Readers’ wildlife photos

I don’t know if that many people will be reading this site over the weekend, as most readers are in America and most of those will be taking off for Memorial Day. But PCC(E) never rests, so here are a few lovely insect photos from a regular contributor, Mark Sturtevant. His notes are indented:

A while ago I had shared some pictures of our last major summer vacation, which was to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Pictures from that trip continue here. The first two show a fulfillment of a long-term desire of mine: to see a genuine butterfly ‘puddle party’. This is where Lepidopterans gather in a group to sip water, seeking amino acids and salts that are hard to get from their nectar diet. This one is of course a party of Eastern tiger swallowtails (Papillio glaucus), having a good ‘ol time along a clear forest stream. Tiger swallowtails were so abundant in the park that one soon stopped noticing them. Picture driving through hilly and windy forest roads with tall trees on either side, and imagine seeing large yellow butterflies constantly flittering by in twos, threes, and fours. That was what it was like. I could stop by a stream, and there I would generally see a huddled clique of swallowtails. It was completely wonderful.

The next picture is another such gathering in a secluded parking lot, but here I was all like “Ermahgerd! Pipevines!!” because it included pipevine swallowtails (Battus philenor). This was very thrilling! Pipevine swallowtails are toxic, and they advertise this with their brilliant iridescent blue colors on the hind wings. You can see that the blue changes at different angles, so they were very ‘flashy’.

An interesting spin on this is that there is a melanistic mutation in female tiger swallowtails which causes them to become very dark brown, and these are thought to benefit from the mutation because they resemble the poisonous pipevine swallowtails. Consistent with this view, the mutation is most common in the Southern US where the pipevine swallowtails are found. Here is one of those melanistic female tiger swallowtails from BugGuide. You can still make out the black tiger swallowtail stripes in this example. I saw two of these in the park (which also was totally awesome), but was not able to get an acceptable picture.

Next is another insect that was also common in the area. Evenings down there were filled with the sounds of night-calling insects, and among the loudest insect calls are from the common ‘true katydid’ (Pterophylla camellifolia), which is an impressive though flightless species of katydid. This species has some fame because the name ‘katydid’ is based on the mating call of males of this species, like the male in this picture.

Its loud stridulations vary from a three-part call to a two-part call, and is said to sound like: ‘kat-y-did! Kat-y-did! She didn’t! She did!’ Well, you can hear some of this for yourself in the video below. Imagine hearing a lot of these calling from near and far. They have a rather large range through the Eastern U.S., and the exact call will differ with the region.

The remaining pictures are from back home in Michigan. The next picture is the rarely seen mystery red-headed caterpillar (Enigmatus whatthehellisithuh). It has so far completely stumped me, as I cannot find a match among the lappet or tent caterpillars even though it looks like one of them. I must be barking up the wrong tree. Do you see what I did there? Moving on… [JAC: Can readers help with the ID?]

Late in the summer, one can fairly regularly find the European mantis (Mantis religiosa) out in the fields. The first picture shows a male, and here you can barely see a distinguishing character of this species: a black ring marking at the base of the fore-legs. The second picture is a female, taken on the day that I released her after a couple days of being pampered and generally fussed over while in captivity. The same mantises were seen before in WEIT for some of the ‘Spot the mantis’ challenges.




  1. Posted May 27, 2017 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    Hey! I’m reading your blog! Keep them coming!

    Great insect pictures. The mantis pictures are very good. So alien.

  2. BobTerrace
    Posted May 27, 2017 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    Still reading it all.

  3. Ken Phelps
    Posted May 27, 2017 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    Geez Jerry, days off are *when* a person can thoroughly read the site. Nice photos, especially the last one of the mantis.

  4. Posted May 27, 2017 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    Enjoyed, with a few firsts for me, swalowtails, katylids & redhead, thanks.

  5. Heather Hastie
    Posted May 27, 2017 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    Great pics Mark! Most enjoyable. What a wonderful butterfly experience!

  6. rickflick
    Posted May 27, 2017 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    Curiously, the katydid seems to be cleaning his forelimb while singing. This multitasking suggests the two activities do not occupy much of the bug’s brain capacity, or at least are not processed in the same bunch of neurons. I wonder if they can also dance along the plant while licking and buzzing simultaneously. Could he also be in deep thought? If so, what would he be thinking?

    • jeffery
      Posted May 27, 2017 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

      He’s thinking, “Why do I not seem to be able to make up my mind as to whether she did, or she didn’t?”

      • rickflick
        Posted May 27, 2017 at 4:10 pm | Permalink


  7. jeffery
    Posted May 27, 2017 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    Whenever I hear Katydids, it takes me instantly back to my childhood, as the neighborhood I grew up in was full of them. Their call and that of the cicada are the iconic “late summer sounds” for me….

  8. Posted May 27, 2017 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    Thanks everybody. I was out all day with my camera, and am pretty tired. But I have lots of new stuff for later.

  9. BJ
    Posted May 27, 2017 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    Jerry, insects freak me the hell out. I can’t even look at pictures of them. I feel traumatized, unsafe, and feel that your actions are clearly racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, and meant to uphold the cishet white male patriarchal capitalist kyryarchy.

    This is my list of demands for your site, and if they are not met, I will report you to the Blog Bias Team:

    (1) Trigger warnings preceding all posts about insects.

    (2) Trigger warnings preceding all insect photos.

    (3) Trigger warnings preceding all posts that can even tangentially be related to insects or use the word “insect” or “bug” (e.g. “Trump is dumber than an insect”).

    (4) Content warnings preceding all trigger warnings, lest the trigger warnings themselves trigger me.

    You have 24 hours to meet my demands, or I will fill out a Blog Bias Incident Report, summon the power of my regressive Twitter followers, and start a petition. You have been warned!

  10. Posted May 28, 2017 at 3:37 am | Permalink

    Beautiful photos and interesting text as always!

%d bloggers like this: