I walked across Rt 28 today, wanting to be outdoors for a little while. On the slope leading down to a fairly large drainage pond there were little clumps of yellow flowers, most likely American wintercress (Barbarea orthoceras). I sat next to one such clump and took a handful of pictures. I thought about trying to get a photo of the swallows that were patrolling the pond and presumably helping keep the bug population under control. I didn’t really have the right equipment for that and it’s pretty tough, in any case, as they are really moving fast and are not very big. I settled for photographing this little damselfly instead.
Tagged With: Insecta
I wen out again today to see what I could see. The sky was overcast so the sun wasn’t so hot. The dragonflies were also not about in such great numbers. I did get a few pictures,though, including some of this beetle that I think is a rove beetle, Family Staphylinidae, the first or second largest animal family, with somewhere around 56,000 species in 3500 genera. Only the ichneumon wasps, family Ichneumonidae is larger, with an estimated 60,000 species. Anyway, there are some 4,400 species of rove beetle in our area. You’d think you’d see them a lot more often.
I took some pictures of flowers and plants in the back yard this evening. I had gotten down onto the ground to see if I could get a good picture of a syrphid fly on an allium flower. I got a few pictures but they weren’t as sharp as I would have liked. Then I noticed this ant on another allium and got a handful of pictures of it. They aren’t all that sharp, either, but will have to do, because I didn’t really get anything better. I’m pretty happy with the framing of this picture and the exposure, but the focus isn’t that great. In my defense, this little fellow was moving around quite a bit and the light was starting to wane a little.
I went out looking for pictures as usual this afternoon, when I got home from work. There is Campanula in bloom in the yard, and I took some pictures of those flowers. They don’t tend to come out the same color in photographs as they are in real life. Not entirely sure why. Then I moved over to the gooseneck loosestrife (Lysimachia clethroides), which is a real attraction to the bees. It’s quite invasive and I really would recommend against planting it in the strongest language, but if you already have it, you might as well enjoy the bees. There were a few honey bees but mostly it was the common eastern bumble bees (Bombus impatiens) that were moving quickly from flower to flower.
This firefly, a beetle in family Lampyridae, probably in the genus Photinus, was on a weed in the back of our garden this evening. According to BugGuide.net there are 34 described species in this genus and identification of a single specimen by morphology alone is often impossible. So, I’m not even going to try. It’s a firefly and that’s good enough. One interesting fact about fireflies is that females in the genus Photuris are known to lure in males of Photinus species and eat them in order to obtain a defensive, steroid-like compound that they contain.
I went out to the vacant lot next to my office today. It was quite warm but the weather patterns promise hotter weather ahead. I got a few pictures of an orbweaver spider (Leucauge venusta) but since I posted one of those recently, I’ve decided to go with this pennant, probably a calico pennant (Celithemis elisa). I also got one, not so good photo of a tailed blue, but I’m holding out for a better picture before I post one of those.
Note: I labeled this as a calico pennant (Celithemis elisa) without paying close attention to detail. I’m relabeling it as a Halloween pennant (Celithemis eponina).
I know I’ve posted a picture of a similar dragonfly recently, but I didn’t get a lot of great pictures today so this is what I have. This is also, I think, a better picture than the one previously posted. I had originally labeled that one as a calico pennant (Celithemis elisa) but I’ve rethought that and have relabeled it as a Halloween pennant (Celithemis eponina), the same as this one. It’s a handsome dragonfly, whatever it is. I had tough time getting close enough for this picture, so I’m relatively pleased with it.
I went out to photograph flowers this evening but came across this metallic wood boring beetle (family Buprestidae) on a black-eyed Susan. There are twelve dozen species of Acmaeodera in our area and one of the experts at BugGuide.net identified it as Acmaeodera pulchella, sometimes known as the flat-headed bald cypress borer. We’re not really in bald cypress country but they feed on a pretty wide variety of trees, so that’s not really an issue.
I was taking photos of the black-eyed Susan flowers this evening when I spotted this little fly, a transverse flower fly (Eristalis transversa) visiting them. It wouldn’t stay still for very long and I had a hard time getting a good picture. Ideally it would be on top of the dark eye in the flower, but I wasn’t able to get that. I like the combination of colors that matches the flowers. These are pretty little flies and easily spotted in the garden. As flies go, I enjoy these about as much as any.
As I’ve mentioned, the eastern tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) is the most plentiful, large butterfly in our yard all summer. They are followed by the monarch (Danaus plexippus) in a distant second place. They generally are harder to photograph than the swallowtails but this one let me get close and I’m pretty happy with the results. It’s perched on Verbena bonariensis growing in our front yard, near where the Colorado spruce used to be.
I chased down some butterflies in the back yard today, including this common buckeye (Junonia coenia). They are resident year round in the south as far north as North Carolina and they move north over the course of the summer. Because of that we tend to have them later in the year than other butterflies and I’ve only just started to see them. They are pretty easy to identify and are very different to the other species that we have. This one, obviously was interested in the black-eyed Susan flowers that are in such abundance in our yard right now.
I took some butterfly pictures this afternoon, as well as some flower pictures. While sitting in the chair that Cathy was in when I took the picture for a few days ago I could get pretty close to a few flowers without having to strain my back. Then walking around I saw this prettily colored ailanthus webworm moth (Atteva aurea) on a black-eyed Susan. It took me a while to get down on the ground to get the pictures but I think it was worth the effort. Although it’s named for and feeds on a non-native tree, the Ailanthus webworm moth is actually a North American native from Florida, where its original host was the Simarouba glauca (paradise tree) and Simarouba amara.
I was a little worried about sitting through church this morning but my back tolerated sitting for long enough that it wasn’t a problem. We were happy to see some friends that visited the church a few weeks ago come back again today. After church we walked to the Stadtman Preserve next door to see what was going on there. They’ve been renovating the mid-century modern house that the Stadtmans build and lived in and it’s nice to see the progress. There were naked lady’s (Amaryllis belladonna) in bloom and I got a few photos of this little brown and white caterpillar. I have no idea what sort of creature it is. I’m going to guess a moth but I won’t go any farther than that.
