Swarm Sunday: 7/20/14 – 7/26/14

Dragonfly Swarm Project logo

We’re still moving along fairly slowly this year.  In the past week, I received reports from the following locations:

USA:

Bulterville, AR
Los Angeles, CA
Madison, CT (2 reports)
Long Beach, NY
Port Washington, WI

Canada:

Saskatoon, SK

And here is the map:

swarm map 7.20.14 to 7.26.14

Red pins are static swarms, yellow pins are migratory. Click the map to enlarge!

The few swarms reported this week were spread all over everywhere, so it’s hard to even say anything that will wrap up the week.  Here’s my summary of last week’s data: there were some swarms.  :)

The Dragonfly Swarm Project has been selected as one of the Projects of the Day on SciStarter.com this week and next!  In case you all aren’t familiar with SciStarter, it’s an awesome citizen science project aggregator that anyone can use to find citizen science projects that interest them.  Apparently the blog post I wrote for them in 2011 is the all time most popular blog post on their site, so they’re helping me build up some buzz about dragonfly swarms this summer.  It’s always nice to get some help!

We should be headed into the peak season for swarms here shortly, so be sure to report any you see!  I’m hoping it’s going to get really exciting soon.

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Have you seen a dragonfly swarm? I am tracking swarms so I can learn more about this interesting behavior.  If you see one, I’d love to hear from you!  Please visit my Report a Dragonfly Swarm page to fill out the official report form.  It only takes a few minutes! Thanks!

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Want more information? Visit my dragonfly swarm information page for my entire collection of posts about dragonfly swarms!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

Friday 5: Staying Up WAY Too Late This Week

It’s National Moth Week!  Woo!  I’ve been up late every night this week watching moths and have been averaging about 5 hours of sleep nightly, so I’m a wee bit tired this late in the week.  It’s been quite the adventure too!  I started the week with my big, public moth viewing event for the museum where I work.  It didn’t rain this year for the first time, and we had over 100 people come out to the field station to watch moths.  A good half of them stayed past 10PM, none of which has happened before.  I did, however, inhale and swallow the very first moth that came to the sheet that night.  That was a little rough going down…  I also got some stinging insect stuck between my neck and my camera strap, and I’ve still got a good-sized welt on my neck from that encounter.  I came home with a tick happily sucking blood out of my armpit.  I’ve had bugs fly into my eyes and my ears and my mouth.  More moths than I can count have ended up down my shirt, which I don’t even understand given that I have about 4 square inches of skin exposed and look like I’m about to mount an Everest expedition in an attempt to avoid mosquito bites.  I’ve been wearing a SCARF for goodness sake!  I’m not sure why I even bother – I’ve gotten a good dozen mosquito bites anyway, THROUGH my long pants and my heavy wool socks.  (Seriously?!)  I’ve had all manner of problems with my light rigs too.  My first night at home, I set up my reliable little DC voltage blacklight bulb with my portable jump starter and things went well.  The next night, the jump starter died and I can’t get it working again.  I put a CFL blacklight bulb into my porch light in my backyard the next night, and the light fixture died.  Last night it rained so hard that it pulled my whole sheet rig down so I was out in my yard at 1AM trying to get it repositioned so it could actually dry out in time for tonight.  Tonight I’ve got a CFL bulb in a cheapo clip light clipped to a shepherd’s crook and a huge extension cord running into my house because the electrical outlet under the light fixture is ALSO out.

I’m not sure what else can go wrong at this point, but I’m still having a great time!  I go out with my camera several times every night, happily looking for the things coming to my sheets.  I have found dozens of species at my lights each night, though I’m still hoping a few of the big moths will show up.  I have a cruddy yard for insects, but there’s a big patch of forest about 100 feet away on the other side of the street.  Surely I’ll get at least one big moth, right?

