Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tortoise Beetles

These shiny bright beetles are tortoise beetles. The first is the Argus Tortoise Beetle (Chelymorpha cassidea). The second is the Mottled Tortoise Beetle (Deloyala guttata). Both are found throughout the Eastern portion of the United States. The Argus Tortoise beetle has a broader range and is found throughout most of the United States, but it is probably the only species of that genus in the Eastern part of the U.S. The name Argus comes from the mythological creature "Argus" which was a 100-eyed Greek monster.
The Argus is often mistaken for lady beetles, and it is obvious why. With that bright reddish coloring and black spots it is very similar indeed. They grow to be about 1/2 inch which is much larger than the typical ladybug. They can be variable in their coloration, ranging from yellow, orange, red to a reddish-orange. There will be six black spots on the pronotum and on each wing. The edges of the wings are transparent. The natural habitat for these beetles is open fields, gardens and meadows where they feed on morning glory and milkweed. After mating, the female will lay clusters of 15-30 eggs on the leaves of the host plant (morning glory or milkweed). After hatching, the young larvae will feed on the leaves and carry their frass (poo) around with them on their backs. (picture 3) one can assume this gives them some protection from predation, after all who wants to eat poo? Once full sized they will drop from the plant and burrow into the ground and pupate. They will overwinter in this state. The Mottled Tortoise Beetle is much smaller than the Argus at around 1/4 of an inch. These beetles look like pieces of shiny gold on the leaves of plants. The wings are mottled with black, yellow and shades of reddish brown with a metallic gold tint that shines in light. The edges of the wings are clear like the Argus. Both species have a flattened appearance. Adults of the Mottled variety overwinter in leaf litter or under bark. In the spring they emerge and mate. Females lay eggs in clusters of up to 30 eggs on the leaves of host plants, in the case of this beetle it is sweet potato and morning glory. In about three weeks they will be ready to pupate. They will drop to the ground and burrow underground to complete their lifecycle. In about one week their cycle is complete and the adult will emerge. I have wild morning glory behind my house that comes up voluntarily in my herb garden. These beetles are always on the vines. While I admit to not being too fond of morning glory vine, it has a tendency to take over and choke out other plants. I pull it and it seems to come back the next day. I leave some of it for these beetles, simply because I like them.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Red Admiral

This beautiful butterfly is the Red Admiral (Vanessa Atalanta). They are very common and found throughout North America. Average in size at around 1 3/4 to 3 inches, but their coloring is anything but average. They are very distinctively marked with black wings. The forewings have a bright red band and three bright white spots. Hindwing has a red marginal band with tiny black spots within the orange. The extreme edge of the hindwing is white. The summer form of this butterfly is larger and brighter than the winter form. Adults will nectar from various flowers , and blooming trees. They are also attracted to fermented fruit, sap flows and bird droppings. Females will lay eggs singly on the leaves of the host plant. Young caterpillars will live in shelters of rolled leaves, older caterpillars will live in nests of leaves tied together with silk. Caterpillars feed on various plants in the nettle family. They prefer areas near moist woods, or other moist habitats. Found in gardens nectaring at flowers, and during mating season can be found almost anywhere. The flight of this butterfly is very fast and erratic making them very difficult to capture and can make photographing them a challenge at times. Fortunately these individuals were so busy eating that they cooperated nicely. These butterflies will hibernate over winter, except in the extreme northern reaches of their range. Their inability to tolerate extreme cold temperatures causes these northern inhabitants to perish and they will be replaced the following spring by migrants from their southern most range.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Margined Leatherwing