I have yet another “insect on a black-eyed Susan” photo today. These are by far the most numerous flowers in our yard this time of year. They aren’t necessarily the insects’ favorite flower but most pollinators are fairly broad minded and visit lots of different plants. The Buddleia bushes are the clear favorites with the butterflies and the mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum) is probably the most popular with the bees and wasps, but they all visit the black-eyed Susans, as well.
The pollinators are quite busy in the yard these days. Especially in the afternoon, when the sun is hammering down on the flowers, the bees, wasps, moths, and butterflies are to be seen in great numbers. The mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum) is literally a buzz with them. The skippers seem to favor the black-eyed Susans. The butterflies, not surprisingly, go for the butterfly bush (Buddleia). That being said, this large hornet was coming back again and again to the buddleia. I’m not as happy with it as I might be but it’s a decent photo. These wasps are social and build large paper enclosed nests. I’m a little surprised to only see one of them, but there are surely more around the area.
I took a few wasp pictures again today but they were too blurry to use. One was clear enough to get a good idea what it was, but nothing to write home about. Then I went out to the middle of the back yard and took some photos of the berries on the American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana). They’re starting to turn pale purple and it’s easy to see where the shrub gets its common name. This skipper landed on the berries and I was able to get close enough for a pretty good portrait before it skipped away. I’ve only occasionally gone to the trouble to identify individual skipper species. With some notable exceptions they are all pretty similar and I just never get around to it.
What an absolutely beautiful day it was today. The high was in the 70s and in August, that’s a rare and joyous thing. I worked on the car today, gluing the rear-view mirror back on in one van and replacing the struts that hold open the rear hatch on the other. Cathy and I also did a fair amount of yard work, pulling up weeds and beginning the process of clearing out some of the central bed in the back yard. There were two trees where that bed is, a medium sized red maple and a fairly large silver maple. They’ve been down since the spring of 2013 and as the roots have rotted, a few holes have opened up and need to be filled. The whole bed needs quite a bit of work, to be honest, including digging out some particularly tenacious weeds. I took a break to take pictures of some of the many butterflies that were out today, including this meadow fritillary (Boloria bellona), a pretty medium sized brush-footed butterfly.
The bees and wasps are out in force these days. I spent a little time around the mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum) this afternoon and enjoyed the variety of buzzing insects (most of them are basically silent, actually). The most numerous are the bumble bees (Bombus impatiens) and the large but gentle carpenter bees (Xylocopa virginica). The wasps are pretty well represented, though, and today I saw a handful of these katydid wasps (Sphex nudus) as well as some potter wasps (Eumenes fraternus). I got a few photos of that last one, but they weren’t as good as I would have liked. I’ll keep trying.
I didn’t get any really good pictures today. It was after 6:00 when I went out and there wasn’t much insect activity this evening, for some reason. I did come across this little beetle, about 5mm long, on the petal of a black-eyed Susan. I think it’s a Tumbling Flower Beetle in Family Mordellidae (possibly in Genus Mordellistena, but I am really unsure). It’s a cute little thing and I was only able to get a few pictures before it flew off.
I’ve been meaning to get out of the office for a short walk to the empty lot next to my building for over a week now. The upper part, where it was mostly mugwort, milkweed, and goldenrod has been mowed and it looks very different. I don’t know if this is a prelude to actual building plans coming to fruition. Plans to develop it started at least 25 years ago and the top soil was scraped up into a large mound that now has mid-size trees on it. There are a few drainage ponds and they are all abuzz with insects and birds. I saw a green heron when I first got there and then photographed a few dragonflies, including this blue dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis).
The butterfly weed (Asclepias) growing in a container outside our back door is very attractive to insects but particularly so to monarchs (Danaus plexippus). Lately we’ve had two of them on it at once and occasionally three. I got a few pictures of the two today but I think this is a better portrait of this handsome butterfly. I really enjoyed sitting and watching them flutter around the flowers, stopping occasionally at other plants but generally preferring the butterfly weed.
This potter wasp (Eumenes fraternus) is one of my favorite wasps (doesn’t everyone have favorite wasps?). There’s fairly common around here. While they are particularly drawn to the mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum), they are also found regularly on the black-eyed Susans (Rudbekia) and painter’s palette (a.k.a. knotweed, Persicaria virginiana). I think it’s their clean lines that I like. They’re difficult to photograph well and I’m not really happy with this photo, although it’s the best I was able to get. They don’t really stop moving and unless the light is very strong, it’s hard to get both adequate depth of field and a short enough exposure to stop their motion.
It’s milkweed bug time in the garden. Cathy and I are both big fans of pretty much any species of Asclepias. This one is Asclepias curassavica, often known as scarlet milkweed. It’s growing in a container on our back patio and it really attracts the insects. I had a photo of a Monarch (Danaus plexippus) on it recently and today’s photo is of the aptly named large milkweed bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus). We also have a good colony of oleander aphids (Aphis nerii) and I may publish a photo of those, unless we get around to taking care of them before I do that. Like many insects that feed on milkweed, these bugs accumulate toxins from the plants which can “potentially sicken any predators foolish enough to ignore the bright colors which warn of their toxicity.” (bugguide.net)
There are a few paper wasps that are very difficult to distinguish and some that are impossible without examining them at the microscopic level. A number of them are quite variable, as well, adding to the difficulty. I think this is a northern paper wasp (Polistes fuscatus) but I’m nowhere near sure. It’s a beautiful creature, whatever it is. This was taken with my 100mm lens with the addition of a 25mm extension tube in bright evening sunlight. As you can see, I was able to get fairly close and I’m pleased by how sharp this turned out. You might also notice the aphids on the underside of the leaf the wasp is on. I took some photos of those, as well, but haven’t identified them yet (beyond the generic “aphid”).
