Readers’ wildlife photos

January 20, 2023 • 8:15 am

Thanks to those who sent in photos. We have anough to last about a week.

Today we have a photo-and-text story from Athayde Tonhasca Júnior. His narrative is indented, and you can click the photos to enlarge them.

The itsy bitsy influencers

Arachne, born in the ancient kingdom of Lydia, was really good at weaving. A masterful weaver, perhaps, but not wise. She boasted to the world about her skills, claiming she was better than Athena herself, the goddess of handicrafts. All that braggadocio reached heavenly ears, and the offended goddess thought it was time to take down the impertinent Lydian a peg or two. Disguised as an old woman, Athena appeared before Arachne and warned her that stirring up the gods could end in tears. Arachne not only ignored the old biddy’s advice but challenged her to a weaving contest. Athena revealed her true identity and shrieked back: “you’re on, she-dog!” (or words to that effect; translations vary). Proving beyond doubt she wasn’t wise, Arachne didn’t back down. Worse: she created a superb piece, but of tabloid content. Her tapestry depicted the unconventional liaison between a swan (Zeus in disguise) and Princess Leda, and Zeus cross-dressed as a satyr and as an eagle during other dalliances. Arachne also wove various romantic transgressions by members of the royal family such as Apollo, Dionysus and Poseidon.

Despite admitting defeat to the better weaver, Athena was incensed and humiliated – after all, Zeus was her daddy. She tore Arachne’s work to pieces and destroyed her loom. For Arachne, the drachma finally dropped. Horrified by her recklessness, she hanged herself. Athena, who acquired the post of goddess of wisdom, decided that the silly mortal had learned her lesson. She turned the hanging rope into a cobweb and brought Arachne back to life, but not as before. In Metamorphoses, Book VI, Ovid tells us what happened (translated by A. S. Kline): “Arachne’s hair fell out. With it went her nose and ears, her head shrank to the smallest size, and her whole body became tiny. Her slender fingers stuck to her sides as legs, the rest is belly, from which she still spins a thread, and, as a spider [arachni in Greek], weaves her ancient web.” Hereafter, Arachne’s descendants would hang from threads and carry on as skilled weavers.

Minerva (the Roman version of Athena) cancelling Arachne for her hate speech against the gods. Art by René-Antoine Houasse, 1706. Wikimedia Commons:

Arachne’s chronicle is one of the many myths, legends and symbolisms involving spiders (Class Arachnida, Order Araneae) in Western cultures. Despite their relevance in the humanities, spiders tend to provoke a range of negative emotions in people: fear, revulsion, loathing. Indeed, children of school age fear spiders the most, ahead of being kidnapped, predators or the dark. the American Psychiatric Association recognises arachnophobia, the persistent and irrational fright caused by spiders, as a mental disorder that afflicts a number of people. The innate fear of spiders and snakes is likely to be a remnant behaviour acquired during our evolutionary history for identifying and avoiding animals that could be harmful to us (e.g., New & German, 2015. Evolution and Human Behavior 36: 165-173).

Helping children to sleep peacefully: Little Miss Muffet is about to make an acquaintance. Art by Arthur Rackham, 1913. Wikimedia Commons:

Spiders’ negative image is not helped by misinformation: Mammola et al. amassed data from newspapers in 40 languages around the world and concluded that about half of the news was erroneous, misleading or sensationalist. This is deeply regrettable, as spider incidents involving humans or domestic animals are exceedingly rare, especially considering how abundant they are: you could bump into 130 to 150 individuals/m² in some habitats. But you are not likely to see most of them because they are small, nocturnal or hunt among the soil debris. The 45,000 or so known spider species are spread throughout practically every terrestrial habitat in the planet. Instead of biting people, spiders spend most of their time stalking or chasing unsuspecting prey (except for one herbivorous species, the wonderfully named Bagheera kiplingi). They are generalists, pouncing on whatever comes within their reach.

