Readers’ wildlife photos

March 22, 2023 • 8:15 am

Today we have some insect and spider photos from Mark Sturtevant. His narrative and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

Here are more pictures from a couple summers ago.

All summer, there will be webs of orb weaving spiders in my yard, and these will reliably be owned by a couple species in the genus Araneus. There was an especially large web in the garden, and so I set out to see if the lady was still around (they often aren’t). The inspection involves looking for a “sincere” looking curled leaf, either at 10 o’clock or 2 o’clock. This would be where they will hide. Sure enough, at one of those positions was a curled leaf with a tell-tale foot sitting on a special strand of silk that ran to the hub of the web. She was home.

But what did she look like? I coaxed her out, and here she is. Identifying these things can be tricky. I lean toward the marbled orb weaver (A. marmoratus), based especially on markings on the underside, but it could also be the cross orb weaver (A. diadematus), which was introduced from Europe. Anyway, she was fat with eggs. A postscript to this story is the following spring I found a large mass of tiny orb weaver spiderlings in the same area, and pictures are in the queue.

During the same time period, I found two new species of orb weavers in the yard. First was this neat little green one with beautiful lichen-like camouflage. This is the humpbacked orb weaverEustala anastera. Here I photographed her on a background of lichens.

And then there was this other new one that had this lovely woven basket retreat. Here is the retreat, and you can see the spider inside. I did not know that orb weavers could do that!

Here is the spider. It’s the lattice orb weaverAraneus thaddeus. She really wanted to be back in her retreat, so of course that is where she went afterwards.

One day when out in a local park, this mating pair of bumblebees sort of plopped down on the boardwalk in front of me. They appear to be the common Eastern bumblebeeBombus impatiens, which is by far the most common of our bumblebees here. Can you spot the stinger?

While we are going at it, here is a mating pair of locust borer beetles (Megacyllene robiniae) on goldenrod— their most common host flower. These two gave me quite a work-out, chasing them around the plant while I tried to get pictures of their stripey undersides. Locust borers are thought to be mimics of yellowjacket wasps.

One day while deep in the woods (slightly lost, but what else is new), I came across this lovely fly diligently feeding on bird poo. This is a member of a small and obscure family called flutterflies, after their long wings. The species is Toxonerva superba.

Returning to the yard, one evening there was this loudly singing insect in the back yard. It turned out to be this conehead katydidNeoconocephalis sp. As a kid, I used to be rather afraid of these things since they can give a nasty bite and they do have a taste for meat. But here, a piece of lettuce was sufficient bribery for this one to settle down for pictures.

The last pictures are two of my favorites from the summer, as it does sort of capture how I look at times.

8 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. Magic as always. The spiders are amazing, the complex architecture of non-web structures continue to fascinate me.

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