Saturday, July 7, 2012

A few cool bugs, featuring Northern metalmark

A little while back, on a bright hot sunny day, I made a short foray to a local meadow in search of the Northern metalmark, a rather hard to find butterfly. This site is full of native plants, and in addition to the metalmarks there is a rich insect fauna. Following are a few photos of various bugs that I encountered.

A dun skipper, Euphyes vestris, tees up rather boldly. A plain jane of the butterfly world, duns do have their charms. Sneak into close proximity of one, and be dazzled when it roars off - they make a loud wing buzz reminiscent of a large wasp.

I was pleased  to see this one, a Delaware skipper, Anatrytone logan, a butterfly I don't see all that often. It has beautiful cinnamon-yellow underwings when seen with wings folded overhead.

Watch for a bit, and the Delaware skipper is apt to splay its wings out like so, revealing a stunning orange and black pattern.

A gorgeous female widow skimmer, Libellula luctuosa, suns itself. This specimen is very fresh, and was probably still in the larval (nymph) stage a day or two before I photographed her. Newly emerged dragonflies, and females that have mated, often retreat to meadows away from water to avoid hyper-aggressive adult males, which tend to remain in the wetlands.

Tiny but fierce, a gnat-ogre, Holcocephala fusca, commandeers a conspicuous perch. Such a collection of gnat-ogres I had never seen - there were dozens throughout the meadow. Gnat-ogres are miniscule robber flies, but are every bit as ferocious as their larger more easily seen counterparts. The proboscis, by which the fly dispatches its victims, can be seen in this photo. It is the little black syringe projecting downward between the eyes. Twenty-five of these flies could probably fit on your thumbnail.

I was somewhat surprised to see several individuals of this rather intimidating looking bee, but perhaps I shouldn't have been. It is the giant resin bee, Megachile sculpturalis, and these were the first that I've seen in Ohio. The giant resin bee is indigenous to Asia, and has been rapidly colonizing eastern North America. The first U.S. record came from North Carolina in 1994, and they've spread far and wide since. Resin bees appropriate carpenter bee burrows for nesting sites. This is one to watch for.

Finally, after wandering through the lea for a bit, a flash of brown shot by and lit on a black-eyed susan - Northern metalmark, Calephelis borealis!

There seems to be two vital botanical ingredients necessary for metalmark production: round-leaved ragwort, Packera obovata, and black-eyed susans, Rudbeckia hirta. The butterflies lay eggs on the former, and it serves as the host plant for their caterpillars. The adults are drawn to the latter as a nectar source.

The metalmark's underwings are a beautiful shade of soft orange, stippled with black dashes. It was a real treat to once again share company with these showy little butterflies, and most of their six-legged companions weren't so bad, either.


OpposableChums said...

Someday, if the fates should decide to curse humanity and place me onstage playing rock music once again, I shall takes as my stage name "Nat Ogre."

Seriously, though, great post. There's so much fascinating stuff out there to learn about.

zippiknits said...

I have a special love of damsel flies, and you have really found a lot to see!

Also, I remember that my pet name was "my little Black Eyed Susan" given me by my Grandpa whose farm was near the Penn/Ohio border. It had a woods with a small slow moving stream and a meadow that my cousins and I used to roam, looking for wild onion and wild celery. And of course, damsel flies.