Posts Tagged 'moths'

Weekend Update

It’s been absurdly warm. Lots of trees are nowhere ready to shake off their leaves. Bumblebees, which can take 60 degree temperatures, you might expect to still be around, but some of the smaller bees were out and about, too. This metallic green bee of the Agapostemon genus, for instance. But it’s late October: there isn’t much still blooming, still providing nectar and pollen.There were still Monarch’s moving this weekend. We noticed 15 in a small transverse of Brooklyn on Saturday, 35 on Sunday. More than a dozen each day were feeding at the inexhaustible Buddleja by Green-Wood’s Valley Water. Watching two Cooper’s Hawks soaring around each other, two more Monarchs kited into the binocular view. Monarchs float or sail quite a bit, coasting with the wind or tacking against it. They have been reported flying at 11,000 feet.

In addition to the Monarchs, this patch had some Painted Beauties, a high count of five Common Buckeyes (a record!), some Sulphur, Cabbage Whites, and several skippers, along with European Hornets on the hunt.A few Autumn Meadowhawks, including in tandem mating flight, Common Green Darners, and Familiar Bluets were also spotted.And a moth in the grass.

Insects

Harmonia axyridis, the Multi-colored Asian Lady Beetle, is known in the UK as the Harlequin Lady Beetle. “Harlequin” is a better common name than MALB, which is a mouthful and has a whiff of racial baggage to it, particularly when added to invasive. This one was one of two spotted in Denmark, the only lady bugs seen on this trip. The Swedes, meanwhile, really seem to like their spiders. There were many webbing the inn we stayed in. There were more than a few indoors. All fine with me. And here’s a neighbor in the Bronx, on a window-spanning web right in front of a fan blowing out. Has been hanging out for more than a month now. One of the biggest orb weavers I’ve ever seen, a good 2″ from toe to toe. Yellow-collared Scape Moth (Cisseps fulvicollis) back in Brooklyn. First time I’ve noticed the red tongue.

Caterpillars

In case I spoiled your breakfast with the carnivorous devouring of an adult Monarch’s brain, here’s the famous caterpillar stage of Danaus plexippus. Spotted in Virginia recently.Although the Yellow Bear caterpillar is named Spilosoma virginica, this one was spotted in Westerchester Co., NY. It’s a Tribble! And it looks like it might have some mites on it. The moth of this species is resolutely unspectacular, but the caterpillars are, in David L. Wagner’s words, “exceedingly variable in coloration, ranging from beige or yellow to dark red-brown or nearly black.” The very long hairs are key to ID. Here’s an example from Staten Island. Another from Prospect Park.Insert exclamation point. This is the Redhumped Caterpillar (Schizura concinna). Nothing else looks like it in these parts. The raised rear end is a defensive posture, one of a number of which-end-is-which caterpillar strategies . Such flamboyant patterns (check out Wagner’s book, Caterpillars of Eastern North America, for an excellent guide to the amazing world of caterpillars) are warnings. Or fake-outs. This specimen was found on the same property as the Yellow Bear.

Hemaris thysbe

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth.I love watching these creatures at work. They are almost constantly in motion, never landing on flowers like bees and butterflies, and moving quickly between different flowers. I’m surprised these phone pictures came out so well. Although the moth is throwing its own shadow over its legs, there are bits where you can see that the legs are white, which nails down the species identification.

Unlike most moths, these are diurnal. There were a few working the bumblebee heaven of Monarda behind the Visitor Center at Great Swamp NWR. By a nice coincidence, at least two hummingbirds were dipping into a feeder on the other side of the center.

Lymantria dispar

The infamous Gypsy Moth caterpillar. Introduced to North America in 1869 by a fellow who wanted to cross them with silk worms. Within a decade, they were munching their way through our hardwood forests. The young larvae travel by wind, shooting out a silky thread like spiders to ride the currents of the sky.

Mature Lymantria dispar caterpillars are distinguished by five sets of raised blue dots and six sets of raised red dots. The binomial translates as “destroyer unequal” referring to both their amazing skill at defoliating forests and the disparity between males, which typically have five instars (stages), and females, which typically have six. The female moths are also larger than the male moths.All these, on the museum building and a nearby beech at Storm King, were dead.

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This is interesting: how one climate-change-denial Republican rep is screwing his climate-chaging district, not least with his contempt for their lived experiences.

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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