A lunch time stroll

I was a little slow to get this post up, work, kids, soccer, etc has kept me busy this week. I do a lot of bug photography while out walking the dogs or taking a stroll around the neighborhood. I’m fortunate to live close to the Little Darby Creek and last Friday I walked down to a wetland area to see what was around. Everytime I go there I find something new to see, be it a plant, animal, bird, or bug.

First up this neat white moth I found in the grass

A little further along I walked through some ironweed and goldenrod and found a buckeye butterfly nectaring

Continuing down into the flood plain area I ran across a Scorpion Fly

I moved on down to a sand bar in the creek and came across a couple of damsel flies I picked this one to show off. Look for the other in the next post hint hint.

I moved over to the wetland and came across a Ruby Meadowhawk Dragonfly. It wouldn’t let me get too close so this is a crop but still it turned out well.

And finally the predator looking to turn all of these insects into an afternoon snack. A robber fly a natural born killer.

Not bad results for a 90 minute walk. You don’t have to go far or travel to exotic places to get some neat insect photo’s. It’s a matter of keeping your eyes open, stopping to look, and having some patience to get the shot.

Harvestman

My yard is full of these arachnids this year a real bumper crop of them. I’ve done some photo’s of these before but encountered one stalking and eating an ant today. There are over 6000 species world wide and they are not spiders but in a separate order Opiliones. Contrary to popular legend the harvestmen do not have poison glands and their fangs (chelicerae) are not hollow but they are actually grasping claws. In the crop below you can see the chelicerae near the ant.

Here’s the closer crop showing the chelicerae

False Crocus Geometer Moth (Xanthotype urticaria)

Found this neat looking moth by the front door at lunch today. It is a False Crocus Geometer (Xanthotype urticaria) Moth. At first I thought it was a butterfly based on it’s shape and color, however after looking a little closer I realized it was a moth. This guy was pretty patient with me and actually allowed me to setup the tripod and get some really good 1:1 closeups of it’s face. The caterpillars are twig mimics and fit into that group most folks call inchworms. This specimen was about 1 3/4″ across although reading across the web gives sizes of 1 1/2″ to 2 1/4″.  These are fairly wide spread from Canada down into the southern US and across to Arizona.

Full image of the moth on the side of the house

Slightly different view of the face.

Walking Sticks are Cool

I was out walking the dogs the other evening and found myself rushing back into the house to grab a camera to get a picture of a walking stick.

I believe this is a Northern Walking stick but I’m not 100% sure. Walking Sticks are herbivores and feed mostly on tree leaves and shrubs. The females drop eggs onto the forest floor and the eggs hatch in the spring. In some areas they can become so numerous that they can defoliate a tree. Below I have a closeup photo of it’s eye. For their size and appetite they have very small heads. According to one source they are primarily nocturnal spending their days hiding under leaves. The grow quickly by molting and if a young one loses a limb it is possible for it to regenerate it during the growth/molting process.

Stalking the Dragon

Many of my best nature/insect photo’s are taken in or near my backyard. Today I walked out onto the back porch and there was a large dragonfly on the porch. I went in to get my camera and unfortunately it had found it’s way outside by the time I got back. I stepped off of the porch and looked up and saw another smaller dragonfly roosting in a bush. Not to question my luck I began to stalk the dragonfly. I am often asked how I get some of my bug photo’s, a lot of it is persistence, patience, and luck. The only skill is to avoid acting like predator, slow steady movements no quick movements especially as you get ready to shoot. Even with that I have more than my share of blurs, out of focus images, and empty leaves where an insect had been .00005 seconds before I hit the shutter button. Below is the shot that came out of my effort.

When you look at blogs or photo sharing sites people tend to show off their best work and not all of the not so good shots. To be honest with my reader(s) I want to show the steps I went through to get the shot above.

In this first series of shots you can see I am slowly moving in closer while shooting pictures. I tend to start back further that I would like and move slowly closer. This does two things, first it helps make sure that I get the shot and second it conditions the insect to my presence allow me to approach closer.

