Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Prairie Cicada

 This large caramel colored cicada is the Prairie Cicada (Tibicen dorsata), they are found throughout the Eastern United States. This species is one of the largest cicadas to call Missouri home and are often associated with tall grassy areas, such as meadows, prairies and tall weedy areas.
This is one of the most beautiful species of cicadas, with a gorgeous caramel color trimmed in black. The eyes are large and pinkish in color.

Like all cicadas the males sing loudly to attract a mate. Each species has it's own distinct song, and if you so desire you can learn the songs of each species and will be able to identify them without seeing them.This is similar to what bird watchers do when they learn the songs of birds.

It is not fully known if the adults eat, it can be assumed they may consume plant juices or tree sap. The nymphs live underground and feed on the roots of trees, plants and grasses. This species is considered a Dog-Day cicada and has a one year lifecycle. Meaning they will live as a nymph underground for one year, then climb up from the soil and make their way to a vertical surface where they will shed their outer skin for the last time and dry their wings. Shortly there after they males will begin singing, this typically occurs in the hottest days of summer...or the "dog-days of summer"

Cicadas are often mistakenly called Locusts. Locusts are a type of migratory grasshopper in the order orthoptera. With summer fast approaching its end, so too will end the song of these loud music makers. I for one dread the silence of their call.....for it means winter is not far away!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Eastern Pondhawk

This beautiful green dragonfly, busy chowing down on a tiny fly is the Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simpliciollis). Like all dragonflies they are predatory and feed on a wide array of flying insects. By reaching out and grabbing their dinner with powerful legs and scooping it up to their mouth to dine on, they give a whole new meaning to the phrase "fast food".  You will find them near ponds, lakes, creeks, and other bodies of water. They will also be found away from water in meadows and open fields searching for insect prey.

Immature males will be powdery blue (picture 2), and as they age they will be mostly green. Females are also green with black spots on their abdomen. These are a medium sized dragonfly measuring up to 2 1/2 inches.

They are found throughout the Eastern United States, as well as Arizona, Texas and New Mexico.
Mating takes place early summer. Males will patrol for females. After mating, the females will lay eggs on aquatic vegetation. The young nymphs will live an aquatic life for a year before emerging as adults.

These dragonflies also go by the name "Green Jacket" and "Common Pondhawk". They are typically easier to approach than most other species of dragonflies. With over 30,000 lenses per eye they have excellent eyesight and are next to impossible to sneak up on. With dragonflies it is more about temperament, which can vary by species, as well as individuals within each species.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Feather-Legged Fly

This pretty little black and orange fly is called a Feather-Legged Fly, I believe this particular one is Trichopoda pennipes. They are found throughout the United States, and are usually associated with tall grassy areas. They are mostly black with shades of orange on the abdomen and thorax. The hind legs have feathery projections on them from whence they get their common name.

After mating, the female will seek out a true bug (i.e. stink bug, squash bug, etc.) on which to lay her eggs. The eggs will hatch and the larvae will burrow into the bug and begin feeding. Only one larvae will exist in each true bug. Eventually a fully formed maggot will develop and exit from the body of the true bug. Soon after this the true bug will perish. The maggot will pupate in the soil and in about 2 weeks will emerge as an adult.

Even though these bugs are used extensively in agriculture to help control the destructive population of damaging insects such as Green Stink Bugs and Squash Bugs, it is debatable how much good they are actually doing. While it is true that they parasitize approximately 70 to 80 percent of true bug populations in areas where they are released, the fact remains that the true bugs are still active and feeding. They will also mate and lay eggs. It takes some time for the fly larvae to have an impact on the true bugs life cycle. So in the time it takes for that fly maggot to wreck havoc the true bug as also done its fair share of damage.

The adults will be found taking nectar from various flowers. It is common to see the adult females hovering over gardens seeking their true bug victim to lay eggs on.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Question Mark Butterfly

This odd knobby-looking caterpillar is the offspring of the Question Mark Butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis). This year seems to be the "Year of the Question Mark", I've seen more of these caterpillars and adult butterflies than any other species. The first photo of the caterpillar was taken on an elm tree, and there was no less than 30 other caterpillar on the same small tree. I've seen them on several other elm trees around our property as well. I've even brought several into the house and reared them into adulthood.
They are found throughout the eastern 2/3 of the United States, except for central and southern Florida. There are populations in Southwestern Canada as well.

