Readers’ wildlife photos

Reader Mark Sturtevant sent us a variety of insect photos; his IDs and notes are indented.

Here is another batch of pictures from this summer. Enjoy!

The first picture is of a hatchling Chinese mantis (Tenedora sinensis). I had bought a bunch of Chinese mantis egg cases from a local nature store, and I had hundreds of the hatchlings to deal with early this summer. They were released into my garden and into some local fields.

Next is a large lace bordered moth (Scopula limboundata). I almost decided to ignore this plain-looking moth, but I like the subtle colors and contours that are revealed here.

The odd inchworm in the next picture is the horned spanwormNematocampa resistaria. This tiny thing gave itself away when I spotted teeny caterpillar droppings on a leaf along a forest path. These clues usually turn up nothing, but this time I got lucky. The fleshy horns can be extended when the insect is alarmed, as is shown in the more mature specimen in the link above. I don’t know why they would do that, but perhaps the effect is to break up their outline or to look more like plant matter.

Next are two pictures of a moth that I had been trying to get since I began this hobby a few years ago. This is the Nessus Sphinx (Amphion floridensis), a species closely related to the bumblebee-mimicking clearwing sphinx moths although it is larger and this species lacks clear wings. I don’t see many of these, and when I do they are always in a super-hurry, going from flower to flower at a blazing pace. This one was no different, but this time I staked out a patch of flowers ahead of it, and waited to get off a few quick pictures before it was gone.

The dragonfly in the next picture is the Common Baskettail (Epitheca cynosura). These were super common in the early summer, and I had a lot of fun just sitting and watching their territorial drama over a patch of sand on one of my favorite trails alongside the Flint River. I suspect this individual was a recently emerged adult. It showed little inclination to fly far and the shiny wings are also a clue.

The insect in the next picture looks like a caterpillar, but actually it is the larva of a sawfly, which is a kind of wasp. It even has a series of fleshy ‘pro-legs’ on the abdomen, like a caterpillar. There were quite a few of these on the pines that grow in my favorite field. The species is the European pine sawflyNeodiprion sertifer. This is an introduced species, and it can sometimes occur in large numbers and cause significant damage. But in this case I would say they were just generously sprinkled on every pine tree.

The final batch of pictures is a lovely Polyphemus Moth (Antheraea polyphemus). I found a cocoon on a bush outside of our dentists’ office last Winter, and so I took it home and kept it in the fridge. I set it out to emerge in our office early this summer, fully expecting that it would emerge as luna moth since the cocoon looked like it belonged to that species. So when I later saw that the cocoon was empty I spent a long time looking for a big green moth. Took me a while to realize that right in front of me was an even bigger brown moth! Anyway, after the pictures he was becoming anxious to fly and so that evening I wished him luck and set him free.


  1. GBJames
    Posted November 25, 2017 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    I love humming moths!

  2. Debbie Coplan
    Posted November 25, 2017 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    Great great photos! I love seeing the details
    on these critters. I especially love the brown moth and dragonfly
    wings details in the photos. Lovely!

  3. yazikus
    Posted November 25, 2017 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    Very neat photos! We kept a mantis as a pet once, it was delightful. Kiddo would catch flies for it, and it was an excellent hunter. Released after a few months, but I missed it.

    • Posted November 25, 2017 at 9:20 am | Permalink

      Thank you. Mantids are indeed the coolest. My heart still jumps for joy when I come across one.

      • Posted November 25, 2017 at 9:45 am | Permalink

        Mark, is there any danger to releasing this introduced species into the wild? So many other Asian bugs have wreaked havoc on our native species. This one looks like it would be quite a formidable opponent for any native insect…

        • Posted November 25, 2017 at 9:52 am | Permalink

          The Chinese mantid has been in the U.S. for about a century. Thousands of people release them into their gardens every year.

          • Posted November 25, 2017 at 10:13 am | Permalink

            But could that be a problem? I can imagine that constant releases could bring the population over some threshhold after which they can self-sustain….or has that already happened? If it has, are the ecological effects of this species known?

            • Posted November 25, 2017 at 10:22 am | Permalink

              If they ever had an impact, it would have occured long ago. These are not common insects, and their populations are certainly not on the increase.

              • Posted November 25, 2017 at 11:10 am | Permalink

                people do that in gardens every year here but they can’t be sustained because of the climate (too cold) so they have to do it year after year.

  4. Posted November 25, 2017 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    I especially love, here, the Scopula limboundata when it flies. I always think of making a collage of all the variations I’ve seen, but have never done it. And the spanworm? Wow. One of my favorites, and even though the moth is one of my favorites and I love (lots of love here today) to find the matching cats, I haven’t even considered searching for this cat. Another quest next season! And the sawflies! Love them the most . They are becoming a new obsession for me. I’ve gotten the dogwood sawflies and another I’ve forgotten. Thankfully, native dogwood is in its succession phase in one of our fields, so we have plenty. And my students presented me with some from the woods at school. Next year I have plans to raise them. I’m even learning how to intuitively identify an adult sawfly in the field from a wasp! Thank you so much for all of these photos and for the inspiration (it keeps me going through nine months of cold and snow).

    • Posted November 25, 2017 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

      That species of Geometrid is certainly variable. I had some doubt in identifying it for that reason. Sawfly larvae are also getting to be interesting to me, as the larvae tend to be rather gregarious. I am trying to find a bunch of them, and to get them to all rear up in their defensive display. Have not quite succeeded in that.
      Michigan winters for me are also a drag. But later this winter I am going to look for snow scorpionflies and winter stoneflies.

      • Posted November 25, 2017 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

        i can’t wait for those winter shots. I don’t snowshoe anymore for bugs (knees), but when i found snow fleas I simply had not the skills for the shots.

  5. claudia baker
    Posted November 25, 2017 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    Those brown moth shots: wow!

  6. rickflick
    Posted November 25, 2017 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    A remarkable series. Thanks for sending these in.

  7. Heather Hastie
    Posted November 25, 2017 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    Wow Mark! What a lovely bunch of pics! Most enjoyable!

  8. Posted November 25, 2017 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

    I love the mantis, and the bumblebee-mimicking sphinx looks interesting too!

  9. Terry Sheldon
    Posted November 26, 2017 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    Thanks so much, Mark! I love sphinx moths; the first time I caught a glimpse of one I thought it was the tiniest hummingbird ever!

  10. Posted November 26, 2017 at 6:44 pm | Permalink


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