Tag: insectphotography

Photography Challenge Day 201 (a few days late, and slightly short): The cottonwood borer

So I realized that I’m a few days behind on the photography challenge–there were internet connection issues on Thursday, and last night I was just too tired to log in and try to do a double post. Therefore I’m going to post Thursday’s winner today, and then I’ll do a couple of double posts over the next few days to play catch up yet again.

The winner of Thursday’s photography challenge is the cottonwood borer. I realized that it was a beetle that probably fed off of trees, and with a good guess, managed to figure out which “beetle pest” I was looking at.

Cottonwood borer crawling on grass.

What I find interesting—it wasn’t around any trees. It was crawling on the tall grass along the bank of Boomer Lake. I’m assuming it was trying to make its way to the closest cottonwood, poplar, or willow tree it could find.

Side view of the cottonwood borer climbing on the grass.

It is one of the largest insects in North America, and is found in the United States (east of the Rocky Mountains).

Look at those antennae

These are pests—though the larvae do the most damage when they hatch, by ingesting the inner portion of the tree, turning it into sawdust and pulp. I’ve seen numerous paths on cottonwood trees that we’ve taken down and the outer bark was removed, that the larvae took throughout the tree. Depending on how close the larvae hatch to the roots, they can also damage the root systems, killing the trees from the bottom as well as from the inside.

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Photography Challenge Day 200: The adult praying mantis (short post)

Wow, I’ve made it (more or less) two hundred days of posting a different photograph. Now if I can just start doing a more different themes, I’d be even more impressed with myself–but hey, that can possibly be the next challenge. That’s a good idea prompt–can I come up with a minimum of three hundred and sixty-five (or six) different ideas for pictures??

Anyway the winner of day two hundred–is an adult praying mantis. I’m pretty certain that it isn’t related to the one I saw the week before–unless it had gone through like six-to-eight metamorphoses in a very short period of time.

Adult praying mantis

So we were sitting outside Saturday, when I noticed that we had company on the inside of the umbrella. There was this adult praying mantis that was just hanging out on one of the support arms of the umbrella.

It moved a little

It started really moving around towards the end of the day, and I’m assuming that as the temperatures dropped down to a bearable range, it headed out to hunt for it’s meal.

Since I’ve started to pay more attention to my surroundings, trying to find unique things to photograph–I’ve seen more on the insect side of things than I normally would have paid attention to sitting outside. I’m sure I would have noticed the praying mantis, but I may not have taken it’s picture.

But since I’ve seen two this year, it will be interesting to keep an eye out and see how many will be making an appearance in the spring.

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Photography Challenge Day 198: The chives have flowered

So the winner of today’s photography challenge are the flowers of the chive plant, and the numerous different insects that have visited them so far.

One of the several stalks of chive flowers

There have been numerous different insects on the chive flowers so far, though I haven’t been keeping count (or actually watch for a specific amount of time).

One species of wasp on the flowers.

This summer I’ve seen a couple of different wasps, and some flies. I’m pretty sure that the butterflies are coming through–just not that often when I’m around with my camera.

Mating wasps on the flowers??

So it looks like some of the wasps were also potentially mating on the flowers as well–I thought that this was a really weird looking wasp. Once I got the pictures on the computer–it looks likes two wasps (or other flying insects) potentially were mating (or one was cannibalizing the other).

Butterfly on the flowers

Though this one butterfly did come through the yard on Saturday, and stopped on the flowers long enough for me to get a couple of pictures of it. I also think that this is the silvery checkerspot butterfly (more on this in another post).

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Photography Challenge Day 193: The young praying mantis

The winner of today’s photography challenge is the young praying mantis that was crawling on the patio table umbrella last night.

This young thing was making it’s way across the umbrella

So I’m not exactly sure what the exact species of mantis this is—praying mantis is a common name that seems to go for over 2,400 different species across the globe. In terms of distribution, they are found in temperate and tropical habitats, where most are ambush predators—though some will actively pursue their prey.

It seems to be camera shy……

The praying mantis also goes through several different growth stages between hatching and adult mantis, and the number of molts differs between species. So this one could be somewhere between two and five (for example) in it’s molts before reaching adult stage. Though it still has some growing to do in order for the body to fit the legs (and antennae).

A little better picture of the young mantis.

What are some interesting facts about the praying mantis?

Majority are found in the tropical areas of the world—there are only 18 native species found within the entire North American continent.

The most common praying mantis seen (within the US) are actually introduced species—not native.

They can turn their heads a full 180 degrees, without being possessed by a demon.

Their closest family members are actually cockroaches and termites.

They lay their eggs in the fall, which then hatch in the spring.

The females are known to occasionally eat the males after mating.

They have specialized front legs for capturing their prey.

Since they don’t fossilize very well—the earliest known fossils are only ~146-166 million years old

They aren’t totally “beneficial” in the garden—they will eat any and all bugs (good and bad) that they find.

The weirdest fact for last: They have two eyes, but only one ear—which is located on the underside of their belly. It’s thought that those that fly have the ear to help them avoid being eaten by bats.

