Readers’ wildlife photos

Please send in your good wildlife photos (roughly ten to a dozen if you have that many, though fewer are also welcome). And please supply locations and Latin binomials.  Thanks! Today’s batch comes from regular Mark Sturtevant, whose comments are indented. Note that in his first sentence Mark says, “I do me”!

Here are more ‘Arthropodian’ pictures from two summers ago. It is what I do.

The first picture shows one of many of our very quiet ‘housemates’. Cellar spiders will frequently return to old prey to scratch out a meager living, and will even accept dead and dried prey. They are very welcome to all the carpenter ants they can find. It is described that in the U.S., cellar spiders who live in homes are almost always one of three introduced species. This seems to be Pholcus phalangoides. The white patch on the abdomen is the cover for one of her respiratory openings. Spiders breathe through a pair of ‘book lungs’, which are stacks of thin respiratory membranes in the abdomen.

Late in the summer I have been regularly venturing outside at night in hope of photographing the male snowy tree crickets who loudly announce their presence from our bushes. It turns out that they are surprisingly hard to pinpoint, since they seem to ‘throw their voice’, and so I usually come away cricket-less. But here I managed to surprise this angle-wing katydid nymph (probably Microcentrum rhombifolium). The adults of these large katydids are also heard calling at night, but adults generally stay well out of reach in the trees.

The parasitized hornworm caterpillar in the next picture comes with an amusing story. I was out in a park one day when this professor I knew from work abruptly emerged from a trail carrying this branch with the caterpillar on it. He had been wearing the leafy branch on his head to keep away mosquitoes and was later surprised to see this caterpillar hanging down right in front of him! He gladly relinquished the find, and here it is. This should be a larva of one of our clearwing sphinx moths, although this one has defied identification beyond that. The white objects are the cocoons of parasitic Braconid wasps. The caterpillar of course is doomed.

In the next picture is a lovely moth that is clearly an excellent wasp mimic. It was sitting out in our back yard, and represents one of the many occasions where I find something in the back yard and have to drop everything to grab a camera. This is the red maple borer mothSynanthedon acerrubri, and it may have come from a red maple tree that we have.

We continue with a couple more Lepidopterans. I generally no longer bother with monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus), but this sleeping one was letting me get very close to it. I liked how the light was working, and so I ‘bothered’. The flower head that it is on is teasel, an invasive species. The plant is much loved by butterflies and other pollinators, but now there is so much of the stuff that I am well at the point of not liking it.

The margin of a certain lake frequently turns up butterflies that sit near the water to imbibe the salts and amino acids from the wet bare ground. The next picture shows a perfect red-spotted purple butterfly (Limenitis arthemis) that was on the shore. The colors really pop with the camera flash!

In the woods I can usually find one or two of the species shown in the next picture. From a distance they look like a small wad of fluff on a tree trunk, only this little bit ‘o fluff will be slowly moving and has a set of very long mandibles. This is a species of debris-carrying ‘aphid-lion’ larva, and so is the larval form of one of our green lacewings (genus Chrysopidae). The debris that it is carrying is for concealment and protection from its own enemies.

The next picture is of a leafcutter bee (genus Megachile) at an artificial bee house that was being kept in the public garden at a local park. I should get one of these bee houses for yard, as watching all the drama taking place was very absorbing! Leafcutter bees are solitary, and females will raise their larvae in wood or earthen tunnels. They can raise several larvae at a time in separate pollen-filled chambers that are divided by pieces of leaves. This old video tells their story in charming detail: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k2AWCrePaZk  What I am now curious about is how the new brood of bees exit the tunnel, since the ones developing deeper in a tunnel would surely be older. How do they emerge without harming their younger siblings who would be nearer the exit? 

Finally, during a particular window of time in the summer I will frequently come across the strange bee that is shown in this last picture. It is also a leafcutter bee, but it is a kleptoparasitic species (Genus Coelioxys). That means the females will lay eggs in the nests of other leaf cutter bees, and its larva will eat the food of its host. They are always very alert, and so this one had to be photographed at some distance, so the picture is heavily cropped. 

10 Comments

  1. sugould
    Posted February 7, 2020 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    Gorgeous katydid. Wonderful to be able to the smaller world represented.

  2. Terry Sheldon
    Posted February 7, 2020 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    Outstanding photography and fascinating subjects as always. I love sphinx moths, so feel sorry for the doomed caterpillar. Thanks for sharing your work!

  3. rickflick
    Posted February 7, 2020 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    Fine images, as usual. “sleeping one was letting me get very close to it”. Somehow, butterflies and other insects don’t seem like the kind of creatures that would evolve a sleep cycle like mammals. Humans sleep and dream. Do “bugs” sleep and dream? How would you hook up an EEG to a Monarch Butterfly?

    • Posted February 7, 2020 at 11:00 am | Permalink

      Dreaming in arthropods has never been even considered, as far as I am aware. Interesting.

      • rickflick
        Posted February 7, 2020 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

        We’d need very tiny microphones to pick up their mumblings. “To sleep – perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub…”. 😎

  4. Mark R.
    Posted February 7, 2020 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    A terrific group which is consistent with other submissions…I’m glad that you do what you do. 🙂

  5. Posted February 7, 2020 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful photos Mark, thanks,

  6. Posted February 7, 2020 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    You definitely do have an eye for lighting conditions for that monarch. Queen of the monarchs, she is. The lacewing larva is also way cool, although if I were a bug of similar size, it would be a little nightmarish.

  7. Dominic
    Posted February 10, 2020 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    very nice photos. I wonder if the caterpillar could survive a single wasp? has anyone done that experiment?


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