Category: insects

Photography challenge day 14: the hairy caterpillar; which moth will it turn out to be? Tune in to 2021 to find out…..

So this weekend, when I put up the umbrella on the patio table I noticed that there was a rather large caterpillar slowly crawling around on it.

Hairy caterpillar on the patio umbrella

I managed to get one or pictures of it, and noticed that it was extremely fuzzy and had a distinct alternating series of bristles. Since these types of caterpillars usually have nettle hairs (that usually are hidden)—and can causes rashes if they come into contact with skin.

Still truckin’ along

I’ve noticed over the years that my skin has gotten a little more sensitive to certain things and that it doesn’t take much for me to break out in a rash (luckily the rash disappears within a couple of hours)—therefore I just let this particular caterpillar make its own way off the umbrella.

Hairy caterpillar making its way through the shadows

Since there are quite a few different species of moths and possibly a few butterflies that have hairy caterpillars—I can’t say for certain what the ‘adult’ version of this caterpillar is. Though it probably is a member of the Lymantriinae subfamily of moths (belonging to the family Erebidae). These are large moths, and while the adults don’t feed (they only breed and then die), the caterpillars are known to be pests and are considered pests as they have a broad range of host plants (including trees and shrubs to vines, herbs, and grasses).

It will be interesting to see in the spring what type of large moths I see around the yard and if I can then match a picture of the moth to those online and hopefully also match it to caterpillar. But since it is late in the year—I’m going to hazard a guess that this is the caterpillar of the pale tiger (or banded tussock) moth.

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The bee on the chive flower: Photography challenge day 8

So I’m basically going to be a day behind in the photography challenge, unless I manage to do a double photography post at some point.

The winner for today’s entry is the honeybee on the chive flowers.

Honeybee on the chive flowers

The honeybee (and actually all of the bee clade) is actually only native to Eurasia, but humans took them to four other continents (Africa, Australia, South & North America).

In terms of recognition—there are eight species recognized, but with a total of 43 subspecies. These subspecies are populations of bees that living in different areas and have different morphological characteristics. Out of those species—two have been domesticated for honey production and/or crop pollination—the eastern & western honeybees. Other bees may also produce & store honey—but not to the extent that the eastern & western honeybees manage.

Honeybee on the chive flowers

One way to help these insects is to plant bushes, flowers, veggies, herbs, and other plants that are native to the area (or at least not totally invasive) that can attract the bees and help them survive.

We have numerous bushes in the yard that flower (crepe myrtles, rose-of-Sharon, wisteria, clematis, flowering quints, and others), in addition we also have various herbs planted, though the only one that really flowers is the chive.

Chives are a flowering plant that produces edible leaves and flowers (though we leave the flowers alone so that the bees, wasps, and butterflies have something to also feed on). They are also related to common onions, garlic, shallot, leek, scallion, and the Chinese onion. These are one herb that once you plant; they will come back up for a couple of years (unless there is a really cold snap, and I’d guess less than 0 degrees).

This year I’ve managed to get the picture of bees, flies, butterflies, and wasps all resting/feeding on the chive flowers. A new goal for next year—record and see how many of which species land on the flowers.

Do you like chives? If so–what is your favorite recipe for them? Another thought–maybe once I have my own place, I can become a part time beekeeper. Are you (or someone you know) a beekeeper? Have you ever thought of becoming one??

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It’s a wasp week: photography challenge day 6: the yellow jacket

Today’s winner for the photography challenge is the yellow jacket wasp, also just known as the yellow jacket.

This is a predatory social wasp that is common to North America. These wasps live in a colony that contains worker wasps, queens, and drones; the colony is annual with only fertilized queens survives the winter and starts a new colony the coming spring/summer.

This queen will then spend the spring and through the summer into the autumn the queen spends the time laying eggs within the nest. Depending on where the queen builds the nest, the size of the colony can range from ~4000 members to larger numbers (upward of say 10,000 members and numerous eggs cells).

yellow jacket wasp flying around the hummingbird feeder

The diet of the yellow jacket wasp varies depending on either the stage of life or the position within the nest. The larval diet consists of proteins derived from insects, fish, and meats. The workers (drones) collect, chew, and basically regurgitate the food before feeding it to the larvae. The larvae feed the workers by secreting a sugary substance, and when there aren’t as many insects to feed to the larvae—the workers will go foraging for sugar sources outside the nest. The diet of the adult yellow jacket wasp consists of fruits, flower nectar and tree sap—plus the sugar water from hummingbird feeders.

Yellow jacket wasp feeding at the hummingbird feeder

Sometimes the nest/colony of yellow jacket wasps are very noticeable, other times they aren’t (as some are built behind/below steps and logs—hidden from sight). I actually remember one summer, when on vacation my dog found a yellow jacket nest—it was built behind a wooden step going down to the lake (after that—she totally hated any small flying insect that came near her—she had gotten stung several times in the snout).

Yellow jacket wasp hanging around the hummingbird feeder

I notice the yellow jackets coming out in the late summer (usually end of July through mid-September) at times feeding at the hummingbird feeder. Usually we don’t have that many issues with them—unless they keep flying around the patio table.