Reference for the fun facts: https://www.thoughtco.com/praying-mantid-facts-1968525

So while I may keep an eye out for the egg pouches this winter (photography time)—I’ll also make note of where I saw it, and then check the surrounding area(s) in the spring and summer for the nymphs and adults.

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Photography Challenge Day 188: Grasshopper hiding in the grass

The winner of today’s photography challenge is a grasshopper. I noticed this guy hanging out in the flowers of some grass (if I had to wager a bet—it is either switchgrass, or a close family member).

Grasshopper in the grass

So grasshoppers go through five different molts between hatching from the egg and the adult—but they look like an adult in each stage (just smaller and slightly weirder—as I shared some pictures of the younger nymphs earlier this summer).

This one was just chilling in the flowers, though I’m sure that if I got any closer it would have jumped towards other tall grasses in the area.

A little on the grass (as I’m going to say that I’m pretty sure that it is either switchgrass—or a close family member), it was probably thinking of chomping on. Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) is a perennial warm season grass that is native to North America. This is one of the many plants that is being groomed as potential biofuel plants. One of the main reason why it is being looked at: it isn’t part of the food chain for either humans or cattle (or other farm animals).

It can also grow in areas that other plants can’t—such as high salt, and brackish waters. It has a very good root system—so it can also work in erosion control as well. It comes back year after year—and before we started building cities and towns in the middle of the prairie—it was one of the major native grasses.

I actually worked with this grass during graduate school (it was the focus of my dissertation)—and I am always amazed to see how tall it grows in the wild (in the lab—it’s height is limited by either the growth chamber or being trimmed back in the greenhouses)—it can get up to six feet tall pretty quickly in some areas.

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Photography Challenge Day 186: The Waved Sphinx Moth

So the winner of today’s photography challenge is the waved sphinx moth that was hanging out in the shed this weekend.

Waved sphinx moth

This is a member of the larger family of moths that are commonly known as sphinx moths, hawk moths, and hornworms—and there are almost 1500 species found throughout the world.

These moths have great camouflage—they are mostly brown, with both wavy lines and straight lines bisecting its wings. It’s unclear if the adults feed, unlike some of the others that have been mistaken for hummingbirds (from a distance).

The waved sphinx moth on the side of the house

I don’t think that the moth was happy being moved from it’s hiding spot—these moths are more nocturnal in nature, and it was rousted a good three hours or so before the sun went down. I do know that it did hang out on the side of the house for awhile before finding another area to doze in until the sun went down.

Depending on location, these moths may have either one or two broods a year. Since we’re in the southern part of their range, it is possible that there could be another brood before the end of October.

This may mean that if I pay attention and keep an eye out for them—I might be able to spot a caterpillar of the waved sphinx moth. Though it may be difficult, as I don’t think we have any ash, fringe, hawthorn, or oak trees in the neighborhood—though we might (I’m not the greatest at telling trees apart).

That could be something to keep me busy in the spring/fall—trying to identify the different trees in the area, that way I would have an idea of the insects that might be visiting them in the late spring/summer.

I’m pretty sure that the moth was only in the yard, because it had decided to try to snooze the day away in the shed before someone found it and decided to show it off. But it is a pretty looking insect, and I think I’ve seen them before on the trees earlier in the year (and definitely last year).

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Photography Challenge Day 161: Moths, butterflies, and dragonflies–oh my.

The winners of today’s photography challenge are some of the insects that I saw on my morning walk this morning at Boomer Lake. Both the temperature and humidity were low enough this morning, that I decided to get in my morning zen and see what type of wildlife I could see at Boomer Lake.

I’ve decided to be more in the moment and not just look for birds, turtles, and rabbits–but also pay attention to the smaller things that are buzzing around (or splashing around for that matter).

These two I saw pretty early in my walk. I’m not sure what type of moths they are, but at least I managed to get a picture of them with their wings spread out. There have been times when I only manage to get the picture when their wings are up and you can hardly see the butterfly (or moth).

Orange moths or butterflies resting on the leaves near the shore.

I then saw this orange and black butterfly a little later in my walk—I think it is a pearl crescent butterfly. This particular butterfly can be difficult to identify (markings change), which is why I’m only guessing at the identification. But if it is a pearl crescent butterfly—they’re found throughout the eastern United States, southern Canada, and Mexico.

Possibly a pearl crescent butterfly

Finally there was this small butterfly or moth, that just wouldn’t spread it’s wings. I know that it was a yellow-orange color, but that is all I managed to get. I stood there for awhile waiting to see if it would spread it’s wings–but it had more patience than I did–it out waited me and I moved on.

Little orange/yellow butterfly (or moth) that didn’t want to show it’s wings

Then I noticed that there were some dragonflies fluttering around, and I decided to see if I could get a good picture of one landing/resting on a flower or some grass. Well I managed to get a picture of one resting on a blade of grass–and I managed to get a surprise in the picture as well. I didn’t realize at the time, that there was a little grasshopper sitting on the underside of the blade of grass.