I mentioned the aphids on the Asclepias curassavica (scarlet milkweed) when I posted the photo of the large milkweed bug a few days ago. Here’s a picture of the aphids. It was fairly dark when I took this (7:45 in the evening) and I used a flash to light them, which allowed me to get reasonable depth of field. I used a flashlight give me enough light to focus, with the camera on a tripod (which I definitely should use more often). As I was taking the pictures, I realized the aphids were not alone. There is a larva of a lady beetle of some sort (probably an Asian lady beetle, Harmonia axyridis), feeding on the aphids. Unfortunately, there are too many aphids for this lone predator, and I’m going to need to take care of them myself.
I was out photographing flowers this evening. The light was fading and I didn’t think I could realistically get any photos of bees, wasps, or other flying insects. I was down on the ground to get some pictures of obedient plant, Physostegia virginiana, and I happened to notice this little fellow. I went in and got my flash, so I could get pictures that were worth something and I’m pretty happy with the results. This little bug (a true bug in the Heteroptera suborder) is only two or three millimeters long and if I hadn’t been down on the ground and very close, I never would have seen it. It is a twice-stabbed stink bug, Cosmopepla lintneriana. This one happens to be a nymph (an immature) and when adult will be mostly black with two red patches (the two “stab” marks of its common name).
Who doesn’t love the humble bumble bee? They are everywhere and like many of us, they are not particularly flashy or flamboyant. Nevertheless, they busily go about their business. I like them quite a bit and enjoy watching them move from flower to flower. In this case, a common eastern bumble bee (Bombus impatiens) is on wingstem, also known as yellow ironweed (Verbesina alternifolia). There were also honey bees (Apis mellifera) and ailanthus webworm moths (Atteva aurea) on the same group of flowers. It had become quite hot again, with temperatures in the low 90s, and I’m starting to look forward to autumn.
I came across this carpenter ant (Camponotus castaneus) in the yard today. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get an identification on this ant. BugGuide.net says, about carpenter ants (Genus Camponotus), “This is one of the most species-rich ant genera, with perhaps 1000 species World-wide.” Nevertheless, it was identified. These are pests, of course, if they get into structures or valuable trees but they are fairly ubiquitous on almost the entire globe (only excluding the polar regions). They’re pretty things, like most insects, however.
This is the “many-named ladybird”. It has been called ‘multicolored’ (or ‘multicoloured’ in Britain), ‘multivariate’, ‘southern’, ‘Japanese’, ‘Asian’, ‘Halloween’, ‘harlequin’ and ‘pumpkin’ ladybird/ladybug/ladybeetle. I’m going with the simple ‘Asian’ and sticking to beetle, because it’s in the order Coleoptera. It’s a largish lady beetle and this particular species is immensely variable. The “standard” is red to red-orange with 18 spots, but as you can see, this one only has 12 (six on each side). The background ranges from a slightly orangy yellow to red and there are even versions with red spots on a black background.
I went on a short outing this afternoon to the Agricultural Farm Park today and spent a little time wandering around the Master Gardener’s display garden. Mostly I photographed insects (and a few flowers). It was a pretty productive outing as far as insect photos go.
- Danaus plexippus (Monarch) Caterpillar
- Murgantia histrionica (Harlequin Bug)
- Papilio polyxenes asterius (Black Swallowtail)
- Euptoieta claudia (Variegated Fritillary)
- Allograpta obliqua (Common Oblique Syrphid)
- Diabrotica undecimpunctata (Spotted Cucumber Beetle)
I’m particularly happy with the oblique syrphid fly, as that’s the first one I’ve photographed. The black swallowtail is one we don’t see nearly as often as the eastern tiger swallowtail. I’ve seen harlequin bugs on occasion but not all that often. The same is true of the cucumber beetle.
I happened to look out my window this afternoon and saw this stink bug on the outside of the glass. Actually, it’s not unusual to see them inside the building. My guess is that this is a brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys) but I’m not entirely sure and I’m not going to bother looking harder at it. The banded antennae are distinctive, along with the mottled color, but again, that’s just a guess and it’s good enough for me. I also took some pictures this evening of a hardy begonia that’s growing outside our front door. Those are probably prettier than this, being pink and yellow instead of tan (and buggy). But they weren’t as good as I’d like and I can always try to get better pictures, when the light is a bit stronger.
I took pictures of insects on aster flowers this evening. There was a bumble bee covered with little white dots that I’m pretty sure were eggs of some kind and didn’t bode well for the little critter. There was also a beautiful, metallic green, sweat bee (family Halictidae) and I got a picture of it as it lifted off the flower, which would have been amazing if it had been in better focus. The light was relatively low and I was using a flash with a white reflector for these pictures, which helped considerably. I also had a 25mm extension tube behind my 100mm macro lens, which helped me get that much closer.
I went outside today and walked around a bit in the lot next to my office. The weather was fine and it was nice to be out in the sunshine. I startled a belted kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) as I walked towards a vernal drainage pond. It’s often completely dry by this time of year but it had more water in it than in previous years and it hasn’t all evaporated yet. Above it, I was able to get close enough to get a pretty good photograph of this eastern tailed-blue (Cupido comyntas). They are pretty common but easily missed, as they are fairly small and flit around near the ground. They’re worth looking out for, I think.
Cathy and I worked in the yard this afternoon. As I’ve mentioned before, there’s a lot to be done in the yard but I think we’ve made progress, at least. I took a break and took some pictures in the back yard. There are some bracket fungi on the ground above where there used to be a silver maple. They come up every year as the roots rot. I also took some pictures of some butterflies on the flowers around the patio. Then I saw this American hover fly (Eupeodes americanus) on the begonias growing in a pot on the patio. I was able to get some pretty decent photos of it as it moved from flower to flower.