They are fond of sweet treats like this nectar from the hummingbird feeder, they will also feed on rotting fruit, carrion, dung and sap flows. The caterpillars feed on elm, false nettle, nettle, and hackberry.

Love is in the air. This mated pair will create offspring that will overwinter as adults. They will secure themselves in leaf litter, and other sheltered areas. In the spring they will become active on the first warm days. They are often the first butterflies seen in early spring. Their close cousin the Comma Butterfly has a very similar lifecycle. They also look much the same. The Question Mark and the Comma both have orangish-red wings and blackish hindwings. There are various black markings on the forewings. The question mark has an extra dash on the forewings that the comma does not have. On the underside of the hindwing are the distinguishing markings that identify this species from its cousin. The Question Mark has a silvery-white "question mark" that is visible in the above picture. The Comma Butterfly has a silvery-white "comma". This species is medium sized with a 3 inch wingspan. The winter form of this species is orange-black with longer violet tipped tails. These violet tipped tails also earns this butterfly their other common name of "violet-tip butterfly".

Monday, August 23, 2010

Common Buckeye

The Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia) is found throughout most of the United States. The first broods are born in the Southern United States and migrate north. Each subsequent generation will migrate further north until they reach the northern most part of their range, which includes the Great Lake States. These are a magnificently marked butterfly with shades of brown, yellow, orange and tan. The eyespots are probably the most spectacular thing about these butterflies. The eyespots are shades of orange, tan and purple ringed with black or brown. Most likely the eyespots are present to scare off would-be predators. They are not a large butterfly, with only a wingspan of up to 2 3/4 inches, but what they lack in size they more than make up for in coloration and human tolerance. These beauties are almost always easy to approach and will often land on us to lick up perspiration.

Look for them in open sunny areas with some bare ground exposed with low vegetation. They are often found along roadsides. The adults will nectar at various flowers. Mating occurs throughout the season. Males will be found basking in the sun on the ground during the day. They will periodically patrol their territory looking for females and chasing off any trespassing males. After mating , the female will lay tiny green eggs on the upperside of leaves in the snapdragon family, plantain family and acanthus family of plants.  No other butterfly in Missouri can be mistaken for this species.

The one photographed here was sitting on a milkweed plant at Maple Leaf Lake Conservation Area.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Spotted Bird Grasshopper

Spotted Bird Grasshoppers (Schistocerca lineata NO TAXON-typical) are one of 50 species in the same group of grasshoppers that are typically called locusts. The locusts are famous for their swarming capabilities. Millions of these grasshoppers would gather and swarm in huge black clouds that would descend on fields and destroy crops. Many years ago in the United States settlers were faced with huge swarms of Rocky Mountain Locusts. These swarms would blacken out the sky and create fear and dread in all who seen them coming. Nothing would be left behind when these hungry beasts would appear. There was a swarm in the mid 1800's that was reported to be larger than the whole state of California. The swarm was estimated to carry trillions of these locusts. The Rocky Mountain Locust is now extinct in our country and no one seems to have a definitive answer as to why. The last reported live specimen was in Canada in 1902.  I guess we should just be grateful they aren't plaguing us and not ask too many questions. All grasshoppers within this genus have the ability to swarm and some do seem to gather in large numbers, but fortunately nothing as Biblical as the Locust Plague of Moses' time. Or as awful as the Rocky Mountain Locust swarms of our own country's past. In Africa and other countries they are still plagued by huge locust swarms and chemicals such as DDT that has been banned here in the US are still being used there in large quantities to try and control mass population explosions of these eating machines.

 The Spotted Bird Grasshopper is very wide spread and common throughout the Great Plains and Prairie States east of the Rockies. They favor fields and open areas with herbaceous or woody plants to feed on. If they occur in large enough numbers they can cause significant damage to crops. There is some difficulty in identifying this species. Their color can vary by region and if crossbreeding is occurring. This particular species can be brownish, olive, tan or greenish in color. A bold stripe down the back is typical of most bird grasshoppers, and this species seems to have spots on the thorax which probably what earned it the common name of Spotted Bird Grasshopper. They are very large and may reach lengths up to 3 inches. The hind tibiae (lower legs) are usually brown or black.

