Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Grab a hold of nature



While I have a love of all things natural, be it mammals, reptiles, fungus, trees, flowers or just appreciating the beauty of a sunset, I will be found outside exploring it or photographing it. Somehow though, insects have won out above all else as the object of my love.



When I tell people that I love insects, I get many strange looks and always the question follows "why?" How do I answer that? For me it is many things all combined into something that makes perfect sense to me. I love being outside, the warmth of the sun on my face, the breeze blowing across my skin, and then I catch sight of one of God's perfect creations hidden among the foliage of a favorite bush or flower. As I creep closer, careful to not scare away my quarry, I am rewarded with a glimpse into the life of a caterpillar munching away on a leaf, or perhaps a beautiful butterfly drinking her fill from one of the pretty flowers put in the garden just for her, or maybe it is a pair of stink bugs engaged in a love embrace as they shyly retreat under a  leaf. Whatever it is, it is sure to fascinate me and cause me to smile. Nature does that, it makes us smile. Can you walk into your garden and catch sight of a spring batch of baby bunnies and not smile? Can you look at a large swallowtail butterfly nectaring at the flowers in your flower bed and not smile? Can you watch momma robin feed her hungry babies, mouths all agape, a fat juicy worm and marvel at the fact that they eat those things, and not smile? Nature restores us, it rejuvenates us, it brings us back to the center of ourselves.

 
  
 


In this day of the electronic age, so many of the youth in this country do not know what it is like to experience the outdoors beyond the virtual world presented to them on the television or computer screen. They will never know what it is like to eat snow, or chew on timothy grass stems, or eat wild berries. To capture caterpillars and watch them mature, or to walk in the woods among the sights and smells that only timberland can bring.  Do they miss those things? Not on a conscious level, after all how can you miss what you've never had?  On a subconscious level it is a different story, their body cries out for it. It is why they are restless, bored and never satisfied. They are seeking something that can't be bought. It won't come in a can, or on a video game. The only way to find it, is to leave your home and walk outside.



I recall as a child spending hours outside. We went out shortly after the sun came up and wouldn't return to house until the sun went down. Being called into supper was a serious irritation to us. It often interrupted whatever fun we were engaged in at the time. Many times we would stay out way after dark to play a particularly challenging game of hide-and- go- seek.  My bothers and I found all sorts of things to do. We were never bored. We made our own entertainment. We built snow forts, snowmen and had snowball fights. We explored creeks, got stuck in the mud and had to figure out how to get out (we learned problem solving skills). We drank water from the garden hose, just so we wouldn't have to go inside and none of us were hurt because of it! We played "real" baseball, and football, we got dirty, we skinned knees and we wouldn't have had it any other way.




All this time spent outdoors brought me into constant contact with insects. Some welcome, some not so much. One neighborhood we lived in was across from a neighborhood swimming pool and large open fields with tall grasses. I can still smell those tall weeds and grasses when I think back. I found so many caterpillars feeding on those grasses that I was in sheer heaven. I captured many of them and took them home and placed them in an aquarium, only to learn a valuable lesson. Each species of caterpillar requires certain plants to feed on to be able to survive. Simply placing them in a container with grass was not suitable at all, unless you were doing a study in caterpillar cannibalism. Many more experiences with insects presented itself, including a neighbor girl who happened to possess a delicacy in the form of chocolate covered ants and grasshoppers. I was the brave one (ok... the dared one) who tried them. I found it not as repulsive as I first thought it was sure to be. At least I didn't puke, lets put it that way. Now I find myself partaking of such edibles merely for shock factor. Who doesn't love to see the look of revulsion on the faces of your closest friends as you slurp down a nacho flavored mealworm? "You eat shrimp, right"? I always reply when they make their varied comments about me being gross or insane. For some reason, they just don't get the connection between shrimp and mealworms. I've even been told I am a shoe-in for Fear Factor...I see it as simply a survival skill, if I am ever left stranded in the wild with no food, viola, instant protein!



Life in the outdoors has filled my life with adventure, laughter, sadness, happiness, and an overwhelming sense of peace.


