Sunday, June 17, 2012

Some cool bugs

Well, what bugs AREN'T cool, when you get right down to it? A number of us met this morning at Cedar Bog, a magical place that I have written about many times before. Our purpose was to have a bit of fun, and perhaps make some photos, before meeting about an upcoming conference.

I managed to click off the shutter at some interesting insects on a few occasions, and a smattering of pictorial highlights follow...

The grass-pink orchids, Calopogon tuberosus, were plentiful and at peak bloom. This orange sulphur, Colias eurytheme, was busy flitting from flower to flower in an attempt to extract nectar.

Looking right down the barrel of an American snout, Libytheana carinenta. The small butterflies seem to be cyclical in numbers from year to year, but are being widely reported in large numbers this year.

Snouts often perch with wings folded, and they look every bit the dead leaf. Occasionally one will flex its wings and pose, though, as this one did.

I'm always watching the foliage for caterpillars, and such vigilance pays off from time to time. As our group passed through a thicket along the boardwalk, I was pleased to glance up and spot this fawn sphinx, Sphinx kalmiae. It had been putting the serious hurt on some green ash foliage, but apparently froze in position when it detected our crowd passing by. Note its little blackish doglike tail - a characteristic of many sphinx moth caterpillars.

This is the working end of the caterpillar. It has stripped one side of this ash leaflet bare, and had largely defoliated many of the leaves higher in the tree. If all goes well for this caterpillar, it will morph into a large and gorgeous sphinx moth, and will repay the plant-denuding transgressions of the larva by pollinating other plants.

A seepage dancer, Argia bipunctulata, stares bullets at your blogger. Lucky for me that I'm not gnat-sized. These tiny damselflies are ferocious predators, just on a wee scale. They're so small that it is really easy to miss them as they patrol low in the sedges.

Seepage dancers are one of the rarer Odonates (dragonflies and damselflies) found in Ohio, and are listed as threatened. This species is quite the specialist, requiring open fens with cold, clean groundwater-fed rills flowing through the meadows..

It behooves the miniature seepage dancers to keep a low profile. Their much larger brethren, such as this widow skimmer, Libella luctuosa, have no qualms about capturing and eating others in their family. This stunning male widow skimmer looks fresh as can be, wings shimmering and untattered, and colors vibrant. But it looks as if it has already mated. Much of the pruinosity (chalky-white coating) that covers its abdomen has already been worn away. Oftentimes the loss of the pruinose coating is due to the female's legs rubbing the male's abdomen as she clutches him during mating.

Always lots of interesting observations to be made at Cedar Bog.

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