Monday, June 30, 2008

Red-Spotted Purple Butterfly

Red-Spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis astyanax)

The Red-Spotted Purple (which is mostly blue and has orange spots) is common throughout eastern and central North America. Willow, popular and cottonwood are common larval hosts, but larvae have been found feeding on a wide variety of other plants including cherry, apple, pear, birch, oak, beech and basswood as well as currant and blueberry bushes. Adult Red-Spotted Purples visit flowers, but are most commonly found on sap, rotting fruit, carnivore scat and, especially, mud, which is where I found this butterfly.

The Red-Spotted purple is considered a mimic of the Pipevine Swallowtail, which is reputed to have a bad taste to butterfly predators . It is a subspecies of the White Admiral , a species found mostly in northern North America.


Sunday, June 29, 2008

Deptford Pink (Dianthus armeria)

Deptford Pink (Dianthus armeria)

This pretty little pink flower was introduced from Europe as a nursery plant, but has long since escaped cultivation and grows wild throughout almost all of North America. It is now classified as an invasive weed by the Souther Weed Science Society. It's common name is taken from the Deptford district of South London where it once grew in abundance.

The Ozarks provide excellent growing conditions for Deptford Pink which prefers full sunlight in mesic to dry conditions and flourishes in a clay-loam or gravelly soil that is somewhat compacted and heavy. It is found in open woods, roadsides, railroads, waste ground, pastures and fields. This species declines in high quality habitats because it isn't competitive with many broad-leaved perennial forbs.

The plant is 1 - 2 1/2 feet tall and very slender and grass-like in appearance. It blooms from late spring into mid-fall. Flower clusters form atop the stems. Deptford Pink has a slender taproot and spreads by reseeding itself.


Saturday, June 28, 2008

Leaf-Footed Bug Nymph

Leaf-Footed Bug Nymph

The nymph stages are often quite colorful and exotic-looking, but impossible (for me) to identify.
(Yet another sucker of plant juices.)


Friday, June 27, 2008

Picture-Winged Fly (Tritoxa incurva)

Picture-Winged Fly (Tritoxa incurva)

Cannot find a lot of information on this fly. BugGuide says Tritoxa incurva is widespread in central and eastern North America. It is found in fields and meadows. The food of adults is said to be unknown with the suggestion that perhaps they take nectar as they are often seen in meadows with flowers. Most larvae of this fly family (Ulidiidae) are scavengers on decaying organic matter.

This particular picture-winged fly was found on our front steps and was eating carpenter bee poop.

Thanks to Ron at BugGuide for the ID


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Chrysanthemum Lace Bug (Corythucha marmorata)

Chrysanthemum Lace Bug (Corythucha marmorata)

At around 1/8 of an inch (3mm), this tiny insect is much smaller than it's name. I thought this one was just a speck of trash on the sunflower leaf until it started crawling. Lace bugs are another of the many insects that pierce plants and suck out their juices. Some lace bugs attack deciduous trees while others attack herbaceous plants and shrubs. Some are species specific, but others will feed on a wide variety of hosts.

Despite its name, the Chrysanthemum Lace Bug is not species specific and will attack a wide variety of plants including asters, goldenrod, Helianthus, Rudbeckia, and Tanacetum. This one was on a volunteer sunflower growing under the birdfeeder.

According to the University of Virginia Extension Service:

Lace bug damage is first noticed as yellow spots on the upper leaf surfaces of affected plants. Lace bugs actually feed on the undersides of leaves with their piercing-sucking mouthparts, but because they kill surrounding cells as they feed, they cause the yellow spots to appear on upper sides of the leaves. The first yellow spots that appear are very similar to mite damage, but the spots made by lace bugs are much larger. When feeding damage becomes severe, the leaves take on a gray blotched appearance or can turn completely brown. As lace bugs feed they produce brown varnish-like droppings that spot the underside of the leaves. These droppings further distinguish lace bug damage from mite damage. When large numbers of lace bugs are present cast skins can be found attached to the leaves.

Thanks to BugGuide for the ID.


Studio Sunflower

Sunflower: One of the volunteers coming up under the birdfeeder in front of Jo's studio.

(It's a kind of boring photo since the sunflower is bug-free, but Mari-Nanci may like it.)