We as parents, need to make the commitment to graduate our children from the couch to the yard. Let's give them the same chances we had as children, to explore, to taste, to smell, to grab a hold of their part of nature, and make memories to last them a lifetime. Who needs Ritalin when you can run off all that energy in a healthy way?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Mayfly



Mayflies are not actually flies at all. They are insects in the order Neuroptera and the family Ephemieridae. How do we know if something is a fly or merely called a fly? Here is an easy way to tell the difference, if the name is all one word like Mayfly, Dobsonfly, Caddisfly, Dragonfly, Damselfly, etc.. then it is definitely NOT a fly, but rather belongs to some other order of insect. If the insect has a first and last name like House Fly, Bot Fly, Flesh Fly, Flower Fly, Robber Fly, Bee Fly....etc. Then it definitely IS a fly.

Mayflies are interesting insects in that they have one of the shortest lifespans (as adults) than most any other insect. They typically emerge from slow moving streams in huge aggregations much to the delight of trout and birds. The males are usually the first on the scene, they will patrol the area seeking females as they emerge. The poor females barely have time to leave their watery home before being pounced on by enthusiastic males. Once they are bred the females will lay their eggs in the water. These tiny eggs drop to the bottom among the sediment and hatch soon after. They will live up to a year in this watery environment before emerging the following spring or summer. Within a couple days, three or four at the most, nearly all the adults will have perished. In areas where their numbers are in large concentrations it is not uncommon to see thousands of "bodies" along the shoreline piled up in a mass above ground burial fashion.


Mayflies come in many colors, and sizes. They range from 1/2 inch to 1 1/2 inches. The Burrowing Mayfly (pictures 1 & 2) is the largest in the Eastern United States.  They are a beautiful golden color which also earns them the name of Golden Mayfly. This species as well as other species of mayflies are commonly used as models for the flies that fishermen create to fish for trout.




As aquatic nymphs they will feed on other tiny aquatic insects. When they emerge as adults they do not feed, their energy is used to find mates, breed and lay eggs. No time for feeding when your lifespan is only mere few days. These insects for some reason are attracted to lights, and are often found at porch lights at night.
The one in the third picture was photographed during the day near Happy Holler Lake in Savannah, MO. It was ghostly white and very tiny. If it hadn't of flown up in front of me when I walked too close to it, I would not have seen it. Sometimes these insects fall victim to other insects or spiders as a choice food source, such as this jumping spider (picture 4). As small as these mayflies were, and considering they are mostly wings, I can't imagine there was much nutrition in that meal. I guess if you consume several of them you would gain some beneficial nutrients.


Begin looking for these insects in June or July. Their numbers will increase significantly at this time and they are quite easy to find. Their wings are almost gossamer in appearance and they hold their legs in such an interesting fashion they make for great photography subjects.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Cartoon Me



I had to share this photo with all of you. A fellow co-worker and good friend Tim McPhillips drew it for me for a Christmas gift. I think he captured me perfectly...LOL. Although I worry a bit about how everyone must see me, and here I thought I was "normal". This is without a doubt one of the best gifts I've ever been given, and I will certainly treasure it always. Hope it provides you all with a smile, and perhaps some insight into the Quirky side of MObugs....

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Squash Lady Beetle





Almost all ladybugs are beneficial to humans. This comes from their preferred food source of aphids and other harmful soft bodied insects that feed on our vegetables, fruits and flowers. Ladybugs are known to consume large amounts of these pests, making them a gardeners best friend. Now I want to introduce you to one of the exceptions to the rule when it comes to lady beetles. This gorgeous spotted ladybug is the Squash Lady Beetle (Epilachna borealis). Instead of feeding on insects, they feed on cucurbit crops, like squash, melons, and cucumbers. As you can see pictured here, they will use their mouths to cut into the stems of the plants and releasing the tasty juices within. In large enough numbers these beetles could cause significant damage to your garden crops. These beetles will show up on your plants in mid-summer. They mate and lay eggs. It isn't long before the eggs hatch and the young are unleashed on your prized cantaloupe. A curious habitat that the adults possess is to circle a potential feeding site, much like a dog goes in circles before lying down for a nap. It is not fully understood what purpose this serves, but it is cute to watch. In the second picture you can see the damage being done to the leaves by their feeding habits.