Unlike other insects—I don’t think I want to figure out where the yellow jacket nest is (not willing to risk getting stung); these are insects that I’m not scared of and realize that they are beneficial to have (as they do hunt other insects)—but I’m also not sorry if I don’t see them either.

Have you or your pets ever been stung by a yellow jacket wasp?

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Photography Challenge Day 5: The mighty cicada killer

Today’s entry into the photography challenge is the cicada killer. This is a large wasp that hunts cicadas—though they don’t eat them (the adults feed on nectar and sap)—the female will lay her eggs on a paralyzed cicadas allowing the wasp grub to feed on the cicada as it goes through several larval stages.

Cicada killer looking to dig a nest

Within the US they’re found in the throughout the country (divided between being the Eastern cicada killer and the Western cicada killer)—and since OK is almost central, I’m going with just cicada killer, and then south into Mexico and Central America.

In terms of size—the female cicada killers are larger than the males, only because they cart their ‘prizes’ off to their nests. I have no idea if this one is a male or a female—I’m going to guess female.

These wasps are actually burrow wasps—the female will dig her nest in the ground, and will have ‘egg cells’ off the main burrow. Within each cell the female will deposit one or more paralyzed cicadas and then lay an egg on the cicada. When the female lays a male egg—it goes on top of a single cicada; if the egg is female there may an addition cicada in the cell as well. Each cell is then closed off with dirt, and the female will continue digging cells as needed.

Once the eggs hatch, and after they go through their larval stages, the young will winter in the pupa stage underground and emerge the follow spring. There is only one generation per year.

I think a new photography goal will be trying to get a picture of a cicada killer carrying a cicada off to her nest, or possibly getting a picture of a cicada killer emerging from the nest in the spring.

I’ve never really been afraid of cicada killers—I always seem to have to ‘remind’ them that I’m not a cicada—as they seem to have really weird flight patterns. But we do get quite a few of these around the backyard in the summer.

Question: which would you prefer seeing a lot of during the summer—cicadas or cicada killers?

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Photography Challenge Days 206 and 207: Butterflies and a spider

So the next couple of winners are some butterflies and a spider that I saw on my walk on Sunday.

The first is of a pale yellow-brown butterfly with eyespots on it’s upper wings. I haven’t quite figured out what butterfly it is—one possibility is the common buckeye butterfly, but this one doesn’t have eyespots on the lower portion of the wings.

Butterfly

I managed to get two pictures of this butterfly before it flew off.

Butterfly closing it wings..

Well, it might have some pale eyespots on the bottom portion of it’s wings. That might help a little more in narrowing down the identification. I’m going to continue trying to figure out what butterfly it is, even if I have to go ask someone in entomology for help in the identification of the butterfly.

Spider crawling on it’s web.

The second winner is a spider—again I have no idea what type of spider it is. While I managed to get a couple of decent pictures, I didn’t get any good ones with identification marks to compare to pictures to get an identification of it—I just know that I’m very careful in walking around trees and bushes at the lake in the morning so that I hopefully don’t walk through any spider webs.

A side view of the spider on it’s web

This spider had made it’s web in between branches on a tree that close to the water. Nice place to catch evening bugs. And then the final winner is….

Viceroy butterfly

The third winner is another viceroy butterfly that was flying around one of the points at the lake. The way to tell the difference between the viceroy and the monarch butterfly is that the viceroy butterfly has the black stripe on the bottom part of it’s wings (monarchs lack that stripe).

Hopefully the weather will behave and I will be able to walk around Boomer Lake again this coming weekend and see what birds, mammals, reptiles, and insects are round this coming weekend.

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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 199: Odds and Ends

So since I couldn’t just pick one or two pictures to share today, the theme is odds and ends. Basically a little bit of several things–namely insects, arthropods, and maybe either some fungi or a bird or two. In other words–it will be mainly pictures, with a few words here and there.

Viceroy butterfly

I did see a Viceroy butterfly on my morning walk the other day going around Boomer Lake. It was just sitting on the one edge of the bridge soaking up some morning sun before looking for food.

Heron flying overhead

I’m also pretty certain that I got a picture of a green heron in flight. The body type is right for them, and they’re a dark color. It just didn’t help that they had the sun at their back, making it hard to see the actual green color of their feathers.

Red-spotted Purple Admiral Butterfly

I managed to get a good picture of an red-spotted purple admiral this weekend as well. Luckily I spotted one on the street (and there weren’t any cars coming).

Bee on the flowers

Our decorative grass is flowering, and that means I’m starting to see some bees in the backyard again this fall. It’s always nice to see them.

Creepy little spider

Then I noticed that there was this little spider spinning it’s web between the leaves of some of the plants.

So these are just a few of the other pictures that I took this weekend (and I still have others I can share). Most of the pictures are nature/wildlife, as that is what I’m currently most comfortable trying to photograph. Though this fall/winter I may start branching out and starting to do some architecture shots as well. But mainly I’m focusing on enjoying a hobby, and maybe figuring out how to fit in daily with everything else.

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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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