Readers’ wildlife photos

Remember to think of this site if you have good wildlife photos to share!

We have submissions from several readers today, with their captions indented. The first is from Charlie Jones, who would like an explanation for a blue grasshopper:

Since you showed photos of a blue frog, I thought you might be interested to see photos of a blue grasshopper that my daughter Hannah photographed about 45 minutes north of Laramie, Wyoming.
I’ve tried (as an amateur) looking for a blue grasshopper species native to the region, but without success.  Is it a mutant of a species that is normally green, or perhaps an aposematic blue grasshopper, or is this a blue species that likes to live on the mythological Wyoming bluegrass?
Readers?

This tale of zombie grasshoppers comes from Ray Perrins:

Please find attached a submission for your website category Wildlife Photos: a nice example of the mind control sometimes seen by parasites/pathogens.
While walking with the family through local fields on the Somerset Levels (UK) this April we noticed that almost every grass stalk had a number of flies on them, up to 8 per stalk. The flies were dead and in a characteristic position with legs clasped to the grass and wings extended. The abdomens looked distended and there was a white substance emerging (look closely at the lower two flies). This looks like a case of an outbreak of the pathogenic fungus Entomophthora muscaeThe infection causes the fly to adopt this behaviour when near death to ensure optimal spread of spores to infect the next generation of flies. I’m not sure what the flies are, possibly yellow dung flies Scathophaga stercoraria. A pleasant day for us, but carnage among the dipterans!
I’m always amazed that organisms like fungi can do something to an insect to make it crawl up a stalk of grass when it’s about to die. Is it a chemical, a lesion in the insect brain, or what? Regardless, it’s one more example of the wonders of natural selection. As they say, “Natural selection is smarter than you are.”

JAC: I enlarged the flies to make the fungus more obvious:

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Leo Glenn has a bear!

As you mentioned your tank is a little low, I thought I would share a few photos of a young American black bear (Ursus americanus) who showed up in our back yard a couple weeks ago. We see a fair number of bears here in rural western Pennsylvania, but I don’t think I’ve ever been this close to a wild bear. He was small enough that we were nervously looking around for his mom. This may be his first year on his own. He was completely fearless, more like a neighbor’s dog, clearly nosing around for some noms. He stopped to pick a few currants from our currant bush, and stood up to sample a few mulberries from our mulberry tree before ambling back into the woods.

 

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11 Comments

  1. cicely berglund
    Posted August 2, 2019 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    Melanoplus thomasii?

  2. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted August 2, 2019 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    Is that the behavior Dawkins wrote about – in one of his older books, I think? Where the insects climb up so they are more readily eaten by grazing animals?

  3. Posted August 2, 2019 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    Leucistic grasshopper? There is also a similar species, Melanoplus aridus, which has color variations including blue forms. See here for examples: https://bugguide.net/node/view/146747 But yours is very blue!

    • cicely berglund
      Posted August 2, 2019 at 10:03 am | Permalink

      Leucistic was my first thought also, especially following on from the blue frog-which is likely leucistic or partly so.
      Melanoplus thomsonii is also written about on bugguide.net. Pretty thouroughly.

  4. Posted August 2, 2019 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    Not sure whether those bear pix were with a telephoto lens, but please take caution! Black bears are wusses, and cute looking, but if yours get comfortable being around humans and visiting your yard, it won’t be long before it gets very bold, eating your garbage or even breaking into your car and house in search of food. It would be better to discourage it now, rather than be forced to kill it later.

    I live in the woods, and receive regular visitations from bear. I just recently successfully ‘disincentivized’ a persistent young bear who’d been at my garbage, breaking into the feed room in the barn, and even poking around on my deck.

  5. Posted August 2, 2019 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    That’s a good looking bear. We’ve had three different bears climb up our cherry tree. The structural stability of the tree is now uncertain.

  6. rickflick
    Posted August 2, 2019 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    The green grasshopper is very odd, and rather lovely.
    I read somewhere the idea that humans might also be controlled by some micro-organism. I think it was something like mice losing fear of mice. I don’t remember the source, but losing memory could be a symptom of such demonic possession.
    That bear is a cutie. But, hopefully it will not become comfortable around humans – for it’s own sake as well as humans.

    • Posted August 2, 2019 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

      I don’t remember the source, but losing memory could be a symptom….

      Uh oh. 😉

    • JohnnieCanuck
      Posted August 3, 2019 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

      It’s probably toxoplasma gondii that you are thinking of. It makes rats and mice lose their fear response to cat urine.

      This report of a study on the subject was published by Stanford University.
      https://news.stanford.edu/news/2011/august/catrat-081711.html

      It appears the parasite triggers a sexual attraction response in male rats, which counters their fear of cat urine. The parasite multiplies in feline small intestines and people can also be infected by contact with cat fæces. Effects in human brains are unknown.

      • rickflick
        Posted August 3, 2019 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

        Yes, that’s the one.

  7. Mark R.
    Posted August 2, 2019 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    That bear is a cutie…but as Matt said above, beware “taming” him/her.

    45 minutes north of Laramie, WY? Now that’s gotta be in the middle of nowhere. I lived in Cheyenne for a number of years…a lot of nowheres in that state. 🙂


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