The young larvae look like spiny little aliens. They are bright yellow and covered with a spattering of black spiny hairs. They will grow quickly and pupate, then the bright orange and black spotted adults will appear. They are one of the largest lady beetles in Eastern North America where they range. Very little is known about their life cycle, or at least very little is reported on it. My mother had a volunteer pumpkin vine show up in her back yard. She left it to grow because she found the leaves to be interesting and beautiful. It produced one pumpkin and dozens of these beetles, in all stages of development.



How ironic is the 2nd & 3rd pictures, notice the aphids that are present?

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas



In these days of being politically correct, I want to stand out and say loud and proud.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

I hope each of you are blessed with Family, Friends, Good Food, Safe Travel, and the "true' meaning of Christmas within your hearts.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Spotted Cucumber Beetle



Spotted Cucumber Beetles (Diabrotica undecimpuntata) are very common leaf beetles in the family Chrysomelidae. They can be found throughout all of North America and are abundant in Missouri. Of all the leaf beetles this is probably the one I see most frequently. These are somewhat small beetles and if it weren't for their bright lime-yellow coloring they would most likely go unnoticed. They are quick to move behind leaves or other hiding spots when approached, which can make them difficult to photograph, but patience usually pays off. Each of the bright yellow-green wings has 5 black spots, with another prominent spot that overlaps both wings near the pronotum. This gives them a total of 11 spots.




These beetles will overwinter in leaf litter near fence rows, wood lots and areas near protected buidlings. In the spring with the return of warm weather they will become active again. They will seek mates in early spring and the female will lay her eggs in the soil near the base of host plants. When the eggs hatch the young larvae will burrow into the soil to feed on the roots of various plants. After a few weeks they will emerge as adults and it is these grown up beetles you will find in your gardens feeding on the leaves of cucumbers, as well as squash, melons, beans, beets, tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, cabbage and a host of other garden favorites. The larvae tend to feed only on the roots of melons and cucumbers.



 In large numbers these beetles can be significant pests to garden crops. There feeding habits can reduce yields, and they are also know vectors of bacterial wilt and cucumber mosaic. Some Sevin-Dust goes a long way to controlling them and keeping them from munching away on your plants. Or if you have the patience, you may pick them off one beetle at a time. Fortunately we've not encountered them in significantly large enough numbers to warrant any control being necessary. I find them to be beautiful beetles and can't resist photographing them whenever I spot one.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Metallic Crab Spider




This beautiful orange and purple spider is the Metallic Crab Spider (Philodromus marxi). They can be found from Eastern Texas eastward to the Atlantic Coast. I believe this one is a male. Many reports state that there are no photos of the female. Seems I have a mission next summer to try and find the female. I found several of the males in my yard, some were much more metallic than others. The one photographed here was a little drabber in color than previous ones I had seen.


 
 
Crab spiders come in so many different colors, sizes and shapes that it is amazing. This species was a new one for me this past summer. I had no idea what it was until I sent a photo into Bugguide.net. The people there are so helpful in identifying insects and spiders. I will say this spider is one of the most unique and probably one of the prettiest spiders I've seen in my yard.





Thursday, December 17, 2009

Great Golden Digger Wasp



This beautiful wasp is the Great Golden Digger Wasp (Sphex ichneumoneus). They can be found throughout most of the United States and into parts of Canada. The adults will be seen nectaring at flowers. This species seems to be very curious about people, they will fly away from the flower they are feeding at to check you out. It can be quite intimidating as they do their little fly-by, but try not to panic. This species is not known to be overly aggressive, so if you can stand still and patiently wait they will go back their business in short order. If you were to swat at it or otherwise antagonize it, you may get stung for your efforts.

This is one of the prettiest species of wasps I find in my yard. They are quite large at 1 1/4 inches and their thorax is covered in dense velvety golden hairs, from whence they get their common name. Their overall body color is a pretty shade of pumpkin orange and black. Quite the Halloween outfit I might say.

