Sunday, July 1, 2012

Prairie Bioblitz

The Missouri Prairie Foundation held their annual Bioblitz at Schwartz Prairie a few weeks ago.  This is always a good opportunity to learn more about prairies as well as share in a potluck.  There was a wide variety of experts in botany, entomology, herpetology and many other "ologies".  

Bronze Copper
I went on a True Bugs walk with James Trager and was impressed with the nearly microscopic range of bugs and beetles which reside on the prairie plants.  In addition, we saw occasional Regal Fritillaries and caught this pretty Bronze Copper Lycaena Hyllus, a relatively uncommon find.

A second session was on Insect Mimicry led by Richard Thoma.  In addition to mimicry itself, insects use a wide variety of strategies to avoid predators.  For instance, I had never noticed how grasshoppers tend to make a little hop after they land on a flight of avoidance.  This helps explain why it is so hard to catch them.

Yellow-collared Scape Moth
A good example of mimicry was this Yellow-collared Scape Moth, Cisseps fulvicollis that bears a superficial resemblance to a wasp.  This is a prodigious pollinator  of many prairie flowers, nectaring on many species including some eupatoriums, such as Joe-pye weed and boneset that contain toxic alkaloids.  The male feeds on these and passes the alkaloids to the female along with his sperm.  This then is incorporated into the eggs, a form of protection against predation.

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