Monday, June 23, 2008

Jagged Ambush Bug

A Jagged Ambush Bug (Genus Phymata) waited patiently on the Daisy Fleabane until it snagged an unsuspecting mason wasp.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Harlequin Bug (Murgantia histrionica)

Taken 6/16/08

Harlequin Bug (Murgantia histrionica)

Brightly colored and attractive though it may be, a Harlequin Bug is still a plant juice sucking stink bug at heart.

(Note: It didn't eat the holes in the broccoli leaf. Cabbage Lopers did the leaf munching.)


Saturday, June 21, 2008

Ladybird Beetle Larvae

Ladybird Beetle (Ladybug) Larvae

Ladybird Beetle larvae are predators as are the adult beetles.
Family Coccinellidae


Friday, June 20, 2008

Shed Skin

Shed skin.
Don't know of what.
Everything with an exoskeleton must shed its skin in order to grow.
So delicate.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Tachinid Fly (Archytas sp.)

Tachinid Fly (Archytas sp.)

Spiky long before being punk became cool. Genus presumably named after the Greek philosopher and mathematician Archytas.

I couldn't find any information specific to this genus, but in general, BugGuide says:

Tachinid fly larval stages are parasitoids of other insects. Some tachinids are very specific and others can parasitize a wide variety of hosts. The most common hosts are caterpillars. Most tachinids deposit their eggs directly on the body of their host, and it is not uncommon to see caterpillars with several tachinid eggs on them. Upon hatching the larva usually burrows into its host and feeds internally. When fully developed it leaves the host and pupates nearby. Some tachinids lay their eggs on foliage; the larvae are flattened and are called planidia; they remain on the foliage until they find a suitable host.
Thanks to Kenneth Harrelson on BugGuide for the ID.


Fire-colored Beetle (Neopyrochroa flabellata)

Fire-colored Beetle (Neopyrochroa flabellata)

A member of the family Pyrochroidae. The common name for this family of beetles (Fire-colored Beetles) is based on the bright red or orange colors found on some species.

Male pyrochroid beetles seek out blister beetles and ingest the blistering agent (cantharidin) exuded as a defense mechanism by these meloid beetles. (One source I found said the male fire-colored beetles "lick off" the cantharidin. Another said they "feast compulsively on meloid carcasses". Regardless, male pyrochroid beetles consume canthariden.)

The toxic cantharidin deters predators from dining on beetles that have ingested it. Perhaps more importantly, it makes the male pyrochroids more attractive to females. As an introduction to mating, the pyrochroid male secretes a gooey substance from a groove-like structure in his forehead. The female tastes it. Only if she detects cantharidin does she readily agree to mate. Females actively reject advances from males having none of this toxic substance.

During breeding cantharidin is transferred to the female affording her some protection from predators and, more importantly, she passes the chemical defense onto her eggs. Studies using ladybugs as predators have shown the cantharidin reduces egg predation.

Sources and links:
Science News


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

ABC Wednesday: V is for Vespa crabro

Vespa crabro

European Hornet

The European hornet is the largest hornet in North America. Queens like the one in these photos can be 1 1/2 inches long (3.8 centimeters). As the common implies, they are not native to NA. European hornets in North America were first found in New York State in the mid-1800s. Since then the species has spread slowly south and west. As of 2004, the Ozarks marked the boundary of their westward expansion.

Vespa crabro is said to be non-aggressive and prefers forest to suburban and urban environments. For these reason human contact and resulting stings have been minimal over the years. However, European hornets will build their paper nests in attics, porches, sheds and hollow walls of houses located in rural settings -- and they will sting to defend their nest if disturbed. Accidentally blundering into a nest could result in multiple stings since a typical colony might consist of 300-500 workers. A large, mature colony consists of about 1000 workers. The sting is said to be very painful and may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. One study has shown that allergic individuals are at three times greater risk of having a dangerous allergic reaction from a European hornet sting than from a honey bee or yellowjacket sting.

Thanks to Richard Vernier at BugGuide for this ID.

Sources and links:
BugGuide Species Page
University of Arkansas Entomology

An addition to this post relating to the comment on Vespa motor scooters:
According to Wikipedia "Vespa is both Latin and Italian for wasp—derived from both the high-pitched noise of the two-stroke engine, and adopted as a name for the vehicle in reference to its body shape: the thicker rear part connected to the front part by a narrow waist, and the steering rod resembled antennae."