Insect pollinators have reasons to be particularly wary of one group of spiders: the crab or flower spiders (Family Thomisidae). Most of them are ambush predators: they sit perfectly still on a spot likely to be visited by insects, such as a flower, and wait for lunch to fly in. To make things worse for an inattentive insect expecting to collect pollen or get a sip of nectar, many flower spiders show some degree of crypsis, the ability to blend in with their environment to avoid detection (different from mimicry, which is disguising by resemblance to another organism). We can just say that flower spiders are very good at camouflage.

A female white-banded crab spider (Misumenoides formosipes) on a stakeout. She can change her colour between yellow and white to match the surroundings © Judy Gallagher, Wikimedia Commons.

Interestingly, flies are less susceptible to spider predation than bees, possibly because they have better vision and can avoid or dodge attackers. Bumblebees are also less likely to become prey than are solitary bees and honey bees, just because they are larger and bulkier and so more difficult to capture. It has been suggested that the long proboscis and the swing-hovering flying pattern of some moths have evolved as predator avoidance mechanisms: the further from the flower and less static, the better chance of escaping a lurking spider. But it’s not only through killing that spiders disrupt pollination: their mere presence results in insects making fewer visitations and spending less time on flowers. As a result, pollination rates and therefore seed production can be reduced (e.g., Romero et al., 2011. PLoS ONE 6,6: e20689).

Game over: a female crab spider (Thomisus onustus) capturing a bee © Alvesgaspar, Wikimedia Commons.

From the above, you may be tempted to go on a spider-killing spree in your garden to protect pollinators and pollination. That would a mistake. We have a limited understanding of the effects of predation on pollination, but there are no reasons for alarm. The numbers of flower visitors killed represent a fraction of their populations, so a spider wipe-out would not help anything. And because of the complexity of these interactions, there could be damaging consequences.

The crab spider Thomisus onustus, found across Europe, reduces bee visitation to buckler-mustard (Biscutella laevigata) flowers. But spiders have no preference for bees: they will take anything that comes their way. So insects that feed on vegetative parts (leaves, petals, etc.) are likely to be the spider’s main victims just because they are more abundant than pollen or nectar collectors (Knauer et al., 2018. Nature Communications 9, 1367). Without the spider, buckler-mustard could be munched away with impunity.

Crab spiders feeding on a furrow bee (Halictus sp.) and a cabbage moth caterpillar (Plutella xylostella) © A.C. Knauer (Knauer et al., 2018. Nature Communications 9, 1367):

In South America, the stingless bee Trigona spinipes visit fewer flowers of the pea-related Chamaecrista ramosa when crab spiders of the genus Misumenops are about. Which is good from the plant’s perspective because these bees are pollen robbers, that is, they help themselves to pollen without pollinating the flowers. But the carpenter bees Xylocopa ordinaria and X. hirsutissima, which are legitimate pollinators of C. ramosa, are not put off by the spiders, probably because they are too big and strong to be captured (Telles et al., 2019. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 126: 521–532). So hosting a bee predator with restricted hunting abilities may be beneficial to the plant.

A Mesumenops bellulus ready to give a deadly embrace, but not to portly carpenter bees © Judy Gallagher and Bob Peterson, respectively. Wikimedia Commons:

Spiders are one of most important groups of predators on Earth, with enormous influence in the natural world. Nyffeler & Birkhofer estimated that spiders kill the equivalent of 400 to 800 million metric tons of prey annually worldwide. More than 90% of this biomass comprises springtails and insects, including a vast number of domestic and agricultural pests. For comparison, the annual food consumption of all the world’s seabirds is estimated at 70 million tons.

Tables set for lunch. For an insect, it’s dangerous out there:

Spiders’ carnage is hugely beneficial: it regulates the numbers of abundant species, preventing them from taking over, and keeps insects with outbreak potential (pests) in check. And they are also essential food items to other creatures: wasps, frogs, lizards, birds and even fish feed on spiders, sometimes substantially.

You don’t have to be fond of spiders; but being aware of their ecological importance would make them more accepted and valued, even if at distance.

To the delight of women’s rights champion J. K. Rowling, a new species of spider discovered in India in 2016 was named after Godric Gryffindor of sorting hat fame (Harry Potter series): Eriovixia gryffindori. New spider species are discovered all the time © India Biodiversity Portal and Suzelfe (Wikimedia Commons), respectively:

Johnny Cash, ‘The Man in Black’, was the source for the name of a new species of tarantula whose males are usually black: Aphonopelma johnnycashi. The spider was discovered near the California prison that inspired Cash’s song Folsom Prison Blues (1955). A. johnnycashi is one of the 14 new tarantula species recently found in the United States (Hamilton et al., 2016. Zookeys 560: 1-340) © Hamilton et al., Wikimedia Commons.

Readers’ wildlife photos

January 16, 2023 • 8:15 am

If you have any good photos, please send them in, or disaster will ensue.

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

Here are some local spiders that I found a couple summers ago, all within a half mile of my house in eastern Michigan.

First up is a female wolf spider (it looks like Trochosa sp.), and she is carrying her babies with her in a fine display of parental investment. After a time, the youngsters will disperse and presumably they will become less tolerant of each other. Like many pictures here, the images were manually focus-stacked from a small number of pictures that were each taken by nudging the camera forward a smidge before pressing the shutter.

Using a sweep net in fields is a great way to find critters that are otherwise unlikely to be found. The next two spiders were found this way with an ancient net that I’ve had for over 30 years. The first is what I call a “grass spider”, and one can see these are shaped for hiding in tall grasses. It turns out that this is a slender crab spider in the genusTibellus. I am now very interested in the faces of these spiders since if you zoom in and look very closely you can see they have a striking arrangement of eyes.

The next spider also turns up in sweep nets on occasion, and I am especially delighted to find them. My online photography friends from California and Texas always show off their pictures of beautiful green lynx spiders, which makes me insanely jealous. But I do have a fine species of lynx spider of my own, called the striped lynx spider (Oxyopes salticus). It is advisable to photograph these indoors, though, since like the species name warns you they are the jumpiest spiders that I know. This one was hopping, hopping, and hopping like a flea all over the dining room table before I could get her to calm the heck down for pictures. She too has an interesting face, and so my next plan is to go all out and get extreme close up views of these interesting spider faces. It is time to at last get a super macro lens.

Next up is a regular jumping spider, a male Platycryptus undatus. I can usually find one or two on my shed.  He was very cooperative!

After a heavy rain, I was tasked with moving several bags of mulch that had been sitting out. Along came a spider from under the bags, and he is shown in the last pictures. It is called the woodlouse hunter (Dysdera crocata), although they have other common names. Woodlouse hunters are secretive spiders that lurk in leaf litter and in cracks in the ground where use their ginormous fangs to wrangle woodlice, (pill-bugs, “roly polies” — you know). I longed to find one of these mini-monstrosities. The body length is about the diameter of a U.S. quarter, to give you an idea of it. After years of digging rather cautiously in leaf litter, it turns out that they are living with me, and I guess that heavy rains are the time to go look for them.

Anyway, this one was photographed in a large plastic box. This took some work since it would not hold still, but rather wandered endlessly ‘round and ‘round so that it had to be photographed on the run. It was rather exhausting.

When two of these beasties meet up, they use their fangs to grapple with each other before one or both of them retreats. It looks pretty awesome, as shown here.

Fangs for looking!

Readers’ wildlife photos

January 11, 2023 • 8:15 am

Today’s reader introduces himself and his pictures below. Semyon’s words are indented, and you can click the photos to enlarge them. I believe this is the first Russian contributor we’ve had. Welcome!

My name is Semyon Morozov. I’m sending you my wildlife photos.

These photos were taken in August 2016 in my small homeland, Kurgan Oblast (Russia, the south of the West Siberian Plain). Photo hunting was successful at that time!

Here’s a female wasp spider (Argiope bruennichi). Look at these white things on her web: they are called stabilimenta. Their function is not completely clear. Scientists assumed that these structures stabilized the web, but then other explanations appeared, such as protection from predators or attracting prey.

Eurydema ventralis is a shield bug that feeds on crucifers and some other plants. The bug sits on a leaf of Parthenocissus that has been cut by a leafcutter bee (Megachile sp.).

The yellow-winged darter (Sympetrum flaveolum) is one of the most common dragonflies in this area.

This is an odd caterpillar of the grey dagger (Acronicta psi). It was ready to pupate, so I took it home for observation.

