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Showing posts from July, 2012

Dobsonfly: Bit of a horrorshow, this one

Ah, the legendary hellgrammite, many a bass fisherman's dream bait. This multi-legged larva looks like a mini dragon, and has a powerful set of pinchers to boot. Mishandle one of these aquatic beasts, and it'll nip you, too. I caught this one on a darter-hunting expedition in Big Darby Creek a few years back. Hellgrammites are strictly aquatic, and lurk in the substrate of streams, capturing whatever they can. Ugly as this insect may be, their presence is in a waterway is a nice thing - hellgrammites are indicators of good water quality.

If you are an entomophobe, you'll not find the dobsonfly any more appealing than its hellgrammite larval stage. Corydalus cornutus is a whopper of a bug, and males such as the one in this photo measure several inches in length.

We lured a few of these beasts to our lights last week in Adams County. We were after moths, but they're not the only critters attracted to bright lights at night, and I was pleased to spot this bruiser on the …

A commonplace miracle of transformation

Last Saturday night, at the Midwest Native Plant Conference (more on that in a soon to come post), many of the attendees set out on a nocturnal foray to look for anything interesting. As we passed a smallish white pine, I noticed several newly emerged annual cicada nymphs that had scaled partway up the trunk. Most had split open, and their inhabitants had liberated themselves, but we were interested to see that one nymph was still plodding its way up the tree. After spending a while at John Howard's mothing sheets, several of us circled back to check on the cicada nymph's progress.
By the time we returned, the nymph had reached the lowermost branch of the pine, and had moved out on it a foot or so and was firmly attached to its undersurface. One of its mates is in the background; that cicada has already emerged, leaving behind an empty shell. Annual cicadas in the genus Tibicen emerge every year, as you've no doubt guessed, with each crop spending at least two years under…

Mega-cool bugs

Right up in the grill of a clamp-tipped emerald dragonfly. I've been off in the wilds of Adams County doing field work, much of it with the incomparable David Wagner, and I've managed to wrangle scads of interesting images. I'll share some later, when there's more time. The emerald was captured with my new Canon Rebel T3i, which is proving to be an awesome camera.

A black maple, Acer nigrum, with its telltale foliage. Look closely...

That bit of dying maple tissue on the leaf in the previous photo morphs into a spectacular caterpillar upon inspection. It is a checker-fringe prominent, Schizura ipomoeae; an extraordinary mimic of necrotic leaf tissue. Note how the caterpillar essentially assumes the outline of the leaf margin as it eats its way into the leaf. Remarkable; probably far more spectacular than the rather drab moth that this caterpillar will become - if nothing gets it.

More to follow...

GoPro Hero Camera

Against my better judgment, I've become a bit of a kook for cameras. I've taken photographs for a long time - even back in the Dark Ages of print film - but didn't get my first digital camera until 2004. Like many addictions, things took a while to ramp up and for the first several years I was content with one camera.
Then, I felt it was time for an upgrade, and that's where the trouble often starts. From whatever it was that I first had, it was on to a Panasonic FZ-30 in 2005 or 2006. Then it was the improved Panasonic FZ-50 (which I still have and regularly use - fabulous camera!). Somewhere along the line I added a small rectangular Canon Powershot, to have something that would slip in a pocket.
The lens-lust steadily increased, with the upshot that I've now also got a Nikon Coolpix P510, which is an unbelievable point & shoot with a 42x zoom that actually holds up. You'd be stunned at the quality of the distant bird shots that thing can manage. Joining…

National Moth Week: July 23 - 29

Stunning and artistic, a virgin tiger moth, Grammia virgo, rests on your blogger's hand. Moths are beautiful and infinitely diverse. More importantly, these insects provide ecological services that are invaluable to most other animals, people included.

