Wednesday, July 23, 2014
A trip to the prairies (or what's left of them)
Where the coneflowers and catchfly end in the above photo, beans and corn take over. And stretch for miles and miles in all directions. What collective fools we are, as a species, to destroy so much of our richest (former) natural resource. You'd think we might have saved - not to be greedy or anything - maybe five (three? two?) percent of it. What a richer Ohio we'd have.
Enough of lamenting the stupid follies of our imperfect primate past. You owe yourself a visit to Bigelow Cemetery, soon. While the catchfly still blooms. More info on this pioneer cemetery HERE.
Milford Center Prairie in Union County. This scrap, like the cemetery, exists largely by accident. A railroad bisected the prairie at this point, and the buffering right-of-way was spared the plow. After the tracks were yanked, a utility acquired the right-of-way and installed power lines, thus keeping the plow at bay.
I had to stalk this moth, and after the third flush it finally allowed me in close enough to obtain this one image. After making my photo, it vanished into the thick prairie vegetation from whence it came.
The sawfly is standing on a rich carpet of Queen Ann's Lace flowers, and was busily working them over. Note how its head is liberally encrusted with pollen. Forget the European Honeybee - all manner of native bees, wasps, flies, beetles and others do the heavy lifting when it comes to pollinating our native plant crops. While Queen Ann's Lace, Daucus carota, is not a native species, it sure does lure insects. as do many of our native parsleys.
IN THIS POST. I had discovered this species in Milford Center Prairie two years ago, and it seems to be doing well. Yesterday, in short order, I found six of the caterpillars, and didn't check the vast majority of host plants that are present.
Our yet to be named flower moth caterpillar is a finicky eater. Scurf Pea is its only known host. Not only that, but the cats eat only the innards of the fruit. In the above photo, the caterpillar has bored a round hole through the fruit's wall and is vacuuming out the contents. Wedding oneself so tightly to one plant species is generally a bad strategy. If some other animal comes along and destroys 99% of your habitat, your fortunes will plummet. I've written more about this rarity HERE.
The Coppery Orbexilum Moth was originally discovered near Dayton, Ohio in 1880, and was described to science from that specimen. Then it dropped off the radar for about a century, until an entomologist found a few small populations in southern Illinois. John Howard found a couple populations in Adams County, Ohio, and a lepidopterist also located some of the moths in Kentucky. A few years ago, I stumbled into one in a prairie near Dayton, and was able to photograph it. I'll have to try and unearth the moth's original description sometime and see if I can ferret out exactly where in Dayton the original collection was made. Maybe I refound the site. Anyway, insofar as I know, those are all of the known occurrences of this inconspicuous little moth.
I'm glad we have spared a few little scraps of prairie for the moths, and the scores of other flora and fauna that are prairie-dependent.
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