The mating cycle of these grasshoppers is very similar to that of other grasshoppers. They will mate in late summer and the female will lay an egg mass in the soil that may contain up to 20 or more eggs. These eggs will overwinter and in the spring the young nymphs will emerge. They will look very similar to the adults but lack wings. In warmer climates the adults may overwinter as well.

These grasshoppers are reported to be good fish bait, and I can certainly see why. Their size alone would attract a hungry fish.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


This gorgeous little leafhopper is Tylozygus bifidus. They are beautifully marked with bands of blue-green, white and yellow. The eyes are brilliant red. They are very tiny at about 1/4 inch in length. They are common throughout the Eastern United States, and generally will  be more active during late summer months. If the temperature remains warm they may remain active through October. Look for them near woodlands on the leaves of tall plants.

This little green leafhopper is Acanalonia conica. They are found throughout Eastern North America. This species has a pointed head, and two black spots between the wings. This species will also be found in high grasses near timbered areas. They feed on a wide variety of grasses and shrubs.

This alien-looking creature is a treehopper nymph. I am unsure of the species, could possibly be the nymph the above species conica.

This species is Nersia florida , they are found throughout the Eastern United States and in California. They look different from traditional leafhoppers with the presence of those clear membraneous wings. They are approximately 1/2 inch in length. Lime green in color with a distinctive black spots just  below the tip of the head. In the first picture of this species the male flew in to check out the female. He walked around her for a bit, then saddled up next to her, and moved until the tip ofhis abdomen was against the tip of hers. Mating commenced.

This pretty little hopper is the Candy-Striped Leafhopper or the Red-Banded Leafhopper in the genus Graphocephala. There are 6 subspecies throughout North America and they are often hard to tell apart without close inspection.

Leafhoppers are easily found, but also easily overlooked because of their dimunitive size. Often times some of the most beautiful things come in small packages.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Thank you

 I just found out today that I was voted on of the top 40 best insect blogs on the internet. I ranked in at #12.

Thank you so much all my loyal and frequent visitors. It means so much to me that you all enjoy and believe in this blog so much that you would vote for it. There are many great blogs on the list, and if you have time you should visit them. Top 40 Insect Blogs I feel honored to be included among such great bloggers and insect experts.

When I first began this blog it was a way for me to share my love of insects through photography and short descriptions. Insects get such a bad rap that I felt compelled to try and change that mindset. I have enjoyed writing and posting more than I can express, and getting to know each of you through your comments and own blogs has been a wonderful experience.

Keep visiting, I look forward to hearing from you!

Thanks again everyone for the votes.!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

You've got male

Each spring the young female paper wasp will begin nest building in anticipation of laying eggs. She would have been bred the previous fall by males of her own kind. As the eggs hatch, and the larvae grow, then pupate, they will become the adults that take over the care of the nest. They will seek food in the form of miscellaneous insects that they masticate and feed to the young larvae. The nest will grow as more offspring are created. Some nests may house 20 or more individuals.

Sometime in mid to late summer the queen wasp will lay eggs that are destined to become male paper wasps. It is these males that have shown up in my back yard. I've kept my eye on one particular nest under the top lid of our propane tank. Last night the males were venturing out and testing their wings, taking short flights around the propane tank and back. It was kind of funny to watch, you could almost sense the excitement in the air as they flew and dived and landed (sometimes none too gracefully) back at the entrance to the lid of the propane tank. This nest is quite large with at least 20 wasps all clinging to it. Soon the males will seek fertile females to mate with.

When the first hard frost hits the wasps will begin dying, and by the middle of October or first of November they will be gone...the only ones that will remain behind are the bred females. They will hide themselves away in leaf litter, under the bark of trees or some other secure spot to wait out winters fury. They will return with the first warm days of spring to begin the cycle all over again. The presence of these males only indicates to me that winter is not far off, which is so hard to imagine with temperatures topping out at 99 degrees today. Winter almost....ALMOST sounds good right now.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Bolas Spider

 This odd looking little creature is a Bolas Spider (Mastophora). They are found worldwide with exception to temperate Eurasia and Antartica. There are several species throughout North America. Four species are listed as being common in the Eastern United States, they are M. Archeri; M. bisaccata; M. hutchisoni; and M. Phrynosoma. I am unsure which species I photographed here is, but I believe it could be M. bisaccata. They are reported to resemble, superficially at least, snails. That is certainly what I thought this was when I first spotted it stuck to the leaf of a honeysuckle bush in my yard. Other species are bird-dropping mimics and will attach themselves to the upperside of leaves to rest throughout the day. Their ruse is complete with lumps, bumps and proper coloration. Many creatures mimic bird droppings, which I must say is a great disguise, who or what after all would want to feast on Poo?