Their preferred habitats seems to be open fields and meadows as well as sandy areas nearby (sandy soil is easier to dig). After mating, the female will dig a vertical tunnel in the ground with chambers coming off of it. This habit of digging her brood chambers is also where their common name is derived from. In each chamber they will provision it with a some species of insect in the order Orthoptera (katydid's, crickets, etc.), and lay one egg on the provided paralyzed insect. When the egg hatches the larvae will feed on the provided food source. There will be one generation per year.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Painted Lady



This beautiful butterfly is the Painted Lady, I came across this photograph while organizing pictures and just thought I would share it with you all. It reminds me of summer, and oh how I wish it was...summer that is! It is 16 degrees right now and we still have the remnants of our recent 10 inch snow fall. If you would like to read more about these beautiful butterflies click this link to read a previous post on the Painted Lady

Monday, December 14, 2009

Polyphemus Moth





This large gorgeous moth is the Polyphemus (Antheraea polyphemus). They have a wingspan of almost 6 inches. Their coloring is spectacular, with various shades of tan, brown, gray and beautiful pink. Those large eyespots on their hindwings are used for protection from predation. Many birds and other creatures might think twice before trying to dine on this insect if they assume it is something other than what it is, which is where those "eyes" come in. The one pictured here is a female. Three simple ways to tell male from female are

1.) The males have large feathery antennae, these are used to detect the pheromone the female emits. He can
      smell her from great distances.
2.) The females are typically much larger than the males.
3.) The females also have very large abdomens, this is for egg production.

The Eastern portion of the United States is home to many large moths in the family Saturniidae, which are the silk moths. These include the Polyphemus, Luna, Promethea, Rosy Maple, Io, Cecropia, and the Imperial to name but a few. Each of these reside in Missouri. The Polyphemus is one of my favorites, second only to the Luna.



 The overly large caterpillars of these moths are nearly as beautiful as the adults. These caterpillars are eating machines, they eat huge amounts of leaves gaining so much weight that by comparison if a human baby ate as much as a caterpillar, in a single weekend your baby would weigh as much as a hippo. They need to pack on this excessive weight to keep them alive as adults long enough to mate and lay eggs. Once they reach adult size they do not eat, their only goal is to find a mate, breed and lay eggs. The extra weight that they put on as caterpillars is what keeps them alive for the 5 to 7 days of their adult life.

They can be found in or near hardwood forests, as well as urban, suburban areas and orchards and wetlands. The caterpillars feed on maple, elm, oak, willow, and birch as their host plants. The caterpillars rarely become a serious agricultural pest as the female's egg laying habits are very random. If they were to use a very young tree as a host there is the potential the tree could damaged. Occasionally these moths are attracted to lights at night. I've found several of them at a mercury vapor light and a white sheet that I put up.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Lightening Bug




By whatever name you call them, is there anything more charming or reminiscent of childhood than the lightening bug, or firefly? As a kid I remember countless hours spent outdoors soon after the sun would set, chasing these clever insects all over my yard. How can an insect be clever you ask? Anything that can light up it's backside as a effectively as these little creatures do has to to clever. Many lightening bugs were sacrificed to my childhood fascination. I would place them in jars and create lanterns, convinced no one was as ingenious as I. I even recall one summer a cute neighbor boy asking me to marry him as he placed a "glowing diamond" on my finger. I was sure there could be no diamond ring anywhere as pretty as the one he gave me. It had to be true love!

Childhood soon gave way to adulthood and more grown-up pursuits, but I never fail to smile or get excited each time I look across a country field and see it aglow with these lovely insects. My imagination forces me to see a field of sparkling stars flashing out a code that I'm not meant to understand. The first warm days of spring, will bring these insects out in large numbers, and they remain with us throughout the hot summer months. Long before the first freeze they disappear, there seems to be some encoded message in their genetic make-up that lets them know that cold temperatures aren't far away.