To participate in ABC Wednesday, please visit Mrs. Nesbitt's blog.
Many thanks to Mrs. Nesbitt for hosting ABC Wednesday despite a host of unruly electrons invading her home.


Monday, June 16, 2008

Ripening Berries

The wild blackberries are starting to get ripe. Jo picked a little less than a pint Sunday afternoon on our walk along the road. This particular variety grows near the house and has some of the biggest wild berries I've ever seen. I've thought about seeing if I could get some canes started in the garden, but haven't gotten around to it yet.

The huckleberries are also ripening. There are so many species of huckleberries and their closely related kin wild blueberries that I don't even try sorting them out. (In some cases, one must count the seeds inside the fruit.) I just enjoy eating them.

Huckleberry blooms from 4/18/08. Not the same plant as above and perhaps not even the same species. Around here huckleberry blooms range from white to pink to red. I really don't know if the color differences are indicative of different species or different growing conditions.


Sunday, June 15, 2008

Two-striped Planthopper Nymph (Acanalonia bivittata)

Two-striped Planthopper Nymph (Acanalonia bivittata)

I don't really know much about this tiny (1/8") little critter other than it is a nymph stage of the Two-Striped Planthopper. (Additional nymphs images and photos of adults are here on BugGuide. Additional information on Two-striped planthoppers is here.) Both nymph and adult planthoppers suck out plant juices.

I wish I knew the purpose/reason for the two tufts of hair emerging from the nymph's rear. They always make me imagine that it is jet propelled.


Saturday, June 14, 2008

Carolina Cranesbill: Seed Dispersal

The seed head of Carolina Cranesbill (Geranium carolinianum) consists of a central spike or beak and seedpods. A finely veined (reticulated) seed is inside each seedpod.

As the seed head dries the seedpods split open on their bottom sides.

With the seedpods removed from the plant you can see the seeds inside.

At the same time, the central spike shrinks and splits along it length into separate strips. A seedpod is at the bottom of each strip. Because of the shrinkage, the strips want to curl but cannot because they are still attached at their tops and bottoms.

Eventually, the bottom connection on a strip breaks beneath the seedpod. The strip pops upward as if it were spring loaded, which in effect, it is. As the seedpod attached to the bottom of the strip arcs upward, the seed inside is toss out away from the mother plant.

Empty seedpods after they've popped upward and tossed the seeds they contained away from the mother plant.


Friday, June 13, 2008

Carolina Cranesbill (Geranium carolinianum)

(Photo from 5/16/08)

Carolina Cranesbill (Geranium carolinianum)

This native annual qualifies as a noxious weed in just about everybody's opinion, but I like it. Admittedly, the little purple bloom isn't very showy, but when the plant is past it's prime and begins drying out, the leaves and stems reveal attractive reds and yellowish browns.

(Photo from 5/23/06)

In keeping with it's status as a weed, this wild geranium grows almost everywhere throughout North America and actually prefers poor soil that is gravelly, sandy or contains hardpan clay. It is right at home in dry open woodlands, upland clay prairiers, gravel prairies, limestone glades, abandoned fields, roadsides and other wasteland areas. The harsh growing conditions Carolina Cranesbill thrives upon help eliminate competition from other plants. It reseeds itself aggressively. It's seeds develope within a long, narrow beak. Hence, the common name of cranesbill.

Sources and links:
Illinois Wildflowers
Missouri Flora
USDA Plant Profile


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Golden Dung Fly (Scathophaga stercoraria)

Golden Dung Fly (Scathophaga stercoraria)

Golden Dung Flies range throughout most of the world. They are found in pastures, woods, parks, gardens -- just about anywhere dung and/or other flies might be found. Adults are voracious predators of other flies and, sometimes, other small insects. The female dug fly lays her eggs in piles of guess what? Dung, of course. When the larvae hatch they consume the dung as they develop into pupae which burrow into the soil beneath the dung pile and continue developing into adult flies. S. stercoraria can produce four or five generations per year depending upon the climate.

Sources and links:
BugGuide Species Page
Stephen Cresswell Photography


Monday, June 09, 2008

New Bird at the Feeders

Jo wanted to add a visual element to her show birdfeeder display -- something that would get potential buyers thinking Birds when they saw her display of feeders. She thought of Woodstock, safely packed away since he was last prominently displayed in her college dorm room back around 1971. I'm not sure Woodstock clued anyone into the fact that those jugs with perches and drain holes were birdfeeders, but he did serves as a great conversation starter.

