Readers’ wildlife photos

Today’s contribution is from Mark Sturtevant, whose notes are indented:

Here are pictures that were mostly taken from various local parks in the late spring / early summer of last year. In what I call the Magic Field, the early season ground cover is teeming with various species of baby grasshoppers. I really like these little ‘hoppers since they are cute, but I do need to use a trick to increase magnification to photograph them since they are otherwise much too small for my macro lens. The one shown in the first picture is likely a very young red-legged grasshopperMelanoplus femurrubrum, and it was taken by mounting the macro lens on a full set of extension tubes.

Although one might expect all the grasshoppers to be immature so early in the season, a notable exception is my favorite grasshopper that I see only in the Magic Field. The next two pictures show a young adult coral-winged grasshopper, so-named because of the colorful hind wings as shown in the linked picture.  This robust grasshopper overwinters as mature nymphs, so in the spring there are many adults flying around while all other grasshoppers are only recently hatched. One can see how well they are well camouflaged against the lichens and mosses that cover much of the ground in the Magic field. This large female was also very cooperative. What a beauty!

Next up are some damselflies. There are so many species of these around that it will be some time before I photograph most of them in my area. Adding to this challenge are the many species of ‘bluet’ damselflies,  distinguished in the field by the smallest differences in their markings so that I have no idea whether I am photographing a new species or one that I have taken many times before. The first one is likely to be the Hagen’s bluet (Enallagma hageni), and this was later discovered to be a new species for me.

The second one was definitely something new. This is the lovely sedge sprite damselflyNehalennia irene.

The boldly marked caterpillar shown in the next picture was a mystery at first, but from the pictures I determined that this was the larva of the Baltimore checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas phaeton). That was pretty exciting since this is a butterfly that I had never seen before. So I returned the next day to the same spot, but the caterpillar was missing. A careful search of the area revealed it several feet away, lying motionless and limp on the ground. What happened? A possibility is that a hunting wasp that supplies its larvae with paralyzed caterpillars had found it. On occasion a wasp can drop their prey during transport and not find it again.

The story does cheer up a bit since some weeks later I came across an adult Baltimore checkerspot butterfly at a different park. This little beauty was well concealed in tall grass, but I was able to get this picture after trimming back the grass with scissors. Scissors are often very handy for this hobby.

Next are pictures that show more of the hardships of insect life. First is a caterpillar with cocoons of the wasps that had parasitized it. The wasps were likely Braconids, but I don’t know their species or the species of their caterpillar host. The doomed caterpillar was still alive when I found it, but quite unable to crawl away because it had been firmly fastened down with the silk from the cocoons.

I am lucky to have house centipedes (Scutigera coleoptrata) in my area. Besides running up and down the walls in our house, they can also be generally found sitting on the outside of the house during warmer weather. So we are pretty much surrounded. The last pictures show a large one that had captured a Noctuid moth drawn in by our porch light. Perhaps readers would enjoy watching this short documentary to learn more about house centipedes. For any person who is perhaps creeped out about these multi-legged beasties, this beautifully filmed but also humorous video will not make you feel any better about them 😉

10 Comments

  1. Posted May 9, 2019 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    Great photos Mark!

  2. Saul Sorrell-Till
    Posted May 9, 2019 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    These are fabulous photos. I know bugger all about photography(outside of the ‘photo modes’ in certain big-name videogames 🙂 ) but these are clearly very good even if you set aside the wonder of the creatures themselves.

  3. rickflick
    Posted May 9, 2019 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    I learned a new term: metachronal wave. Thanks for the link to the house centipede.

    • Liz
      Posted May 9, 2019 at 10:18 am | Permalink

      Yes. Thank you. I was wondering why I wasn’t finding 100 legs when counting recently.

  4. Terry Sheldon
    Posted May 9, 2019 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    Lovely and fascinating. Thanks!!

  5. Debbie Coplan
    Posted May 9, 2019 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    I get so much out of these insect posts as I am very unfamiliar with bugs. I love the photos, the posts and the documentary. Centipedes do creep me out. Amazing how they coordinate all the legs. I like how they compared them to Swiss Army knives….
    Thanks for the post!

  6. Jonathan Wallace
    Posted May 9, 2019 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    Lovely set of pictures as usual, Mark!

  7. Mark R.
    Posted May 9, 2019 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    Great set of bug-photos Mark.

    It’s interesting to see an orange and black caterpillar to morph into a orange and black butterfly. Is that common? I don’t recall any caterpillars retaining their colors into butterflyhood.

  8. Posted May 9, 2019 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful, esp. the checkerspot butterfly. The first photo resembles to me an old, discarded shoe.

  9. Posted May 9, 2019 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

    Wonderful stuff! Thanks, Mark.


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