Monday, June 29, 2009

Moths on the Walls

... putting their feet up after a long night of searching for a mate or food, they stand out like sore thumbs when seen against a synthetic background. Moths may appear drab at first sight, resembling the leaves or bark they normally rest on to camouflage themselves from hungry hunters. A closer look reveals they have colors as brilliant and patterns as elaborate as any living thing in the natural world.

Olive Angle Shades (Phlogophora iris)

Spiny Oak Slug (Euclea delphinii)

Double-toothed Prominent (Nerice bidentata)

Blinded Sphinx (Paonias excaecatus), male

Small Eyed Sphinx (Paonias myops), male

Small Magpie Moth (Eurrhypara hortulata)

The Herald (Scoliopteryx libatrix)

Waved Sphinx (Ceratomia undulosa)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Common Stonefly (Paragnetina sp.)

These insects go back a long ways; stoneflies and their relatives are known from fossils over 250 million years old. Stoneflies experience incomplete metamorphosis and go through only three stages in their life cycle ... egg, nymph or naiad, and adult. The aquatic naiads are sensitive to toxins and pollutants, making them indicators of water quality.

An image of the exuviae

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Ladybird Larvae

Beetles experience complete metamorphosis, passing through four stages during their life cycle ... egg, larva, pupa and adult. The larval and pupal forms of a beetle look very different than the adult.

Seven-spotted Ladybird (Coccinella septempunctata)

Asian Ladybird or Multicolored Ladybird (Harmonia axyridis)

Anatis sp., not certain if the adult is of the same species as the larva. I think the adult is a Fifteen-spotted Lady Beetle (Anatis labiculata). The adult beetles darken with age making the spots are difficult to see. Although not discernible in the photo the spots are visible if the light hits the insect at an angle.

Pink Spotted Lady Beetle (Coleomegilla maculata)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Iridescent Odonata

A picture may be worth a thousand words but mere photos or phrases simply can't do these striking insects justice. At almost two inches in length the beautiful Ebony Jewelwing (Calopteryx maculata) is one of our largest local damselflies.

As a rule a mayflies aren't found sitting in such close proximity ...

You've got to love the translucent green eyes, green thorax and bronze abdomen on this male Racket-tailed Emerald (Dorocordulia libera).

Monday, June 15, 2009

Small Yellow Orb Weaver

The Six-spotted Orb Weaver (Araniella displicata) is a small spider, about a quarter of an inch (5mm) long. This individual's web spanned only the width of the leaf seen in the third photo.

Zebra Caddisfly (Macrostemum zebratum)

Caddisflies are generally a drab brown or black, the Zebra Caddis fly is an exception. The aquatic larvae make a shell using silk and debris to camouflage and protect their vulnerable soft bodies.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Now you see it, now you don't ...

Philodromus sp. ... this agile spider is a member of the family Philodromidae, the Running Crab Spiders. This arachnid can certainly can move with alacrity but when it stops it virtually disappears into the background of the bark it resembles. As well as acting as a defense against predation, the spider's speed and camouflage serve it well in its role as a predator, as this species actively hunts for its quarry rather than building a web.

Two major body sections and eight legs but not a spider, this is an immature Harvestman or "Daddy Longlegs". This arachnid also relies on camouflage for its survival.

Although the markings and colors are indistinct, I think the insect in the next photo is likely a Mosaic Darner (Aeshna sp.). Despite its size it's difficult to see against the background of bark. This is the teneral form of the dragonfly, it just emerged from its watery home and shed its larval skin overnight. The wings look like gossamer and the exoskeleton is still soft but by tonight they will harden and the insect will assume its role in nature as a hunter of the air.

Catocala or Underwing Moths are common insects but the pattern and color of their forewings makes these large moths difficult to see. A little of the brightly colored hindwings are visible ... depending on the species these wings have red, pink, yellow or white bands.

Cecropia Moth (Hyalophora cecropia)

Also aptly named the Robin Moth, this member of the family Saturniidae, the giant silk moths, is our largest local moth. The wingspan of this individual is well in excess of five inches.

The picture below will give an idea of the size of these beautiful insects. Maple is the preferred food of the larvae. Adult Cecropia Moths lack functional mouth parts and only live for a week to ten days ... their sole purpose is to find a mate and lay eggs.