Art in the Park, Columbia, MO

Friday: Drove up to Columbia, MO, a seven hour trip from our place. It rained off and on for most of the trip. Spent around five hours getting the van unloaded and booths set up. The rain stopped shortly before we arrived. Returned to the motel hot, sweaty, tired and a little muddy around 9 PM. A fantastic day-long celebration of our 35th wedding anniversary, I'd say.

Saturday and Sunday: Hot, humid and windy, but the rain and storms stayed to our north. Sales were okay.

Monday: Drove home in the rain.

(Our last art fair until at least Labor Day Weekend.)


Friday, June 06, 2008

Road Closed

The van is loaded and Jo and I will be heading out to our last special event (art fair) of the spring show season this weekend. Columbia, MO, is our destination this time around. The weather forecast for this weekend up that direction gets worse every time I look, so I've stopped looking. We've been lucky with the weather thus far, but it's going to take a lot more luck to get us through this weekend without getting wet at the very least.

Everyone have a great weekend.


Thursday, June 05, 2008

Cecropia Moth (Hyalophora cecropia)

Cecropia Moth (Hyalophora cecropia)

With it's bright colors and nearly six inch wingspan, this Cecropia Moth was one of those make-your-day finds for Jo and I. (Jo gets the credit for both the find and the photos.) It is the largest moth native to the United States. Judging by it's nearly pristine condition and the fact it was very tolerant of our taking photos, I'd say this this Giant Silkworm Moth had recently emerged from it's cocoon. (There's a word for that, but it escapes me.) Over the winter we'd seen a Cecropia Moth cocoon up in the tree above where this moth was found, but at the time we didn't know what it was.

Jo found the moth at the base of the tree an hour or so before sunset. It stayed in that location for forty-five minutes or so before finally taking flight. When it finally did fly, it could have easily been mistaken for a bat.

Like all Giant Silkworm Moths, Cecropia has a brief lifespan as an adult moth -- only a matter of days. It does not feed, but only finds a mate, breeds, lays eggs if a female and dies.

I've identified this moth as a male because of its large, full and feathery antennae. Females emit pheromones to aid males in finding them. Males "smell" these pheromones via receptors on their antennae. Therefore, males have evolved larger antennae to heighten their sense of smell. (A photo of a female Cecropia is here for comparison.)

Species details from Butterflies and Moths of North America:

Family: Wild Silk Moths (Saturniidae)

Subfamily: Giant Silkworm Moths (Saturniinae)

Identification: Body is red with a white collar and white bands on the abdomen. Wings are dark brown with white hairlike scales giving a frosted appearance; forewings are red at the base. Crescent spots and the area outside the postmedian line are red on all wings.

Life history: Females lay rows of 2-6 eggs on both sides of the leaves of small host trees or shrubs. Eggs hatch in 10-14 days. Young caterpillars feed in groups on leaves; older caterpillars are solitary. The cocoon is attached along its full length to a twig; to escape predation by rodents and birds, the cocoon is usually constructed in a dark, protected area.

Flight: One flight from March-July in most of the range; two flights in the Midwest, from May-early June and then 2 weeks later.

Wing span: 4 5/16 - 5 7/8 inches (11 - 15 cm).

Caterpillar hosts: Various trees and shrubs including box elder (Acer negundo), sugar maple (Acer saccharinum), wild cherries and plums (Prunus), apples (Malus), alder and birch (Betulaceae), dogwoods (Cornus), and willows (Salix).

Adult food: Adults do not feed.

Habitat: Successional habitats in many areas including urban and suburban environments.

Range: Nova Scotia and Maine south to Florida; west across southern Canada and the eastern United States to the Rocky Mountains.

On a more somber note, the population of Cecropia and other giant silkworm moths is in decline in the United States, especially in the northeast. The story begins around 1869 when an amateur entomologist attempting to breed better silkworms accidentally released gypsy moths he'd imported from Europe. By the turn of the century, gypsy moths were running rampant and deforesting large areas of the northeast. In response, various agencies imported from Europe and released large quantities of the parasitic fly Compsilura concinnata. The fly no doubt parasitized and destroyed an untold number of gypsy moth larva, but unfortunately, it is not species specific and is the prime suspect in the decline of various moths. In one study, researchers from the University of Massachusetts baited a tree with silkworm moth caterpillars. Over 80% were destroyed by Compsilura maggots.


