Giant Swallowtails (Papilio cresphontes) are the largest butterfly in the United States and Canada. They have wingspans that measure up to 5 1/2 inches. They have one of the widest ranges of any of our swallowtail species. They can be found from Central America to Southern Ontario. Within the United States they will be found all throughout the South, as well as the Northeastern portion of the country. Occasionally they will be found further north into North Dakota, and provinces further north in Canada. They favor areas near streams, open woodlands and fields close by. In the southern most portion of their range they can be found in citrus groves and are commonly called Orange Dogs. The host plant for the caterpillars is plants in the citrus family. Common Pricklyash and Common Hoptree are most commonly used. The adults nectar at a wide variety of herbaceous plants, and shrubs. After mating, the females lay eggs singly on the leaves of the host plant. The caterpillars will pupate and overwinter in this stage, tucked away in a cocoon.
Friday, October 30, 2009
The Seven-Spotted Lady Beetle (Coccinella septempunctata) is another introduced species of ladybug. This one hails from Europe rather than Asian like the Multi-Colored Asian Lady Beetle. They were brought to this country with the same purpose in mind...to control aphids. Apparently our own lovely native species weren't doing the job well enough to suit enterprising individuals who thought it wise to help them out by bringing much more aggressive species to the rescue.
As many of you know it has become quite difficult to locate a native species these days. The Nine-Spotted Lady Beetle (native) is all but extirpated in much of its range. They just can't compete with these intruding newcomers. Seven-Spotted Lady Beetles are red with 7 black spots on their elytra (wings) just as their common name suggests. The seventh spot overlaps on the midline towards the head. They are small at about 1/4 of an inch. The adults overwinter in leaf litter or other protected sites, usually near where they were reared and fed. In the spring they will become active again and mate. The female will begin egg production shortly there after, and is capable of laying up to 1,000 eggs over a three month period of time. Once the eggs hatch, it will take the newly born larvae up to three weeks to complete its life cycle.
It is estimated that a single lady beetle may consume up to 5,000 aphids in it's lifetime. There is no arguing the effectiveness of these little munchers when it comes to aphid control. That being said,when it comes to introducing foreign species, I just can't help cringe when I think about the over all affect it will have on the native species that most likely will end up struggling to retain a foothold. What often times may seem like a great idea at the moment, turns out to be a disaster later down the road. What makes this even funnier, is New Hampshire, Tennessee, Delaware, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Ohio have all adopted this species as their State insect. For many of us a ladybug, is a ladybug and we pay no attention to species. There are a few of us however, from a purely nostalgic standpoint, that miss the days from our childhood when the ladybugs as we know them to be were in abundance. There is nothing to be done about the populations of nonnative species at this point, so the only logical thing to do....is except what is and be grateful for the service they provide.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
This lovely dark red ladybug is the V-Marked Lady Beetle (Neoharmonia venusta venusta). They are solid red with black markings. At the midline of their wings is a distinctive "V" shaped black marking from where they get their common name. This species has no white on it. They are a bit on the large size for a ladybug, measuring up to 3/8 of an inch. Unlike other species of ladybugs that typically feed on aphids or other soft bodied insects, this species feeds on beetle larvae, especially the larvae of the Cottonwood Leaf Beetle (Sometimes called Willow Leaf Beetle). The one pictured here was photographed at Elrod Mill CA in NWMO. It was the only individual present, but there were a lot of larvae of this species on the various river willow plants. It wasn't long before I spotted a Cottonwood Leaf Beetle. It seems they will choose habitats that are consistent with where their common prey would live. Look for them near rivers, streams and any areas where cottonwood or willow trees are plentiful.
V-Marked Lady Beetle Pupa
These little black alligator looking creatures are the larvae to the V-Marked Lady Beetle. They were in large supply near the river.
