Friday, July 27, 2012

How Do The Angels Get To Sleep When The Devil Leaves The Porch Light On?

Its always fun to leave the outside light on when your out in the woods the way we are here. Your never sure what going to be outside when the morning comes. There are literally thousands of one type of tiny little moth I havent yet had a chance to identify or to get anything resembling a decent picture. But there are also plenty of interesting bigger beasts to look at when I get up and have my coffee.

Mostly  moths of course like this  Spotted Apatelodes (Apatelodes torrefacta) one of the Silkworm moths.

An interesting wingshape that reminded me of the Poplar Hawk back in the UK. But this is considerably smaller than the Poplar.

This is either a Greater or Lesser Grapevine Looper moth. BugGuide says the 2 are indistinguishable from photographs or, apparently, from DNA. If you can't distinguish by DNA then I'd call that the same species. But then I'm not a moth expert. A very weird pose though with the abdoment curved back up and over like that.

I love these black moths. I had the Mournful Thyris back in April in Portsmouth. But this one is a Desmia species. Either D. funeralis or D.maculalis again they can't be distinguished from a photograph. The common name is the Grape Leaf Folder.

On the window screen was this pale green beauty. It reminded me of the Malachite from the UK but this is the wonderfully named Green Marvel (Agriopodes fallax).

And lastly for the moths is this from the  Datana genus. Again there are a bunch of similar species and I'm waiting on some further ID.

There are plenty of day flyers too. This is a Hummingbird Clearwing (Hemaris thysbe).

Other than the nightlight moths there was this one this morning.
The ugly devil above, about 3 inches in length, is an Eastern Dobsonfly (Corydalus cornutus ). This is a female as she doesnt have the very large and freaky looking mandibles that the male does that wouild have added another half inch at the front end. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Halloween In July

We were in the Shenandoah National Park Tuesday and Wednesday. Cool and wet on Tuesday and hot and sunny Wednesday. And both days were full of bugs of all sorts including a bunch of new ones. And a very high proportion of these were orange and black. And almost all of these were somehow or other connected to Milkweed. Beginning with the Monarch whos caterpillars feed on the Milkweed plant.

The Monarch caterpillar getting its fill of Milkweed and at the same time making itself deeply unpaletale to predators. Which is why everyone wants to look like a Monarch of course

These were everywhere as we travelled Skyline Drive looking at views like this in rain

and shine

And everywhere I looked I found more Milkweed and Joe Pye Weed and more orange and black bugs.

Large Milkweed Bugs ( Oncopeltus fasciatus ) as we have found at home before.

And this, entirely new to me Longhorn, the Red Milkweed Beetle (Tetraopes tetrophthalmus)

Not associated with the Milkweed is this Black and Yellow Lichen Moth (Lycomorpha pholus).

There is an area of the National Park called Big Meadows which is surprise surprise a very big meadow. This is full of wild flowers and grasses and supports enormous numbers of grassland butterflies like Fritillaries. When we parked there was a muddy spot left from Tuesdays showers and it was full of all sorts of butterflies taking water and salts from the mud in a behavior called puddling.
This pic really doesnt do justice to the numbers involved. Most in this picture are Pearl Crescents (Phyciodes tharos ).
Seen better here a little closer. But there were also Sulfers and Fritillaries. Particularly lovely is the Meadow Fritillary (Boloria bellona) not the same butterfly as the European Meadow Fritillary (Mellicta parthenoides)
Last for todays post is another orange and lack beetle by the name of the Larger Elm Leaf Beetle (Monocesta coryli). Its clearly not one that gets its picture taken that often, BugGuide has only 23 images of this one...including the 2 I posted this morning.

Last? Oh no I almost forgot these. Not a bug but everyone seems very excited about....the Black Bear pictures. Long lens of course for this 300 lb bear.

Moths tomorrow once I've done ID'ing all the ones have turned up on the porch over the last week.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Up In The Mountains

As promised/threatened the lastest post comes from the Banished family vacation in the valley of the  Shenandoah in NW Virginia. Its a whole lot less distant than last years trek to the far north in Maine.

Its still very different from our coastal home and theres lots of very different bugs and beasts to explore. We have a cabin with a river frontage and a nice little garden in front. So in the first two days I've managed to grab a bunch of new species.

The first big surprise was right here in the little garden in front. We arrived Friday afternoon and then and Saturday it was rather cool and rainy. So nothing much was about. Now Sunday lunchtime the rain stopped and the sun came out and so did the butterflies. And there on one of the shrubs was something I've wanted to see for ages. A green butterfly. I'd seen the Juniper Hairstreak (Callophrys gryneus ) at BugGuide before and thought what a beautiful thing it was but I'd never seen one myself or really expected to anytime soon. But Sunday lunchtime, there it was. Tiny as my little fingernail but wonderfully coppery green.