But instead, a fat larva of some parasitoid wasp crawled out of the caterpillar! Then the larva pupated, and after 16 days an imago appeared from the pupa.

And here’s the Roesel’s bush-cricket (Roeseliana roeselii). This individual has a saber-like ovipositor at the end of the abdomen, which indicates that it’s a female.

All these arthropods were dwellers of the garden. Now let’s go beyond it. What are these cupcake-like things on the rotten stump? These are the fruiting bodies (aethalia) of the slime mold (Fuligo septica, I guess). These are not fungi but organisms, the life cycle of which includes both a single-celled amoeba-like stage and a macroscopic one.

In the meadow, I found a wasp spider again. This female caught another predator, a dragonfly (it’s most likely the yellow-winged darter).

There was a pond nearby, next to which I met a caterpillar of the drinker moth (Euthrix potatoria). It’s said that the insect was so named because of the caterpillars’ passion for dew.

I found another caterpillar on the pond shore. It was a larva of the reed dagger (Symira albovenosa = Acronicta albovenosa), a moth that likes reed beds.

And finally, here are exuviae of some dragonfly. These are the remains of an exoskeleton that a larva left after molting.

Readers’ wildlife photos

December 22, 2022 • 8:15 am

It looks as if I’ll be in Chicago over Coynezaa, so do send in your photos, and we’ll see if we can keep this feature going over the holidays.

Today’s batch of photos come from Mark Sturtevant, whose IDs and captions are indented. Click the photos to enlarge them.

First up is a bundle of assassin bug eggs. A very common species of this predatory insect is Zelus luridus, and so that is most likely what will hatch from these eggs:

The European earwig (Forficula auricularia) is commonly seen up on plants, and they can accumulate in considerable numbers. Because they nibble on flowers and leaves, gardenersgenerally view them as pests. However, they also eat small arthropods, including aphids. I like them because they are so weird looking, and their matte finish photographs so nicely. The pinchers on the rear are modified cerci (those being appendages that many insects have). When alarmed, they will curl their abdomen like a scorpion, and they do look pretty fierce that way but it’s all a bluff since they cannot pinch in the slightest. But there are claims that other earwig species can use them as weapons of a sort:

In my younger years, the pink spotted ladybeetle (Coleomegilla maculata) was a common sight, but they are pretty rare where I live now. It was therefore exciting to at last find a pink ladybeetle when I was out “bugging” with the camera, but for some reason this one wasn’t moving. One can see why in the picture. Do you see the small cocoon underneath the beetle? That is the cocoon of a parasitic Braconid wasp! So this beetle was unfortunately parasitized, and its body was being used as a kind of protective shield:

Wolf spiders are most active at night, and then they can be easily found by using a flashlight to spot them through their brilliant eye-shine. So I went out to a remote park one evening to look for wolf spiders. The experience was rather startling, since a walk through the woods at night (which was a bit creepy, to be honest) revealed a veritable milky way of tiny glowing green eyes lighting up the trail. The wolf spiders on the trail were all small, but I had no idea they would be so numerous! After about a mile, the woods opened up to a large field and a full moon. More tiny glowing eyes, but not so many. Then I came across a set of eyes that were much bigger, and behind those was a very big wolf spider! A strikingly colored female. After admiring her, she was respectfully scooted into a bug cage. A bit more searching turned up a male of what was clearly the same species. Fortunately, I had two bug cages, and so in he went. Then it was time to go home with the prizes.

When I could get out again, I returned to the field in the day time with the spiders so that they could be properly photographed and then released. The species is Hogna baltimoriana. The female easily had a leg span of about 3 inches, while the skinny male was much smaller:

Bringing up the rear are male and female jumping spiders (Phidippus clarus) that are in an endearing and committed relationship. The male is in plain view, while the female is seen as a vague outline in her silken retreat. According to BugGuide, females of this species are frequently seen hanging out at the top of plants like this. The male, having found her, is now guarding his “intended” against any rival males. Although disturbed by my presence, he would not leave her side:

Readers’ wildlife photos

November 28, 2022 • 8:15 am

Today we have photos from regular Mark Sturtevant. His notes and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them. I’ll remind readers to send in your good photos, as we’re running low.

