Archive for the 'Fieldnotes' Category

Hairy Nature

Close up, nature starts looking really, really hairy. Take a look at the green shoots of plants, the exoskeletons of insects. Hairs and spines are everywhere.Common Buckeye larva.Bumblebees, it goes without saying.Other bees, too. Look at these bristly thighs, Writes Dennis Paulson in his natural history of Dragonflies & Damselflies: “Because a chitinous exoskeleton does not have a sense of touch like the skin of a vertebrate animal such as ourselves, they have sensory hairs or setae covering much of their body, everywhere except the surface of the eyes.” Such massing of “sensilla” work as tactile organs that “can be specialized for the reception of chemical (smell), mechanical (touch), or thermal (termperature) stimuli.”The spines on the legs also help secure prey.
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Let’s make Friday’s Global Climate Strike the biggest ever.

Nine-Spotted Lady Beetles

Do you remember when the Flatbush Gardener released Nine-spotted Lady Beetle larvae in his native meadow garden? Coccinella novemnotata is the New York State insect, but it is almost non-existent now in the state. In fact, the species is hardly to be found anywhere in the east. Cornell’s Lost Ladybug Project has been working to both document and re-introduce the species, which may be endangered by all the god-damned invasive lady beetles introduced by people thinking they’re doing a good thing.Anyway, no sign of that original release in 2016 were ever seen again. This week, FG tried again, this time with both adults and larvae. (Same plump larva under flash above and natural lighting, below.)
How will they fare? Some neighbors are receiving them too, to spread the wealth up and down the block. This is a unique part of Brooklyn, with substantial houses on suburban-style lots. It’s good and tree-y, but has an awful lot of lawn, which is habitat for very little. Flatbush’s all-native species yard, front and back, really stands out, but there is some creeping diffusion of his model nearby.
There were very robust specimens, packed with aphids. In both senses: the containers — available here — come with food for the little beetles, and they evidently eagerly partake of said food. Yum, aphids!It was very drizzly-misty that evening, rather more than a mizzle at some points. The adult beetles quickly tucked themselves out of the way under leaves.
Good luck, little ones!

Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright

I’m missing the egg stage, but otherwise here’s the run:
The first few instars of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail mimic bird droppings. This one was on the nearly horizontal surface of a magnolia leaf, right out in the open. Finally saw one!
The caterpillar is green in youth. Or is that middle age?
Old age, or…
…the the start of something new?

These images represent multiple years and different individuals. I found them all except for the green instar, which was a sample taken by an entomologist at the BioBlitz on Saturday; what a illustration of how it blends in with the green of a magnolia leaf! The late instar was on the sidewalk in my old neighborhood, under a tuliptree (which is a rare street tree here, but found in all our woods). The pupa was just something I ran into. “Found” suggests intentionality: of course I’m always looking for life, but fairly haphazardly. If I see something, I say something. Only the bird-turd form was a reward of some intentional close examination of several sapling magnolias. Having seen the ento’s specimen, I said to myself, now where would I find some magnolias? At around a centimeter long, it was most difficult to photograph.

Webworm Days

Fall Webworm caterpillars have been everywhere. This one was on a raised bed on the sidewalk next to the local high school last week, with barely a tree in sight.
I don’t even remember where this was, back in July.
Here’s yet another, along the 5th Avenue Green-Wood fence. Uh-oh!

You see, everybody knows the prolific caterpillars are out and about. Dozens of parasite species attack Fall Webworm, which provide a lot of meat. This one is an ichneumon wasp. I’m not sure what her strategy is because I can’t get her down to species level. She’s a member of the tribe Gravenhorstiini of the family Ichneumonidae.
But that strategy ain’t good, at least according to the caterpillars. The wasp, of course, has another agenda.
Those are, in fact, caterpillar droppings. These colonies are messy.
Here’s more. These are cocoons of a Meteorus genus wasp. They hang from rather crinkly silk under the webworm nests. Both look like they have exit holes at the base. According to Eisemen and Charney, if the exit whole is irregular and on the side, it’s the work of another wasp who parasitizes the parasite.

Serious Moonlight

As part of the Macaulay Honors College Bioblitz in Green-Wood this weekend, I got to go inside the cemetery after dark.

Under a gravid Moon, Chimney Swifts scoured the air. A trio of ultraviolet moth stations were set up around the Crescent and Dell Waters. After sunset, two Common Nighthawks flew into view amidst the continuing Swifts. I wondered what the bright planet to the port of the Moon was. I put my 10x42s up… was that a line of moons? Jupiter! Luckily, one of our party had a scope. Yes: it was three of the four Galilean moons aligned around the mighty gas giant. Dragonflies continued to cruise over the water as it darkened. Two bats appeared.

The first insects to land on the sheets were midges large and small.

Some moth bait — in this case a concoction of frozen fruits, banana, and beer — painted onto trees pulled in a couple of Japanese Burrowing Crickets.
Long-necked Seed Bug.
May beetle. Note the three-fingered antenna.
At least a dozen Ailanthus Webworm moths showed up. (It’s so much easier to shoot in daylight that I’m going to cheat on this one.)
Also a plume moth.

And yes, other moths, but they shall have to wait until tomorrow or else this post will be entirely too long…

Location (3)

Still at Shawangunk. There’s one of those perma-porta-potties, thick with Drain Flies, and an observation gazebo. Mud-daubers and paper wasps appreciate the dry, sheltered spot.

Seemed like everywhere you looked up there were old or current Polistes nests.
There are… a number species of paper wasps in the Polistes genus in the northeast; 11 by one count, 21 by another, I assume it’s a matter of the range of the “northeast”. Anyway, this maybe P. fuscatus, the Northern or Dark Paper Wasp. Says Bugguide.net: “the separation of P. fuscatus from related species remains the greatest taxonomic problem of the northeastern Vespidae fauna.” Interestingly, the very yellow and black European Paper Wasp (P. dominula), which is all over NYC, is also in this genus.

Started seeing these dark ones in late August in Brooklyn, too. After a steady diet of P. dominula all summer, they’re a welcome sight.
Speaking of diet, this one has some food. I gathered there was a nest down there.

So many wasps! There was a time I would have avoided them all. Yikes! But they’re just going about their business, and I’m just quietly photographing them, and nobody is bothered.

Location (2)

The Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, that is. This Ulster Co. area is best known for its winter raptor scene, but the grasslands are at their peak in late summer.
A distant Red-tail and a closer Cooper’s Hawk were the only raptors in sight. But the invertebrate situation was fine indeed. Yesterday, we had some grasshoppers on display and there will be more of that below, but in the meantime, a Striped Blister Beetle.
Short-winged Meadow Cricket, missing a leg.
Peck’s Skipper.
Arcigera Flower Moth.
Goldenrod Soldier Beetle.
Oh, just a little cannibalism.
It happens. Possibly Red-legged Grasshoppers (Melanoplus femurrubrum). Female eating a male. And really, who could blame her?
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I don’t use Amazon. Haven’t for many years now. It’s a monstrous corporation. And it’s not hard to avoid it, really. Here’s an exploration of the terrible cost of the fetish of next-day delivery.


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