I sent outside for a little while today and took some pictures of butterflies. I was down near the storm management pond next to my building and saw pearl crescents (Phyciodes tharos) as seen here as well as cabbage whites (Pieris rapae). There were also bees around, but not so many as there were only a few weeks ago. Getting good photographs of butterflies is challenging but it’s something I enjoy. This is a mid-sized butterfly, considerably smaller than the swallowtails or monarch but larger then the blue, featured recently. They are fairly common and easily spotted but as with most butterflies, difficult to get too close to.
I met Cathy outside for a little while early this afternoon. As we were walking back towards the entrance to my building we saw a white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) near the parking lot and I was able to get a few nice photographs of her. Cathy went back to her office and I went down near the pond and took some photos of insects. There was a type of fly that I hadn’t seen before. I thought it was a thick-headed fly (Family Conopidae) but it was identified as a Dioprosopa clavata, a syrphid fly (Family Halictidae) that resembles a thick-headed fly. Today’s photo, however, is of this metalic green sweat bee, a female in the genus Augochlorella.
I went out to take pictures last this morning, taking a short break from work. I had expected to take pictures of flowers of one sort or another but I happened to see this greater bee fly (Bombylius major) and was able to get pretty close to it and got a reasonable photo. It’s a fairly distinctive looking fly, with a hairy body. Differentiating flies from bees is generally easy if you can count their wings. The order Diptera, which is the flies, is so named because they have two wings (i.e. a single pair) instead of the normal insect wing count of four (two pairs).
You can pretty much be sure that if there are things blooming, there are at least a few insects about. Insects aren’t the only pollinators, of course but they do the lion’s share of the work. Nevertheless, they are not out in numbers that we’ll see later in the year. I saw and photographed two different insects today. This one is an eastern tailed-blue (Cupido comyntas) and the other was a syrphid flies (Syrphidae, probably Toxomerus geminatus). So, the insect season is getting underway.
This is a European hornet (Vespa crabro). It’s also dead. I found it on the floor of the basement when I stepped on it in my bare feet, which worried me a little. It was mostly dead before I stepped on it and completely dead after that. Since I didn’t get stung, I’m over it. They are predatory on other insects so in general (and outside my basement), I have no problem with them being around. They are similar in size to the eastern cicada killer (Sphecius speciosus) but are quite different in appearance. As large as they are, the European hornet is smaller than the Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia, sometimes referred to as murder hornets), which can be 30% to 50% larger.
I haven’t included the specific name for this lady beetle in my title because I’m not entirely sure what it is. My guess would be that it’s an Asian lady beetle (Harmonia axyridis), though as they are quite common and this certainly looks right. But I’m no expert. I got one photo of this on a leaf before it flew away so although it isn’t as sharp a picture as I’d like, it’s all I have. These are, of course, insects that we like to have in our garden, as they eat aphids. I haven’t seen aphids in great numbers in the garden yet this year but they’ll be along before too long, have no fear. That and Japanese beetles are the two insect pests I see the most in the summer months.
I took some photos of some yellow flowering sedum this afternoon but they didn’t turn out very well. You’d be stuck with them except I happened to see this Asian lady beetle (Harmonia axyridis) on a stem and got down on the ground to get a few photos of it. This plant has a flower cluster similar to Queen Anne’s lace but that’s not what it is. It’s a very aggressive weed that we picked up somewhere along the way and we really need to do something about it. But it made for a nice photograph, in this case. It may be Chaerophyllum aromaticum but I really don’t know. Whatever it is, you really don’t want any.
We had our first sighting of a tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) today and it was nice enough to perch on the Asiatic lilies growing in our front garden. I’ve actually seen a few butterflies around but haven’t had a chance to get any photos. Soon we’ll have them in abundance, especially when the Buddleia starts to bloom. These Asiatic lilies are surrounded by tiger lily plants (Lilium lancifolium), which are considerably taller and I’m not sure these can get the attention they deserve. On the other hand, this makes them harder for the deer to get to, which is a plus.
I went out to take some pictures of flowers today. There are a few sitting on a table that I set up for Cathy to work on and that seemed like a nice place to sit and take pictures. I took some of a coral bells plant (Heuchera x ‘Blondie’) and then I noticed this syrphid file (Family Syrphidae) on a marigold blossom. There’s only so close I can get with my 100mm macro and I’d like some way to get closer. I’ve thought about buying a Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 lens that gives magnifications of 1 to 5 times, basically picking up where my current lens leaves off. It’s manual focus, but at that close range, focus is as much a matter of moving the camera closer or further away from the subject.
I was sitting outside this morning, taking a break from doing some yard work, when I noticed this caterpillar on the tire of my car. I moved it to a plant, figuring it would be shown to better effect there than on the black tire, and then I got my camera and took a few photos. It is a white-marked tussock moth (Orgyia leucostigma), a species native to our region. Interestingly, the adult females are wingless and therefore flightless. If you find one of these, you’ll want to avoid handling it with your bare hands. Its hair is known to cause allergic reactions, especially in areas of the body with sensitive skin. I let it crawl onto a leaf to move it, so as to avoid any issues.
Cathy and I went on a new trail today. I don’t know if the trail is actually new but it was new to us. We walked in the Rock Creek valley between Muncaster and Muncaster Mill Roads. As the crow flies, it’s probably a mile from end to end. The trail winds quite a bit and there’s a bit of up and down and based on a map we found, it’s more like 2.5 each way. So, about five miles. It was pretty hot and very humid, but we really enjoyed the green and also the birds that were supplying the background chorus most of the way. We saw quite a few of these six-spotted tiger beetles (Cicindela sexguttata) as well as ebony jewelwings (Calopteryx maculata), a damselfly with black wings (except for on females there is a conspicuous white spot at the end of the wings.
Pretty much all the flowers in our garden are attractive to insects. I suppose that makes sense, because that’s what flowers are supposed to do, in order to get the insects to (inadvertently) pollinate the flowers. It’s interesting to me, though, that some flowers are attractive to many different insects but some seem to attract a specific subset. Yesterday, I was looking at the Monarda (bee balm) and noticed that the large bees were almost exclusively carpenter bees (Xylocopa virginica). Today I was looking at the gooseneck loosestrife (Lysimachia clethroides) shown here and the large bees were exclusively common eastern bumble bees (Bombus impatiens). Just interesting, that’s all.
