Readers’ wildlife photos

June 13, 2022 • 8:00 am

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Today’s photos come from reader Mark Sturtevant, specialist in arthropod photography. His IDs and text are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them.

Here are more pictures taken in 2020.

One day while hiking in the woods, a large flying beetle made a noisy passage across the trail. I managed to knock it down. This is Osmoderma scabra, and it’s only slightly smaller than a walnut. 

After a few minutes it had enough, popped out its wings, and lumbered away through the air:

I recently showed a group of strange insects called bark lice. They’re in the same order as parasitic lice, but bark lice are more into feeding on lichens and algae. Some bark lice have wings; here is a handsome example of one. It is Cerastipsocus venosus

Bark lice are pretty alert and fast. But evidently the one shown in the next picture was not quite fast enough. Based on some details like the relative length of the legs, my guess is that the spider is one of the running crab spiders (species unknown). It was quickly hauling its prey along the twig. 

An extremely common visitor to our porch lights is this lovely little Geometrid moth known as the green pugPasiphila rectangulata. Cherry trees are one of their host plants, and we do have one, probably explaining why I see them so often. 

Let’s stay with the Lepidoptera. Next is a lovely Virginia ctenucha moth (Ctenucha virginica), a species found along wood margins. They resemble the closely related yellow-collared scape moth that frequents fields, and together they are part of an extensive mimicry complex that includes several orders of insects. Some members of the complex are distasteful, or they sting, and others are imposters. 

Next up is a caterpillar that was clearly preparing to form a chrysalis. Spiny caterpillars can be hard to identify, but I kept this one and it later emerged as a grey comma butterfly (Polygonia progne). 

And next is that same butterfly with recently expanded wings after emerging from its chrysalis. The reason for its common name is because of the comma-shaped mark on the underside of the wings. The upper side of their wings are mostly orange, but they spend much time sitting with wings closed on the ground among the dead leaves. In this circumstance, they are nearly impossible to see! 

Next up is a little planthopper called Acanalonia conica. These cute little insects are amusing to photograph, because when they realize they are being watched they deviously move to the back of the twig. The trick then is to extend a finger behind the twig, and that makes them sidle back out to sit in plain view. 

The house centipede (Scutigera coleoptrata) is a fairly cosmopolitan species that favors living in houses. As a result, many people know what it’s like to live with house centipedes. Let’s see. . . they attain a size that makes them a bit unnerving, they move fast, and they do have a tendency to suddenly dart out across a wall while you’ve settled down for the evening. I think that about covers it. Folks who live with house centipedes always have strong opinions about them, although they really cause no problems.

Here are some photographs of one that are actually focus-stacked from dozens of pictures taken during a staged setting on the dining room table. Lights were kept off, save for a lamp, and that helped keep it calm. Even so, I am rather surprised this even worked. A few times it did zip away into the dark surroundings, and it was challenging to find again. 

Thank you for looking! 

15 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. The innocent house centipede – why is it so freaky?
    I spend several months a year in northern Italy, where I regularly encounter lots of creepy crawlies that I’m not familiar with, including note so cute spiders and even scorpions. I have no trouble picking up/capturing any of these visitors when they wonder indoors – and depositing them out in the garden. In fact, I often just leave the spiders alone as they help with insect clean-up. Even woke up one morning staring at a scorpion on the pillow. Not freaked out. But – the house centipede makes my skin crawl. If I see one, I can’t rest (and certainly not sleep) until I’ve got it out of the house, and it’s all I can do to not smush the little buggers. But why? I spoken to many of the locals, and they feel the same way. So this must be a common, hard-wired (?) response. But what features does it have that cause this response? And what is the mechanism at the root of this response?

    1. Even I, an avowed life-long lover of arthropods, experience the heebie jeebies about house centipedes. But they always run, and never bite. So they are carefully put outside with good wishes.
      At night, I can generally find a few on the sides of the house, even sitting way up at the 2nd story level. Probably looking for a way in.

  2. When I moved into this house there was a centipede probably 3 inches long but certainly appeared 10. Anyway, I had a discussion with it. It could live in the basement and not come upstairs and I would accommodate it. My reasoning being I had recently 1980s read that centipedes controlled roaches. Roaches are my nemesis . To date I’ve not had a roach in my house. Haven’t seen any centipedes either. Probably starved here.

    1. Ha ha! I had almost the exact same discussion with the house centipedes when I moved into my present house! I can live and let live as long as the they stay in the cellar (which is more hospitable for them anyway).

  3.……your photography of the centipede is just amazing. Perfect results with that time-intensive technique. Just phenomenal.

    I really did not know anything abt house centipedes before seeing your commentary and the informative YouTube link. (Hilarious comments on that YouTube video, BTW!) Though I am thoroughly “crawlie-phobic”, centipedes don’t freak me out like spiders do. Ugh. Living in a rural area we have a lot of crawlies in the house, and i am thinking we must not have very many house centipedes. Or maybe they stay in the basement. Come to think of it, we do have relatively few bugs down there. Lots more on the main floor. Hmmmm…..

  4. These are great Mark – especially that cute little cone hopper & the centipede is wonderful! I didn’t know Ctenucha virginica stung. I photographed one of those a while back. They are quite pretty.

  5. Great photos, Mark. Would you mind revealing which vegetation/climate zone you live in, for context?

      1. Super. Thanks. We’re in Carolinian Ontario, so I can expect maybe to meet up with some of these critters if I keep my eyes open. Centipedes we have, they are pleasant co-habitants.

  6. Exquisite photos, Mark. Cool effects from the mirrored table-top and photo stacking. You made the insect creepier, as if it needs it. 🙂 The planthopper pic truly belongs in a coffee-table arthropod book. You have many photos by now that could make the cut. When you publish, let me know, I’ll buy a copy for me and all my friends.

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