Tag: entomology

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.


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 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 34: The insect and arachnid edition

Well spring is definitely in the air–I’ve been seeing numerous insects around, especially lady bugs. It seems that every time I turn around there is a lady bug in the hall. I released a couple of them throughout the week, deciding that they would probably be better off outside than possibly getting stepped on inside.

Today’s pictures are of some of the other creatures I saw last week around campus. Luckily I knew that the small spider that I was looking at was a harmless little wolf spider, and the I saw the wasp (or hornet) through the window.

Little wolf spider

This little wolf spider was actually walking down the hall close to the restrooms. After taking it’s picture, I nudged it towards the wall and out of the path of humans. I usually don’t like seeing spiders–but I knew that this one wasn’t one that posed a threat to me so I left it to it’s hunting. Now if it was a brown recluse–that one would have been introduced to the toilet after being stepped. At least I know that there is something trying to keep the other insect pests under control within the building.

Hornet (or wasp) on the window

I was walking back towards the office and looking out the window and I saw this guy just sitting on the glass. I couldn’t help but get a close up picture, and be thankful that there was a nice thick pane of glass between us.

With seeing the hornet (or wasp) this early in the year I have a feeling that it’s going to be a very buggy spring and summer. I know that wasps (and hornets) serve an role in any ecosystem–I just hope that they end up as food for some other critter and not flying around the inside of buildings on campus. I’m also lucky enough not to be allergic to their stings, but also have been lucky enough never to have gotten stung by a wasp (or hornet). I think almost all children get stung by sweat bees or accidentally step on a bee when walking bare foot through the clover (unless you’re allergic to them and then most people avoid areas where they are).

Since flowers are blooming, I’m hoping that over the next few weeks I can get some pictures of honey and bumble bees feeding and pollinating the flowers.

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National Learn About Butterflies Day and Photography Challenge Day 25

So with these different random holidays, I’ve decided that I can also work them into the photography challenge either with newly taken pictures or newly shared pictures. The butterflies are falling into the second category–newly shared pictures.

One of the many butterflies at the Butterfly Garden in the Science Museum in Boston

So besides being π day, it is also National Learn About Butterflies Day (and since it is a random unofficial holiday—no one knows exactly who to credit with the day). Since spring and summer are (hopefully) right around the corner, mid-March seems like a good time to investigate the wonder and beauty that are butterflies.

Blue Butterfly at the Butterfly Garden.

One place that people can go to learn about butterflies are butterfly gardens. Most large cities have at least one major butterfly garden (and they’re usually associated with zoos or museums). I enjoyed the one at the Science Museum in Boston, and that is actually now a new goal—to see how many other butterfly gardens I can visit in different cities.

A couple of more butterflies…..

So what are some cool facts about butterflies?

  • There are over than 20,000 types of butterflies worldwide.
  • Their wingspans can range from 1/2 inch to 11 inches. So they range from fairly small to fairly large.
  • Some butterflies mimic the coloring of others to avoid being eaten (Viceroy butterflies mimic the monarch butterfly)
  • Adult butterflies can live from a week to nearly a year, depending on the species.
  • Many butterflies migrate over long distances.  The most well-known butterfly migration is the monarch butterfly. It winters in Mexico, and then heads to the northern US and southern Canada.

To help butterflies (and bees) out, one can plant different flowers in their garden, and even different herbs as well. To help the monarch butterfly out one can plant milkweed (it gives them their off taste that keeps predators from eating them). The best thing to do is to ensure that the garden has flowers throughout the seasons (spring, summer and fall). I’m going to be trying to get more flowers out into the yard this spring and summer to see what type of butterflies I can attract.

References: https://nationaldaycalendar.com/national-learn-about-butterflies-day-march-14/

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Science Sunday: Wasp Nests–Photography Challenge Day 21

Today’s science Sunday post is dedicated to the architecture of a specific group of insects: wasps. On yesterday’s walk I noticed that there was (hopefully) an abandoned wasp nest lying on the ground. I’ve noticed several of these over the months, and have photographed them from a safe distance (just in case there were any stinging residences still present).

Part of a wasp nest lying in the grass

You can see that this was part of a nice size wasp colony since there are numerous “honeycomb” openings on the nest. This paper like structure was built from wood fibers that the wasps collected and chewed in to a pulp and then shaped into the “honeycomb” hexagon. Each opening had the potential of becoming hatching grounds for eggs laid by the queen wasp.

So here are some cool little facts about wasps:

They can come in a variety of color.

Cicada killers are a type of wasp.

They all build nests—which they build from wood fibers that they chew into a pulp.

They are either social (these include yellow jackets and hornets) or solitary (cicada killers as an example).

One of the major benefits of wasps is that they are predators to almost all other insect pests (either food or host for the parasitic larvae of solitary wasps; such as cicada killers), and be used to help control agricultural pests around farms and other areas.

If they sting—they can sting more than once (and it also means that you’ve upset the females as they are the ones with the stingers).