This is the Margined Leatherwing (Chauliognathus marginatus) which is another type of soldier beetle. They are frequently found on flowers throughout the Central and Eastern portions of the United States. Very common to abundant in Missouri. Adults feed on pollen, and nectar as you can see by the third picture, appears he is a greedy little pig. He was absolutely covered in pollen. Sometimes they may feed on insect eggs if they come across them while foraging on flowers. After mating, the female will lay masses of eggs under leaf litter or in the soil. The larvae feed on corn earworm larva and corn borers. Making them hugely beneficial. Full grown larva overwinter and pupate under ground once spring arrives. Often times these beetles are mistaken for a similar species called the Goldenrod Beetle. The easiest way to tell the difference is by the time of year they are present. Margined Leatherwings are around in the spring and summer feeding on a host of plants. Whereas Goldenrod Beetles will be found in the late summer and fall when Goldenrod is in bloom. This beetle is approximately 1/2 inch in length with a very elongated body. They have soft wing coverings that are a golden yellow. Distinctive markings are the black oval shaped spots at the end of they elytra (wings). These wings only partially cover the abdomen and do not extend to the tip. Their pronotum is reddish in color with a black smudge mark through the center and the head is partially black. Abdomen is black and extends out from under the abdomen. Look for them throughout the spring and summer in gardens, along roadsides, in prairies or meadows, anywhere there is an abundance of flowers in bloom.

Friday, June 26, 2009

This prehistoric looking moth is the Carpenterworm Moth (Genus: Prionoxystus). They are found throughout North America. They are very common in Missouri. The one pictured here is a female. I have a mercury vapor light and a white sheet set out near our timber and it isn't uncommon to have as many as a half dozen of these large females on the sheet. I have yet to see a male. The wings are highly veined, looking almost like alligator skin or webbing. They are shades of gray, black or brownish-black. The males are different, their forewings are more deeply mottled and their underwings are bright yellow. Females lack any yellow coloration. After mating, females will lay her eggs near host trees. When the eggs hatch the young caterpillars will bore into the tree. It can take up to four years for them to complete their lifecycle. These caterpillar bore huge tunnels throughout the tree causing significant damage to the tree. If you were to uncover the young caterpillars you would discover a variety of colorations. They range from greenish to reddish with black spots and dark brown heads. Often times woodland exploration will bring a discovery of one these emerging from their timbered home as an adult. Look for them near woodland edges and within deciduous forests. The adults do not feed. The young caterpillars have a variety of hosts including Locust, Ash, Oak, Poplar, Chestnut and Willow. Because of their habit of boring into trees they are sometimes called Locust Borers. A close relative of this species (Comadia redtenbacheri) is the famous Agave Worm. This caterpillar gained fame for being the worm at the bottom of the Tequila bottle. Supposedly the worm was placed in the bottle of tequila, if the worm died before hitting the bottom then the liquor was considered unsafe to drink (go figure). Nowadays you will never find these worms in a bottle of authentic tequila.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Margined Carrion Beetle

This was somewhat of a surprise the other night. This little carrion beetle was sitting on our grapes. Still not quite sure why it was there, seemed like an odd place for a carrion beetle to be. The Margined Carrion Beetle (Oiceoptoma noveboracense) is found throughout the Eastern United States with exception to Florida and can also be found in Texas and Louisiana. Another similar species the American Carrion Beetle is bigger and the pronotum is greenish-yellow instead of pinkish-red. The margined carrion beetle grows to about 3/4 of an inch. They are commonly found near deciduous hardwood forests. This little guy was far from home, the closest timber was 8 acres away. Carrion beetles are not the most pleasant insects in the world of bugs, but they certainly perform one of most important services to mankind. They are the clean-up crew. Not only do many species of carrion beetles either in the adult or larval stage feed on decaying carcasses, they also help control insect pest populations. This is done by the habit that many species of carrion beetles have of feeding not on the carcass itself, but on the maggots of the flies that are there to feed. This species is known for such behavior. The adults will sometimes feed on maggots. The larva feed on maggots, decaying fungi and carcasses. The female will lay her eggs on the unfortunate corpse. The young larva will feed on the carcass or the maggots for as long as the food source lasts. Eventually they will fall to the ground and dig themselves an underground chamber. Within this chamber they will pupate and finish their life cycle. The female will continue to fly from carcass to carcass laying eggs and feeding. The very flattened design of their bodies is no accident. This flattened, flexible body allows them to maneuver under dead bodies. While the thought of eating dead flesh is revolting to us humans, fortunately for us carrion beetles thrive on it. Try to imagine a world overrun with rotting stinking dead flesh and no beetles to help in the disposal of the offensive mess. Plus we get the added benefit of nutrients being released back into the soil from the feeding habits of these beetles. Forensic scientists use these beetles as a means of determining the time of death of human corpses. They can often times figure out the time of death just by the beetles or other insects present on the carcass. As each individual species will show up at very specific times to feed in very specific ways. Some are attracted to the carcass itself, still others are attracted to the insects present on the body. Some prefer fresh (if there is such a thing)dead flesh, still others prefer their meat a little putrid. Timing is everything when determining how long a body has been dead. I would say look on dead or decaying animals to find these beetles, but obviously grapes will do in a pinch?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Eastern Forktail

