Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Queen of the Hornets

Beautifully colored and patterned, robust, and close to 40 mm in length, this is definitely the largest hymenopteran I have encountered to date. At first I mistook it for a Cicada Killer, however, it's actually a European Hornet (Vespa crabro), an introduced species. This individual is a queen and measured a little over 40 mm in length; the workers and drones are smaller.

The hornet can't fly because its wings are injured and it's also missing a couple of legs, probably as a result of a collision with a vehicle – I hope the car and the driver are OK. And luckily for me, despite its size the insect was not aggressive. While hornets will obviously sting or bite if mishandled and are aggressive in defense of their nests, the European Hornet is much more easy-going than some of its cousins such as the Bald-faced Hornet.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Luna Moth

With a wingspan of about 11 centimeters, Actias luna is not the largest of the Saturniid or Giant Silk Moths, but in my opinion it is definitely the most distinctive and beautiful member of its family. Although this individual's wings have a bit of wear and tear and an overcast day created poor lighting conditions, it was almost impossible to take a bad photo of this striking insect.

Some more Luna Moth images – not as photogenic but nonetheless interesting due to the dramatic differences from the adult form – a caterpillar prior to pupation, and a well-camouflaged cocoon in the forest floor litter.