Dragonfly and a little grasshopper sharing a blade of grass

Since it was such a wet spring, I’ve seen numerous dragonflies and hopefully that means in a year or two there will be another large number of dragonflies flying through the air eating all the mosquitoes.

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Photography Challenge Day 160: The probable stink bug

So, continuing with the theme of insects, the winner of today’s challenge is probably a green stink bug nymph. The reason why I’m saying probable stink bug—I didn’t threaten it, so it didn’t release it’s unpleasant odor.

Probably a green stink bug nymph

I’d notice this guy crawling along the edge of the patio table, and decided to try to get some pictures of it—if nothing else to prove that I don’t sit inside all day during the summer. While I knew it was a true bug (based on it’s shape), I wasn’t sure of the species—so turning to google, the closest insect seems to be a green stink bug.

I’d assume that this is a stink bug in it’s third (possibly fourth) nymph stage–it was fairly large, but I didn’t see any wings on it yet, so it isn’t in the fifth (and final) nymph stage yet.

This makes sense, since we have a small peach shrub/tree that gives fruit—but the fruit never fully ripen. I’m wondering if these guys could be part of the reason why the fruits only develop so far. These insects like others go through a incomplete metamorphosis—where they have five instar (or nymph) stages before becoming adults; and each instar stage looks a little more like the adult. The full life cycle is usually around thirty to forty-five days (so about six weeks or so).

They are a pest of crops, fruit trees, and other plants. They feed on the sap of the plants—so they have needle-like mouths for pierce the stems/fruits of the plants. The young nymphs can winter in the leaves and emerge in spring/summer when the temperatures are warmer to complete their lifecycle.

So again—giving space to another living creature allowed me to get some good photographs, and also ensured that I wasn’t going to be smelling an obnoxious odor (that if it was a stink bug it would have released if it felt threatened).

One thing I may try to do—be outdoors more and look for more than just flowers, birds, or animals to take pictures of–look for the smaller things, try to find the young nymphs of insects (or even the eggs). Looking for the small things may be even more rewarding than finding the big things.

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photography challenge day 159: the probable assassin bug

So in continuing with the theme of insects, the winner of today’s photography challenge is probably some assassin bug. The name assassin bug covers a large group of predatory insects, that if provoked can also harm humans.

Probably some type of assassin bug out looking for it’s lunch.

So I saw this guy crawling around our patio table, and I decided that I’d try to get a picture of it. While the coloring is hard to see in the picture, it was a mix of red, yellow, and black–all colors that give warnings to other animals that it isn’t something they want to mess with. So I just zoomed in with the camera to get the picture.

I know that there are warnings about various bugs and how they transmit disease, and blah blah blah blah. Unless I know that the creature I’m looking at is totally harmless (say a ladybug, or grasshopper) I’m not going to play with it–I may try to take it’s picture but that’s about it.

I try to treat every living thing with respect–though if I see a brown recluse spider in the house I will kill it–and I only kill the poisonous spiders/insects if they break the hiding rule. In other words, if I see something that is small and can hurt me–I kill it; though I know it may not strike out at me–but I’d rather not run the risk of having to go to the emergency room.

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Photography Challenge Day 158: The grasshopper

The winner of today’s photography challenge is the grasshopper. One thing about the name grasshopper—it refers to a group of insects (which include locusts), and not just a single species. So far this summer I’ve managed to get a picture of a grasshopper in two different molting stages—as they don’t go through a complete metamorphosis, but they as they grow they molt and become more and more like the adult at each stage.

There are five nymph stages between the egg and the adult grasshopper. Grasshoppers are plant eaters (mainly the leaves of the plants), and can be consider pests of crops if they gather in large numbers (especially locusts). They’re considered food in Mexico and Indonesia, and are one of the oldest living groups of insects (they’ve been found in amber dating back to the Triassic era (~250 million years ago)).

Grasshopper nymph hopping across the table

The first photograph is of an very young grasshopper nymph—probably within it’s first molt (or just hatched for that matter). It was this tiny little green hopping bug on the table. This little critter will then feed, and go through several more molts until it reaches the adult stage (usually the sixth and final molt).

Larger grasshopper nymph on top of the bug spray

The second photograph is probably of a fourth or fifth stage molting grasshopper. It is almost adult size, but still seemed to be a bit on the smaller (and bright) side of a grasshopper. I’m use to the adults being a little more of a dark and drab green, and not this bright leaf green.

This guy then moved on to find leaves to feed on so that it could go through it’s final molting stage and emerge as a fully winged adult within the next couple of weeks. They’ll mate, and the females will lay their eggs so that an new round of grasshoppers will hatch in the spring and begin the cycle again.

The life cycle is unique in that eggs will enter a period of diapause (or a period of suspended development, especially during unfavorable environmental conditions) in the fall/winter and then when the temperatures warm back up—they’ll finish developing and hatch as tiny little nymphs.

I know that it is probably too late this year, but next year I want to see if I’m able to get pictures of a grasshopper in all five nymph stages and the adult. This year I managed two.

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