These damselflies are the Eastern Forktail (Ischnura verticalis). They are found throughout the Eastern United States as well as parts of Southern Canada. They are very common in Missouri. They are often found basking in the sun on woodland trails. I have them in our backyard garden near our goldfish pond. These seem to be the most plentiful damselfly that I see in our yard. The males and females look entirely different. Both are approximately 1 1/4- 1 1/2 inches in length, but that is where the similarities end. Females are a light grayish-blue with black markings that are usually very faint. In some specimens the black markings may be non-existent. They have pale blue eyespots. Immature females are bright orange with black dorsal and shoulder stripes (picture # 1). The male is a beautiful creature with black thorax and green shoulder stripes and green sides. The abdomen is black with a Bright blue tip. Their eyes are dark above, greenish below and contains a small green eyespot. They feed on small insects, like the male pictured here which is feeding on a syriphid fly. I watched as he slowly flew over the top of the fly, completely unnoticed by the poor victim. In the blink of an eye the damselfly captured his dinner and landed on a nearby leaf and began feeding. The offspring of this species is aquatic like all damselflies. They feed on other aquatic insects. Eastern Forktails prefer small heavily vegetated ponds or other similar bodies of water. Which is probably why they like my yard so much. There is something to be said for overgrown gardens...the insects love them!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Dark Butterflies-creates confusion

With so many dark brown or black butterflies flitting about it can be quite confusing to tell one from another. I admit to having much difficulty in that area. Between the grass skippers and these dark beauties it is enough to make even a seasoned Lepidopterist go batty. Looking for subtle markings on the specimen is helpful, but often times that is easier said than done. The three pictured here are examples of some of the darker "spread-wing skippers" you will likely find in Missouri. By no means is this all of them.
#1 Northern Cloudywing (Thorybes pylades)
#2 Hayhurst's Scallopwing(Staphylus hayhurstii)
#3 Common Sootywing ( Pholisora catullus)
Each of these are in the family Hesperiidae, this family of butterflies includes all skippers. From the grass skippers to the spread-wing skippers pictured here. They can be found in various habitats. The Northern Cloudywing has a broad range and is found throughout most of the United States. I had trouble identifying this one and thanks to a friend of mine Betsy Betros (author of Butterflies of Kansas City) I now have an accurate ID. She said that the pattern of this species can vary by individual further complicating an already complicated set of butterflies. They grow to about 1 7/8 inches. Adults nectar at blue, pink, purple, and white flowers. This will include dogbane, selfseal, crown vetch, Thistles and common milkweed as well as a variety of others. The caterpillar host is plants in the pea family. Look for the caterpillars on beggars tick, clover, lotus, bush clovers and others.These butterflies can be found near forested areas. The Hayhurst's can be found in gardens, sunlit openings in woods, along roadsides and along walking trails. The caterpillar of this species feeds on Lambs Quarter and goosefoot. Adults will take nectar from many kinds of flowers including, marigold, knotweed, dogbane, spearmint, cucumber, sweet clover and loads of others. When disturbed they will typically head for vegetation and hide within shrubs or bushes. Distinguishing characteristics of this species are two tiny translucent spots on the forewing. The wings are scalloped, and fringe is checkered with black and tan. The next is the Common Sootywing, it is more widespread than the Hayhurst. Look for them in meadows, along crop fields, roadsides, gardens, prairies, anywhere the host plant can be found. The young caterpillars feed on Cockscomb and Lambs Quarter. Adults nectar from flowers including milkweed, oxalis, clovers and peppermint. This particular species is the darkest of all the sootywings, and grow to about 1 5/16 of inch. The distinguishes characteristics of this species are the white markings on the back of the head and the small white spots on the outer portion of the forewing. Females will have more white than the males. Black butterflies are somewhat cryptic, making it hard to see them. While they do not have the dramatic coloring of some of the more well known and beloved butterflies we are all familiar with, there is a certain beauty about them in their subtleness.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Giant Robber Fly