I can remember many years ago my brother from Oregon paid us a visit. He was enamored by the fireflies, he could not get over his own amazement at their simple beauty. He had never seen one, fireflies do not live in the Northwest. I couldn't help but feel just a bit sad for a childhood spent without these endearing creatures.



Lightening Bugs, or Fireflies are beetles, which many people find hard to believe. First of all they do not have hard outer shells like most beetles, and they resemble many of the true bugs we are familiar with. Then there is the name Firefly, but it isn't a fly at all. So it's appearance and it's name are a bit misleading. They begin their life as worm shaped larvae, and are even called "Glow worms". Yes, they are able to glow that magnificent green even as babies. I've never actually seen one, which seems odd to me given the sheer number of adults we have around our farm.

During the daylight hours they will secret themselves away in bushes, shrubs, or in the grass. Then at night the light show begins. The female will signal from the grasses for passing males. In many species it is only the male who flies, and he will recognize a signal from his own species. Once he locates her, he will fly down to her and mating will occur. However, sometimes the signal is a deception, there are females of some species that have figured out if they mimic another species light signal they can lure unsuspecting males in and dine on them. What deceit!
These poor unfortunate males have no idea what is going on and are easily taken advantage of, that is the disadvantage of having only "one thing" on your mind.

These insects are sure to capture the imagination of children for eons to come. They are gentle unassuming insects, that do not bite, sting, or eject smelly substances on us. They can be a challenge to capture and sure to cause great delight when finally caught. As they sit on your hand, flashing their ever present light.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Plant-Hoppers



This little plant hopper is in the genus Acanalonia. They are common throughout Missouri as well as most of the United States. Look for them in grassy areas or gardens where they blend in well with leaves and grasses.  Most leaf hoppers feed on plant juices. Their common name of plant hopper comes from their ability to hop great distances (for their size) when disturbed.




This little hopper is a nymph, and I am unsure exactly which species it will be when it finally reaches adult size, but I suspect it will be this one:



Don't you just love the horns on this fellow? Maybe he should be called the Devil Leaf-Hopper. It seems leaf hoppers, or plant hoppers come in all sizes, colors and variations.




This little striped hopper is the Red-Banded Leaf Hopper, but I much prefer it's other common name of Candy-Striped Leaf Hopper. I've previously posted about them here: Red-Banded Leaf Hopper.










Here is another unique color form, this little guy (gal) was a delicious shade of blueberry, with darker stripes.
Seems there is no end to the diversity. If you can imagine it, you will find it.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Orange-Banded Clerid


This little orange and black beetle is one of the checkered beetles in the genus (Enoclerus). This one is commonly called the Orange-Banded Clerid (E.ichneumoneus). They measure up to 1/2 inch in length and are brightly colored with orange and black, the base of the wings have white on them. Their shape and color is very reminiscent of a velvet ant, so most likely this is a form of mimicry. It could be assumed that this mimicry would give them some protection from predation, as velvet ants have a bad reputation for giving a nasty sting. Their other common name of Cow-Killer pretty much says it all.
These beetles are very common throughout the Central and Eastern portions of the United States as well as parts of Southern Canada. These little beetles are predators of other insects as well as insect eggs, both as adults and larvae. The adults have been reported to feed on some pollen. They seem to favor woodland habitats, the one pictured here was photographed in some scrubby timber near a fence row. There is very little reported on these insects. With so many insects out there in this great big world of ours, I guess it would be impossible to learn all there is to know about each species. Or maybe this species just isn't interesting enough to attract the attention of budding entomologist and seasoned entomologist alike. I for one find these little guys very attractive to look at, and they are not known to cause any significant economical problems. Then again on the flip side, they aren't really of any economical importance either. I guess you have to be big and bad or beautiful in the insect world to warrant time spent on you.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Napping Bees


These sleeping bees are within the genus Melissodes (thank you Eric for verifying). They have a very unusual habit of locating plants on which to rest (or sleep) at the days end. Often times they will return to the same plant for many nights in a row, like the ones pictured here. They grab onto the stem of the plant with their jaws and hang on tight, rarely do they use their legs as additional support. Those must be some strong mandibles they possess!  Eric felt that there were two different species represented in the first photo one being Melissodes bimaculata and the other he wasn't sure. In the second photo is an individual within this same genus and most likely bimaculata as well, Eric further ID'd her as a female. I just love her yellow fuzzy hind legs, looks like she is wearing leg-warmers. Their common name is Digger Bees, this comes from the females habit of digging holes to lay her eggs. I think a more apt name would be "Napping Bees".

