Our old friend the Banded Wooly Bear caterpillar, bearishly larval stage of the Isabella Tiger Moth, Pyrrharctia isabella. This was found behind a large piece of bark, which was put back. Have you heard the one about judging winter’s length/severity by the amount of black and/or orange on the animal? Turns out that the colors are just a factor of age: the orange expands and the black contracts during each successive molt.The caterpillar is overwintering in a state of dormancy. They can actually freeze solid and thaw out without ill-effects. An Arctic Wolly Bear (I’m not sure it’s the same species) has such a short period of summer that it can stay in the caterpillar stage for a dozen years, growing a bit each summer before finally cocooning and reforming as an adult, when it lives for about a day.
I would not recommend living in a state of dormancy right now. Things to do instead.
The winter woods are quiet and relatively monotone in color. But look closer. (And listen!)
We were looking at tree buds. This big cocoon with remnants of leaf-covering was just hanging there. One of the giant moths of the family Saturniidae made this, I think. Will it make it? Has it already be taken over by parasitic wasps? Overhead, a trio of Red-tailed Hawks explored their own futures.
Ah, the future. There is a subset of Americans who seem pretty immune to reality. Perhaps it is a grounding in the fiction of religion, because if they believe that, they may well believe anything. Or perhaps it is the authoritarian personality that wants to be led. Or maybe it’s the willful ignorance of the self-satisfied. All these could be in play. Don’t forget the power of conspiracy thinking, a strange urge to make everything seem rational, orderly, and controlled by somebody. And the windowless rooms of Fox and Facebook…
It’s really up to them in too many ways. They have to be convinced that lies, more lies, and damned lies are antithetical to democracy and civilization, not to mention their own damn-fool asses.
A veritable blizzard of Lepidoptera over a patch of ground-loving Buddleja last week. Lots of skippers skipping. This is a male Sachem (Atalopedes campestris), I think. Several sulphurs ever so briefly alighting. This is purported to be a Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice)… probably: Orange and Clouded can mix it up genetically, so these are hard to differentiate; perhaps the species definition should incorporate them both? One of them had an intense orange to its inner wings. A common Buckeye (Junonia coenia) showing a lot of late season wear and tear. A bird attack? And a lone moth, Helicoverpa zea, the Corn Earworm, obviously named for its caterpillar form. Most moths are active at night, which is why this blog is so notably absent in them; also, they’re hard to identify, not least because they are so many of them: there 11,000 species currently recognized in North America. Bugguide.net helped me with this ID. Curiously, this individual was chased by groups of several skippers, as if they really did not want the competition.
Another critter hard to pin down. This is a Snowberry Clearwing Moth (Hemaris diffinis), named after one of its host plants and, more obviously, those see-through parts of the wings. This was moving quickly between honeysuckle blossoms, another of its caterpillar hosts, and proving hard to capture in the lens. Note that it mimics a large bee or wasp, sort of flying like one, too. I thought at first this was a Hummingbird Clearwing (H. thysbe); it says here the species can be difficult to distinguish, but the legs on this specimen are definitely black, and that means diffinis.
Compare to the similar-sized Nessus Sphinx.
Perching covertly: Nessus Sphinx (Amphion floridness). When I first saw it, my thought was Cicada Killer Wasp. The Peterson guide says this day-flying moth is common throughout its range — the northeast to Virginia, across the midwest — but I think this is the first I’ve seen it.
The Ailanthus Webworm Moth (Atteva aurea) is distinctive. For one thing, it was working in daylight and most moths are nocturnal. Also, with its small wings tightly rolled, it doesn’t look like your typical moth; it’s one of the ermine moths. Its nominal host plant, Ailanthus (The Tree that Grows on Roofs), is originally from Asia, but this species is native to southern Florida and the Caribbean. There it originally fed (in its caterpillar stage) on Paradise Trees (Simarouba glauca). Somewhere along the way, it jumped to Ailanthus and spread north.