These spiders are unique in many ways, they do not look like any other spider you are likely to come in contact with. They hold their legs under their body, much like a turtle pulls itself into its shell. They are very calm, and will not try to escape when handled, although the females of some species may emit a foul smelling odor as a form of defense. This particular spider did not do so, thankfully. I handled her quite a lot and she did not seem to be overly disturbed by the experience. Although I must say getting her to show her legs was a feat in and of itself. Perhaps she is modest? She proved difficult to photograph in other ways too, I could not find any decernable eyes on the head of this creature. Seriously, where are the eyes? They are reported to have excellent eyesight and hearing, so where are the eyes? It made focusing on her face quite challenging, when there was NOTHING to focus on.

 They are classified with Orb Weavers, yet they do not spin webs. They instead have a very unusual way of capturing their prey. The female will sit perched on a leaf, and emit a pheromone that mimics a particular moth species.  One species that they are known to mimic is the Bristly Cutworm Moth. This moth in its caterpillar stage is a known pest of herbaceous plants. This spider helps reduce the number of mating males, thus reducing the amount of damaging offspring. This pheromone tricks male moths in the area into thinking there is a female moth nearby ready to mate. As he flies in to investigate he instead finds himself lassoed at the end of a sticky string that the female spider so expertly flung at him. This silken strand of line has a sticky glob of silk at the end of it, this glob of silk is what earned the spider their common name of "Bolas". A bolas is a type of weapon used by the South American Gauchos to throw at the legs of animals, effectively tripping them. Bolas translates into ball, which is an apt description for the sticky glob of goo on the end of the silken strand produced by these spiders. That ball grabs ahold of the moth and won't let go, and the spider "reels in her catch". This method of hunting has also earned the spider two other common names, angling spider and fishing spider (not to be confused the Dolomedes genus of spiders that are found near ponds and other water sources). Males and young spiderlings do not use a 'Bola" to capture their prey, they instead sit at the edge of a leaf and wait for prey to pass by, they will then reach out and capture their meal with their front legs.

 Another unique thing about these spiders is their mating habits. Mating occurs in late summer, then in late fall the female will produce an egg sac. Within this egg sac will be hundreds of eggs. She may produce numerous sacs each containing hundreds of eggs before she herself perishes (except in warmer climates, she may live through the winter). The egg sac overwinters and in the spring the young spiderlings emerge...so far nothing so unique about that right? Well here comes the shocker...male bolas spiders are hatched, and are immediately an adult. They will be approximately 1/16 of an inch in size and are already capable of breeding. Females on the other hand must grow and mature before they are ready to mate. Most spider species require that the male also grow and mature before being ready to mate, not so with this genus of spiders. When fully grown the female will measure approximately a 1/2 inch. These are a small spider and are easy to overlook.

This spider has a venom, but unless you are a tiny moth you have nothing to fear. They are unlikely to bite a human and if they did it would be completely harmless to us.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Predaceous Diving Bug

 This bug part way submerged in the water is a Giant Water Bug in the order Hemiptera. There are 19 species within North America in 3 genera. They range in size from 3/4 of an inch to well over 2 inches. Sometimes called Electric Light Bugs from the habit of flying to pole lights or porch lights. They are even called Toe-Biters, supposedly for their preference of biting tootsies as you walk through the water.  They will be found in shallow waters, along the shorelines of ponds, streams and rivers, moving and hiding within the vegetation near the edges.

Because they are in the order of true bugs they will go through an incomplete metamorphosis, meaning there is no pupation stage. The nymphs look very much like the adults with the exception of fully functioning wings. They may also vary somewhat in color. After reaching adult size, they will seek mates. After mating the female will lay eggs on the backside of her mate. The male will carry his offspring around with him. He protects them until they are ready to hatch.