At the same time other butterlies appeared on the path and on all of us. They were drinking from puddles on the ground and from the sweat on our brows and whereever else sweat was to be found.

These were Hackberry Emperors. Butterfly in the lower photo is on the Banished arm. One of those butterflies where a close look at the underwing reveals subtle beauties.

All our dragonflies at home are either pond or swamp species. But up here there is a whole different set of stream and river dwellers particularly the clubtails; something we never see at home. This is the Common Sanddragon (Progomphus obscurus). They hunt close to the rivers surface cutting quickly back and forth but also perch on the riverside rocks.

And this is the Black Shouldered Spiny-Legs (Dromogomphus spinosus). Both belong to the Gomphidae

There are river damsels too and a whole new crew of moths but I'll add some of those in a day or two. And there will be more butterflies to add when we head up into the national park with its wild flower meadows not to mention the wildflowers themselves.  

Sunday, July 15, 2012

More Of The Same And All Out Of Luck

At the pond today, flying endlessly back and forth but never stopping to rest were at least a dozen mating pairs of Black Saddlebags, at least 3 pairs of Carolina Saddlebags, a pair of Common Whitetails 2 large Darners.... You name it they were flying around. Flying, not stopping. So what did I get today?

I did snatch one useable snap of  one Black Saddlebag pair. Again setting the camera to rapid fire and manual focus as the auto isn't fast enough. Sometimes it works sometimes it doesn't and today this was all I got for 100+ shots.

There were plenty of dragons perched around the place but I'm looking for those hard to get species now. I've got lots of-

Needhams Skimmers

Slaty Skimmers

and Halloween Pennants

But I so wanted those mating Carolina Saddlebags today.

Outside of dragons we have butterflies

Our state butterfly the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail and the old familiar, both sides of the Atlantic Red Admiral.

This years big Yellow and Black Argiope  Argiope aurantia has shed another skin and is about 2"across the legs now still with room to grow I think and has survived a couple of major rainstorms tucked amongst whats left of the springs iris show.

This huge fly about an inch across the wings is Xenox tigrinus the Tiger Beefly. Very impressive and I learned a new word thanks to this beast. The Tiger Beefly larva is parasitic on Carpenter Bees. Notr just your average parasite but a parasitoid. That is "an insect that in the larval stage feeds off of the tissues of its host (as does a parasite), but this feeding normally results in death of the host. Thus a parasitoid is in some ways a predator as well". It pay to increase your word power... parasitoid.

Likely the next post will be coming from Luray VA and the Banished family vacation

Oh! And this is post number 100

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Why Jumping Spiders Are Confusing

It seems every time I go outside to Jr.'s old playhouse these days there is yet another jumping spider on the roof. All very colourful and varied. It seems at first glance like there are a half dozen species out there. But looking harder and asking the BugGuide folks it seems they are all one and the same. These beasts change quite dramatically with each molt.

Yes each and everyone of these is apparently Hentzia, from that tiny yellow one at the top to the chunkier 'tweedy' looking specimen at the bottom. Not one of these is more than a quarter of an inch in length.

Not everything arachnid in the yard is Hentzia though. We have a juvenile Phiddipus.

And far bigger is this Argiope living amongst the Iris. This too is just growing up. A few days earlier there really wasnt much yellow to be seen. But then she shed her skin, thats it in the top left, and started to look like the classic black and yellow 'garden spider'. This is considerably more than a quarter of an inch already and going to get bigger still.

Spiders and flies the classic pairing. Here are 3 very different flies. The first isnt identified as yet and will be updated once I have more info. I have a feeling it may be  hoverfly, but chances are I'm wrong.

UPDATE: I'm right for once its a Syrphid hoverfly, Toxomerus marginatus 

This second is a small robber fly of the genus Diogmites also called 'hanging thieves'. Most of the robbers are large and ugly but this is rather striking with its golden colouring and those shiny green eyes. These are hunters, taking other flies in flight

The last is a bee-fly of the genus Bombyliidae

Finally flying is the Redwing Blackbird showing off its yellow and scarlet epaulettes. These nest all around the pond in the reeds and cattails'

Meanwhile it is still hotter than hell due to run over 100f tomorrow, Saturday. I just hope the temperatures drop a little before we go on vacation in a couple of weeks. It will be less humid in the mountains but its currently almost as warm up there as it is down here.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Still Intending to Explain.....

A further installment of the anagram series 'I Had Always Intended To Explain How I Bred Certain Of My Ants'.
My Andean patron, Alf, idly exhibited wanton Swedish erotica.

A damned weird tenor saxophonist. In ability, halfway decent.
Walter, I maintain, was deafened by discordant xylophone hit.

With thanks as ever to Christopher Atton for the drawings