Tag: insectphotography

Photography Challenge Day 157: The large milkweed bug

The winner of today’s photography challenge is a orange-red/black bug that we see every so often moving through the backyard. I decided to look on google and see if I could figure out what it possibly could be—and I’m going to wager a guess that it is the large milkweed bug.

Large milkweed bug crawling along the edge of the patio table.

I find it a little funny that a milkweed bug is moving through our yard—we don’t have any milkweed planted. We’ve thought about planting some, we have the seeds sitting in the fridge—but we haven’t planted them. So, that is probably why they’re sporadic travelers in our yard—they’re trying to find some milkweed plants somewhere. Though they may also be feeding on the sunflower seeds that have been dropped from the bird feeders by various birds or squirrels.

They are found throughout North America and down into Central America and the Caribbean islands as well. In terms of their lifecycle—they have incomplete metamorphosis, where they grow in stages (coloration changes, and development of both wings and genitalia). The four instar stages usually occur over the span of a month (but this is dependent on temperature—if it’s warm they may move through the stages a little faster, if it’s cold they may stay longer in a particular instar stage until the temperature warms up).

While the mature milkweed bug can feed off of other plants, though the younger milkweed bugs need to feed off the seeds of the milkweed plant for development and growth. Once young milkweed bugs find a milkweed plant, there may be as many as twenty of them on it feeding at the same time.

One really cool thing about the milkweed bug—it is now being used in research labs for study of evolutionary biology and patterns. I think that I would probably have taken an entomology class as an undergrad, if the bug we had to keep alive was a milkweed bug and not a hissing cockroach.

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Photography Challenge Day 156: The white hairy caterpillar

So the winner for today’s photography challenge is the little white hairy caterpillar that was crawling around the bottom of the bug repellent (that had obviously been knocked over).

Hairy little caterpillar

Since we live next to a creek, and probably less than a block from some undeveloped areas we usually get caterpillars coming through the yard on a daily basis. Not many of them make it up to the table, but some do and usually I help them on their way.

So I’m not an entomologist by any stretch of the imagination, so if it is an unknown bug I will either turn to google or ask my cousin (who is an entomologist). Well today I decided to try my hand at google to figure out what type of moth or butterfly this was going to be changing into.

It turns out that this probably a fall webworm caterpillar. So this little guy at one point was up in a tree in a “web” with hundreds of it’s relatives. The caterpillar stage for this particular species lasts about four to six weeks–which means that by September it is going to try to find an area around a tree to spin it’s cocoon for the winter.

While their webs/nests are unsightly in the trees, they’re not killing the tree and I’m sure that there are industrious birds trying to figure out how to get through the webbing and feast on all those little caterpillars.

I might have to try and spot some of the tent caterpillars and see if I can get a picture for comparison.

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Photography Challenge Day 155: The household pest, the house fly

So the winner of today’s photography challenge is actually the common household pest—the house fly. I took a picture of this one outside, when I was sitting on the patio this morning. What caught my attention is it’s coloring—unlike the other flies that were being pests, this one (was still being a pest), but had a white body instead of the darker colored body that the other flies sported.

A white/black housefly in the backyard

Seeing this fruit fly, took me back to my high school genetics class, where we actually had to cross two flies and keep track of the progeny. We learned how to determine male from female flies (before they hatched from the pupa stage), so that we could separate them. Then we would do crosses, check the sexes, separate and look for specific traits (such as body color, eye color, and wing shape).

Just for those three traits, this particular fly has the recessive markers for body color (since it is white and not a darker color; and I’d assume the darker color is more dominant as I hardly see lightly colored house flies), but managed to get the dominant markers for eye color (as red eyes are more common), and the wings look normal (not curled, or thin).

So flies are pests (but can should be considered a semi-beneficial pest). They do help recycle organic matter, but can also transmit diseases as well—this along with their flying around being obnoxious is the reason why they’re considered pests. They are also one of the most widespread insects, as they can basically be found almost anyplace humans are.

They have at least a four week life cycle, and the female can lay up to 500 eggs in her lifetime. The life cycle of a house fly goes from egg to larvae (this stage is ~2 weeks, though can be as long as a month if eggs laid in cooler climates or cold front comes through) to pupae (this stage is 2-6 days, though again can go longer if the temperatures are cooler), then finally the adult. The life span of the adult is anywhere from two weeks to a month.