They feed on aquatic insects, snails, small fish, tiny frogs and toads. Handling one of these bugs could earn you a nasty nip from the beak-like mouth of these bugs. Like other bugs within this order they use that beak to inject their victim with a tissue destroying enzyme, this allows them to slurp up the liquified insides of their prey.

This one was photographed at our farm pond. There were 6 or more of these little bugs (approx. 1 inch) sitting on top of the aquatic vegetation at the edge of the pond, all burdened with the weight of their offspring.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Honey War

A friend and co-worker found this funny, historical account of a Missouri and Iowa famous debacle. I thought it was funny enough to share, and wish I knew who wrote it to be able to give appropriate credit. I hope you enjoy reading a bit of Missouri history as much as I did.

Settlers imported the first honey bees in 1638. Once bees escaped into the forests, they quickly adapted and spread, and by 1821 when Missouri became a State, the wild bee tree was a prize for a settler with a sweet tooth. It also was the reason for the weirdest near-war in the State's history, the abortive Honey War of 1839.

                                                                         (Internet image)

The Honey War today is remembered only by a few historians. It didn't last long and it didn't amount to much, but as wars go it was the best of all possible worlds. It provided entainment for everyone and no one got hurt.

There's a metal marker on the northeast Missouri farm of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Longnecker. It's about three feet high. Time and the Des Moines River silt are burying it. Mrs. Longnecker's late father, Albert Evans, who rented the farm around World War I, remembered the post as being his height.

Perhaps in another century, the rich dirt will bury the last monument to the silliest war in American history, the Honey War. In 1839, Missouri and Iowa mobilized their ragtag militias, ready to start shooting over who owned the wild river bottom full of bee trees.

The dispute got its name when a Missourian, whose name apparently has been lost by historians, cut three bee trees in an area claimed both by Missouri and Iowa. The trees were valuable both for honey, which sold for up to .37 cents a gallon, and for beeswax, which was used in various ways, such as making beeswax candles.

Iowa tried the bee tree thief in absentia and fined him $1.50.

That inflamed Missourians, who have never been reluctant to bash heads over real or imagined wrongs. Missouri had been a state since 1821. Iowa Territory was about to become one, so the legal boundary between the two was an immediate issue.

In 1837, Joseph Brown, a Missouri surveyor, set a boundary line which no one paid much attention to. In 1838, Major Albert Lea, a federal surveyor, laid out four possible boundary lines, all representing different interpretations of historical data.

The contested area between Lea's southernmost possiblity and the northernmost was about 2,600 square miles, ranging from nine to eleven miles wide from the Des Moines River west to the Missouri River.

Missouri Govenor Lilburn Boggs, a contentious type, proclaimed in August 1839, that Brown's 1837 boundary, the northernmost line, was the state line. Perhaps Boggs was ticked off because the tree cutting Missourian had been fined by Iowa in what Boggs considered Missouri.

Almost immediately, Iowa Govenor Robert Lucas authorized the arrest of anyone trying to exercise authority in what he called the "Seat of the excitement".

Enter Uriah (Sandy) Gregory, Clark County sheriff from Missouri. He was ordered north into the contested territory to collect taxes on, among other things, bee trees.

Most of the residents in the "seat of the excitement" were Iowans by nature and they ordered Sheriff Gregory to go home. he was outnumbered 1,200 to one, so he prudently went back south of all possible boundaries.

Plaintively, if ungrammatically, he wrote Governor Boggs, "I am at a loss what to do, the Citizens of that territory two-thirds of which is hostile to the officer and declare if I pretend to use any authority which I am invested by the State of Missouri, they will take me by fourse and put me in confinement".

Governor Boggs ordered Gregory to get those taxes. The Iowans weren't kidding. They took the beleaguered sheriff by "fourse" and confined him in Burlington. He later said they treated him pretty well and let him roam around town, but wouldn't let him go home. He apparently enjoyed enforced vacation and seemed relieved to have his problems solved for him.

It was now December, snowy and bitterly cold. Both sides began to arm for battle. The alarmed Governor Lucas prophesied, wrongly as it turned out, that the dispute "might ultimately lead to the effusion of blood." He called up 1,200 men who cried, "Death to the Pukes," and drank plenty of whiskey. They were a bit officer heavy. They had four generals, nine general staff officers, 40 fields officers and 83 company officers.