These are my favorites moths and moments so far from National Moth Week 2014:

Day 1: Moths at Night Event at Prairie Ridge Ecostation

Beautiful wood nymph

Beautiful wood nymph

We were just getting packed up after our public moth viewing evening at work when I spotted this moth sitting on the ledge that runs along the inside of our outdoor classroom building.  A beautiful wood nymph!  It’s a gorgeous name for a pretty moth, though there’s no denying the fact that they look just like bird poop…

Day 2: Mothing at Home, Part I

Elegant grass-veneer

Elegant grass-veneer

When your yard is all grass, it’s not entirely surprising when you get mostly grass-loving moth species coming to your lights.  The elegant grass-veneer is about the only small moth I can actually recognize, but it’s quite lovely if you take a close look at it.  It’s all shimmery and has gold flecks and fringes and fluffy bits sticking off the front.  Not bad for something that crawls out of my grass to come to my lights!

Day 3: Mothing at Home, Part II

unknown moth

unknown moth

The moth-related highlight of day 3 was getting a photo from a dad who came to the moth night at Prairie Ridge.  He had brought his kid with him and they stayed for most of the 4 hours we were open for moth viewing.  He and his kid went out the very next morning and bought their own blacklights and had set them up in their backyard immediately.  They got a great photo of a tulip tree silk moth (oh how I wish I was getting anything that big!) and asked if I knew what it was because they were going to send their photos off to a citizen science project.  There is absolutely nothing more gratifying than knowing that at least two people took what you taught them and put it to use after you parted ways!  The dad has since told me that his kid gets up early and goes to check the lights every morning now.  That’s just awesome!  I also saw the absolutely gorgeous moth in the photo at my light on my second night mothing at home.  I have no idea what it is and I didn’t get it perfectly framed, but it’s quite beautiful!

Day 4: Mothing at Home, Part III

Hebrew

Hebrew

Day 4 was when my porch light went out.  I was happy to get anything, and this was easily the most impressive moth of the night.  That’s a Hebrew, a very lovely member of the dagger moth group.  The host plant for this species is black gum, so I have no idea where this moth came from (the forest across the street is mostly pine), but I was happy it showed up.

Day 5: Mothing at Home, Part IV

ailanthus webworm moth

Ailanthus webworm moth

Most of the moths I’ve seen this week have been what I call LBM’s, or little brown moths.  Then these show up every night around 11PM and are easily among the top three most colorful moths I see each night. Ailanthus webworm moths get their name from an invasive species (tree of heaven) that they feed on, though they are native to the US and switched to their namesake host after it was introduced into the US.

I’ve got three more nights of mothing left before National Moth Week comes to a close.  I keep going back out to look because I really want to see just one big moth.  Speaking of which, it’s time to get back out there again tonight…

Any of you been out looking for moths this week?  Any great finds?  I would love to live vicariously through you if you’ll share your moth stories from National Moth Week 2014 below!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday: Not a Moth

National Moth Week is here, and I’ve spent more time than I’d care to admit watching and thinking about moths over the past five days.  Trust me: you’ll be inundated with my moth mania here soon!  Found this little guy on my front door a few nights ago though, and I had to share:

Moth fly

Moth fly

That is NOT actually a moth, but a moth fly.  It’s hard to confirm without having one in hand, but there are only two little wings on these tiny insects which, in spite of fuzzy appearances, makes them flies and not moths.  The larvae of these are often called drain flies and live in some pretty nasty habitats, but the adults are positively adorable!  Who’s with me on this?! :)

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

Swarm Sunday: 7/6/14 – 7/19/14

Dragonfly Swarm Project logo

I didn’t have a chance to post last week, so what you see here represents two weeks of data.  Swarm reports came from the following locations:

USA:

Scottsdale, AZ
Butlerville, AK
Chico, CA
Flagler, CO
Duluth, MN
Brick, NJ
Ocean City, NJ (2 reports)
Williamstown, NJ
Houston, TX
Pflugerville, TX
Rockwall, TX
Mathews, VA

Canada:

Calgary, AB (2 reports)
Miramichi, NB
Vulcan, AB

Ireland:

Celbridge, County Kildare

And here are the maps for the last two weeks:

swarms 7.6.14 to 7.12.14

7/6/14 to 7/12/14

 

swarms 7.13.14 to 7.19.14

7/13/14 to 7/19/14

Red pins are static swarms, yellow pins are migratory. Click the maps to enlarge!