On a mostly unrelated note, I really, really don’t recommend you plant any Lysimachia species in your garden. The bees love it, but there are other things they like that aren’t so overwhelming.
I was out with my macro on a 25mm extension tube this evening and got a few decent photos of this green bee. I labeled it a cuckoo wasp at first, but now I’m thinking it’s a green-sweat bee (Tribe Augochlorini). But don’t hold me to that. If I get a better identification, I’ll update this post. For now, all I can say for sure is that it’s a bee (Anthophila). I can also say that it’s quite pretty. It was moving around quit a bit and this was the best I could do at ISO 800, f/8, 1/100 second.
I wasn’t happy with most of the pictures I took today, but this one isn’t too bad. I’m pretty sure this is a sculptured resin bee (Megachile sculpturalis), although there are a few other Megachile species it could be (e.g. the flat-tailed leaf-cutter bee, Megachile mendica, which is more common). Regardless, it’s a nice, quiet little bee and it was moving among the coneflowers, along with a few other solitary bees and an occasional honey bee (Apis mellifera). I know that some folks are not fond of bees and don’t like to have them around. With the exception of a few aggressive hornets and wasps, I like having them around. They really rarely sting unless provoked and they are quite pretty to watch on flowers.
I am definitely not a fan of the Japanese beetle (Popillia japonica), a native of (unsurprisingly) Japan, and instroduced into North America in the early 20th century (first found in the United States in 1916 near Riverton, New Jersey). They are quite destructive of a wide variety of plants, including both ornamental plants (like roses, which they love) and agricultural crops (soybeans, stone fruits, etc.). Their larvae damage lawns, feeding on the roots of grasses. They are, of course, pretty if you can disassociate them from the destruction they cause. But that’s hard for me to do and I don’t really have a lot of sympathy for them. This one is on a rose of Sharon (a.k.a. shrub althea, Hibiscus syriacus).
After we got home from visiting mom this afternoon we were sitting in the front yard. The evenings have been warm but so much nicer than it’s been during the heat of the day. Because my work setup is in the basement, I feel like I need to get outdoors some each day so I’m going out front after work to read. Today wasn’t a work day, but I sat out anyway. I had just taken a photo of the tiger lily buds when we spotted this snowberry clearwing moth (Hemaris diffinis) on the Verbena bonariensis. I didn’t really have great light for taking pictures of a moth on the wing (and these rarely land, preferring to hover). But this one turned out pretty well, I think.
Cathy bought a few perennials over the weekend and I planted this one yesterday. It’s a sneezeweed called ‘Mardi Gras’ and it’s really nice. The flowers have a similar look to black-eyed Susans but it’s a different genus (Helenium). I happened to catch it with a little, green-sweat bee on it, which is a bonus. It prefers somewhat barren ground and isn’t supposed to do well in heavy clay, which is probably why I haven’t seen it around here. That’s really all we have. But hopefully it will survive, even if it doesn’t thrive too well.
Cathy called me up from the basement this morning because she thought I might like to see this caterpillar on our back patio. It was crawling along the hose but then moved off onto some leaves and sticks, which looks a bit more natural. It is an American Dagger Moth Caterpillar (Acronicta americana). They feed on the leaves of various deciduous trees so I really shouldn’t have let it live, but I did. Apparently the hairs can cause skin irritation, so it’s something you probably don’t want to handle. I didn’t, so I cannot say whether or not it’s a serious problem.
This is a sand wasp, Bicyrtes quadrifasciatus I believe. It’s fairly common although nothing like the western honey bee or the bumble or carpenter bee, but I see them quite a bit on the mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum), as this one is. If I go out in the heat of the day, with the sun beating down on the mountain mint, it’s an absolute hive of activity (and I mean that in the most literal sense). There are myriad bees and wasps buzzing around with an occasional skipper sneaking in. The buddleia above has mostly bumble and carpenter bees as well as butterflies. Now and then I spot a true bug of one sort or another. It’s really wonderful, unless of course you are allergic or simply afraid of stinging things. It’s also very hot so I don’t generally stay out too long, but I love it.
The skippers are here in their great numbers. They aren’t flashy like the swallowtails and they don’t buzz like the bees, but they are everywhere. They especially like the black-eyed Susan flowers (as seen here) and the Verbena bonariensis but they can also be seen on other plants. This is, I believe, a Peck’s skipper (Polites peckius), also known as the yellow patch or yellow spotted skipper. The larvae feed on grasses while the adults take nectar from flowers. They are widespread across much of North America.
The monarch (Danaus plexippus) is one of the prettiest butterflies we get. They don’t show up in nearly as great numbers as do the tiger swallowtails (Papilio glaucus) and maybe that’s what makes their appearance more exciting. This one was on a tender butterfly weed (Asclepias curassavica) that it in a container on our back patio. I took this one photo from the lawn side of the patio before trying to get around to the other side. Just as well because it flew off after that and I got no more. I did take some more photos of the tiger swallowtails but I’m sure I’ll get more of them this summer.
I took some photos of flowers today as well as a few of tiger swallowtails. But then I saw this little insect. It’s a leafhopper and they aren’t very big. I got two decent photos of it, one with the head and eyes in focus (this one) and the other with the body in focus but the head blurred. Nevertheless, it was enough to let it be identified as a Broad-headed Sharpshooter (Oncometopia orbona). There are four species of Oncometopia in the U.S.A. but this is the only one that’s known to be present here, so I’m pretty sure that’s right. It’s a pretty little critter.
We have a lot of tiger swallowtails (Papilio glaucus) in our yard. The particularly like the butterfly bush (Buddleia) but we see them on other flowers, as well. They are often quite ragged, with torn wings and sometimes with less than half remaining. Nevertheless, they seem to get around alright. Most of them are the standard yellow striped with black but we have a significant number of the dark form, which is restricted to females of the species. This is a pretty nice one, with her wings mostly intact. As you can see, she is on a tall verbena (Verbena bonariensis).