Wednesday, June 04, 2008

ABC Wednesday: T is for Texas Toadflax

Texas Toadflax (Nuttallanthus texanus)

Texas Toadflax is a North American native annual that can be found from British Columbia to Mexico, east to the Atlantic coast. It is fairly common in the prairies, open woods & grassy pinelands. It's most distinctive feature is a large basal spur.

Thanks to Mrs. Nesbitt's Place for hosting ABC Wednesday.
Visit her site to participate.


Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Twig-Mimic Caterpillar

Had this caterpillar been on a brown twig instead of surrounded by green, I'd never have noticed it -- but, of course, that's the whole point.

(This is probably a Geometrid Moth caterpillar, but that's not much of a definitive ID since there are more than 1400 species in Family Geometridae in North America.)


Monday, June 02, 2008

Worm-like Mass

Does anyone know what this is?
(This is not a test because I do not know the answer.)

When I first saw this growth on a dead hickory tree, I thought it was a mass of worms, but it isn't. Each on of the "worms" is mostly air, so light that it will float in the air on even the most gentle of breezes. I suspect they are fungal spores of some type.


Sunday, June 01, 2008

Laurel Sphinx Moth (Sphinx kalmiae)

Laurel Sphinx Moth (Sphinx kalmiae)

From Butterflies and Moths of North America:

Family: Sphinx Moths, Hawkmoths (Sphingidae)

Subfamily: Sphinginae (Sphinginae)

Identification: Forewing is yellowish brown with a thin whitish line along the outer margin and a black patch along the inner margin. Hindwing is tan with a black border, black median line, and black patch at the base.

Life history: Fully-grown caterpillars pupate in cells dug in loose soil. Caterpillars of the second brood pupate and overwinter.

Flight: . Probably two broods from March-October.

Wing span: 2 15/16 - 4 1/16 inches (7.5 - 10.3 cm).

Caterpillar hosts: Laurel (Kalmia latifolia), lilac (Syringa vulgaris), fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus), privet (Ligustrum), ash (Fraxinus), poplar (Populus), mountain holly (Nemopanthus mucronatus), and northern bush honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera).

Adult food: Bouncing bet (Saponaria officinalis) and Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica).

Range: Newfoundland and Maine west to Manitoba and North Dakota; south to Alabama and Louisiana.

Thanks to the Moth Guy at BugGuide for confirming my ID.

My apologies for the unattractive background, but most of my moth photos are taken out on the porch because the moths are attracted to our porch light. Taking the photo of the moth on the porch seems better (to me) than capturing it and setting up a more attractive presentation later -- but that's just the way I choose to do it.


Oak Timberworm (Arrhenodes minutus)

Oak Timberworm (Arrhenodes minutus) - Male

Oak Timberworms are sexual dimorphic (i.e. males and females do not look the alike). Males have broad and flat, pincer-like mouthparts while females have long slender snouts. Females use their snouts to chew tiny holes in various hardwoods. They oviposit one egg in each hole, then usually seal the hole with a sticky secretion and frass. Oak Timberworms -- which are actually beetles -- are attracted to wounds on living trees and oviposit only on exposed sapwood. Both sexes feed on sap at wound sites.

(Note: Jim McClarin has an excellent series of photos showing a female boring a hole and ovipositing posted on BugGuide.)

Egg incubation requires anywhere from a few days to three weeks, depending upon temperatures. Newly hatched larvae bore directly into the wood. That's when the real damage to the timber begins. Typically, tunnels are bored nearly straight across the wood grain with little up or down slope. Tunnels go almost to the opposite side of the tree, make a sharp U-turn, and go back across the wood grain toward the entrances. Larvae keep the tunnels clean by pushing the frass outside. Pupation occurs near the tunnel exit from which the adults emerge. The life cycle is generally 3 years, but some individuals develop in 2 years and a few require 4 years.

Known hosts trees include oak, elm, popular and beech. Many other hardwoods including boxelder, honeylocust and aspen are suspected of being susceptible to infestation. These beetles also serve as vectors for oak wilt fungus. They range throughout most of eastern North America from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.