Thursday, March 31, 2016

Honey Locust Eaters

Orange Wing on a zipper - REK
This little moth landed on my backpack just in time to make it to the blog.  You can see how tiny it is by comparing it to the backpack zipper it is perched on.  It's wingspan is less than an inch.  Googling "orange hind wing" brought up photographs without having to resort to Peterson's field guide.  This is commonly called Orange Wing - Mellilla xanthometata.



Mellilla xanthometata photographed by Jon Rapp at Bull Creek

This species has two generations a year, the first in early March.  They feed on honey locust trees, Gleditsia triacanthos, thus the genus name Mellillia, the diminutive from melinus ‎(of or pertaining to honey), from mel ‎(honey).  Looking for a more formal portrait the best one as usual comes from Jon Rapp.

Honey Locust with 9" thorns - REK
Honey Locust
The honey locust is the bane of many farmers as its bean pods are eaten by horses and cows which then spread them through the field.  The long compound thorns can grow to 12" on the trunk and grow all the way out onto the smallest branches.  They are capable of puncturing a tractor tire and relish my ATV's.  Even when small they can be a challenge to cut with a chain saw without feeling their wrath.  Some will be thornless like the tree in front of out house.

Not everyone hates the honey locust. It is the host plant for not only our moth above but also the Honey Locust Moth, Syssphinx bicolor, and the common Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus).  It also hosts the Honey Locust Plant Bug, Diaphnocoris chlorionis.

Silver Spotted Skipper - REK
Honey Locust Plant Bug














My favorite locust eater is the Honey Locust Bean Weevil.  You can read all about it here including watching it dance on a video.  Knowing that its kin are eating up the bean seeds makes me feel better about the thorn stabs..... a little.



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