I give all members of the wasp family space in the spring, summer and fall—though I will admit that I’ve swatted at yellow jackets mainly because I want to keep them away from my drinks (or food) when I’m outside during the nice weather. Also there are times when I think cicada killers could use glasses for hunting their prey (I’ve had those things buzz me way to often during the day).


1. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/invertebrates/group/wasps/

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Photography Challenge Day 8: Red-spotted Butterfly (short post)

The winner for today’s photography challenge was the Red-Spotted Purple Butterfly that fluttered through the backyard. What’s funny about the name—the butterfly is actually black with blue or blue-green scaling with orange or red marks towards the tips of the wings.

Look who landed in the yard


Red Spotted butterfly landing

This range of the red-spotted purple butterfly is normally the eastern United States (basically from the Gulf Coast up to southern Canada). Within this range it can be seen in woodlands and along streams and creeks. We’re lucky in that we live next to a creek that still has some live cottonwoods along it there are also poplars and oaks in the neighborhood as well. The lifecycle of red-spotted purples is like any other butterfly or moth: egg, caterpillar (which is the longest), pupa, and then adult. I wonder if there are any other pupas ready to hatch and flutter around the area.

Red spotted Purple Butterfly–have you spotted the red yet (on any picture?)

I’m hoping to see more butterflies as the summer slowly blends into autumn and some of these beautiful creatures start to migrate towards their winter homes down south.

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Photography Challenge Day 5: Insect Edition take 1

So I realized that trying to get outside and getting a new picture taken for today probably wasn’t going to happen (and I was right). I didn’t really notice anything that caught my attention this morning walking to the bus stop, and it was too warm for me to take a walk on campus during my lunch hour to figure out what I want a picture of.

So the winners of the drawing for the posting tonight went to the insects that I managed to get pictures of last week.

Dragonfly on the wire

While we aren’t quite in the middle of dragonfly migration season, we have been having several darting through the yard over the past several weeks. This one was one of the larger ones, and seemed to enjoy taking a break on the wires in the backyard. I find them so fascinating to see how they dart around and times you almost can’t see them.

We then had this little one visit the yard the other day:

                    Smaller dragonfly

This little one had more of a blue-green body and a thinner pair of wings.

Then there have been numerous moths and butterflies going through the yard as well.

Do you see what I see?

It took me almost five minutes debating with myself on whether or not I was taking a picture of a piece of bark, when I realized that it was just a very well camouflaged moth.

           Butterfly flying over the house

And the final entry goes to the elusive yellow butterfly that I managed to get a picture of as it was flying over the house. I had been trying to get a picture of this one for probably about 15 to 20 minutes (managed to get several of it at an angle), when it darted out of the yard, and I manged to capture this picture.

One of the things that I want to also start getting better at is the identification of what I’m taking a picture of–I’m pretty good at bird identification, and now I want to get better at being able to identify different insects and plants as well.

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The bugs are starting to come out……Photography challenge day 27

Well I managed to find the connection cord for my camera–it was still in my duffle bag from when I went to London back in October last year (I unpacked everything but the front pocket, which is where that cord and the iPod charger were located).

So now I’m happy–I’m returning the other package that I bought, thinking it was the connection cord–it wasn’t (it was a set of spare lithium batteries with their charger)–I have to learn to read more closely on certain packages.

So back to today’s post (sorry for the rambling). Today’s picture is brought to you by the flying (and probably stinging) insect that landed on the underside of the outside umbrella the other day. So our temperatures have been bouncing around since we’ve gotten out of the last really cold spell–we’ve been going from the upper thirties to the lower/mid sixties. This guy(gal) stopped by to say hello the other day, while we were sitting outside enjoying the mild January weather.

Is it a wasp or a hornet?

Now I don’t have anything against most flying insects, unless they are actively trying to either sting me or keep buzzing me due to my sweat or whatever is going on in their tiny neurological synapses. This little one only hung around basically long enough for me to point it out to my parents and grab the picture. I wonder that if we’re seeing them this early in the year–what is the normal spring/summer going to look like?

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Science as art……Photography Challenge Day 25

Well today’s picture is brought to you by an unknown entomology student.  The main part of the department is in a different building and next door to the entomology and plant pathology department. At least one of the entomology classes has an art project as part of the overall semester grade. Their wing wonderful to walk through as there are different drawings, paintings, and sculptures–over the next few months, I’ll take some pictures to share with you.

Found someone’s art project in our tree this afternoon.

Lately their art projects have slowly found their way into the biochemistry & molecular biology wing (mainly because there are numerous plants in the area leading to the entomology and plant pathology wings. They moved a large paper-mâché caterpillar into the wing a little over a year ago.

This spider is part of the latest additions to the crowd. There are also a couple of ants crawling around on some hibiscus plants, and then there is a praying mantis hidden within the leaves and branches of another small “tree”. Its the one thing I love seeing is how art and science can be combined–there are several fields where it is easy to do so (entomology is just one of the them).

I’m slowly trying to figure out ways of doing more art/crafts with my field of study–biochemistry and molecular biology, that are also within the crafts that I know how to do (or decide to learn). Maybe the next afghan will have more scientific symbols on it????

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