I’m not actually 100% sure of the identification of this sulphur. It may be an orange sulphur (Colias eurytheme) but it’s hard to tell for sure from the underside of the wings. It’s a sulphur, anyway, subfamily Coliadinae. I’ve had a hard time getting a good photograph of one, as they are quite shy and often don’t land when I’m near by. So, I was pleased to get this photo and a few others today. It’s a pretty little butterfly and I love seeing them on the flowers in the yard.
This is a pretty little butterfly that I don’t see too often in our yard. It is, I believe, a red-banded hairstreak (Calycopis cecrops). It was moving about amongst the mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum) and that made it hard to get a clear photo of it, but this one turned out pretty well. The hairstreaks are a subfamily (and considered as a tribe) under the Lycaenidae, the Blues, Coppers, Hairstreaks, and Harvesters. They are smallish butterflies and their “eye spots” at the far end of their hind wings presumably fool prediters into thinking that’s their head enough to improve their chance of survival.
I’m pretty sure this is a sculptured resin bee (Megachile sculpturalis), a fairly common, solitary bee in the Megachilidae family (the leafcutter, mason, and resin bees, and allies). We see them on a variety of flowers in our yard. This one is on the Verbena bonariensis (tall verbena or Brazilian vervain) and that seems to be a favorite for these bees. Like most bees, they are not at all agresive and much more likely to fly away from you than bother you in any way. I think they’re quite pretty, with their furry thorax and sculptured abdomen.
I noticed this bright green katydid nymph on the canna lily this morning. It is one of the Scudderia species. It let me get pretty close, as you can see and it actually stayed there for a few days and ate a good amount of the petals on this flower. Generally I’m not a fan of flower-eating insects but this one was pretty enough and eating slowly enough that I let it be. I like the green against the orange of the petals and even though it’s a small thing, I could see it clearly from our kitchen door, which was nice.
I’m pretty sure this is a spicebush swallowtail (Papilio troilus). There are three dark swallowtails that we see somewhat regularly. Most of them are dark form females of the eastern tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus). This is, in my experience, the second most common. Then there are the black swallowtails (Papilio polyxenes). They all look pretty similar and they all have a bit of variation in their coloration. Since I’m really not an expert, I could be wrong about this one. I’ll just leave it at that. It’s a pretty butterfly, in any case, and is enjoying the blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica ) in our front garden.
The mountain mint is really buzzing these days. The height of summer is really great for seeing bees and wasps and I really enjoy seeing them in the afternoon. The sun beating down it a bit much so I can only take it for short stretches but it’s worth it to see the variety of stinging things buzzing around. This is, I believe, a four-toothed mason wasp (Monobia quadridens). The larvae feed on leaf-rolling caterpillars so are generally considered good to have around. Their sting is something you want to avoid but like most hornets and wasps, if you leave them alone, they’ll leave you alone.
We went to Northern Virginia this evening to have dinner with our good friend, Jean. While we were there, eating in her car port, there was a huge downpour followed by a rainbow. It was actually really nice to be sitting outside but under cover during that. Then, I happened to spot this moth, which landed on the gate to the back yard. It’s a moth in the genus Xanthotype. There are five species in our area but, according to BugGuide, “adults of all species in this genus are, for practical purposes, externally indistinguishable from one another” so we’ll just leave it at that.
This goldenrod soldier beetle, (Chauliognathus pensylvanicus) is well camouflaged against the petals of the black-eyed Susan in our back yard. Often when looking for insects, it’s a matter of looking for motion, because they blend in so well with the background. I spotted this on after taking a few photos of a monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus), also on the black-eyed Susans. They are starting to fade, but there will still be plenty of color for a while yet. One interesting thing about this beetle is that the species epithet, pensylvanicus, is the correct spelling and the version with a double n (i.e. pennsylvanicus) is incorrect.
We took an outing today to Rocklands Farm and Winery and had a lovely visit with Janis. She and Anna took us to see Anna’s flowers and then we circled back around behind the winery. The grape must that had spilled on the ground outside the work area had attracted quite a few butterflies, including this red-spotted purple (Limenitis arthemis astyanax). To me, it looks more like an orange-spotted blue, but what do I know. Their colors are a bit variable, anyway. Nevertheless, this is a pretty distinctive butterfly and always a treat to see.
I was down on the ground taking some photos of a skipper on some blue mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum) when I noticed this spotted cucumber beetle (Diabrotica undecimpunctata) just to my right. I got a handful of photos of it before it flew away and I actually got a fairly good one of it just taking off. I think this is a better picture, overall, though, so I thought I’d use it. This is a destructive insect and really I should have squashed it, but it flew away before I had the chance. They do significant damage to many field crops “including cucumbers and other squashes, corn, soy.”
We have some white swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata ‘Ice Ballet’) in a frequently wet part of the lawn. It bloomed for a nice, ling time this summer and as it gets more established I expect it to do even better. Yesterday Cathy noticed a caterpillar on it and I took some photos. I took a few more today. This is a monarch caterpillar (Danaus plexippus). Although I generally don’t encourage insects that eat the leaves on our plants, I make an exception for these little guys. We really enjoy the monarchs in our yard and so we put up with the feeding habits of their young.
I’m not at all sure what this wasp is but I’m going to guess it’s a Polistes species, possibly P. fuscatus, the northern paper wasp. I like this head-on shot, although I’d like to have a bit more depth of field. The wasps and bees were thick in the mountain mint and buddleia this afternoon. Autumn is arriving, though, and it’s been cooler, so the insects are not quite so nemerous except in the heat of mid-day. I also got a few pictures of a beewolf (Philanthus gibbosus).
