Readers’ wildlife photos

October 24, 2023 • 8:15 am

Today our stalwart regular, Mark Sturtevant, returns with a batch of insect photos.  His captions and notes are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

This is part 2 from a trip to a few parks in Ohio a year ago.

Along one forest trail I came across this female Firefly and recognized it as a rather special one. This belongs to the genus Photuris, and they are the famous “femme fatale” group of species where females use their flash to mimic the call-sign of a female of a different species of Firefly (usually Photinus). When the hopeful male of that species comes calling, it is promptly eaten. The large compound eyes are all the better to see you with. The link goes to an interesting video that reveals various details that I did not know about in this classical story.

Next up is a Tumbling Flower BeetleYakuhananomia bidentata. These beetles, commonly found on flowers, belong to their own obscure family:

One of highlights for the entire Ohio trip was the orb weaver spider shown in the next two pictures. This is the legendary Arrowshaped Micrathena (Micrathena sagittata). I had no idea they were so close! I found several, and I am fairly giddy about that. It is odd how such an awkwardly shaped spider can nimbly build a beautiful orb web in the dark of night:

The last several pictures tell the tale about a caterpillar that I had been hunting since my early times in this hobby, all because I wanted to get its portrait. One of the most common of all butterflies in the U.S. is the Hackberry Emperor (Asterocampa celtis).

Do you think Cabbage Butterflies are common? You might not think so along forest margins, where Hackberry Emperors can gather in impressive swarms as they flit about around their host Hackberry trees. The adult butterfly is rather plain, but the caterpillar has a very interesting face, and so for years I have been searching for them. Just one would do, but for some reason the caterpillars are very difficult to find. Some caterpillar species are good at hiding during the day, and perhaps this species is one of those. But in Ohio I quickly found two of the caterpillars (but only after scouring a couple hundred trees), but at last the drought was over!

Here is the caterpillar. The head is toward the right:

The next pictures show the long-desired portraits of one that I brought home with me. That headgear is amazing! The backgrounds are paint swatches that were requisitioned from a local hardware store:

The caterpillar later formed a chrysalis, and that too turned out to be interesting:

And here is the adult shortly after it emerged and expanded its wings. My little friend who freed me from my prolong task sat just long enough for this picture, and then it zipped away to make more Hackberry Emperors:

9 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. Sturtevant the Stalwart delivers again! See? Those wildlife photo contests are no match.

    I love the clever, simple technique to get the background right – the blue background makes the animal structures really sing!

    Exquisite work.

    And my usual note : all the RWP entries are delightful, I just can’t comment every time.

  2. Really nice! Hackberry Emperors are pretty scarce in the southeastern region of Ohio where I live, because of the acidic soils. Acid soils equal few hackberries. Always a treat to see one.

  3. Very exciting photos and post! The entire Hackberry Emperor’s journey is really incredible. It’s wonderful to see the documentation.
    Thank you!

  4. Excellent. I don’t think I’ve seen a spider that better resembles a crab. The caterpillar face! Looks like it could be a character in a Star Wars bar scene.

  5. Fun factoid: Hackberries are in the Cannabaceae Family, which includes exactly what it sounds like it includes – Weed! I think the assignment is relatively recent – maybe the last 25yrs – and I’m not sure what it’s based on.

    (And for some unknown reason, two hackberries now flank the entrance to the Wren Building @ the College of Wm&Mary, replacing a pair of elms that were there a half-century ago.)

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