After I got the closeups I tried for a side shot but couldn’t get a good angle and blurred out the shots.

This is my process on most of my shots. It’s very rare for me to only take a single shot if the insect. As long as the insect will give me the chance I will always shoot until I think I have the image(s) that I want.

Gallagher Fen

I had a great opportunity to visit Gallagher Fen with the Columbus Chapter of the Wild Ones. Our guide was Tim Snyder the retired preserve manager for this site. Tim was a wonderful guide, his knowledge of the site, it’s acquisition, history, and geology made the visit educational and entertaining. While I enjoyed the geology and botany of the site I went for the bugs. Because I was with a group I really didn’t have the time to really look for and stalk bugs I still managed to come home with few good photo’s

As we were walking in I noticed the caterpillar that was attaching itself to the stem of stinging nettle and was about to cocoon. Notice how the head has attached to the side of the nettle. It appears the caterpillar was feeding on the nettle as the leaves were pretty munched. I’m unsure of the caterpillar identity at this point I will add it when I figure it out.

A few steps past the caterpillar above I came across this large mushroom. No insects but the cup of the mushroom was holding a small puddle of water and I am certain there will be insects drinking from that water.

As we were walking through the fen we came across this spider hanging out on a black eyed susan. You will see this a lot with spiders, they hang out on flowers waiting for an unsuspecting insect to come visit the flower.

Ichneumon wasps are some cool looking predators. I am fairly certain this is some kind of Ichneumonidae Banchinae wasp but I am not sure of the exact one.

Finally I came across this shield bug perched on some Sumac. I really think this shot turned out well, notice the detail in the eyes and the intense color of the sumac.

The pitter patter of little feet

The pitter patter of little feet
Munching leaves green and sweet
Soon to turn into a precious treasure
Leaving behind memories of your little feet

It is the time of year for  lot of caterpillars to make their appearance. The trees, bushes, and plants in my yard all seem to have some kind of caterpillar on them. Below are some photo’s of some of the caterpillars I have seen in the last week. We will open with the Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillar. These guys are just plain cute, these caterpillars are snake mimics that feed on Spice Bush and Sassafras. During the day they actually fold a leaf over on themselves to hide from predators.

After that showy fellow I want to move onto the milkweed. I’ve found two different caterpillars on the milkweed. The first is a Milkweed Tussok Caterpillar (Euchaetes egle) you tend to find these on older milkweed plants as the can consume the tougher older leaves. Second up is the Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar and soon they will be winging south. The Monarch Caterpillars prefer tender fresh growth on milkweed plants.

The Monarch

Monarch Caterpillar
This guy insisted that I take a portrait shot

Below is a Hickory Tussock Caterpillar (Lophocampa caryae) several of these have been stripping the leaves on my Smooth Bark Hickory Trees. When first hatched there were about a hundred of these slowly moving from leaf to leaf stripping them down to skeletons. Over time their numbers have dwindled down to a handful.  The hairs on these caterpillars can cause a reaction so be careful handling them.

Hickory Tussock Caterpillar

Another interesting caterpillar below is a Fall webworm (Hyphantria cunea) I saw these on the mulberry back early in the summer. These had formed a tent on the tree and now a couple of months later they are all grown up. This one is likely about to form a cocoon and pupate into a lovely white moth.

Fall webworm, Hyphantria cunea

Below is another caterpillars I have found in the last week but have yet to identify. If you have any idea of what it is let me know.

Let there be dragons

I recently attended the Midwest Native Plant Conference , August 6-8th at the Bergamo Center near Dayton, Ohio. While I was there I had this Black Saddlebags Dragonfly (Tramea lacerata) land near me while I was chasing a butterfly around. Notice the black bars on the wings the wings that give the dragonfly it’s name. This is a large fairly common dragonfly seen across most of North America. You will often see these dragonflies cruising over fields defending their territories or hunting for food.

Black Saddlebags Dragonfly