Readers’ wildlife photos

Today we have photos of diverse insects (plus one reptile and one arachnid) from Mark Sturtevant. His notes and IDs are indented. These are all from June of the summer of 2018.

First up is a horsefly that kept buzzing my car. It had dozens of pollen grains on its body and on its lovely compound eyes, so I removed them in post-processing. I don’t know why some flies have eyes with colorful patterns, but it does help one to identify them to some degree. The genus is Hybomitra (sp.).

Next is what was for me a new species of grasshopper. This is the Northern green-striped grasshopperChortophaga viridifasciata viridifasciata. I have seen several more since this finding, but only in one field near my house. This one is a female, while the males are entirely grey.

In the early summer, one can often find gatherings of sawfly larvae on pine trees. These are here identified as Neodiprion sp. since their host plant, with 2 needles/sheath, seems to be red pine. Although such insects look a lot like caterpillars, they are actually plant-eating wasp larvae. Like many species in this group, the larvae form colonies to amplify the effect of their chemical defenses. When disturbed (here they are saying “Aaaaa!!! The Finger of Doom!!!), they rear and lash their bodies as a warning that eating them is not be a good idea.

Last year I had documented the raising of a bunch of hickory horned devil caterpillars (Citheronia regalis), which, by length, are our largest caterpillar.  See the terminal post on that here.

The full grown caterpillars had pupated under dirt, as they do, and they spent the winter months in a pan of dirt in a cage in our dining room. I had attempted to eclose pupae of this species before, only to meet with dismal failure because I had kept this warm-climate species in the refrigerator. This time I reasoned that they should be kept at room temperature, and if they came out as moths in the winter then so be it, for I was not going to release them then anyway. More than half never did eclose, but many did! It was very thrilling. Anyway, here are pictures of the adult hickory horned devils, aka regal/royal moths shortly after their wings had expanded but were not yet inclined to fly. The first picture is a male who came out very early in the spring. The rest, I think, are females, and they came out several weeks later.  Females are larger, with a wing span can exceed 6 inches. Not our ‘widest’ moth, but in the U.S. they are the heaviest of our moths.

Just for something a little different, next is a calm little Eastern garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) that I came across while hiking through the woods.

Finally, let us end this posting with. . . murder. I can always find a couple of our large jumping spiders (Platycryptus undatus) on my shed. But here is an unexpected example of female-on-female predation among them. It was one of many occasions where I when go into the yard to do some onerous chore and wind up running back to the house to grab the camera.

11 Comments

  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted July 14, 2019 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    Nice set!

    What makes horsefly bites so damn painful? Is it that the aesthetic is so good, when it wears off suddenly, it’s a shock to the nervous system?

  2. Bruce thiel
    Posted July 14, 2019 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    Mark’s photos and comments are always enjoyable!

  3. Posted July 14, 2019 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    Great and informative set of photos as always from Mark!

  4. Charles Sawicki
    Posted July 14, 2019 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the nice pictures!

  5. Posted July 14, 2019 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    Love these so much, Mark.

  6. Liz
    Posted July 14, 2019 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    Beautiful moth.

  7. rickflick
    Posted July 14, 2019 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    Lots of fine pictures to study and admire. Thanks Mark.

  8. Joe Dickinson
    Posted July 14, 2019 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    Those color patterns on the horsefly eye look to me like “structural” colors, not pigments. Perhaps there is some functional aspect of the arrangement of ommatidia (compound eye units) that produces those patterns as a side effect that requires no adaptive explanation in its own right.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted July 14, 2019 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

      I also think the colors appear to be produced by a protein-based diffraction grating the way some butterfly (or other flying insect) wing colors are.

    • Posted July 14, 2019 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

      Structural color. Had not thought of that. In any case my own hunch is that they use this to recognize each other as members of the same species. But I don’t know, of course.

  9. Mark R.
    Posted July 14, 2019 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Mark, as always, really great photos and commentary.


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