Mark:

Here are some pictures of mainly arthropods, taken in 2021 as the weather began to finally warm near my habitat in eastern Michigan.

An early opportunity was a European paper wasp (Polistes dominula) that emerged from hibernation on the front porch. It was still quite cold, so she was motionless most of the time. After a long winter, I was glad to see her even though the species is invasive and problematic in the U.S. because it has reduced populations of the native paper wasps. These pictures are focus stacked from about 100 pictures each, taken with the assistance of a Helicon Fb tube. That is a device that lets you do rapid focus bracketing with a DSLR camera.

Next is a ground spider (Gnaphosidae), a family of free roaming spiders that include some ant mimics. This is Zelotes fratris. This too is focus stacked, but from a few pictures taken by hand. Note the red velvet mite photo bomb.

Here is a very young green frog (Lithobates clamitans), only recently transformed from a tadpole. Often mistaken for the closely related bullfrog, green frogs can be identified by the dorso-lateral ridge that you can see here. This youngster may one day grow to be the size of both of your fists put together.

The big event for the early part of the 2021 season was a possibly once-in-a-lifetime chance to photograph 17-year cicadas, Magicicada septendecim. Cicadas spend most of their lives as nymphs living underground, where they feed on sap from tree roots. “Periodical” cicadas include a 13-year species and the 17-year species. After those many years, the nymphs emerge en masse in biblical plague numbers, mate, lay eggs, and die over a period of several weeks. It is believed their reproduction cycle evolved to overwhelm predators who cannot grow their population in response. The 2021 season was due to have “Brood X” of the 17-year cicadas, which is the largest population of this species. Brood X extends over multiple states in the US, and one edge of this group extends into southern Michigan. So, with the help of the internet, which provided records about their last emergence, I made the long drive to a likely park to see this marvel. The trip was well rewarded with high thousands of cicadas.

Here are various pictures showing perching cicadas, and a bush with quite a few of them. Cicadas were flying everywhere, and collisions with them were pretty frequent. Males are especially distinct with their bright red eyes.

The eerie sound of thousands of cicadas filled the air over the field. But it was evident that there were far more of them in the trees that surrounded the park, since the trees were fairly deafening with their shrill, spooky music. Accounts from other areas of the Brood X emergence described even heavier population densities, where pretty much everything gets covered by them.

It’s the males who sing, and they do so by forcing air past a stack of vibrating membranes under a pair of “tymbal” plates on the abdomen. This picture showing the plates is blurry because the male was continually squalling in protest.

Here is a wide angle macro picture of a cicada posing with my good friend Gary Miller. Gary is an excellent macro photographer in his own right. It was not even summer, and this is one of my favorite pictures of the entire season.

I wanted to find a video that conveys what this natural wonder is like. This amateur recording is a very good match to what the emergence was like in this field, right down to the screaming trees in the distance:

Readers in the eastern U.S. may have direct experience with seeing a periodical cicada mass emergence, and if you’d like to make plans for seeing one, here is a map that can get people started.

Thank you for looking!

True facts about tarantulas

November 21, 2022 • 1:00 pm

ZeFrank is back with another enticing and biologically informed video, this time about tarantulas. It’s about sixteen minutes long.

I used to have a live tarantula collection in my office in graduate school, and fed them hissing cockroaches, of which there was a colony in the MCZ. I let them walk around on me, and I was never bitten, though I did sometimes get irritated by urticating hairs. (When I put them on visitors, however, the reaction was sometimes unfavorable.) Watching them molt was a unique experience.

One of my favorites, Bismarck, lived for at least 20 years, since she was still alive when I checked years after giving her away (she had actually been moved to Chicago by the curator of arachnids).

What I like about ZeFrank is that his videos get more and more biologically informative but yet retain their humor.  (They do, however, have ads.) This is a particularly good one, with tons of biology that I didn’t know.  These animals do have a fearsome reputation, but they don’t really kill people, and their biology is complex and fascinating.

h/t: Rick

Readers’ wildlife photos

November 18, 2022 • 8:15 am

Today we have some photos from a regular, Mark Sturtevant. Mark’s IDs and captions are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

This set wraps up my WEIT-worthy pictures from 2020. They were all taken near my home in eastern Michigan.

