Readers’ wildlife photos

September 26, 2019 • 7:45 am

Today Mark Sturtevant gives us a batch of lovely insect and arthropod photos from Hawaii. Mark’s notes are indented:

Over a year ago, my family and I visited Maui for a ten-day vacation. I of course brought my camera and I used every opportunity to photograph arthropods.

We spent several days in Kihei, which is a lovely but  touristy town on the southern coast. But true to what everyone says about Maui, it still felt very small and laid back. A short drive north from there along the coastal highway takes one to the Maui National Wildlife Refuge. This is one of many maintained natural areas, and I visited the site several times.

One of my first finds there was the large Hawaiian garden spider (Argiope appensa) shown in the first picture. These striking spiders are indigenous to several islands in the Pacific, and they were everywhere on Maui. Most of the time the spiders would be hanging the ‘wrong way’ with only their ventral side being easily viewed. But if you reach around the top and give them a light tap on their back they usually flipped to the other side of the web and posed for pictures. Next is a tiny male of this species. These were generally hanging out near the females in an accessory web. Like most orb weavers, male garden spiders are very small.

Another common arthropod was a very large kind of grasshopper, shown in the next picture. This is the gray bird grasshopper (Schistocerca nitens), which is a kind of locust that also lives in the southwestern U.S. where it can be a pest. On the Hawaiian islands, however, it has become a more serious pest and there it has been known to swarm. Although many species have been introduced to the islands by humans, this locust probably got there on its own. This individual was unusually low in energy, probably because of its serious mite infestation. The other ones that I found were very alert and I could not get near them.

The jumping spider shown in the next picture is Platycryptus undatus. This is a species that we’d commonly see at home! But I soon got used to this sort of thing. Some arthropods were exotic (to me), while others were also common on the mainland.

The head groundskeeper at the wildlife refuge was named Sammy, a very enthusiastic tour guide of the refuge. As I do when talking about arthropods, I soon told Sammy about my special interest in dragonflies. He explained that the best place to find them was nearby at a nearby wildlife refuge that ran along the coastline. What he described to me seemed unlikely: that this refuge had a beachfront boardwalk that runs through marine wetlands, and that dragonflies are often numerous there. How could that be? Dragonflies require freshwater to grow up! I set out at my next opportunity to check it out.

You can see the coastal boardwalk from here: . Just seeing these pictures brings back very fond memories of a remarkable day.

Here, seawater from high tides and storms are driven inland to sustain many acres of salt marshes. Farther inland, the salt water meets fresh water run-off from the area farms and nearby coastal mountains. The sky was fairly swarming with dragonflies! Their larvae must live in this place by staying farther inland, in parts of the marshes not penetrated by salt water. In the shallow water beneath the boardwalk were schools of colorful marine fish which could be at home among corals, while flying above them were numerous dragonflies. I identified green darners, wandering gliders, and the lovely roseate skimmer (Orthemis ferruginea), a new species for me. The next two pictures show roseate skimmers. The first is a male, followed by a female.

At several places along the boardwalk one could access the oceanside beach, and here too were remarkable numbers of dragonflies that were contesting for perching sites on driftwood within easy reach of ocean waves. It was amazing. Thank you, Sammy!

Finally, during my first visit at the wildlife refuge I found this interesting praying mantis nymph that is shown in the last two pictures. This is the Asian mantisHierodula patellifera. It is also known as the ‘giant’ Asian mantis, and that is puzzling since I would say it would be better called the ‘pretty big’ mantis. The last picture shows that a mantis does not always look dignified.

9 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

    1. Many do. Especially during the day where pigments are near the surface in the eye. At night, the pigments migrate away to increase the light gathering power of the eyes. Then, the eyes can be startlingly black.

  1. I remember seeing those huge orb weavers on Maui. On the island’s dry side (east side), where huge agaves are growing everywhere, the spiders filled the agave leaves. Big “X’s” everywhere you looked. I thought it was cool, my wife, not so much.

    I’m thinking that roseate skimmer is the prettiest dragonfly I’ve ever seen. So very enjoyable.

  2. Great shots as always. Loved the Argiope female. It seems like Argiope males look pretty much the same the world over.

Leave a Reply