Posts Tagged 'insects'

Spring Flies In

On Thursday, I saw two Phoebes in widely spaced parts of Green-Wood Cemetery. Clouds of insects were visible, too, so we know what these fly-catchers were hunting. The next day, when the temperature got close to 70, reports of Pine Warblers, usually the first warbler species of the year, came in from the cemetery as well. American Woodcock are crashing into the city, too, although I’ve yet to see one. This big fly was out and about, too.

Pupa Knows Best

Revisiting this pupa of what I think is an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail in better light and because I find it fascinating. If you look closely, you can see breathing holes on the segments. And the support filament that secures the lower end (or right third in the horizontal view) of the structure to the rock. This filament actually goes around the body like a string belt so that it is attached to the rock on both sides. (So different from this Monarch chrysalis.)

(Anniversary bonus: a Red-spotted Purple, uncommon around here.)

I stumbled upon this extraordinary reminder that the winter landscape, so seemingly barren, is one of tremendous potential. It’s stuffed with larvae and eggs. And buds, leaves, flowers, seeds and bulbs. We don’t see much of it, but it’s all waiting for the heat and the long days. So much life on the cusp.

So many hazards, too.
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A tanka I wrote for a friend:

The skunk cabbages
Are burning to live right now,
Hot spathes in the snow

While timberdoodles stay warm
Like other early spring hearts.

Twiggy

I saw this and the shape and size instantly put me in mind of a pupa. Then I had doubts. It is so incredibly twig-like! Yet the concentric rings, the firm binding at the top to the stone, and the secondary binding on the side, just a thin, flexible thread, were all there to convince me. Some searching on the internet revealed that it was probably a Tiger Swallowtail chrysalis. I submitted the pics to bugguide.net & iNaturalist for confirmation, but both have been non-committal as to species level.

I’ve never seen one of these pupa before. And, if I’m right on the butterfly, this an animal that is hard to miss in its adult stage. The big yellow and black butterfly is one of our largest and most prominent.

Some pictures of the imago or adult flying stage.

More pictures of this very photogenic creature.

Here is the last stage of the larval form.

Now all I need are the early (bird-dropping) and middle (lime green) stages for a complete set!

Nature is a calling that never runs out. Sure, there’s repetition and seasonal cycling, with variations of course. Yet I’m constantly delighted by new discoveries.

Winterized

Look up, look down, look all around. This surely must be the mantra of the naturalist. I was looking at an American Kestrel way in a big willow oak; it had been flying from tree to tree and antenna, too, on the border of Green-Wood. But now the lighting and distance were not conducive to photographs, so I turned around and spotted this on the ground.

Inside this cocoon, and you could hear it when gently shaken, was the pupa of a big moth. One of the Saturniidae silkworm moths, I believe. (Compare with these.) Normally suspended from tree or other structure, it had evidently fallen from the oak. That should be ok, but there are certainly risks: rodents will eat them if they find them.

If I had a backyard, I would have brought it home to “raise” (i.e. do next to nothing on my part) over the winter. Amount of light seems to trigger their emergence in spring/summer. But I worry that an overheated apartment might also push the moth to emerge while it’s still too cold out. Here’s a good bit of detail on fostering them at home.

Waiting Out the Winter

Two specimens from the general area of back-of-the-beach scrublands at Fort Tilden. Big silk moth cocoons, I think.From a distance, they look like lingering leaves, of which each bush or tree still had a few.

Nestled Nests

It’s the time of year to spot the paper nests of Bald-faced Hornets. They usually build their nests in trees. Winter weather often destroys them and/or brings them down to the ground, like this one. But this one looks to be in excellent shape. However, it won’t be reused; the colony is gone, having only lived over the course of summer. Only the queen survives. She over-winters somewhere, perhaps behind the bark of a tree.But wait. Did you notice that hole in the glass behind the bars, visible in the first picture above? Mud-daubbing wasps have gotten in to build their nests of mud. These round holes are where the adult wasps dug their way out of their mud-encased cocoons, probably last August. This one, however, looks like it was never sealed off. Nor filled with spiders.

To Bee Or Not To Bee

When Europeans brought their domesticated honeybees to the New World, they joined the 4000 other species of bees all ready here. That’s a lot of different kinds of bees, but the invasive honeybees, the cattle of insects, the serfs of industry, get virtually all the attention. This is a shame. Honeybees are problematic, to say the least. (I was once a big advocate, but I’ve revised my thinking, not that I don’t think they’re fascinating.)

“The honeybees from a single domestic hive consume pollen and nectar that might otherwise provision 100,000 nest cells for diggers, masons, leaf cutters, and other native bees,” writes Thor Hanson in Buzz. Thanks to the wonder of the internet, the link above goes to the article he cites on this. The most significant effects of industrial honeybee colonies are in wild areas, not agricultural ones. It certainly makes you think about the explosion of bee-keeping, as here in New York City.

Green-Wood Cemetery, for instance, has hives in the Dell Water, which they want to revert to a more nature-friendly section. They have another batch of hives near the pollinator dream-world of their new native plant hillside. Are they undermining their own best efforts?

Hanson’s concise but comprehensive new book raises such questions. It should broaden everybody’s bee horizons. Like other insects, bees are disappearing in our lifetime. (Because, it might be argued, of our lifetimes). As noted here and many other places, this disappearance is two-fold: species are winking out, and the numbers within surviving species are shrinking. The causes are all anthropogenic and interconnected: toxins, imported pathogens, habitat destruction, climate change, industrial monocropping to feed the locust-expansion of human beings. One study found residue from 118 different pesticides in hives from around the country; these included poisons long since banned, like DDT, which persist in the environment. The synergistic interactions of all these chemical weapons are a whole other front in the war against life.
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The author suggests you read the end notes. Duh! Here you’ll find much else that just couldn’t fit into the narrative. (Boy, do I know that feeling!) Like, for instance, the number of specimens Darwin sent home (8,000) and the number Wallace, who earned his living doing this, did (125,000; 83,200 of which were beetles).


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