So this week’s theme for the photography challenge may be insects, or oddly colored objects??

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Photography Challenge Day 138: The fuzzy, little caterpillar (short post)

So today’s winner of the photography challenge was the fuzzy, little caterpillar that I brushed off my leg when sitting outside.

Fuzzy, black caterpillar crawling around outside.

I’ve always heard the old tales that fuzzy caterpillars were a sign that the winters were going to be really bitter and cold. Since this is the first one I’ve seen so far, I don’t know how much I’m going to believe that tale (until I start seeing quite a few of them).

It was really trucking along

I’ve always been curious to know what type of moth or butterfly different caterpillars change into, and so far I haven’t been able to identify the “adult” version of this caterpillar.

Hopefully it isn’t one that is going to strip the leaves off any of the trees or build the really ugly silk tents in the trees (as they strip off the leaves).

Once I’m able to figure out the adult/mature version of the caterpillar I will be back to update the blog post.

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Photography Challenge Day 135: The tiny buffalo treehopper

Today’s winner of the photography challenge was a tiny green bug sitting on the edge of our patio table. Thanks to the sleuthing skills of my cousin (who is an entomologist), it was identified as a buffalo treehopper.

Buffalo treehopper on the edge of the table.

These little green insects are actually garden pests, as they feed on the sap of plants—and they aren’t picky on what plants they suck the sap from. They will feed from crop plants (wheat, alfalfa, corn), garden plants, trees, and ornamental plants as well.

The females will lay eggs either under leaves or in fresh cut sliver on the stem. The young when they hatch will feed to the point that the stem of the plant collapses, and then they’ll move to a new plant or back to a tree. The mature trees can handle the treehoppers better than young, or small trees can.

Front view of the buffalo treehopper

When you manage to look at them from the front–their heads do resemble those of buffalo (hence the name–buffalo treehopper). Well it’s hard to tell from the picture how black the tips are–as those are it’s “horns”. They are unique looking bugs.

They can be found throughout the United States and are most active in the summer time. That can explain why I’ve probably never noticed them before in the yard—I’m usually sitting inside during the summer evenings (I’m not a big fan of high temperatures with high heat indexes).

The only thing I’m not sure of is whether this buffalo treehopper is male or female (and whether it is a mature adult or a newly molted adult). It will be interesting to see if we notice more of them throughout the summer, as living next to the creek—it would be the perfect spot for a large number of them to cluster together for the winter months.

References: https://www.insectidentification.org/insect-description.asp?identification=Buffalo-Treehopper

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Photography Challenge Day 125: Weird Insect in the backyard

The winner of today’s photography challenge is the weird bug that I noticed on the side of the house. Luckily, there is an entomologist in the family and he was able to identify the insect—it is some type of robber fly.

Some type of robber fly on the side of the house

Basically robber flies are opportunistic predators that feast on a variety of different invertebrates including other flies, grasshoppers, dragonflies, wasps, bees, and even spiders. Robber flies have a broad worldwide distribution (though they’re not found on the Hawaiian Islands).

Robber flies have saliva that contains both neurotoxins and proteolytic enzymes, and when they inject it into their prey—they have a liquid meal to consume once they return to their perch with their stunned, liquified prey. If a robber fly bites you (if you’re irritating them)—you’ll end up with a nasty, painful welt due to the contents of their saliva.

The life cycle of the robber fly takes about one to three years to complete (from egg to mature, mating adults), as most of their life is spent in the immature forms (which are still predators to other larvae and immature insects).

They can be consider both beneficial and irritating in terms of what prey they go after—it’s good that they target wasps, hornets, grasshoppers; but currently it isn’t helping the honeybee populations when they’re eaten by robber flies (though honeybees are a very small portion of the diet of robber flies). They will go after what is in the area, so it is a balancing act—hope they’re out before the bees show up (or that they’ve eaten and are no longer hungry).

I will be keeping my eye out this summer to see if I can spot any more of these unique looking flies in the backyard.



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Photography Challenge Day 118: The Dragonfly collection

So on my walk this morning, I actually managed to get some good pictures of three different dragonflies.

