Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Hanging On

Finally I had a chance to get out into the yard in the last few days. Its lovely not to have to cover myself in insect repellant to step outside, but the cooler weather also reduces the numbers of all bugs not just the nasties. So while this weather, 70F tops with a breeze, is nice to be out in then finding subjects is more work than usual.

But I did have a visit from our rarest regular visitor these last couple of days. The Long- Tailed Skipper isn’t to be mistaken for any other skipper around. Bigger, tailed (well obviously) and with a blue green iridescence in places totally lacking from any other of the orangey brown mass of the skippers. They don’t visit every year and only in ones and twos but they still turn up pretty regularly, usually later in the year like this.

Much smaller, but very striking in its tiny way is Ailanthus Webworm Moth (Atteva aurea).
These are around in large numbers now, many heads of goldenrod are covered in them. When I first saw them a few years ago I thought that they were beetles. With those colours, the tightly closed wings and habit of daytime feeding its an easy mistake to make at first.
But they are one of those beasts where my pictures never quite seem to capture their beauty. Interestingly its caterpillars food plant is Ailanthus altissima the Tree of Heaven. The interesting bit is that the moth is a native species while the host plant isn’t. The shrub is an introduction from Asia.  The question is what did the caterpillar eat before the Tree of Heaven turned up?
There are still plenty of grasshoppers and their relatives around as always in fall. Some of them large (an inch and a half long) like this as yet unidentified specimen.

UPDATE 10/17/12
This seems likely to be a Differential Grasshopper (Melanoplus differentialis ) 
Some are small and very fleeting like this Katydid (?) caught snacking before it hopped off again lost in the weeds.
All of these were taken during afternoons outside in the yard working on the Halloween graveyard.
Last year's new arrival Chucky (or Chunky) Baby

And his newly arrived brother Hungry Harold 


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