, it kind of looked like rain, so I left without my camera – and even without my phone!

Monday, April 07, 2008

Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus)
7 April, 2008

Saw a few butterflies for the first time this year – Spring Azures (Celestrina ladon) and a Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus). There were also quite a few moths (Caenurgina sp.) flying over mowed grass along the trail. I also found 2 blister beetles (Meloe sp.) on the trail.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Water Measurer (Hydrometra sp.)
5 April, 2008

SUN! After seemingly endless days of cloudy, rainy weather, we finally get a break.

I spent an hour and a half sitting at the edge of a pond watching water striders, backswimmers, water boatmen, and a variety of diving beetles. But the highlight came when I noticed a water measurer (Hydrometridae, Hydrometra sp.) walking across the water surface. It's the first time I've ever seen a member this family of insects other than in the Enns Entomology Museum. Maybe I haven't been looking closely enough, but in my defense, it was gray-brown and about the size of a sewing needle. While sitting at the pond, I heard an insect jump onto dried vegetation behind me. It was a froghopper (Cercopidae Lepyronia sp.)

I ended up with 5 butterfly species for the day – Cabbage White (Pieris rapae), Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa), Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis), Eastern Comma (Polygonia comma), and Gray Comma (Polygonia progne). One of the Gray Commas was nectaring at Fragrant Sumac (Rhus aromatica).

Friday, March 21, 2008

Water Strider (Aquarius sp.)
March 21, 2008

A mix today of winter and spring sightings. While watching my first water striders of 2008, a White-throated Sparrow foraged on the ground nearby.

I have a new pet -- "Maggie" -- I collected one of the maggots I photographed yesterday. I have it in a plastic container with about 1" of dirt. I think it's a crane fly (Tipulidae), and will try to raise it to an adult to see what it looks like then.
March 20, 2008

A great first day of spring – sunny and mid-60s. But while last week in Louisiana we were in the midst of spring with butterflies, dragonflies and other cool stuff, today I resorted to maggot photos and a photo of henbit which should soon be turning parts of the landscape purple. (Take a look at Daniel Spurgeon's Nature at Close Range blog entry on henbit.)

We did experience my favorite part of spring – extremely loud spring peepers. As we rode our bikes past flooded woods at 2 pm, we heard mostly chorus frogs with a few peepers. The return ride at 5:15 pm was mostly peepers with a few chorus frogs. I like both, but really prefer to hear the peepers. Kind of weird that someone who admits (yes, I'm embarrassed) to being creeped out by frogs, lizards, skinks . . . . thinks listening to them is the best part of spring.

And switching to birds -- my first Eastern Phoebe in Missouri this year.
Southeast Louisiana
March 9 - 13, 2008

It was really nice to get an extra week of spring by driving out of winter. Some highlights of the trip were dragonflies and damselflies at Tickfaw State Park, including a Stream Cruiser (Didymops transversa) and lots of Fragile Forktails (Ischnura posita). The forktails were common everyplace we went – even in my parents' yard. Butterflies at Tickfaw included quite a few Southern Pearly-eyes (Enodia portlandia).

Everywhere we went – but especially Mandalay National Wildlife Refuge – had way more lizards than I cared to see. We also had to turn around on the Mandalay trail midway one day when we couldn't get around a water moccasin. We had lunch, and returned to the trail and then made it to the end since the snake had left the bridge it was sunning itself on. From the wharf at the end, we saw the biggest alligator I've ever seen while out hiking – I'd guess about 15' long.

The best sighting at Mandalay was a bee mimic robber fly (Laphria sp.). Unfortunately, I had to be satisfied with using a doubler on my lens, shooting from 8' away at an insect higher than my head and cropping the photos. But since it was the only one in the genus I'd ever seen, I was still glad to get the shot. We also saw a few skippers, including this Least Skipper (Ancyloxypha numitor) nectaring at a flower in the pea family.