The Missourians tried to raise 2,200 militamen, but less than half showed up. However, they were armed with the latest technology: one carried a sausage stuffer. The mind reels a bit at the thought of the probable effects of an attack with a sausage stuffer.

Meanwhile, Clark County officials, exhibiting rare common sense, sent a delegation to Iowa to work out a truce. The two sides came up with a classic political solution: they dumped the problem in the lap of the federal government and both sides told their soldiers to go home.

The Lewis County, Missouri, militia had spent two nights bivouacked in the cold and snow without tents or enough blankets. They did, however, have plenty of whiskey. One company brought six wagons of provisions and five of them were reputed to be filled with booze.

Even so, they weren't the happiest of campers. They wanted to shoot something. So they split a haunch of venison, labeled one half "Govenor Boggs", and the other "Govenor Lucas", shot them full of holes and held a mock funeral.

Then both sides made a rowdy retreat and the Honey War was over. Ultimately, the two states compromised on a state line close to the middle of the four possible boundaries, and in 1850 set markers every 10 miles.

Some have vanished (one showed up in the back yard of a fraternity at Northwest Missour State University in Maryville, MO), but many still exist. However, the one on the Longnecker farm is the only one to mark the "Seat of the Excitement"

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Luna Moth

 This spectacular moth is the Luna Moth (Actias luna), they are a member of the Saturniidae family which are the giant silk moths. This one was captured last night at a mercury vapor light. I brought it in to photograph it. She laid eggs, that I will place near some walnut or hickory trees. I kept her to give to two little boys who are beginning their own insect collection. They had one BIG request...they wanted a Luna Moth. They will be very excited when I give them this moth. Many people wonder how I can kill something so pretty. I explain it to them this way.... Her lifespan is not meant to be any longer than a week. Within that week she will mate, lay eggs and perish. Often times she will become haggard and torn and be a mere shell of her former glory. If they have laid eggs to continue the next generation then I feel no guilt in preserving one of these beauties for other people to enjoy and appreciate. Last August I did a post about these beautiful moths after finding one in the Tennessee Smoky Mountains that had just emerged. Tenessee Luna Moth. I left this moth alone, as she had not had to opportunity to find a mate yet, and also because we were in a National Park....permission before collecting ALWAYS!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

This little guy hiding among the fluff is a Stink Bug. Most of us are familiar with them and their stinky excretions. If you've ever smelled one when it is feeling defensive it is an odor you won't soon forget. I am not sure of the exact species of this particular specimen, but they all belong in the family Pentatomidae. There are over 200 species of Stink Bugs in North America so it can be difficult to ID them to species sometimes. Adults generally will overwinter and become active in the spring and begin mating. The female lays small clusters of barrel-shaped eggs on the underside of leaves. Some stink bugs feed on fruits or vegetables, others feed on various plants and still others feed on various insects. They have a piercing/sucking mouthpart. They will inject an enzyme into their choice of food and this enzyme breaks down tissue and allows the stink bug to slurp up the juices like a plant or insect slurpee. These insects can be found in a wide range of habitats, which will include meadows, prairies and other grassy areas, gardens, and agricultural areas.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Carolina Leaf-Roller

 This odd-looking little bug is a Carolina Leaf-Roller (Camptonotus carolinensis). Their size is nothing to brag about at only approximately 3/4 of an inch in length, but the antennae on the other hand are quite impressive and are more that 5x the overall length of the body. The one photographed here had antennae that were approximately 3 to 4 inches in length.

They are listed as a South-Eastern United States species, and southern Missouri seems to fall into that range. I could not find any information as to whether they have ever been found as far north as Andrew County where I live, so this may be a record for our county. They are very unusual looking insects, they almost look like nymphs of some odd orthoptera that has yet to fully develop. Brownish-yellow in color and very smooth in appearance they won't set any records for beauty, but WOW those antennae are impressive. Why the length on those feelers? Does size really matter in the world of these odd little bugs? If so, this specimen would be a winner for sure.