This bug-eyed insect is the Giant Robber Fly in the genus Promachus. Their genus name is Latin for "Fighter in the front ranks". This is an apt description for such a master predator as these flies. They are rather large at around 1 1/2 inches. Sometimes they are called Bee Killers, hinting at their favorite food. I've seen these flies catch and kill not only bees but wasps, dragonflies and other large insects. Usually they are very hard to approach, but this one cooperated nicely and sat still for a picture. Look for them in open fields with tall grasses, meadows, prairies, anywhere grasses and flowers can be found where they can feast on the insects attracted to blooming plants. After mating, the female will deposit eggs underground. The larvae will feed on plant roots, soil insects. It takes up to one year to complete their life cycle to adulthood. Adults usually appear in the mid summer months.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Flying Ants

Recent rains that have hit Northwest Missouri seem to have prompted the ants to take wing. Flying ants are a common sight throughout Missouri as well as all of North America. Typically a period of rain will encourage this phenomena. Since we've had 7 inches of rain in less than a week and then these ants appeared by the hundreds I assume it was those rains that encouraged them to take flight. While walking around my yard looking at the flowers and doing some weeding I noticed one winged ant on top of the yarrow. Approximately 30 minutes later another inspection showed many more had joined the first. After about an hour there were not only many more of the red winged variety, but now smaller black ones appeared on the scene. I moved the clump of flowers aside and noticed hundreds of ants on the ground near a hole. I figured this hole led to their underground colony. Many unwinged ants were "pushing" these winged ants out of the hole and away from the colony. Before nightfall there were hundreds of these winged ants present on the yarrow and nearby plants.
After awhile an established colony will turn their energies and resources to creating individuals that are capable of reproducing. These reproductive ants will have wings and be forced out of the colony to try their hand (or feet) at establishing their own colonies. The winged ants consist predominantly of males. These males are seeking the few females present among the winged frenzy. Mating will occur and shortly thereafter the males will perish. The females go on to look for suitable sites to start a colony. This is a perilous time for them, and many will die before they can find a suitable location and still others perish while trying to start up the colony. Once she sets down roots her wings will fall off and she will use the nutrients from the no longer needed wing muscles to help sustain her during egg production and caring for her offspring. Once new sterile workers have been created they will continue to care for the offspring of the Queen Ant and to clean the colony of dead bodies and debris. Several years later when the colony is fully established with large numbers, it is then that energies turn to creating winged ants which will leave the colony and start the cycle all over again. Usually speaking these winged ants look for a high vantage point in which to congregate. In the case of my ants it was nothing more than a tall plant. It can be anything from buildings, statuary's, towers, etc. These large populations of ants appearing all at once can be alarming, but rest assured you aren't being inundated with new ants. These ants were already present in your yard, they are merely leaving crowded conditions to seek out areas in which to expand their populations. They will often times fly far away from their original colony to set up a homestead. Occasionally these ants will find themselves in your homes. This could mean that you have a population of ants possibly
unbeknownst to you residing in your home. An exterminator may need to be called. Pharaoh ants and Carpenter ants are famous for taking up residence in our homes. These new winged ants will mate and repeat the process of creating a new colony. The next day all of these winged ants were gone, with exception to a few unfortunate individuals that became a meal to a resident spider.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Red Milkweed Beetle

This pretty red beetle is the Red Milkweed Beetle (Tetraopes femoratus). They range throughout the Eastern United States and parts of Canada. In Missouri this beetle is very common and will be found on milkweed as it name suggests. They are bright red with varying streaks or spots of black on their elytra. The pronotum contains four distinct spots. This species has four eyes and the antennae grow right up between the eyes, as can be seen in the second picture. Like their bright red color would indicate they are poisonous to would be predators, as are most insects that feed on milkweed. Reaching about 1/2 inch in length they are rather small. Look for them anywhere milkweed can be found, including ditches, roadsides, gardens, fields and grasslands. These little beetles are even capable of making a squeaking sound by rubbing rough areas present on their thorax. The ones pictured here were found on milkweed in my backyard garden. I discovered a couple of years ago that the milkweed mysteriously showed up in my gardens. I left it and it is now spreading, so many wonderful insects use it as a host that there is never a shortage of insects to see and photograph on these plants.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Red-Headed Ash Borer

