Posts Tagged 'insects'



Biodiversity Day

Well, the picture of the aphid on the street oak tree leaf that feeds the ladybug was too blurry to use, but you get my drift… . We certainly merit an extra post today for biodiversity.

This is the husk of the larval stage of the Winter Firefly (Pyractomena borealis). As firefly maven Sara Lewis explains, the Pyractomena genus is fairly unusual among the fireflies. Most fireflies pupate underground. Members of this genus crawl up trees and get in the nooks and crannies of the bark to metamorphosis into an adult beetle. This gnarly bark belongs to a butternut or white walnut (Juglans cinerea), a rarer and rarer tree these days because of a fungal butternut canker. The trees tend to look like hell (a couple at Morris Arboretum look like hell warmed over). These two were hidden away in the forests of Inwood; our Torrey Botanical guide led us to them. Catkin of male flowers of the butternut. The ground underneath was littered with these, as well as with a few old nuts from last fall. These two trees are still kicking. The small red female flowers were visible above through binoculars.The adult firefly emerges a milky white. The soft exoskeleton needs to harden off and darken before this critter is ready to fly.

The Mother of Her Country

In the garden at the Geo. Washington Birthplace Monument in Virginia, I was delighted to discover this queen Southern Yellowjacket (Vespula squamose).Here she shows how she gets that pollen on the top of her thorax.The workers of this species are more traditionally yellow and black, so this big orange queen must really stand out among them. But that’s not all. A “facultative temporary social parasite,” she may set up her own nest or, more likely, she will usurp a nest of Eastern Yellowjackets (Vespula maculifrons). She kills the host maculifrons queen and adopts or enslaves the workers, who then raise her squamose young. V. vidua and V. flavopilos have also been known to be parasitized in this way by these queens. As the host species ages out/dies off, the squamose take over the nest completely.

The species doesn’t seem to range up here to NYC, but it does extend as far south as Guatemala. In tropical climes — including Florida — the nests can be perennial, much larger, and have multiple queens. The species is vigorous in defense of their nests. They’re also carnivores, but the queens will take nectar.

And the Damsels

Still in Virginia: Female Fragile Forktail (Ischnura posita) depositing eggs.Furtive Forktail (Ischnura prognata) male, a first for me. Such a challenge to photograph these wee critters!And then to ID them! Immediately above and below, a female Familiar Bluet ((Enallagama civile)). (My best guess: iNaturalist and bug guide.net haven’t come through.) The females of this species come in three color forms!Here’s a Familiar Bluet male (above & below).

Enter The Dragons

A trip a few states south results in a preview of the shape of Odonata to come. Emerging adult dragonflies in a small pond. There were about a dozen. Eastern Pondhawks, I think. Once they wiggle out of the husks of their larval forms, they need to harden off, develop their color, stiffen their wings. I’d never seen this in action. It’s slow-going…Meanwhile, in a piney wood a few counties away, a female Blue Corporal (Ladona deplanata) is already up and at ’em. A new species for me. Did not see the male. Often, males dragonflies and damselflies will stake-out and patrol their territories, usually water bodies, while the females are in the distance, only approaching when they’re ready to mate.Painted Skimmer (Libellula semifasciata) glorious in the sun.Immature Common Whitetail (Plathemis lydia) male above and mature male below.

Bombus griseocollis

One of the few flying insects seen at Morris Arboretum recently. The Brown-belted Bumble Bee. Probably a female, who has overwintered and is getting ready to start a new colony.The second most common Bombus species in the mid-Atlantic but scarcer further north. Note that the animal is using two of its legs to scrape across her thorax. This is a a good way to comb pollen out.ID on this beastie comes from a bee maven on iNaturalist. Note that citizen science data has gone into this new study of the sharp decline of another Bombus species in Canada.
***

Both of my parents were children of the Great Depression. My mother was a refugee from Oklahoma. My father only went to college because of the GI Bill, some recompense for serving years in the Pacific during WWII. The New Deal was far from perfect, but it was a bold, multi-fronted attack on economic and environmental disaster. Its history tells us that a Green New Deal is nothing to be afraid of. Keven Baker’s essay in Harper‘s will make you wonder what all the fuss is about: “we have been here before.” Not that he doesn’t recognize the powers arrayed against us: the intensity of the attacks on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez by both Republican and Democratic wings of the capitalist party are for all to see.

“In a country this wealthy, and with so much of its wealth being blatantly misappropriated or stolen, how we will pay for making our fellow citizens healthier, smarter, and richer is simply not a serious question.”

“[…] the simple underlying brilliance of the GND: the acknowledgement that we cannot go on as we have, not only in degrading the earth but also in degrading each other, through the existing economic system we have allowed to overrun us.”

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.


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