I am constantly amazed at the many different species of ladybugs that there actually are. I spent the whole summer on the lookout for new, or previously un-spotted species. I was not disappointed, I found many I had never seen before. I will try to post some of them over the next few weeks. Very little information was available about this particular species. I am not sure how far their range goes, although I did find information that claimed they are now quite plentiful in southern Canada, having expanded their range further north. They are without a doubt one of the prettier species of ladybugs I've ever seen. Their food choice can only make them beneficial, as cottonwood leaf beetles can cause damage to trees.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
These are impressive, beautiful flying flowers, and I love to see them return each year.
Monday, October 26, 2009
Grass Carrying Wasps (Isodontia mexicana) are found throughout North America as well as Central America. They are medium sized wasps that reach about 1 1/2 inches in length. Their bodies are black with a very thin waist that connects the thorax to the abdomen. Some specimens may have an orange marking on the tip of the abdomen. The thorax is covered in fine hairs. They are sometimes called Cricket Hunters from their preference of using crickets as a host insect for their larvae. After mating, the female will locate a pre-constructed nest in rotting or decaying wood. Within this nest she will create brood cells. These nests will have several brood cells divided by thin walls. Each chamber is generally lined with bits of grasses. The female will provision each cell with a cricket or sometimes a katydid. She will then lay an egg on each host. When the eggs hatch the larvae will feed on the host as a parasite of sorts. In about 4 to 6 days they will be ready to pupate and in another 5 to 6 weeks the adults will emerge. These are common wasps, and often seen in gardens, grassy areas, meadows, and near woodlands. The adults nectar at a wide variety of flowers. These wasps will sometimes be found nesting in storm windows, they use the tracks as an exisiting site for nest provisioning. These wasps are very similar to Thread-Waisted Wasps.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Widow Skimmers (Libellula luctuosa) are common dragonflies found throughout most of the United States with exception to the Rocky Mountains. They can also be found in Mexico and parts of Canada. They are a medium sized dragonfly reaching lengths up to 1 3/4 inches and wingspans up to 3 inches. Adult males have dark brown to black patches bordered by white on their wings. As they age their bodies become more white; like the one in the first picture. Females and young have the same dark patches on their wings but lack the white border.
Males will aggressively defend their territories from other males. They perch and patrol for females, on constant guard for intruding males from other territories. Once mated the female will lay her eggs in the water, either on bottom sediment or on aquatic plants. As nymphs they will spend their lives underwater feeding on other aquatic insects. The following year they will be ready to leave their watery home and fly for the first time. They will crawl out of the water onto a stem or rock or some other solid surface and shed their skin one final time. Once free from this skin the helpless, newly emerged adult will remain in place until it has pumped sufficient fluids into its wings. After the wings completely fill out it will flex them to strengthen them, and take flight for the first time. What a glorious feeling this must be. These beautiful dragonflies can be found in a wide variety of habitats, look for them near ponds, lakes and often times out in fields seeking their insect prey.
Their common name of "Widow Skimmer" comes from the cloak-like black patches on their wings. The species name of luctuosa translates into sorrowful or mournful.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
I found her clinging to an evergreen tree and moved her to this flower for some photographs. I was able to coax her onto my hand, and she stumbled around like she'd been on a drinking binge. I know there are several species of paper wasp, each building unique papery nests. I do not know the identity of this particular species. I love her lovely green eyes, which may be a key characteristic in ID'ing her. If anyone can tell by these photos what species she is please let me know.
Monday, October 19, 2009
Reddish-Brown Stag Beetles (Lucanus capreolus) are found throughout the Eastern portion of the United States and parts of Canada. Like their name suggests they are a dark reddish-brown in color. They are large, reaching lengths up to 2 inches. The males have large mandibles that are used in sparring with other males for the attention of suitable females. Mating takes place in decaying logs, stumps etc. Once mated the female will lay eggs within decaying wood. The larvae will live in the decay and feed off the juices retained in the wood pulp. Their growth is slow, after two years as larva they will head to the soil and burrow underground to pupate, and emerge later in the season as adults. These beetles can be found in deciduous woodlands and nearby areas, and often come to lights at night. The adults are attracted to moth bait, aphid honeydew and possibly rotting fruit. Even with their large mandibles they are capable of flight. Last year we had several of these large beetles that kept appearing at a mercury vapor light and sheet that I had set out to attract large silk moths. Some evenings there would be as many 5 or 6 on the sheets. I have yet to see a male.