These are small bees, measuring up to 1/2 inch. Mostly black with small portions of yellow. The males have exceptionally long antennae, which earns them the nick-name of "Long-Horned Bee". There are 119 known species within North America.The species that are pictured here can be found throughout the Eastern portion of the United States as well as in New Mexico. Most species within this genus are solitary ground nesters and will dig a burrow within the soil and line it with a wax-like substance that they secrete. A few species within the genus are communal and will nest in small community nests.  Cuckoo wasps with the subspecies of Triepeolus use the offspring of these bees as the host for their own offspring.
The adults of these bees seem to prefer plant nectar from daisy's, asters and coneflowers. They are a very common sight in the mid to late summer months. I am so curious why Missouri chose the Honey Bee (non-native) as our State insect when we have so many great native bees such as these stocking-clad black bees. Not taking anything away from Honey Bees which are wonderful insects and hugely beneficial to humans, I just can't help but think a native species would have been a better representative to Missouri Insects.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Democrat Bug


The second most common name for this bug, Democrat Bug, is most certainly not for it's political preferences. Most people know this insect as the Eastern Box Elder Bug (Boisea trivittata). I've never been able to find any definitive information that explains why in some parts of its range it is called Democrat bug, which is exactly what I've always called them. So this seems to be a common nickname in NWMO. 
The species name of trivittata apparently refers to the three red stripes on their bodies. They reach lengths up to 1/2 inch and are all black with those distinctive red lines, along with red eyes. As their name implies, they are found throughout the Eastern United States. The adults like juices from Maple trees, and fruit trees as well as some nectar. The nymphs feed on various things including the juices of the host trees, seeds from trees, dead insects and even members of their own species as they shed their exoskeletons while molting. After mating, the females will deposit eggs behind the bark of trees, Boxelders are commonly used, but so are Maples, and Ash Trees. These insects often congregate in large numbers in the fall, and will be seen on the south facing sides of homes, and other structures as they warm themselves on sunny fall days. They will make their way inside in large numbers and seek shelter for the winter. They cause no damage, they do not bite, sting, stink or are in anyway offensive. They are merely a nuisance to have around. If you cannot abide by them in your house, merely suck them up in a canister vacuum and turn them loose outside. Some years their populations seem to be more plentiful than other years. This year I have not noticed them in any significant number at all, in fact I've only seen the one photographed here and maybe a dozen others. I don't mind their presence, there are certainly worse things to have around.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Pretty Pretty Ladybug


Ladybug, Ladybug, Fly Away Home
Winter Is Coming, The Summer Has Gone!
~ The Flowers Have Bloomed,
Autumn Leaves Are Falling ~
Time To Find A Cozy Spot Til Spring Comes Calling!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Lacewings


Green Lacewings are a very common sight throughout the summer and early fall months. In Northwest Missouri I see green and brown lacewings.
The first of November I had 1,000's of the brown lacewings all over my yard. They were everyone, on every available surface. I've heard of outbreaks of Multi-Colored Asian Lady Beetles, and Box Elder Bugs, but never Lacewings. I found this to be quite unusual, and made sure to document the event.
I posted several months ago about the Brown Lacewings. The life cycles of the two are the same, the only real difference is the color.

Lacewings are sometimes referred to as Aphid Lions in their larval stage, this name comes from their preference for eating large amounts of aphids. It is estimated they may consume as many as 600 aphids during their growth to adult size. This love of aphids, endears them to gardeners and green house growers everywhere. 

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Yellow-Collared Scape Moth


Yellow-Colored Scape Moths (Cisseps virginica) are a very common little moth found throughout North America. This is probably the most plentiful day flying moth that I encounter. They are all black with a  yellow, orange or reddish colored "collar" around their head. With a wingspan up to 1 inch they would be considered a small moth.



