Saturday, July 17, 2010

Calico Pennant (Celithemis elisa)

At 30 mm in length this dragonfly is smaller than the Halloween Pennant. The Calico Pennant seems to be less common in this area than the Halloween Pennant. In the past I've found Calico Pennant remains on a couple of occasions but this is my first encounter with a live one. Note the distinctly red face ...

... and the large patch at the base of the hindwing. The remaining markings on the wings are spots (compare these to the bands on the wings of the Halloween Pennant).

The bold red triangles on the abdomen and red sides of the thorax indicate this is a male.

Almost one year later ... I stumbled across the Calico Pennant's breeding site. A small sand-and-stone bottomed creek bordered with dense vegetation runs near the intersection of Alexander Street and the Eastern Ontario Trail. And surprise! three females were foraging in the tall grass and wildflowers. So this dragonfly isn't uncommon after all, it's just a matter of being in the right place at the right time ...

Another local Calico Pennant habitat: several males and a female were encountered at a marsh on the Upper Flinton Road, abouyt 150 m east of Moores Road.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery ...

... and for many species it's also a means of ensuring survival. Batesian mimicry is a kind of mimicry where a harmless species has evolved to imitate the warning signals of a stinging, toxic or in other way dangerous species. (This is different than mimesis, where the mimic assumes the colors and/or profile of, for example, a leaf, twig or bark).

Hummingbird moths generally hover while nectaring and are seldom seen sitting as this one is. I'm calling this a Snowberry Clearwing (Hemaris diffinis) but since this is the only image thus far perhaps the name should be left at the genus level. Ventral view(s) would have helped confirm the species. Further reading at BugGuide.Net

This helps. Not the best of pictures since it's hard to aim the camera at a moving target, but the underside of the moth is visible, and it fits the description for Hemaris diffinis. In the field, even while hovering or flying, this clearwing appears smaller and its color is distinctly greenish compared to ...

... the Hummingbird Clearwing Moth (Hemaris thysbe), nectaring at wild bergamot. This moth has red on the dorsal surface of the abdomen and whitish legs (compare to the legs of the moth depicted above).

Ventral and dorsal views of another Hemaris thysbe

Its overall solid blue-black colors, habit of flicking its tinted wings, and quick nervous manner of moving about while nectaring ... everything about the appearance and behaviour of this Chalcosyrphus chalybeus indicated it was a solitary spider wasp. This insect is actually a species of flower fly, of the family Syrphidae, related to the ubiquitous little black-and-yellow striped hover flies commonly encountered in fields and gardens.

Here are a few more insect imposters I've stumbled across on my travels through thickets of thistles, nettles, prickly ash and poison ivy.

A Tachinid fly, Cylindromyia sp.

A female Clematis Clearwing Moth (Alcathoe caudata)

A species of Long-horned Beetle, Clytus ruricola

A fly, Macroceromys terminalis (formerly genus Xylomya). Thanks to David Bree for help with the I.D. on this one.

This small wasp-like robber fly is only about 10 mm long. At first I thought it might be a species of Eudioctria but having done more research on the Internet it seems this is more likely a member of the Laphria sicula/canis/winnemana complex. The first image is a bit out of focus but the long proboscis is quite visible. And it wasn't long before the fly put it to use ... it looks like it has captured a small beetle.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Northern Spreadwing (Lestes disjunctus disjunctus) and Sweetflag Spreadwing (Lestes forcipatus)

These damselflies are commonly encountered at the marsh bordering the Eastern Ontario Trail, about one kilometer west of town. The Northern Spreadwing (Lestes disjunctus disjunctus) below is an immature male, just beginning to develop pruinosity at the tip of its abdomen. The eyes will also turn blue with increasing age.

A small, slightly built spreadwing with a length of about 35 mm, males of this species may be confused with male Sweetflag Spreadwings (Lestes forcipatus). The relatively short, rounded hamule is visible in the lateral view. And although it's not the final word as to species, in this area the colors on the thoraxes of male Common Spreadwings tend to be less obscured by pruinosity than the colors of male Sweetflag Spreadwings.

Details of the terminal abdominal segments (two different individuals than depicted above). The sharp apical hood can be seen in the first image. The space between the basal tooth and the large distal tooth is small, and the paraprocts look correct for a Northern Spreadwing (Lestes disjunctus disjunctus).

Claspers of another male; note the large sharp distal tooth

An older male Northern Spreadwing (Lestes disjunctus disjunctus). In this area Northern Spreadwing males generally have less pruinosity on the thorax than Sweetflag Spreadwings; the middorsal carina and shoulder stripes are visible. (Compare my photos to this image published by the University of Puget Sound).

Oblique view of cerci; note the prominent sharp distal tooth.

Images of a young female Northern Spreadwing (Lestes disjunctus disjunctus). Visible in the lateral view are the relatively small light-rimmed ovipositor and yellow sides of the thorax which differentiates this damselfly from the female Sweetflag Spreadwing. These criteria aren't a hundred percent reliable, difficult to see in the field, and females of other spreadwing species are also similar at first glance in any event. The best thing is to observe a mating pair.

And there we have it ... a tandem pair of Lestes disjunctus disjunctus. The male's hamule, and female's ovipositor and distinctly yellow sides, are visible in the field and confirm the species. Note the claspers gripping the female behind the head.

Found in the same habitat, its shoulder stripes clouded by pruinosity, to the unaided eye this 35 to 40 mm long damselfly looks like it might be a mature male Northern Spreadwing. But maybe we should have a closer look ...

The blunt distal tooth appears shorter than the basal tooth in the detail view of the terminal abdominal segments, and the paraprocts look correct for a Sweetflag Spreadwing (Lestes forcipatus). The apical hood appears wider than that of the Northern Spreadwing depicted above. Based on the amount of detail visible in these images the damselfly could be a Southern Spreadwing (Lestes disjunctus australis), but according to currently published range maps this species is not extant in this area.

The pruinosity seen in my photos of the Northern Spreadwing and Sweetflag Spreadwing agrees with this image published by the University of Puget Sound. But pruinosity alone isn't sufficient; save for their greater length, mature male Swamp Spreadwings with obscured colors appear the same at a glance as the damselfly above. Spreadwings can be difficult to identify and the detail and clarity possible with the camera I'm using leaves much to be desired. Tandem pairs and a lateral closeup of the hamule are needed before I'm one hundred percent certain as to the species.

Lateral view of a different male. The hamule looks relatively large; compare this photo to the image of the Northern Spreadwing.

Oblique views of the terminal abdominal segments. The distal tooth is small and blunt, the width of the apical hood is clearly visible in the first image. Also note the long span between the basal tooth and distal tooth; compare this to the space between the teeth on the cerci of a Northern Spreadwing.

Images of a female ... the ovipositor is dark along the rim but I would expect it to be longer for Lestes forcipatus; this is a female Slender Spreadwing (Lestes rectangularis).

Detail of the ovipositor

The dark rimmed ovipositor appears larger in this lateral view of another female; this looks more like Lestes forcipatus.

This is the opportunity I've been watching for ... a mating pair of damselflies. Especially note the second image, a more detailed lateral view. The female's large dark-rimmed ovipositor leaves no doubt as to the species; these insects are Sweetflag Spreadwings (Lestes forcipatus).

Another mating pair of Sweetflag Spreadwings (Lestes forcipatus) in the wheel position, again, note the female's ovipositor. The placement of the male's claspers as he grips the female's thorax is visible in this image.

An oblique detail view of the claspers holding female.