A common sight in the woods are these fungus-like buttons on damp logs. But these are not fungi. Rather, they are the fruiting bodies of slime mold colonies. Slime molds are amoeba-like social protists that on occasion gather together like this to then cooperatively disperse as spores. Younger fruiting bodies of this species are pale, white and sticky. Seeing those scattered in the woods probably inspired their common name which is wolf’s milk slime mold (Lycogala epidendrum).

We now move on to insects. Here is a very large and surprisingly attractive cranefly. This is the giant eastern cranefly, Pedicia albivitta.

During their immature stage, dragonflies and damselflies are called naiads. They live in the water to hunt insects and sometimes small fish, and after they emerge to become adults their cast skins are left hanging on vegetation and tree trunks near the water. I had come across this large naiad cast skin and was able to identify it as belonging to our royal river cruiser dragonfly (Macromia taeniolata) – a lovely species that I had featured here many times. One can definitely say that their immature stage is beautifully ugly, complete with sharpened armor plates and horns coming out of their eyes. The face looks strange because naiads capture their prey with an elongated and hinged lower jaw (the maxilla in official terms) that is normally folded away under the chest. When prey are in range, this is snapped forward to grab them up. One can imagine that this face would be the last thing that some minnows will see!

Next are pictures of one of my favorite damselflies, the American ruby spot damselfly (Hetaerina americana). Many pleasant summer afternoons are spent sitting on river banks, patiently waiting for them to venture close enough for pictures. The first is a female and the second picture is a male. Like many Odonates, females are easy to get close to, but males are considerably more skittish.

The next two are focus stacked pictures of some of our hopping Hemipterans, taken in a staged setting on our dining room table. Some years ago, there was a Big Revision in insect taxonomy where an entire insect Order (the Homoptera) was embedded inside another order, the Hemiptera. This still bugs me (“uniformly-winged Homoptera are really half-winged Hemiptera??), but the revision is probably correct. Anyway, the first is the partridge bug (Scolops sulcipes), although my private name for them is snout bug for obvious reasons, and the second is a thorn-mimicking wide-footed treehopperEnchenopa latipes. For this staged picture,  a simple paint swatch was used to provide a somewhat naturalistic background.

Next is a rather atypical jumping spider called the pike slender jumperMarpissa pikei. These prefer to sit stretched out along grass blades, but here I had moved her onto a leaf to get a clearer shot.

I close this set with one of my favorite pictures of the season. Nothing unusual, really, just a viceroy butterfly (Limenitis archippus) calmly foraging on wild aster flowers. But the composition was most felicitous.

Readers’ wildlife photos

November 14, 2022 • 8:15 am

Please send in your photos, as we’re getting low!

Today’s batch of spider and insect photos comes from regular Mark Sturtevant. His captions and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

Here are more pictures of arthropods early fall two years ago.

First up are pictures of a cellar spider that I watched for a while. This species is the long-bodied cellar spider (Pholcus phalangioides), with her egg sac that she holds in her jaws. The first two pictures are hand-held focus stacks, while the third is a single frame that surprised me in how it came out since here I was shooting blind with the camera held overhead. Note that the long-legged spider embryos are visible.

Next up are some lovely fuzzy caterpillars from the tiger moth family. The first is the banded tussock caterpillar, Halysidota tessellaris. I see these all the time in the woods, but I’ve yet to see the adult moth for some reason. The second is the caterpillar of the Virginia ctenucha moth (Ctenucha virginica). I see the strikingly beautiful moth of this species rather frequently, but I don’t recall seeing the caterpillar before. So that is weird. The links show the adult moths.

A late summer field will be abuzz with the singing of insects. One day in a distant field, a particularly loud trilling sound completely dominated all others, and that needed to be investigated. It is usually hard to precisely locate the singer since they somehow manage to throw their voice at close range, and any disturbance will shut them down. But the source of this singing was a beautiful black tree cricket, Oecanthus nigricornis, and he was completely indifferent to my attentions. The cricket would briefly pause, make its way to the opposite side of the perch, and start right up again.