The following information comes courtesy of Dr. Davis Horn, professor emeritus at Ohio State University, and widely known as “Mothman”.
National Moth Week – July 23-29, 2012
The time is almost here! National Moth Week is a nationwide celebration of moths and biodiversity, bringing together those interested in moths and raising awareness.  During NMW members of The Ohio Lepidopterists (and others) are invited to join in an all-out effort to see how many moth species we can find in Ohio. There will be organized blacklighting and baiting forays and individuals are welcome to report any moths you find.  Specific events are listed below.
Whether or not you participate in a NMW “event” you are welcome to simply make note of what species you e…

Moths galore at Wahkeena

Wahkeena Preserve, located just south of Lancaster, Ohio. This place is a state treasure, and I hadn't been there in far too long. If you ever find yourself in this area, you'll definitely want to pay a visit to Wahkeena.

Last Tuesday night, I rolled through Wahkeena's gate just as the sun was setting. I was there for some serious nocturnal moth action, and boy did we have it! Dennis Profant, kneeling at right, organized the affair, and along with Roger Grossenbacher (left), set up two well-lit white sheets in the woods. These brightly illuminated set-ups pull the moths like you wouldn't believe, if you've not seen this sort of operation yourself.

In addition to Dennis (he's got a GREAT blog, HERE) and Roger, we were joined by Wahkeena naturalist Robyn Wright-Strauss, longtime Wahkeena manager Tom Shisler, Alex Webb, and Lisa & Steve Sells. Lisa pushes the envelope of macro photography and her skills are extraordinary. Be sure to check her blog, HERE.


A caterpillar to watch for!

In a rather freakish lepidopteran coincidence (?), two of my co-workers brought me specimens of the above caterpillar yesterday. One of these colleagues resides in southern Franklin County, and one of the cats in the photo is her specimen. When she brought it in, the caterpillar was new to me - I had never seen one, and had no idea what it was. I did, however, know the plant that it was eating: wild blue indigo, Baptisia australis. Using the plant as a clue, it took nearly no time to pin a name on the mystery caterpillar. It is the larva of the genista broom moth, Uresiphita reversalis.

In what is either a remarkable coincidence or evidence of an expanding genista broom moth population, another co-worker waltzed in about an hour later with yet another of these caterpillars. He lives 40 or 50 miles north of the other caterpillar collector, in Morrow County. His caterpillar is the other specimen in the photo. After determining that my two colleagues weren't pranking me, I set about…

Mothing in Wahkeena

An incredibly ornate cecropia moth caterpillar, Hyalophora cecropia, is heavily ornamented with colorful spiny nodules. It's big, too - a few inches in length. If all goes well for this caterpillar, it will eventually morph into one of our largest and most spectacular moths.

 A pair of cecropia cats happily noshes on the foliage of black cherry, Prunus serotina, a favored food plant.

I was out into the wee hours last night, participating in a moth-trapping expedition at the beautiful Wahkeena Nature Preserve just south of Lancaster. Wahkeena's naturalist, Robyn Wright-Strauss, raises the cecropia caterpillars and her charges made for some great photos. But our targets were wild, free-flying moths and we had great success, thanks to event organizer Dennis Profant.

A strange but showy beautiful wood-nymph, Eudryas grata, peers at your blogger from a leaf. I made many interesting images of some very cool night-flying insects on this foray, and will slap some of these up later to…

An interesting moth, new to science!

A tiny Adams County, Ohio prairie. This part of southernmost Ohio is notable for its "bluegrass province" prairies, which become more common in Kentucky, and barely nip north across the Ohio River. While many of these prairies are small, they are full of rare species. The prairie in the photo above has a very special treat, as we shall see.

I made the journey to Adams County last Saturday, and connected with John Howard and Tricia West, both of who live locally and are outstanding naturalists. Mary Ann Barnett ventured up from Kentucky, and Skip Trask joined us for the morning. Our mission? An incredible caterpillar. Lest you think me too foolish for chasing a caterpillar, rest assured that a field trip like this produces LOTS OF STUFF, from Blue Grosbeaks and Dickcissels to rare orchids to box turtles. But the caterpillar that follows was our primary quarry, and it is an intriguing tale.

This rather attractive member of the pea family is central to the story. It is scurf p…