My parents' yard also had several really cool assassin bugs in the genus Zelus.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

March 4, 2008

Sunny and almost 40. I saw a tiny (probably 3-4 mm wingspan) tan moth flying over a creek at about 3:30 in the afternoon. It landed in the water, swam a few inches and managed to climb out of the water onto a protruding rock. Given the water temperature and the way I was dressed, I opted not to jump into the creek for a closer look.
Goatweed Leafwing (Anaea andria)
March 2, 2008

When went back outside just before lunch, I noticed a small gray insect almost completely blending into the concrete. Fortunately, I'm constantly looking for insects because I'd have been really upset with myself if I had stepped on an antlion larva and then noticed it smashed on the pavement. I had been wondering if the warm weather would get a few of the antlions in our nesting area moving around, but this was the first time I'd seen one leave the loose dirt and crawl up a 4 inch vertical slab of concrete.

In the afternoon, we headed out to Henry Domke's reception for his photo exhibit at Runge Nature Center. As always, Henry's photos were brilliant, stunning. . . . While out on the trail (on this 77 degree day), we saw our first butterfly of the year – a female Goatweed Leafwing.

I left the deck light on in the evening to watch for moths, but the only visitors were two ichneumonid wasps similar to this one photographed in March 2007.
March 1, 2008

A warm (69 F), sunny day. I wasn't seeing much on our bike ride, so in desperation I started lifting pieces of bark on the ground below a tree and found an overwintering beetle larva. I also had a fly buzz my bright green and white helmet, but since I was still wearing my helmet, I didn't get a good look at it.

Chorus frogs were calling this afternoon.

Friday, February 29, 2008

February 29, 2008

A warm day, but a search of Peace Park didn't turn up any insects. As usual on any warm day in winter, I found a few Red-shouldered Bugs outside Jesse Hall. I also had a winter crane fly land on a book I was reading outside.

I've been reading Enjoying Moths by Roy Leverton. The book was published in Great Britain, so it's mostly about British moths. Here's a great quote from the chapter discussing European moths that have become established in North America:

“Some moths (or rather their caterpillars) have been given common names, such as Apple Leaf Skeletonizer Chloreutis pariana and Omnivorous Leaf-tier Cnephasia longana, reflecting an American tendency to see moths as enemies rather than as wildlife. After it was introduced, our Rosy Rustic became their Potato Stem Borer!”

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Impatient for Spring
February 14, 2008

Since I'm getting impatient for spring, I decided to look back at some of my late winter / early spring photos. Syrphid flies were at blooming Witch-hazel on February 15, 2005. On February 29, 2004, I took photos of a water strider in Flat Branch Creek. My first butterflies last year were Question Marks that came to bait on trees in our backyard on March 12th.

I'm going to try to be much more diligent about updating my blog this year, noting when I see new insects as we move from winter into spring. I've already seen a few flies in January, and a couple of Asian ladybugs and box elder bugs crawling over the exterior walls of our house on warm days.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Red-shouldered Bugs (Jadera haematoloma)
January 7, 2008

I went for a walk on campus on this warm and sunny winter day (49 degrees). I saw several Red-shouldered Bugs (Jadera haematoloma) crawling around at the most reliable spot for them on campus – at the Goldenrain Tree (Sapindaceae Koelrueteria paniculata) just outside the doors of Jesse Hall. The insect is believed to be native to North America, but they are so frequently observed at exotic Goldenrain Trees that another common name is Goldenrain Tree Bug.

No photos from today, but here is an image of a Red-shouldered Bug on a Goldenrain Tree seed pod near Jesse Hall on 8 November 2005.
Winter Crane Flies (Trichoceridae)
December 25, 2007

We were in Columbia on a sunny and 45 degree Christmas day this year. While walking on the MKT Trail, we saw a group of winter crane flies hovering above Flat Branch Creek, and several other individuals at different bridges over the creek. Unfortunately, when I left the house, although I thought about the possibility of finding a few insects, I figured it was a long shot and decided to walk without carrying a ton of camera equipment. Which was why I ended up taking a photo with my phone!!! You can take a look at it, along with a real photo of a winter crane fly taken 20 November 2006.