Monday, July 2, 2012

A Walk With Kevin

Synanthedon exitiosa
Kevin Firth is an accomplished amateur lepidopterist, as well as other "ists" of nature.  We share pictures and he is my backup source for ID's of insects, etc.  Here is his report from a hot hike two days ago.

I got up early Saturday and went to Bois D'Arc.  It was a weird day.  In three hours of walking, I did not see a single swallowtail, adult or larva.  I don't think that has ever happened at this time of year.  The largest lepidoptera I saw were Great Spangled Fritillaries.  Even the Pearl Crescents were pretty scarce.  But it wasn't a total loss, I did see some interesting stuff.

The most unusual was this female moth, the Peach Tree Borer, Synanthedon exitiosa, , an obvious wasp mimic.  This species is sexually dimorphic, the males lacking the broad orange band on the abdomen.   The BAMONA coordinator for Missouri tells me that the males come readily to baits, but the females are rarely seen.

I also found a freshly-eclosed Snowberry Clearwing, Hemaris diffinis, which was nice because it was not yet ready to fly and therefore sat still for me while I got some pictures.  Note that the wings are not clear--they are still covered in scales.  When these moths first eclose, they still have scales on the wings.  Once they begin to fly, the scales quickly fall off.  (Editor's note- This is especially neat.  We see lots of mature Snowberry Clearwings like below right but haven't seen a fresh eclosed specimen just out of the cocoon.)
Snowberry newly emerged
Older Snowberry - Roy Thompson

Next, I noticed some skeletonized leaves on a hackberry tree and went to investigate.  When I turned the leaves over, I discovered a group of several dozen Emperor larvae.  They are too small at this point to tell if they are Hackberry Emperors (Asterocampa celtis) or Tawny Emperors (Asterocampa clyton)--they are about 1/4 inch.  Normally ubiquitous at this time of year, I have seen very few Emperors this year, so I brought these guys home with me.  I figured that I might be able to improve their rate of survival.

Red-Banded Hairstreak
One species that I did see in abundance was the Red-Banded Hairstreak, Calycopis cecrops.  The caterpillars feed on sumac and they overwinter in the caterpillar stage.  (Editor's note- A small butterfly with a wing span of an inch.  Notice the small hair at the back of the wing.  Looks a little like antennae so a bird might strike them thinking that was the head.)
I also found a few prominent caterpillars on oak.  These are probably Lochmaeus spp..  I hope to raise them into adults, when I can be a little more certain of an ID.

There were several Tussock larvae on honey locust.  The first is Orgyia leucostigma,  the White-Marked Tussock.  The second I am not sure of.  It looks to be Dasychira spp., but I cannot at this point determine the species.  I'm not sure why I found them on locust, though most Tussocks are polyphagous.  I am offering them both honey and black locust, indigo, oak, and birch.  Hopefully that will be enough of a smorgasbord that they will find something they like.
White-Marked Tussock
Unknown Tiny Tussock Larva

Carrion Beetle
Finally, I took a few non-lepidoptera photos.   This is a carrion beetle, Necrophila americana.  I was amused when I looked this one up in my Audubon Field Guide, which lists its habitat as "Wherever carrion is found."  (Editor's note- Unlike the endangered Burying or Sexton Beetle of the Nicrophorus genus, these are common and wide spread, and lay their eggs on the dead animal rather than burying it.  Sounds gross but their recycling function is important in nature and their larvae eat fly eggs and maggots.)

Thanks to Kevin for letting us accompany him via computer in an air conditioned room.

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