Underneath one of the buddleias in our back garden I found the remains of a monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus). Just last Friday I had photos of a monarch caterpillar (see Friday, September 11). This is the other end of the life cycle, the death of an adult butterfly. Monarchs are quite widespread, being found throughout much of North and South America (and apparently have been introduced in Australia). The color on the wings of a butterfly are made up of very small scales. In the full size version of this image, they are visible, especially in the orange areas.
Cathy and I took a walk along Croyden Creek early this afternoon. It has turned cool, although with the humidity in the woods and the steep nature of the trail, I was fairly warm. It was nice to get out, of course, and we only saw a few other people. We walked from the Croyden Creek Nature Center down stream almost to where it joins Rock Creek. Coming back, we turned up a side valley and came out between the two main parts of Rockville Cemetery. Back and the nature center, I took this photo of a western honey bee (Apis mellifera) on an aster of some sort.
I’ve posted photos of painted lady butterflies (Vanessa cardui) before, but not this year. Each of the others show the underside of the wings, which are often folded up when the butterfly is on a flower. I spent quite a while following this one around and managed to get a pretty good shot of the upper wing surface. It’s a pretty, mid-sized butterfly that’s found in five of the seven continents (all but South America and Antarctica). This is the first I’ve seen this year, so I was excited to be able to get some good pictures.
I went out this morning to bring the recycle bins back from the curb and happened to notice this little Asian lady beetle (Harmonia axyridis) on the hood of my car. So, it’s not a terribly natural setting and I’ve have loved to be able to photograph it on a flower or something, but I’m keeping it real and telling it like it is (or was). These are quite common in our area and can be found pretty much throughout the United States and southern Canada. They are native to eastern Asia from the Altai Mountains to the east coast and Japan. Their spot pattern and colors are extremely variable, including the black spots on an orange base, as seen here, but also black on red, red, orange, or yellow on black, and even solid with no spots.
This is the first red admiral (Vanessa atalanta) I’ve seen in the yard this year. It’s wings are pretty ragged but it was fluttering around well enough. We’re seeing fewer butterflies lately, now that it’s cooled off so much, but once in a while we get a treat like this. This one is resting on a rose trellis on the end of our house that used to have a huge, climbing rose on it. That rose died to the ground a while back but it’s finally starting to get up onto the trellis again. Hopefully in a few more years it will be back to its former glory.
The red admiral is cousin to the painted lady (Vanessa cardui) whose picture I posted just over a week ago.
The late afternoon sun was shining on the hawthorn berries and I took some pictures of them before spotting this monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) flitting around the tall verbena (Verbena bonariensis). She flew off for a while but I waited and she came back and I was able to get some pretty nice photos. I figured I can get pictures of the hawthorn again tomorrow. The butterflies are getting to be fewer and fewer, so I want to capture them while I can. We’ve had a pretty steady presence of monarchs this summer, although rarely more than one at a time. This one is in particularly fine shape.
Just a few days ago I mentioned that we were seeing fewer butterflies in the garden. Then I saw and photographed a painted lady (Vanessa cardui), a red admiral (Vanessa atalanta), a monarch (Danaus plexippus), and today a common buckeye (Junonia coenia), all within just over two weeks. So, the summer is going out strong in terms of butterflies. The common buckeye is not particularly rare here, but we haven’t seen a lot of them this year. It’s a pretty butterfly and quite distinctively marked. Like the recently photographed painted lady and monarch, this one is on the Verbena bonariensis.
The cicadas (Magicicada species) of Brood X are beginning to emerge from their 17-year subterranean sojourn. Interestingly, this one, near the base of a large oak tree, is one of only a few at this site. Another oak tree at the other end of the yard is absolutely covered with them. I suspect I’ll have a few more photos before their visit comes to an end but I thought for at least one photo I’d include some flowers to brighten what is otherwise a sort of ugly bug. Blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium) is something of a weed around our yard, but it’s at least a pretty weed.
Cathy and I went back to the Agricultural Farm Part today after church. There’s a trail we hadn’t been on and wanted to see what it was like. It heads off from the driveway up along the eastern side of Rock Creek. It had recently been mowed and was in very nice shape up as far as a small side stream with a small wooden bridge across it. I guess they couldn’t get the large mowers across that and the trail was a bit overgrown after that. It was quite warm but nice in the shade and we had an enjoyable walk. On the way back up to the car I saw this little eastern tailed-blue (Cupido comyntas). It’s one of my favorite little butterflies.
The cicadas are coming, the cicadas are coming. There are two, large red oak trees in our front yard, both on the county right of way and planted when the neighborhood was built at the end of the 1960s. One of them has less than a dozen cicadas on it, the other has hundreds. This is on the second and is one of a few cicadas currently exiting their exoskeleton and transitioning to adulthood. They’re kind of creepy at this stage, all white and maggot-like. Of course, they’re nymphs for 17 years, and they are king of creepy that whole time, so I guess that’s not so surprising.
We went for a walk in the park late this afternoon. We went to see if the cicada noise was louder there and were surprised to find that there were parts of the woods where we could barely hear them. Other parts were about the same as in our yard. There was plenty of evidence of cicadas throughout the woods, with the tell-tall holes in the ground where they emerged and their shed exoskeletons on leaves, branches, and trunks. I like this one, back lit by the late afternoon sun.
We went up to Pennsylvania today just to hang out. It was probably what will turn out to be the most pleasant day of the summer. Cool, clear, breazy and absolutely lovely. We met our new neighbors, who invited us over to see their goats, which everyone enjoyed, especially Kaien and Silas. Dorothy had a few friend with her and they cut down a few trees that I had marked for clearing. And of course we cooked burgers and hot dogs on the fire. I took a few pictures, including this one of a calico pennant dragonfly (Celithemis elisa).
This was taken on June 3, almost two weeks ago as I’m posting it. That was just about the peak of the so-called Brood X cicada swarm. It really was quite noisy. In the past I would sometimes go outside if I was on the phone. Not only is reception better, but I can avoid the parrot noise that sometimes interrupts phone calls. But with the cicadas, it really wasn’t practical. It’s interesting how variable it is throughout the neighborhood and the woods. Some places you’d expect it to be bad seem to have very few. They are pretty thick right around us, though.
