Posts Tagged 'insects'

Twenty-Spotted

Psyllobora vigintimaculataOn the veldt of my arm, a tiny lady beetle that turned out to be the 20-spotted, Psyllobora vigintimaculata. Found throughout most of the US, barring FL and the SE coast, and into Canada. Unlike most lady bugs, carnivorous-chompers if there ever were any, the Pysllobora genus ladies are fungus-eaters. The “Latin” name of the genus is actually Greek and means “flea [of the} north”. It was awfully small, perhaps 3mm long, the smallest lady beetle I’ve ever seen. Light enough to start crawling up one of my arm hairs. I was sitting by the Hudson River in Battery Park City when I noticed it landing on me. Psyllobora vigintimaculataA handsome example with the orange, black, and white markings. They come in quite a range of variations. (And all, I’ll wager, a challenge to half-century old eyeballs: I took these pictures with the phone)

Breaking: Monarch Sighted in Brooklyn

Danaus plexippusI saw my second Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) of the year today. This was my first in Brooklyn; in Brooklyn Bridge Park, feeding on Joe-Pye Weed (Spotted JPW, I believe, Eupatorium maculatum).

As you probably know, we have done quite a number on this spectacular species, through deforestation in Mexico, reducing its food crops further north in the U.S., and poisoning its habitat everywhere; such blows make them even more susceptible to external pressures, like severe weather, in particular the drought in Texas (“external” if you don’t count our carbon-dirty hands in disrupting traditional weather patterns through global warming).

Here are some graphs of the shocking declines and here’s an interview with a biologist whose entire professional career has been about them disappearing. There’s nothing personal, of course, in this drive to extinguish one more species; we’ve done it to the whole planet, and even ourselves.

Can you do anything to keep this remarkable animal, which has a multi-generational, continent-spanning migration, around for your grandchildren? You can plant milkweed, stop the wide-spread poisoning of the environment through herbicides and pesticides, and drive less.. say what? The field-to-field cropping of corn to meet the ethanol demand means that “weedy” edges have been plowed under. We must all change our lives.

Insects of the Weekend

IMG_6273A mess of these sand wasps (Bembicini) were trying to dig into the little beach along the Hudson by Ossining train station. Sand seemed too loose, though, for their nest chambers.harvestmanMoth Night at the Greenbelt Nature Center with the Staten Island Museum on Saturday meant more than moths. This harvestman (Opiliones) has little red mites attached to its legs. Orthosoma brunneumBrown Prionid beetle (Orthosoma brunneum), I think. About 1.25″ long.IMG_6329A camel cricket, family Rhaphidophoridae. Not one of the noise-makers, this tree cricket is a great jumper; we found several on trunks (I rotated this image; the cricket was facing down initially). Its antenna are nearly three times the body length.Epimecis hortariaIt’s National Moth Week, which may be something of a hard sell. Most moths, after all, are modest studies in gray. The showy ones, like the Luna, are few and far between, especially in the city. A white sheet with black lights was set up, as was a trough of “moth bait,” a gooey sludge of banana, booze, and brown sugar allowed to fester in the sun for a while. Both of these attract different species. The Tulip-tree Beauty (Epimecis hortaria) above didn’t come directly to either, but roosted in the area.Lomographia vestaliataWhite Spring Moth (Lomographia vestaliata).moth1Toothed Brown Carpet (Xanthorhoe lacustrata). There are some 12,000 know species of Lepidoptera in the U.S. & Canada; less than 800 of these are butterflies; the rest moths, and I guess they ran out of common names…

Green June in July

Cotinus nitidaI saw this flying fairly low and slow, and waited a while to see if it would land. Waiting may be the essence of natural history observation. As it flew, my thought process was thus: too small for a cicada, too wide for a wasp. Once it landed, Japanese Beetle came to mind; but although similar, this is larger, and lacks the grooved elytra and the tufty bristles of that pest. This turned out to be the Green June Beetle (Cotinus nitida). Another foot soldier in the empire of beetles, the true earthlings (the rest of us just live here, wantonly slaughtering everything that moves). The Latin nitida means shiny, bright, handsome. Cotinus nitidaSeveral days later, I found another in a different borough.

Crawly

Papilio glaucusOne must really keep the eyes peeled and rolling in a fine frenzy. Look out! Down on the sidewalk, a little under 1.5″ long, easily mistaken for a turd or cigarillo butt. Papilio glaucusBut, actually, it’s the larva of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus), that gloriously large yellow and black butterfly. Early instars, or stages, of this caterpillar look like bird droppings (that old camouflage trick!); the last before pupation will look like this, complete with the false eyespots, but be a vivid green. Tuliptree, magnolia, and black cherry are among the food plants for this species; this was next to a Tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera), which is an unusual street tree here. Like all caterpillars, it is a machine for eating, powering up for the biochemical alchemy of metamorphosis. Papilio glaucusShazam! I mean, shit into gold, the alchemical dream right here.