Dragonfly on a stick

I managed to capture the picture of this dragonfly just after it landed on the stick. I was happy it turned out as nice as it did–since it originally looked to blend in well with the ground. It definitely blends in when the background is brown and green.

Then spotted this blue one a little further down the path.

Then I saw one that was blue but had the black patches on it’s wings. It also has bright blue eyes as well–and did you know that the head of an dragonfly is made up almost entirely of it’s eyes?

Then another bronze dragonfly flew through.

Then another bronze dragonfly landed on the branch behind the blue one (which is extremely fuzzy in the picture). I know it’s different from the first–based mainly on the patterns on the wings. This one just has dark edging, where the first had dark patches. Also the body of the first one was probably double the size of this one.

I enjoy seeing both these and the smaller damselflies–that means they’re eating all the mosquitoes they can. Considering how wet of a year we’re having–I’d really be happy if I was seeing swarms of the dragonflies and damselflies.

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Photography Challenge Day 97: A damselfly at rest

Today’s winner of the photography challenge was the damselfly that I managed to get a picture of as it was resting on a piece of wood in the backyard this afternoon.

Damselfly resting in the backyard

These guys belong to the same insect order (Odonata) as dragonflies, but are classified in a different suborder (Zygoptera). The main differences between the two groups are that damselflies have slimmer bodies, are smaller, and usually fold their wings along their body when they’ve stopped to rest.

Damselflies are beneficial insects to have around as they eat flies, mosquitoes, and other small insects (many of which we probably consider pests). After mating, the female will lay eggs in water (so it could be around vegetation that is partially submerged; or other water filled cavities (such as bromeliads in the trees in the tropics). The young damselflies (which are call nymphs), are carnivorous and feed on daphnia, mosquito larvae, and other small aquatic organisms.

The young will go through several molts, before the winged adult emerges. The damselfly also has a lifespan of about one to two years. It is possible that damselflies migrate, though most stay within a certain range of where they hatched. Damselflies aren’t as sensitive to environmental changes as dragonflies, but having both in the area usually means that the ecosystem is in good standing.

I did try to get a even closer picture of it, but when I moved to get a picture from the front it flew off. That is going to be a mini goal for the spring/summer/fall–try to get an even closer picture of a damselfly (and dragonfly).

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The painted lady butterfly: photography challenge day 72

The painted lady (Vanessa cardui) butterfly is the winner of today’s photography challenge. This butterfly is also known as the cosmopolitan butterfly since it is almost global in distribution (with the exceptions of Australia and Antarctica).

Side view of a painted lady butterfly

Another name is also the thistle butterfly, as one of the plants it favors is the the thistle.

An almost overhead picture of the painted lady buttefly

I’ll admit that these aren’t the best picture I’ve gotten of a painted lady butterfly, as they always seem to know when I’ve got the camera focused on them and they will then close their wings.

This is another butterfly species that migrates in the fall to warmer climates (mainly northern Mexico) for the winter as it doesn’t hibernate or go dormant like some other butterfly species.

The butterfly feeds off the nectar of flowers from various plants including thistles, clover, and others.

The life cycle of the butterflies is up to about two months (from egg to adult), so butterflies that hatch in the warmer regions during the winter months will be the ones to migrate back to the cooler areas in the spring. The adults towards the end of summer and early fall will start the migration back south, so that they hopefully can avoid any cold temperatures that would be detrimental to the species.

One goal is going to be trying to maybe get a picture of the caterpillar stage of the painted lady.



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Photography Challenge Day 36: Honeybee on Peach Flower

It’s officially spring

So today’s post is going to be on the short side–I’m fighting off some type of bug and my head feels like it’s in the clouds. But yesterday I managed to get several pictures of honeybees buzzing around the miniature peach tree’s flowers.

Hopefully this means that there will be some fruit that pops out–might not be the most edible fruit, but at least it will be fruit. I have a few ideas on the raised flower garden, and hopefully over the next few weeks (once I get over whatever the hell I have), I’ll be able to get it put together and flowers planted that will attract more birds, bees, and butterflies to the backyard. We haven’t had as many butterflies since we had the mulberry tree taken out (the butterflies did like the juice from the berries).

Now things are starting to green, leaf buds are popping out, flowers are opening (at least those that flower in early spring), and the day is starting to get longer again.

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