Our outdoor church service has been moved forward from 10:45 to 9:30 because of the heat. After church we decided to go for a walk on the Blue Mash Trail on Zion Road, behind the Oaks Landfill. We enjoyed being out, although it was a warm day, close to 90°F. Thankfully there’s a fair amount of shade. In addition to this daisy, there was a purple flowered vetch (Vicia species) and a few other wildflowers showing off for the insects. After our walk we stopped at Johnson’s because Cathy wanted to get some black mondo grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’). They didn’t have any. Then we had a picnic lunch at Olney Manor Park with sandwiches from Jersey Mike’s before coming home.
I’m not sure how well this will show up unless it’s viewed on a largish screen. Anyway, I decided to try taking long exposures to capture the flashing lights of lightning bugs, otherwise known as fireflies. They didn’t turn out as well as I would have liked, because when I used a long enough exposure to get a lot of flashes, parts of the picture were so bright that it looked like day time. That was mostly due to electric lights from our neighbors. If I get a chance, I may try to find a darker spot and see what I can do. The trails of lights are generally made by individual insects, flying along flashing as they go.
I stopped at the Croyden Creak Nature Center again this afternoon. I took a picture of Joe Pye weed here two weeks ago (see Wednesday, June 16, 2021) and wanted to see if it had started to bloom. It really hadn’t but it’s getting close. I walked around and took a few pictures, anyway, including a few of this eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) enjoying the swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata). There was also a nice buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) in bloom. It has spherical clusters of tiny flowers that like little pincushions.
I happened to notice this insect on my car this morning. I’d an immature wheel bug (Arilus cristatus) and I’ve always found them to be kind of cool. The adult wheel bug has a cog-like projection on its back, which is where it gets its common name. The wheel bug preys on caterpillars, aphids, bees, sawflies, etc. so they’re actually good to have around. They do bite, if mishandled (or sometimes just handled) and their bite can be quite painful. So, I’d avoid messing with them, if you have the choice. Just leave them alone and let them eat what they eat.
I’m not 100% certain of the species of this dragonfly. I think it may be a riverine clubtail (Stylurus amnicola) but I’m not sure. This was taken on the Monocacy River aqueduct just over the line in Frederick county. It was a hot afternoon and we were glad to be in the shade on the towpath. There is fruit on some of the larger pawpaw trees (Asimina triloba) but they are a little way from being ripe. We also enjoyed watching the swifts (Chaetura pelagica) that were flying out from a ledge on the face of the aqueduct to catch insects.
This spicebush swallowtail (Papilio troilus) was making the rounds in our front garden today. It didn’t really stay still and was a challenge to photograph. The wings were going the whole time, even when it sort of landed on the flowers and it didn’t stay on any one flower for long. Getting a picture where it was in profile was hard and any time I got too close, it would move to the other side of the garden. They’re pretty butterflies and I love to see them in addition to the more common tiger swallowtails (Papilio glaucus).
After spending a few hours at McKee-Beshers, we stopped at Rocklands Farm for a little while. It was closing soon and we didn’t stay long but I took a few pictures, including this zebra swallowtail Eurytides marcellus on Janis’ buddleia. I’m pretty sure this is the first of them that I’ve seen and definitely the first I’ve photographed. It’s really a striking butterfly, with the bright red on the underside of it’s wings. I was really happy to get this photo. As for the rain that had been coming down fairly heavily when we left home, the roads were drying up by the time we got out here and by the evening the sky was totally clear.
Cathy’s brother arrived from the Chicago area today and in the evening we all went to the Agricultural Farm Park. In the dahlia garden, we spotted this spotted cucumber beetle (Diabrotica undecimpunctata) on a beautiful magenta dahlia. It’s not peak season for the dahlias quite yet, but there are enough blooms to make it worth visiting, if you’re in the area. The demonstration garden ‘next door’ is in fine fettle and also worth walking through. It’s in a lot better shape this summer than last year, when I suspect getting people to work on it was a bit harder.
We were out at Rocklands again today. They were having a picnic for their Cellar Club and asked if I’d come to take pictures. Since many of the pictures were of people but people that I don’t really know, I decided to post this one. It’s a pearl crescent butterfly (Phyciodes tharos) and it was in Janis’ garden. This is a fairly common little butterfly but you do sometimes have to pay attention to see them. They aren’t particularly flashy. I also took pictures of a few flowers and a nice shot of a soldier beetle.
We had some out of town guest this weekend but they were here mostly to do the D.C. tourist thing. Late this morning the headed downtown to hit the museums and Cathy and I decided to go to the C&O Canal, walking northwest from Pennyfield Lock. It was a beautiful day, warmer than I prefer but only by a little. In the shade and particularly when there was a breeze it was lovely. We saw lots of painted turtles (Chrysemys picta), a great blue heron (Ardea herodias) and quite a few wildflowers. For today’s post I’m putting up two photos. The first is an ailanthus webworm moth (Atteva aurea) on a sunflower (Helianthus) of some sort. The larvae live in communal webs on their host trees. Interestingly, while they are thought to be native to South Florida, the ailanthus for which they are named (Ailanthus altissima, Tree of Heaven), is native to Northern China. It is believed that their original larval host was the paradise tree (Simarouba glauca) and Simarouba amara. It started moving north around the 1850s when introduced Ailanthus altissima contacted the moth’s native range.
The second photo is, as you have probably surmised, a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). Cathy had walked a little further along and I waited in the shade at a pretty spot to take a few photos of the wildflowers there. While I was waiting for her to return I looked up and saw the eagle. I was able to point him out to a few others walking or biking on the canal but it was gone before Cathy returned. This isn’t the sharpest photo but it’s pretty clear what it is. The dark spot in the lower right is another bird. There were quite a few, flying fairly high in the sky.