Posts Tagged 'invertebrates'

Long-legged Fly

One of the genus Condylostylus long-legged flies.
A little jewel. Same specimen: the light does wonderful things with the metallic sheen. There are more than 30 species in this genus north of Mexico; they usually feed on smaller insects and mites.

More Adalia bipunctata

 

This spring, I’ve spotted Two-spotted Ladybugs all over the place in Brooklyn. Down the street. In nearby Green-Wood Cemetery. In Greenpoint. And most recently inside my apartment!

The beetle was on the inside of a window. I captured it by maneuvering a stiff postcard under it — that is, getting it to walk onto the postcard instead of the window — and capping it with my loupe. However, being shy and retiring, it refused to be photographed, so I released it out an open window.

Just a few years ago, Two-spotteds were pretty rare in New York state, after having once been common here. What’s going on? Any chance they’re being released?
*

Raptor Wednesday fans: I’m barely seeing any raptors right now. Breeding season and all. Last sighting was a Kestrel on Monday. 6:15 a.m., heard first out the window, seen jetting and stooping over Sunset Park. This was a full ten days since the last, a Peregrine on 6/9. Still doing better than one a day, though: 295 raptor sightings this year.

Odonata Days

Well, I’ve finally seen a damselfly this year. Yesterday, I saw exactly two at the Sylvan Water in Green-Wood. I didn’t have my camera with me, but I did find something to share with you. This is an exuvia, the shed husk of the underwater larval stage of damsel- and dragonflies. This one is a damselfly, I think.And this one looks to be a dragonfly. However, this one didn’t make it. (The larvae emerge from the water, grab a hold of something, and then the adult breaks through the husk, to harden its exoskeleton over the next hours.) The only dragonflies about the Sylvan Water were Eastern Amberwings. The Valley Water, site of many previous Odonata adventures, had no sign of either damsels or dragons. There are no lily pads there now, and judging from last year, I suspect it will not be very productive as we get further into the heat of summer. The lily pads were the great sport and joy of several species.

Behold the Imago!

A flesh fly of the genus Sarcophagi. You don’t particularly want to see the larval (stage, part, being) of this insect, since as their name suggests they are carrion-eating maggots. On the other hand, you probably don’t want to see carrion slowly decomposing by bacteria and the weather alone; that would take much too long: the stuff would quickly pile up high and deep.

The adult or reproductive stage of an insect that goes through metamorphosis is an imago, “the image or essential form of a species” to quote Stephen Jay Gould, from whose essay “Glow, Big Glowworm” (in Bully for Brontosaurus) I take today’s sermon. Linnaeus gave us “imago,” as well as “larva” (mask) and “pupa” (girl, doll/puppet). The great namer essentially said the reproductive form was the true being of the animal, the essence, the complete insect; earlier stages are immature, imperfect, juvenile, unfulfilled, and, oh, hey, female.

Linnaeus’s developmental metaphor takes humans as the model (a child is the immature form of the adult) and sets this on other life forms. But there is no reason to think that larval and imago aren’t equal parts of the life cycle of these animals. Both are fly; ladybug; butterfly (the caterpillar-butterfly metamorphosis was long taken as a metaphor for the soul’s release). Gould suggests an economic metaphor instead, a division of labor between the components. “By allocating the different, sometimes contradictory, functions of feeding and reproduction to sequential phases of the life cycle, insects with complete metamorphosis have achieved a division of labor that permits a finer adaptive honing of each separate activity.” (But note that Gould here is still imposing one of our human conceptions on this relationship; sure, that’s we humans do, but is it right? I mean “right” in both the senses of accuracy and morality. Maybe it’s the best we can do.)

[The same essay has a postscript on how faulty our conceptions are when it comes to distribution (of stars, glowworms on a cave ceiling, etc.). It looks to us as if randomly generated things have a pattern because of the clumps and strings that inevitably get created in a random array. A non-random distribution, on the other hand, looks random to us because it lacks the clumps and strings and patterns and constellations we see. We just don’t seem to be mentally attuned to understanding probability. We crave patterns and design. We want origins, order, and above all meaning. Oh, gods, how we demand meaning! Cue the theologies, the conspiracies — yes, even the narratives. We want a story and by jiminy we want to be its heroes.

But life isn’t a story and we’re not the stars.]

Ladybugs

The first four photographs were all from on the same patch of milkweed (Ascelpias syriaca), not yet in bloom but already festooned with aphids.Multicolored Asian, Harmonia axyridis. There were several.
Checkerspot, Propylea quatuordecimpunctata. The only one noticed.
Two-spotted, Adalia bipunctata. Counted four. Getting busy and laying eggs. This is one of two egg clusters on the underside of different leaves of the same plant.I also found some Two-Spotted in Greenpoint. There were more Multicolored Asian LBs as well there. Then I hit the MALB jackpot at Bush Terminal Park, where there were quite a few on an expanding patch of mugwort (there’s an epic battled between mugwort and cottonwood there). There was at least one Seven-spotted (Coccinella septempunctata) at BTP as well.

Pale Beauty

Subtly tinged with green, Campaea perlata is known as the Pale Beauty moth. The caterpillars, also known as Fringed Loopers, enjoy munching away on the leaves of a broad range of deciduous trees and plants (65 species!). Like most moths, it’s nocturnal, hiding away from predators during the day.  This particular day was quite overcast, so there it was, the pale greenish beauty.

Eastern Tent

Here are two examples of Eastern Ten Caterpillars (Malacosoma americanum), which are often mistaken for Gypsy Moth caterpillars. The invasive Gypsy Moth (Lymantria dispar dispar) was introduced to Massachusetts in 1869 by some idiot who wanted to improve silk production: they got loose and have been a serious threat to our eastern hardwood forests ever since. I’ve never seen one of the handsome devils. These native Tent caterpillars can eat a lot of greens too, but not to the extent of the (unfortunately named) Gypsy moths. Last week, Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge was crawling with Tents, which are also rather good-looking specimens.

Yes, when I say “crawling,” I mean it. Populations fluctuate year to year, and this looks like a boom year. We were on the lookout for the two types of cuckoos, Yellow-billed and the less common Black-billed, who love to scarf these up, but saw/heard no evidence of the notoriously discreet birds.

Natural History Note 1: The sapling above was one of several newly planted oaks. A tag on one identified it as coming from the Greenbelt Native Plant Center.

Natural History Note 2: It’s getting rarer and rarer for me to see a local life-bird, that is, a species for the first time. The Black-billed Cuckoo eluded me until last week in Prospect Park.


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