Readers’ wildlife photos

Reader Mark Sturtevant has another batch of lovely insect photos and information about them. His notes are indented:

All of these pictures were taken last summer, and most were taken late in the season. We begin with a common but I think charming insect, a late-stage nymph of the bush katydid (Scudderia sp.). What I like about these insects, besides the delicate colors, is how the nymphs look all gangly and awkward like a teenager.

At a never-before-visited park I soon found a lot of partially denuded branches on an oak tree The culprits turned out to be several colonies of orange-tipped oakworm moth caterpillars (Anisota senitoria). Some are shown in the next two pictures (there were many dozens of them). The moths are rather pretty, and they look like this.

An interesting thing that I found about this insect is that although they are not large, they are grouped with the giant silkmoths, and in that family they are in the royal moth subfamily—meaning that these are related to the famous hickory horned devils, the largest caterpillars in the U.S. One can see the resemblance to those caterpillars, and the moths do have a passing resemblance to the adults of that species.

It is a guess on my part, but the bright colors could be a warning that they are toxic (oak leaves are toxic), and by teaming up in an aggregation the caterpillars might become an especially noxious deterrent to would-be predators. I do not know if that is what this species is going for, but on principle this is what many toxic insects do.

Next is one of the Must Photograph species, the great spangled fritillary (Speyeria cybele). I am still trying to record the metallic-ness of the silver markings under the hind wings, and this is the closest I have come so far.

The next picture is a spectacular Syrphid fly that I occasionally see in woods. This is easily the largest Syrphid fly I have seen, and they usually won’t let me near, but this one was very intent on hanging out near the base of a particular tree. I am not sure why, but perhaps it is a male and it knew that a female was going to emerge nearby. The species is Milesia virginiensis. [JAC: it is clearly a hornet or bee mimic.]

Next is a young widow skimmer dragonfly (Libellula luctuosa). This species is one of the more common dragonflies, and they are generally very tolerant of people getting close for pictures. Not all Odonates are like that, certainly!

The small butterfly that follows is one of our smallest butterflies, the penny-sized blue azure (Celastrina neglecta). This little cutie is on my list for more pictures this summer since I’ve sometimes seen it do a rather peculiar behavior that needs photographing. They almost always sit with their wings tightly closed (this covers their pale blue dorsal wing surfaces, unfortunately), but they will sometimes try to ‘hide’ in plain sight by turning toward me to reduce their apparent size to a sliver. If I try to walk around them, they keep turning. If I crouch down to their level, they will sometimes lean over until they are nearly parallel with the leaf they are sitting on! I guess this too is meant to make them look smaller. It is that last part that I wish to get a picture of since it looks so weird. I have found myself laughing and saying in a squeaky butterfly voice: “You can’t see me”!

As many people know, treehoppers come in a great variety of shapes with broadly expanded pronotums that are shaped and textured to resemble a bit of plant or something else that is ignorable. This common species is Entylia carinata. Their colors are highly variable, and this may be to help further conceal them as predators would not learn to look for them.

We finish with one of my personal favorite pictures (but not the favorite as that will be in the next batch), and I do suggest here that readers double click to enlarge it. It is another of the Must Photograph species, and is of course the Eastern tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus). This absolutely perfect specimen was photographed in the special light of the late afternoon, capping off a long and hot summer day that rewarded many discoveries while hiking through fields and woods with the camera.


  1. Debbie Coplan
    Posted August 11, 2017 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    Wow! All so delicate and beautiful. A real delight to see.

  2. Nicholas K.
    Posted August 11, 2017 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    Haven’t seen too many dragonflies this year.

  3. W.Benson
    Posted August 11, 2017 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    Mark, great photos!

  4. Liz
    Posted August 11, 2017 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Love this.

  5. Michael Fisher
    Posted August 11, 2017 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Great swallowtail pic. I hadn’t appreciated that there are four wings – two per segment, before today.

  6. rickflick
    Posted August 11, 2017 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    These shots are psychedelic! Nice work Mark.

  7. Posted August 11, 2017 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    What a beautiful swallowtail. It looks freshly emerged; not much mileage on those wings. I bet you had to go through quite a lot of worn ones before you found this fine example.

    My fav is the treehopper though. They always look like alien intelligent life forms to me.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted August 11, 2017 at 11:38 am | Permalink

      Thanks, Lou. Later on I can show swallowtails with many miles on them. The tree hopper is commonly tended by ants during their nymphal stage but I have yet to get pix of that.

  8. Mark R.
    Posted August 11, 2017 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    Terrific photos as usual Mark. The swallowtail is splendid indeed. Like Lou above, my favorite is the tree hopper (appearing to me like some sort of dinosaur). It looks like it’s hanging out on a very spiny stem or leaf.

    The Syrphid fly has a wicked pareidolia- the thorax being the face, wings whiskers, abdomen, well abdomen.

    • Diane G.
      Posted August 14, 2017 at 1:14 am | Permalink

      Ha! Now that you mention it–it’s wearing a beret!

  9. Greg Mills
    Posted August 11, 2017 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    Brilliant! Please keep them coming.

  10. cruzrad
    Posted August 11, 2017 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    Great pics, thanks! I love the coloration of the penny-sized blue azure.

  11. Heather Hastie
    Posted August 11, 2017 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    Wow! Fantastic pics Mark. Very impressive indeed. Most enjoyable.

  12. Posted August 11, 2017 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    I earned the sobriquet of the “dragonfly whisperer” — they have this odd propensity to land on my head.

  13. Diane G.
    Posted August 14, 2017 at 1:19 am | Permalink

    Great stuff, Mark! My favorite is — all of them. 😀

    Srsly, I love bugs. Just today I saw a Tiger Swallowtail on Ironweed. What a spectacular shot you got!

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