This long-legged beetle is the Red-Headed Ash Borer (Neoclytus acuminatus). They reach lengths up to 3/4 of an inch. They would be hard to mistake for any other species. With a distinct striped elytra and a reddish colored head and thorax they look nothing like any other species. Their antennae is greatly thickened at the end. Their back legs are much longer than the rest of their legs. They have an over all elongated appearance. With a range covering all of the Eastern United States they are quite common. Look for them near hard wood timbers or wood piles where the larvae feed on a variety dying, distressed or cut green timber, including Ash, oak, hickory and hackberry as well as some shrubs and vines. The adults of this species are very rapid climbers and fliers. They tend to be very shy and will fly away quickly when approached. The one pictured here was with 2 others on milkweed in my backyard. If wood is cut to burn in fireplaces and the larva are present in the wood, they will emerge as adults in your home sometime prior to burning the wood. They overwinter as pupa, then emerge in the spring as adults.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Walking Tall

There is a reason this bug looks like it is walking on stilts, it is the Stilt Bug in the family of insects Berytidae in the order of True Bugs, Hemiptera. This one was photographed on Pink Yarrow. You can see its proboscis sampling the nectar. They are approximately a 1/2 inch or less in length, their long legs make them look much larger. They can vary greatly in coloration from reddish-brown, brown or all black. Each will have extremely long legs, elongated bodies, and four-segmented antennae which is clubbed at the tip. Not much is reported about their life cycle. It is presumed that eggs are laid on the plants or vegetation where they feed. The young larvae are much smaller than the adults and lighter in color. They will be found almost anywhere plants are found, gardens, roadsides, meadows, open fields, etc. Their diet varies by species. One species (Jalysus spinosis) is known to feed on tomatoes, corn and peaches causing significant damage to these crops. Still other species feed on aphids, scale insects, thrips, and mites which make them beneficial. Many just enjoy a little sweet nectar. The larvae probably feed solely on plant juices and small insects. Many species in this genus have a special cleft on their legs that allow them to grab hold of fuzzy textured plants.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The babies have arrived

The Babies are here. Earlier in the year I reported numerous Praying mantid egg sacs in my yard. I know I counted well over 20. Now everywhere I look are tiny babies. Some plants have as many 10 or more. Many are no bigger than 1/2 an inch. A few are a little larger at about 1 inch. Apparently these were the early arrivals. They are so much fun to watch. I swear they have a personality.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Soldier Beetle

This particular Soldier Beetle I believe to be (Cantharis rotundicollis). This one has red legs, whereas another similar species has black legs. Soldier beetles are in the family of insects called Cantharidae. They are approximately 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch long, their bodies are elongated. This particular species has black elytra and a red head/ thorax. Rotundicollis is taken from rotund, meaning "round". I assume it means from the rounded appearance of the elytra at the base. These beetles are very wide spread and common throughout Missouri. I found this particular one near our Black Raspberry Vines. They feed on aphids as well as nectar and pollen. Hopefully this little guy was gleaning any aphids off the berries. It looks like we may have a bumper crop of berries this year. If I can manage to get them picked before the birds do. The larva of this species feeds on soft bodied insects such as maggots, small caterpillars, and insect eggs. Some species of soldier beetle larvae will feed on grains, celery or potatoes. Females lay eggs in stumps, rotting logs or under dense vegetation. The young are covered in dense bristly hairs that give them a velvety look. Look for them near gardens, meadows and roadsides. Most anywhere vegetation can be found or where a population of aphids occurs.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Candy in the Garden

This "cute" little bug is the Candy-Striped Leafhopper, or the Red-Banded Leafhopper (Graphocephala coccinea) as it is also called. They are common throughout most of the United States. I've already seen several this year, including the one pictured here which was on a Hollyhock plant. They are tiny at barely a 1/3 of an inch in length. Their coloring is what is so spectacular about them. They have green wings, and thorax with red stripes and yellow head and legs. They look like a tiny candy colored wedge sitting on your plants. They are found in gardens, prairies, roadsides, meadows and open fields. They feed on a wide variety of grasses and plants. They rarely cause damage as they usually do not occur in large numbers in any given area. Although if for some reason an infestation of these leafhoppers were too occur, significant damage could be the result. After mating, the female will puncture the leaves of plants and deposit her eggs. They are capable of producing up to three generations per year. Leafhoppers produce "Honey Dew" from their anus, ants are attracted to this sweet substance and will sometimes be found caring for the leafhoppers in return for the sweet addicting nectar.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Cocklebur Weevil

This gorgeous red beetle is the "Cocklebur Weevil" (
Rhodobaenus quinquepunctatus). They range throughout the Eastern United States and portions of Canada. They are red with black spotting on their elytra and thorax. A distinct "diamond" shaped spot is located right in the middle of their pronotum. The black spotting on their wings run together to form patches of black. Legs and snout are black. There is a dark form of this weevil that have all black wings with red pronotum. Adults will be found on ragweed, cocklebur and other plants near these host plants. The young larva feed on the stems of ragweed and cocklebur. There is another species called the "Ironweed Curculio"(Rhodobaenus tredecimpunctatus) that is very similar to the cocklebur species. The main difference will be the lack of "Patches" on the wings. Instead the markings will look like dots on its elytra. They typically feed on sunflowers. Which is where the one to the left was photographed. They are located throughout most of the United States and have a broader range than the cocklebur weevil. Cockleburs and Sunflowers are the bain of most farmers, so these little beetles should be admired for their food choice. Helping the farmer to keep these often times annoying weeds under control. Those of you with allergies will appreciate the fact that the cocklebur weevil also loves ragweed...YEAH!! Munch away!!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Sunbathing Beauties

These are just for fun. Pretty bugs in the summer sun.
1.) Eastern Forktail
(Ischnura verticalis)
perched on unidentified weed
2.) Metallic Wood Boring Beetle
on Fleabane
3.) Margined Leatherwing
(Chauliognathus marginatus)
on ox eyed daisy
4.) Spotted Cucumber Beetle]
(Diabrotica undecimpuntata)
on Fragrant Sumac
5.) Pink-Spotted Lady Beetle
(Coleomegilla maculata)
on red clover

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Four-Lined Plant Bug

This is the FOUR-LINED PLANT BUG (Poecilocapsus lineatus). They are common throughout Eastern United States, and portions of Southeastern Canada. The young red and navy blue colored nymph gives no hint at what it will look like as an adult. The nymph was photographed about a month ago in Fillmore Missouri on stinging nettle. The adult image was photographed last night in Savannah on wild phlox. Their usual habitat is open fields, gardens and meadow, and also around homes. The one on phlox was photographed in one of my flower beds. They are approximately 1/4 inch as adults. The nymph pictured here was barely 1/16th of an inch long. They are a very pretty bug belonging to the order of true bugs (hemiptera). There are several host plants for this species, and their plants of preference are in the mint family and include wild mint, catnip, peppermint, spearmint, hyssop, oregano, but in the wild they will be also be found on sumac, thistle, dandelion, loosestrife,burdock and tansy. In your garden look for them on ginger, cucumber,potato, radish, squash, pea, raspberry, currant. They can also be found on a variety of other flowers including carnation, geranium, chrysanthemum, snapdragon, phlox.

They will overwinter as eggs in the stems of host plants. In the spring they will emerge and begin feeding. They will go through 5 instars before becoming adults. Look for them in June which is typically when the adults appear. Females will deposit their eggs in stems and subsequently die by the end of August. If infestations of these bugs are heavy they are capable of causing significant damage. They are unique in their coloration. The adults are bright yellow with four black stripes down their back. At the end of the wing there are two black dots. Their head is reddish with black antennae.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Virgin Tiger Moth