These little guys are incredibly fast, but do not seem to be very skittish. I was able to watch her for quite sometime before she tired of my presence and crawled away. Her ovipositor is visible in the second picture and is carried in an upwards fashion over the back of her abdomen. I could not find much about their mating rituals or egg laying habits, but one could assume they will slit holes into plants and lay their eggs.

During the day they live in rolled up shelters made out of leaves...then at night they become active and feed on aphids and other soft-bodied insects. They are usually associated with timbered areas, and since my yards has no less than 40 trees I guess it qualifies. I spend untold amounts of time in my yard observing and photographing and I am constantly amazed at the amount of new species I come across. This year has been a record year for me in being able to add new and unique insects to my life list of bugs.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Arrowhead Weaver

 Today I had a surprise visit to my office by a facebook friend that I had never met in person before. My office is on the same campus with Missouri Western State University, the campus is also home to the new Kansas City Chiefs training camp. He was coming out to take pictures of the chiefs practicing and decided to stop in and say "Hi" to me first. I am so glad he did, I had a very enjoyable visit and he took time to walk the trails with me at work. We found a few interesting insects, like this Arrowhead Weaver (Verrucosa arenata). I have to thank Eric Eaton over at Spideridentification.org for verifying the ID on this species. I love these little spiny spiders. I have posted blogs about the Spined Micrathena and the Arrow-Shaped Micrathena in the last couple of weeks and now I can add an additional to species to my life list for these spiders. They are so unusually shaped and colored. They are found from Kansas eastward and also occur in Texas. There are three different color patterns on the abdomen and each of three colors may be found on individual species living in the same habitat. I found two in the woods today and each one was a little different.
 This one was more white than yellow, but otherwise identical to the first specimen. These spiders are considered a timber species and will be found hanging upside down in their webs in woodlands. It is the arrow-shaped pattern on the abdomen that has earned them their common name...but they also go by the name of Triangulate Orbweaver, because obviously arrowheads are shaped like triangles.
These are not very large spiders, their overall length is about 1/2 with legspan (females) males are much smaller at just over a 1/4 inch.

If you would like to see these unique spiders, head out to the timber and look carefully in shady areas among vegetation. You will be surprised what you might find. The beauty of insects and spiders never ceases to amaze me.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Slender Grasshopper

(Slender Grasshopper)

Grasshopper season is among us, and from what I am seeing there is no shortage of them. 

 (Lichen Grasshoppers, mating)

I am unsure of the species of this very large Conehead. It measured about 4-5 inches in length.

(Angle-Wing Katydid)

(Black-Legged Meadow Katydid)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Cocoon

 I found this cicada just as it was about to meet its adult life for the first time. I've long wanted to capture this moment with the camera, but had never been at the right place at the right time before. I found this poem a few years ago, and even though it talks about a butterfly, the premise is the same for this unique, noisy creature of summer.

The Cocoon

A man found a cocoon of a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared, he sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole. Then is seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could and could not go no further. Then the man decided to help the butterfly, so he took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of cocoon.

The butterfly then emerged easily. But it has a swollen body and small shriveled wings. The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time. Neither happened! In fact, the butterfly spent the entire rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It never was able to fly.

What the man in his kindness and haste did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were God's way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.

Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our life. If God allowed us to go through our life without any obstacles, it would cripple us. We would not be as strong as what we could have been

And we could never fly.


Monday, August 2, 2010

White-Lined Sphinx Moth

This pretty moth is a White-Lined Sphinx Moth (Hyles lineata), they are found throughout much of North America, as well as Central America. These are very common sphinx moths in Missouri, and are often mistaken for hummingbirds as they flit and flutter around flowers nectaring at the blooms. Which has also earned them the name of hummingbird moths. White-lined sphinx moths are medium sized with about a 3 3/4 inch wingspan. The upperwings are olive-brown with lighter brown edges There is a white line running from the wingtips to the base, there are also many white lines along the veins, which is where their common name is derived from.

The caterpillars are quite large when mature and may reach lengths up to 4 inches. They vary somewhat in appearance, but generally have a black back. They will feed on a wide variety of hosts including Four O' Clocks, Apple, Fuschia, Purslane, Evening Primrose, Grape, WillowWeed, Elm and Tomato. The adults take nectar from flowers, like wild sweet william. They are common in backyard gardens, but will also be found in desserts as well as other Rural, and Suburban areas.