Friday, October 16, 2009
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Red-Legged Grasshoppers (Melanoplus femurrubrum) are in the sub-family of grasshoppers known as Spur-throated grasshoppers.These are very common grasshoppers and are found throughout all of the United States and parts of Canada and Mexico. They are probably one of the most widespread of all the grasshoppers. They are found in weedy, grassy areas especially near cultivated land, meadows, roadsides, prairies, open woods and backyards. They feed on a wide variety of grasses and forbes. This will include many forage crops like clover and alfalfa. These are not a large grasshopper, in comparison to the much larger differential grasshopper these are rather small to medium sized grasshoppers. They can vary in color from dull reddish to brown. The hind legs have a reddish tint to them, from whence they get their common name. Females will lay eggs within the ground, and these eggs overwinter. In the spring they hatch and begin feeding on grasses. As they grow to adulthood they will consume large amounts of grasses and can be very injurious to numerous forage crops. In large numbers they can cause significant financial losses to these agricultural industries. On rare occasions they have shown a tendency to large mass flights, but this is rare. They usually tend to be solitary in their lifestyle. I find these little hoppers all over near our garden and the grassy areas near our old pond. They are secretive and somewhat hard to approach. They are very quick to hide or hop away. I've only managed a few decent pictures of them, the one pictured here is the best of them all. With the unusually cold fall temperatures we've been experiencing the grasshopper populations have suffered and their numbers are low. Typically this time of year we have warm fall days that bring these little beasts out in large numbers, not so this year.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
These beetles are best looked at and not touched. They are common and easily found, some years there seems to be more of them, than other years. In the past two years I've not seen populations of them anywhere near like what I had two summers ago.
1.) Ash-Gray Blister Beetle
2.) Black Blister Beetle
3.) Striped Blister Beetle (picture by: Steve Scott) This is the variety that blistered me, and from what I've read this species contains higher concentrations of cantharidin than the other two species pictured here.
Friday, October 9, 2009
They are average in size with wingspans up to 2 3/4 inches. These lovely flying flowers cannot be mistaken for any other species. They are mostly brown with two large orange eyespots on the hindwings. The largest eyespot is on the forewing, it also contains a purplish circle within the eyespot. It is probable that the eyespots are a deterrent to would be predators.
Males will perch during the day low to the ground waiting for passing females. Males of this species are very territorial and will chase away other males. After mating, females will lay tiny green eggs one at a time on the leaf buds or the upperside of the leaves of several different host plants. These include anything in the snapdragon family, the plantain family and the acanthus family. Adults and caterpillars overwinter in their southern most range. Adults will feed on nectar from many different flowers including peppermint, chickory, knapweed, dogbane, aster and many others. Look for them in a wide variety of habitats, like open fields, grassy areas with wildflowers present. They are commonly found in sunny open areas with some bare ground exposed and low vegetation.
I ran across this poem a few years ago on the internet and fell in love with it
Little Buckeye Butterfly
By: Thee Mouseman (2006)
Hey, little Buckeye, what brings you to my pen?
Haven't seen you since I was what, 'bout ten
Stay here awhile and remind me of way back then.
Yes, yes all too true, life was simple and without care.
All we ever wanted was a little sunshine and a little fresh air.
I recall chasing you all day, never getting mad when you got away.
Dancing in the garden running this way and that
Running 'till I fell with laughter on my back
Were you sent here to bring this little boy home,
Or just to remind me that we are all alone?
I do not understand, all we ever wanted
Was a little sunshine and little fresh air.
Somewhere along the way I failed to care.
I know, I know I have become a tangle weed,
I still want that sunshine and fresh air,
Perhaps to understand why I did fail to care.
What's that you say?
Sky Father made flowers and weeds, some pretty and
Some quite glum, but all with the ability for a
Little sunshine and fresh air.
Little Buckeye Butterfly, what brings you to my yard?