These two images are of the "Virgin Tiger Moth" (Grammia virgo). They are found in scattered populations throughout the Eastern and Southern United States. They are a relatively large moth with a wingspan of up to 2 1/2 inches. The fuzzy caterpillar is all black with rusty undersides. There are spiky hairs sticky up all along its body. This caterpillar would be a contender for the racing circuit. I've never seen a caterpillar move as quickly as this one did. In fact it startled me when it first took off, it was a completely unexpected response to being discovered. By the time I recovered and quit laughing at the absurdity of a "fast" caterpillar. I found it several feet away under some dense grasses. After much difficulty I managed to get it out of the grasses and to a place for a photo. The adult is striking in coloration. The upper wings are black and cream patterned, the hindwings are orangish-red or pink in color with black blotches. Thier typical habitat is forested edges, or deciduous woods. They will come to lights at night. Adults sip nectar, and the caterpillar can be reared on a variety of plants, including bedstraw, lettuce, plantains, clover and other low growing vegetation. The female will lay her eggs in clusters on a host plant. The newly hatched caterpillars stick close together until they mature. It is at this point they lead a solitary life and overwinter in a sheltered area. In the spring they become active again (like the one pictured above) and begin feeding. After a couple of weeks they will form a cocoon and later in the spring or early summer they will emerge as an adult. When disturbed the adult can release a chemical from their body, it bubbles out from around their eyes and head. This liquid is made of up of distasteful chemicals gleaned from the foods they consumed as caterpillars. This gives them protection from predation, as they taste bad to a would be predator.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Common Spreadwing

This is the Common Spreadwing in the family Lestidae and genus Lestes. They are found throughout most of North America. The ones pictured were photographed near an old pond of ours near our garden. The male was photographed last year, the female (2nd picture) was photographed last night. The shadow image is of a female as well. Like all damselfies they feed on small insects. After mating, the female will lay her eggs in the stem of a plant. She will use her ovipositor to tear into the stem. The eggs will be laid about 3 to 4 inches above the surface of the water along the shoreline. They prefer slow moving brackish water. Much like the old pond of ours where they are so plentiful. You will also find them near marshes, wetlands, and streams. This species typically will hold their wings out in a spread fashion, which gives them their common name. They grow to about 2 1/4 inches, the male is deep gray or black with greenish lines on their thorax, his abdomen is bronze with blue/ gray tip. In more mature males there will be a grayish base to the abdomen. The female is lighter in color than the male with think pale shoulder stripes and light gray/ tan or yellow sides. Her abdomen is bronze/ brown above. They have a very weak flight, they fly readily when disturbed, but land merely a few inches or feet away.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Colorado Potato Beetle

This is the Colorado Potato Beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata). They are common throughout most of the United States. Pictured here are the eggs, larva and the adult. As adults they measure approximately 3/8 of an inch in length. Their bodies are rounded with a reddish head and thorax. Numerous black markings are on the back of the head and thorax. Right in the center of the head you will notice a triangular mark. The elytra are yellowish in color and have ten black vertical stripes. Adults will overwinter in leaf litter or other sheltered places. In the spring they become active again and begin seeking mates. After mating, the female will deposit orangish-yellow eggs on the underside of leaves of the host plant. In the case of these beetles the host is potatoes, but may also be found on a variety of other plants including eggplant, horsenettle, tobacco, buffalo bur, thorn apple, tomato, pepper, common nightshade, belladonna, etc. Once the eggs hatch the reddish colored larva will feed on the leaves of the plant. Once the larva reach full size (in about 21 days) they will drop from the plant and burrow into the ground to pupate. In approximately 10 days the adult will emerge. In 1811 a man by the name of Thomas Nuttle first discovered this beetle, but it was not fully described at that time. In 1924 a man by the name of Thomas Say studied this insect at length. It was found on Buffalo bur in the Rocky Mountains. Later it became apparent that its food of choice was the potato plant when vast acres of these plants were found destroyed by the eating habits of both the larva and the adult. With the prevalence of potatoes and other food favorites of this beetle it has been able to expand its range exponentially. By 1974 it had reached the Atlantic coast. We find a few of these on the potatoes each year, but rarely in large numbers. Seven Dust helps keep them in check an protect our potato crop. The eggs and adult pictured here were photographed this year. I assume the eggs belong to the adult pictured. The larva was photographed last year and I was never able to locate the adult.