Posts Tagged 'invertebrates'

Flying

Insect-summer is over. But last week I was in Prospect Park and saw masses of dragonflies over the Butterfly Meadow, in a patch of the Nethermead, and then in two clusters along the Long Meadow. They all seemed to be Common Green Darners, the large migrating species. And they were hunting on the wing. Gnats, for want of a better description, filled the air.

And hunting for the dragonflies, a Kestrel, swooping in great deep arcs before briefly perching way up on a tree-top.falco

Mantid

Tenodera aridifoliaChinese Mantid, Tenodera aridifolia, on Elvira’s window. Easily four inches long. This is a late summer classic, at least since 1896, when these Asian natives were first introduced into North America. There have been many introductions since, as these all-purpose predators will eat anything they can get their “preying” hands on; of course, that also means insects beneficial to your garden, too.

Nicrophorus

NicrophorusA carrion beeetle, also known as a sexton beetle, of the genus Nicrophorus, from the Greek for “carrier of the dead.” Found this on a mammal corpse on a path at Dead Horse Bay. The carcass was in curious state; some exposed bones were already whitened, but the main part of the body still had leathery skin/fur and did not smell pleasant. (Nothing like the Götterdämmerung of rotted chicken used to bait for carrion beetles here, though.) Not sure what the animal was: didn’t look big enough for adult raccoon; perhaps a feral cat, of which there are plenty in the phragmites.

So these Nicrophorus beetles — there are some 15 species in the U.S. — are remarkable for providing not just a nest egg of carrion for their young, but sticking around to help feed the wee larvae when they are just starting out as squirmy little rotten-flesh eaters.

The mites — you can spot two adults and see some young ones clustering on the beetle body as well — are symbionts, not parasites. Sources of carrion are extremely variable and unpredictable: so the beetles range throughout the landscape searching for it, carrying the mites (of at least four families), who eat fly larvae and couldn’t get around so well otherwise; the fly larvae is competition for the beetle larvae.

Nicrophorus marginatus is the most wide-spread of these beetles, but it’s very similar looking to N. obscurus and N. guttula, and they evidently can’t be separated based on overall appearance according to Bugguide.

Tiny Something

IMG_8164On the Himalaya of my finger, a small whatsit. There were hosts of these in the late autumn heat, probably the last hatch-outs of the year, getting down to business of preserving the species. Diptera? Hymenoptera? Looks waspy to me — where’s Dr. Kinsey when you need him — but I need the eyes of a ten-year-old, and you know how parents frown on their kids swapping their eyeballs for comic books.

Still Going Strong, But Hurry Up!

IMG_4439These 2-spotted ladybug larvae were still active on Thursday. Time to pupate, kids!

Now, here’s something I’m not so sure about: Pupation and eggs generally seem to be set on leaves. These leaves will shortly fall to the ground, many to blow away to who knows where (into the harbor in some cases, in this situation). This seems a real chancy way of surviving the winter. Are there special end of season approaches to getting the genes through the cold months?

Sympetrum Meadowhawks

Sympertrum vicinumThe red meadowhawk dragonflies are difficult to identify in the field, since several members of the genus Sympetrum look rather similar.Sympetrum vicinumBut I figured these out because of the legs. These are Autumn Meadowhawks (Sympetrum vicinum), in some sources called Yellow-legged; other meadowhawks have black legs. They’re small: 1.3″ long. Sympetrum vicinumTheir colors, especially the bright males, rival fall’s leaves.Sympetrum vicinum“Typically the last species on the wing northern climes,” says the Stokes guide, although it was a balmy 80 when I ran into them in Green-Wood this weekend.

Black Swallowtail

Papilio polyxenes Papilio polyxenes


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