There is an very interesting park not very far from me with several lakes that have isolated sandy shores with carnivorous plants. The first is a pitcher plant, Sarracenia purporea. These will trap and digest insects with a store of syrupy water loaded with digestive enzymes. The interiors of these plants was a slurry of dead insects and an occasional live fly larva that seemed able to live in them. I could not get adequate pictures of that, unfortunately, but it was both fascinating and disgusting.

The next picture is of sundew plants. These carnivorous plants were seen to commonly grow around the bases of the pitcher plants. Sundew plants will trap and digest insects in their sticky leaves. This species looks to be Drosera intermedia.

Finally, here is an interesting scene that I came across along a wood margin. A mating pair of darners had flown by, and as I watched they chose to settle onto a high perch. The first picture is very heavily cropped, and from it I can only say they were a kind of “mosaic” darner in the genus Aeshna.

The especially interesting part is shown in the final picture, which is really two pictures stitched together. Here one can see that the darners had come close to choosing a very bad spot to land! Do you see the situation?

Readers’ wildlife photos

November 8, 2022 • 8:00 am

We’re back with a selection of photos from Tony Eales from Queeensland. Tony’s notes are indented and you can (and should) enlarge his photos by clicking on them.

I had to go to the Burnett River region for work and spent the nights investigating the habitat known, rather oxymoronically, as ‘dry rainforest‘. It’s a highly diverse forest type that once covered a lot of coastal and subcoastal subtropical Queensland. These days, apart from creek lines and rocky hills and gorges, most has been cleared and fragmented for livestock and agriculture, particularly on the rich red basaltic soils of the South Burnett.

One conservation park I visited was no more than 400m by 200m, but represented probably the only remnant patch on flat red soil in the region. Despite this the diversity was pleasing.

The best find was a newly emerged pie-dish darkling beetle Cillibus ovalis.

 I went through the records on Atlas of Living Australia and the last recorded sighting of this beetle was 1953 and before that 1870. I suspect it is adapted to the particular soil and habitat that has mostly been lost through agriculture.

It was here that I also found my first Four-barred Swordtail butterfly, (Protographium leosthenes ssp. leosthenes). With my camera setup I can photograph butterflies only when they’re asleep. They’re too fast and nervous in the day.

I also went to the nearby Boat Mountain Conservation Park. This is a larger reserve with more habitat types, but is a rocky hill with none of the rich red soil habitat. The dry rainforest here is dominated by the prickly Capparis sarmentosa known as Scrambling Caper. It was the perfect time of year for flowers.

And many branches contained numbers of sleeping Caper White butterflies (Belenois java) and I found their eggs on one spent flower bract.

I also photographed my first native passion flower (Passiflora aurantia ssp. aurantia). I find many introduced species so this one was pleasing to see. Its leaves also held the eggs of the Glasswing butterfly Acraea andromacha.

Newly moulted adult beetles were emerging here too—like this large wattle-boring longicorn Xystrocera virescens.

And I found a species I’d been wanting to photograph for a long time: the green-bellied huntsman, Typostola barbata.

Readers’ wildlife photos

November 7, 2022 • 8:15 am

We’re back to wildlife photos, and today’s batch comes from Brian Cox, an instructor at Assinboine Community College in Manitoba. His notes and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

You don’t have to trek into the vast wilds to find beautiful creatures. All of these images were taken in my yard or city I live in: Brandon, Manitoba, Canada.

Common black ants (Lasius niger) on a willow branch work with a cluster of aphids (Aphidoidea) and eggs.

A garden spider (Araneus diadematus) waiting for a catch.

A daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare) seen through a raindrop balanced on a daylily leaf (Hemerocallis fulva):

A lance-tipped darner dragonfly (Aeshna constricta) clinging to a Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) stem:

A sawyer beetle (Monochamus scutellatus) is about to make a move.

This little house sparrow (Passer domesticus) was sitting right outside my kitchen window, puffed up against the cold.

I took one step too close for this pair of Canada geese (Branta canadensis).

This common raven (Corvus corax) has scored some fresh northern pocket gopher (Thomomys talpoides).