Thursday, October 8, 2009
They will range in size from 1/2 inch to well over 3 inches. They come in a variety of colors, from green, brown, tan, to black like the one pictured here. Most all species will have a somewhat cone shaped head. In some species this will be very prominent, in others there will only be a slightly noticeable point, that can even have a somewhat rounded appearance.
These little guys can be difficult to find during the day, because of their coloring they blend in well with their environment. They will typically be associated with grassy, weedy areas.
Night seems to be the best time to find these insects, especially the females. They will be feeding on the seed heads of various plants.
Katydids begin appearing in the spring as tiny nymphs, feeding their way through tons of grasses and little seeds. Sometime late in the summer you will start noticing the adults. Breeding will begin in August and continue through October. Females will lay eggs in the soil and these eggs overwinter and hatch the following spring. The adults perish sometime after the first frost.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Western Conifer Seed Bugs (Leptoglossus occidentalis) are in the family Hemiptera (true bugs). They are commonly called Leaf-Footed Bugs from their flange-like hindlegs, they almost look like they are wearing bloomers. These bugs are a western species, and have been expanding their range to include the North Eastern portions of the United States. Now it seems we can include Missouri within that expansion. I would be curious to know how many of these bugs are showing up in Missouri, or if they are relatively rare. I sent this image to Eric at bugguide and he confirmed my assumption that this was indeed the Western Conifer Seed Bug. One identification characteristic that many specimens have are a zig-zag line on their mid-portion. This picture shows that marking. They can get quite large and reach lengths up to one inch, this one was closer to 3/4 of an inch. They are mottled brown with various shades of tan and rust mixed in. They are really quite beautiful. I found this one on the sidewalk outside my DR.'s office, it seemed like a weird place to find one, I scooped him up to identify later. Now that I know what he is, I will have to look to see if there are any fir trees near the DR's office. Or maybe he was contemplating entering the DR's office to spend the winter in warmth and comfort, and I thwarted his efforts.
These bugs feed on conifer trees, or pine trees as the name suggests. The female will lay eggs on the needles of a variety of pine trees. In about 10 days the eggs hatch and the young nymphs will feed on the tender scales of the pine cones and sometimes on the needles themselves. The adults feed on the developing seeds and early flowers of the pine trees. The nymphs start out orange and brown and eventually will change to their adult form in late August. These bugs are completely harmless to humans, they do not bite, sting, carry disease or feed on human food. Their only form of defense is a stinky discharge that they emit if handled. This is to discourage predators. I guess if you smell bad nothing would want to eat you. Even the ones that might make it into your home in the fall are merely a minor problem. They will not breed in your home as their development is restricted to the host plant. If you can tolerate their presence, and if the invasion isn't in too large a number, rest assured they will leave your premises in the spring and start their life cycle all over again.
Monday, October 5, 2009
They are found in gardens, meadows, parks and prairies, where they feed on aphids, scale insects and other soft bodied insects. This little ladybug has many different names, and it probably depends upon your region as to what you call it, these names include Red Lady Beetle, Spotless Lady Beetle and Immaculate Lady Beetle.
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Harvestman , or as they are more commonly called, Daddy Longlegs, are found throughout North America. What childhood would be complete without letting one of these spider-like creatures crawl across your leg or arm? I used to play with these crazy looking cousins to spiders all the time, in fact I still can't resist coaxing one onto my hand. Their delicate legs tickling my flesh as they climb my arm. Harvestman are not actually spiders, they are closely related to spiders and are in the same classification of Arachnids, but they are in the family Leiobunidae. Spiders have two body segments called a cephalothorax, whereas Harvestman have only one. They are called Daddy Longlegs for good reason, those impossibly long legs make them look as if that is all they are, their body is very tiny in comparison.
Daddy Longlegs hatch in the spring, and these tiny newborns will grow and molt about every ten days. Once they reach adult size they will begin seeking mates. Males possess a penis, and they seem to actually enjoy copulation; upon meeting they will readily mate and quite often. The male will form a type of umbrella over the female as she lays her eggs in the fall. The eggs will overwinter in the ground and the young emerge the following spring to begin the cycle all over again. They are capable of living up to 2 years. As appropriate as it may seem the females are not called harvestwoman or Mommy Legs. Both males and females have the same name.