Damsels & Dragons

Argia apicalisThe Blue-fronted Dancer (Argia apicalis). One and half inches long, found along the Bronx River and further away on woodland paths. I’m getting better at distinguished these wee things, which means getting closer with lens of varying sorts. This is a male. Species IDs include the black hair-line markings on the thorax and the blue of the last three segments of the abdomen (compare with the slightly smaller Azure Bluet below). I saw two other damsels on the same paths and figured I had at least two species between the three different types, but it turned out that there are two variations for the female: Argia apicalisa brown form;Argia apicalisand a blue form. Note the absence of a colorful final trio of segments on the abdomen; there are instead tan lines on top and side of segments 8 and 9. Ed Lam’s Damselflies of the Northeast remains the single best source for nailing the identity of these slender flying jewels.

Single click on these images to get larger versions for more detail.

The Odonata, the order of insects that is made up by damselflies and dragonflies, have ten segments to their abdomens, counting from the thorax. Here’s a male Azure Bluet (Enallagma aspersum):Enallagma aspersumIn this species, segment 7 is extensively blue, a tell-tale mark. Note also the much wider mid dorsal stripe on the thorax and the large eye spots.
Perithemis teneraOur smallest dragonfly is the Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera), which is actually smaller, length-wise, than many species of damselflies. But note this thick, thick abdomen: very dragonfly, that, and especially so in the females, as here. This seems like a boom year for the species. Notice, though, that almost all the ones flying low over the edges of local waterbodies are male, staking out their territory and defending it. Their territory: good egg-laying sites. The females, who have splotchy instead of amber wings, are usually found elsewhere, for instance, up in the meadows as in this case, until they venture down for a bout of the ol’ oingo-boingo.

And during the day?

firefliesWhat do fireflies do during the day? While looking at the various bees working these milkweeds, I noticed three of these lightning-bug beetles in the shade of the leaves.

Brooklyn’s Two-Spotted Continue

Two years ago, I stumbled upon some unfamiliar ladybugs. There were Two-spotted (Adalia bipunctata), which turned out to be rather rare. It was the first Brooklyn report for the species. Last summer, the site was inaccessible to civilians because of construction. This weekend I took a look at the trees, as I usually do. They have been quite active with Multicolored Asian Ladybugs (Harmonia axyridis) for the last couple of weeks. But hello! Something different from the very round, very large (for a ladybug) H. axyridis, a nuisance species, if not worse, spread by gardeners and garden-suppliers. Indeed, many think the spread of these beetles has been the cause, or one of the causes, of the decline of the likes of A. bipunctata and other now rare native species. Adalia bipunctataBut the Two-spotted is still in town. Adalia bipunctataWhile trying to get a live photo, the beetle flew down to my camera lens, so I snapped this pic with my phone.

From the Lost Lady Project, I’ve learned that A. bipunctata has been reported at four New York State sites. Like many native species, it has been declining in numbers for the last twenty years or more. The location here is tiny, just a few trees, and isolated from other bits of green. It shows the importance of having a variety of trees and plants in as many places as possible. But this location is much busier with humans than it used to be…

Only three other places in New York! This isn’t to say there aren’t more places, which haven’t been discovered because there aren’t as many people looking for lady beetles as, say, there are people enabling FIFA’s looting, and/or staring at their toenails, but it does suggest their specialness. Adalia bipunctataSpeaking of nails. The Two-spotted comes in a variety of color forms. This one, found at the same time, is particularly striking.

Dragonfly Days of Summer

Plathemis lydiaMale Common Whitetail (Plathemis lydia). Very distinctive. Here’s another view of another:Plathemis lydiaThe tail is slightly bluish, actually. Great example of pruinosity, the waxy bloom (can be blue, gray, or white) on mature odonates, especially males.

Dragonfly season is upon us. During this weekend wanderings in Brooklyn Bridge Park, Green-Wood Cemetery, and Woodlawn Cemetery, I saw Blue Dashers, Eastern Amberwings, Green Darners, Black Saddlebags, Carolina Saddlebags, and the three species pictured here.Libellula pulchellaTwelve-spotted Skimmer (Libellula pulchella) male.Arigomphus villosipesAlways exciting to see something I don’t recognize. A male Unicorn Clubtail (Arigomphus villosipes). Check out those cerci at the end of the tail. “Typically mud-bottomed lakes and ponds” says Paulson on this species’ habitat, which is right on: various carp were splashing in the murk of Woodlawn Lake.

Lady-like

Harmonia axyridisThe Catalpa trees — both the Northern Catalpa (C. bignonioides) and the Southern (C. speciosa) are found in the park — are ladybug magnets. The large heart-shaped leaves are often sticky, perhaps from the excretions of aphids, a favorite ladybug food. Right now, the nymph stages of the lady beetles, these small but frightful looking creatures, are out and about. This is one of the Multicolored Asian Ladybeetle (Harmonia axyridis). Here’s a passel of them in their pupal stage, transforming into adults under a Catalpa leaf:Harmonia axyridisMetamorphosis is so wonderfully strange (to this mammal, anyway): the nymphs, which are actually larger than the adult, will completely transform into the more familiar round red (and other colored) beetles, their bodies chemically broken down and reformed while they are inside the pupa.lb1An earlier instar of the all too-common MAL? (This one is on a milkweed.) Ladybug nymphs typically have four instars, or stages, which they molt through as they grow.

Once emerged, the adult beetle will harden, darken, and get spotted. Here’s another adult on a Catalpa leaf so sticky it’s glistening:Harmonia axyridisThe pale things are aphids.


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