Not much is reported on their life cycle. The caterpillars are small and hairy. They can be pale yellow or white with long tufts of hair projecting from their body. Their heads will be yellow to brownish-orange with black spots on the face. They can be found in many habitats, including open fields with wildflowers, meadows, prairies, flower gardens where they will be seen nectaring at flowers. The caterpillars use lichens, grasses,and spike rushes as their host plants.  The name "scape" apparently comes from the basal point of an insect's antennae.




Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Admirable Grasshopper



This beautiful grasshopper is the Admirable Grasshopper (Syrbula admirabilis) in some parts of their range they are referred to as Handsome Locust or Handsome Grasshopper and I must say all of these names are very apt descriptions for this very pretty insect. They can be found throughout the Central and Eastern United States and portions of Arizona. The one pictured here is a female, they are green or green-brown. Males have much more black on them and are smaller. I could not find much information on their breeding cycle. Typically insects in the order Orthoptera will sing out to attract mates. Each species having a distinct song. They most likely  mate in the summer months once they've reached adult size. Once the female has mated she will lay eggs, that will overwinter in the ground until the following spring. The little grasshopper nymphs will look very  much like their parents, minus wings. Look for them in grassy/ weedy areas. The one pictured here was photographed at Happy Holler Lake Conservation Area, in some tall grasses on the lake dam. The males can fly really well, whereas the females have a much weaker flight and tend to hop to escape. I chased this one for a few yards before she finally settled down and seemed to realize I only wanted a photograph and had no intention of dining on her. Both as adults and nymphs they feed on a wide variety of grasses and seeds. I could find no reports that indicated they caused any significant damage, although I imagine any of these little munchers have the capability in large numbers to do a lot of damage to grasses, or crops.
I am constantly amazed at the diversity of insects that I am presented with on my explorations. I find myself spending hours each evening during the warm months photographing and watching all manner of insects. No matter how much time I spend outside, or how may hours I devote to this hobby I constantly find something new and I am never bored. Documenting species of any creature is a worthwhile way to spend your time, and allows you to learn so much about the natural world.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Green Stink Bug



Green Stink Bugs (Acrosternum hilare) are probably one of the most commonly seen insects of the summer months. They are quite large for a stink bug and may be as much as 3/4 of an inch long, and bright lime green or grass green in color. They are sometimes referred to as Green Soldier Bugs.  They are found throughout most of North America in woodlands, gardens and grassy areas. They feed on plant juices of flowers, garden crops, farm crops, fruits, and trees. In large numbers they can sometimes be a pest and cause significant damage. They have a mouth that resembles a beak, they use this "beak" to pierce plants or leaves. Using an enzyme contained within their mouth they are able to break down plant tissue and turn it into a sort of plant slurpy. This beak also acts as a kind of straw allowing them to suck out the juices. As adults they seem to prefer the seeds of various developing plants. This preference for eating the seeds is what causes them to be such a pest. 
They overwinter as adults and become active again with the return of springs warm weather.

After mating, the female will lay her eggs in clusters on the underside of leaves. They are capable of laying hundreds of eggs. These little eggs have a barrel-shape to them. When they hatch they will begin feeding on plant juices. As the nymph grows they become very colorful, and you would be hard pressed to recognize this brightly colored baby as it's adult counterpart.






They get their common name of Stink Bug from glands located on the underside of their thorax. If disturbed they will emit a horribly stinky fluid that assures them protection from predations. Not many predators would be willing to chomp down on a meal that smells like raw sewage. There are a few birds that feed on them, apparently the offensive odor poses no problem for them. Some species of tachinid flies lay their eggs on these stink bugs, effectively using them as a host for their developing larva.



The unfortunate individual in the 3rd photo went belly up for some reason. I never could figure out why or how it died. I guess even bugs die of old age. 

 

These insects are great subjects for budding photographers, they are colorful, they have a fun shape, and they move relatively slow making them pretty easy to photograph, not to mention they are plentiful.