These arachnids feed on a wide variety of food, including earthworms, fruit, plant matter and insects. They can be found almost anywhere, I can walk outside and see them all over my porch, in my gardens and even crawling up the house. Look for them under logs, rocks and moist areas in woodlands. These spider cousins do not build webs, instead they travel to look for food. Many of us have heard the Old Wives Tale about how venomous the Daddy Longlegs is....this is simply not true. They are unable to bite through our skin and even if they could they possess no significant venom glands. Therefore they are completely harmless. These are great "bugs" to use to introduce young children to the wonderful world of insects. They aren't intimidating, they are gentle and it is fun to compare their touch to a tickle.
There is a spider Pholcus phalangioides that is also called Daddy Longlegs, this spider does possess venom glands but has not been known to have bitten anyone. Because there are no known bite victims it is not known whether this spider would be harmful to humans or not. These particular spiders are not found in the United States.
A fun fact: If our bodies were the size of a Harvestman, in proportion our legs would have to extend over forty or fifty feet. We could cross the road without setting foot on the pavement.
Saturday, October 3, 2009
This colorful damselfly is a female American Rubyspot (Hetaerina americana). They can be found throughout most of the United States with exception to Washington and Idaho. Populations also occur in three provinces in Canada including Quebec, New Brunswick and Ontario, also found in Mexico.
They are a fairly large damselflies reaching lengths up to 2 inches. The females can come in two color forms, one has green on the thorax and the other form has copper on the thorax. They are found near streams or slow moving rivers. The one pictured here was photographed at Elrod Mill Conservation Area near the Platte River in NWMO.
The one here to the right is the male, he was in constant motion and was very difficult to photograph (hence the poor quality). He was just as striking as the female with his red patches and red thorax. These are one of the prettiest damselflies in North America, and I was excited to find them.
Friday, October 2, 2009
Mating occurs in the early summer months, and after mating, the female will lay tiny white spherical eggs. When the eggs hatch the larvae will feed on the roots of turf grass or other organic material. Because of their food preferences they often cause damage to yards. This damage can be minimal to severe depending upon how extensive their population is. When they reach two inches in length they are ready to pupate. A unique characteristic of this grub is its habit of crawling on its back using its abdominal muscles to gain traction as it moves. There will be one generation per year. The adults will appear in June and continue to be around through September. When they fly around your yard they sound like bumble bees. Just goes to show that not every big bug buzzing around our head with a very loud wing beat is a bee, it just might be one of these large June Beetles.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Spreadwing Damselflies in the family Lestidae are found throughout most of North America.They earned their name from their habit of holding their wings out in a "Spreading" fashion. They range in size from 1 1/4 to 2 1/4 inches. They are common around wetlands, slow moving brackish waters, marshes, streams, ponds and temporary watering holes. Males are more colorful than females, and are usually shades of blue, dark gray or greenish. Females are more cryptically colored in shades of brown.
Mating takes place near the wetlands that they favor. After mating, the female will use her ovipositor located near the tip of her abdomen to slice slits into plant stems. She will then lay eggs within these openings. This usually occurs 3 to 4 inches above the surface of the water. When the young nymphs hatch they will drop into the water. They will live an aquatic life for the next year or so, feeding on aquatic insects.
Early in the summer large populations of these may occur in what appears to be population explosions. When the nymphs are ready to shed their larval skin for the last time, they will crawl up on a stalk and their exoskeleton will split down the back and the new adult will emerge. Many times these little nymphs all leave the water at the same time. Which causes these huge explosions in numbers. This past summer I had hundreds of these lovely damselflies all over near our garden and an old dried up pond that sometimes holds water, especially after the spring rains. I would walk down there around the old pond and these lovely little damselflies would land all over me. They are fairly easy to approach, and fun to photograph.