There has been a little upswing in activity in the past few weeks, which I’m excited about.  Over the last week, there were four migratory swarms (though only one really shows up on the map – two are under other pins and one is outside of North America), so there’s been at least a little movement.  Texas continues to have regular activity, New Jersey had a small event, and California showed up on the map last week.  The most exciting thing to me is the report from Ireland though!  That’s a new country for the Dragonfly Swarm Project and brings the total number of countries where swarms have been reported to 23.  There’s been a pretty even spread so far too, with all continents except Antarctica (for obvious reasons) and Africa (no idea why) well represented.

This last week, I got to talk about my project for an educational podcast geared at 4th and 5th graders, and I’ll post a link if I get public access to the final product online.  I’m also excited about some upcoming promotion of my project that I’ll tell you about once I know more details!  It’s fun spreading the word about dragonfly swarms and what it’s like doing insect behavior work with citizen scientists, so I’m looking forward to sharing the results of these with you all in the next few weeks.

If the trend from the past four years holds true, we’re coming up on peak season for dragonfly swarms here soon.  It will be very interesting to see what happens, so send in your data!  I can’t wait to see what happens this season!

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Have you seen a dragonfly swarm? I am tracking swarms so I can learn more about this interesting behavior.  If you see one, I’d love to hear from you!  Please visit my Report a Dragonfly Swarm page to fill out the official report form.  It only takes a few minutes! Thanks!

_______________

Want more information? Visit my dragonfly swarm information page for my entire collection of posts about dragonfly swarms!

_______________

Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

Friday 5: Light Sculptures and Other Fun Things

Well, I haven’t been able to keep up with the ol’ blog here very well this week, but I’m getting a post up today if it kills me!  It’s Friday (which is no longer the last day of my workweek, incidentally), so it’s time for me to share some cool insect related things from the past week.  First up, this guy:

Brandon Ballengee speaking at RTP180

Brandon Ballengee speaking at RTP180

That’s Brandon Ballengee, an artist and biologist who gave a lightning talk at an awesome event I attended last night that focused on the intersection of science and art.  Ballengee’s artwork includes what he calls “Love Motels for Insects,” awesome large UV light sculptures that are meant to attract insects to them.  He hopes that people will document the insects they see for citizen science and that the installations will educate the public about the importance of insects in the environment.  He also does some crazy cool research on interactions between dragonfly nymphs and frogs that I’m going to share with you all soon!  I am really thrilled I had a chance to talk to him about the work he does, citizen science, and large insects that prey on amphibians.  Plus, free pizza and beer at the event!  How can you go wrong?

On a completely unrelated note, we’ve got a series of 8 camera traps on the grounds of the field station where I work that are part of a study looking at urban mammal populations.  This is NOT what you want to see fall out of the camera when you open it up to switch out the memory card and batteries:

Ants from the camera trap

Ants from the camera trap

Ants!  I believe these are Crematogaster ants (will one of the ant people kindly confirm this for me?) and there were HUNDREDS of them packed inside what is essentially a little computer.  I got an odd sort of satisfaction out of dismantling the camera and brushing out the ants from the surprisingly numerous nooks and crannies inside.  Dunno why, but I love taking computers apart.  Which is why I was glad to get this last week…

Hard drive

Space, glorious space!

I knew my photo obsession would eventually lead to this, but the 750 insect photos I took last weekend wouldn’t fit on my computer’s hard drive – it was officially full.  $80 and a few days later and I’m now set to take 100,000+ more bug photos thanks to my new second hard drive.  Woo!  And even though they forced me to buy a new hard drive, the photos I took last weekend were totally worth having to upgrade my hard drive for.  I found Halloween pennants at Prairie Ridge for the first time, and I found a LOT of them.  They’re really beautiful, so I of course had to take a bunch of photos:

Halloween pennant female

Halloween pennant female

 

When they fly, they have this lovely fluttery appearance.  I tend to see them in the late afternoon too, when the sun is getting a little low in the west and the area of the prairie where they like to hang out is backlit, so their wings gleam  in the sun.  It’s pretty spectacular.  I’ve gone back over to that area every day since to watch them and they make me really happy.  They’re all females, and I’ve yet to see a male at either of the ponds.  Makes me wonder what the deal is – why so many gals but no guys? – but I’ll take any Halloween pennants that I can get.  They’re one of my favorites.

And finally, I took this photo on Sapelo Island in Georgia when I attended Bug Shot 2014 in May:

Lactura pupula

Lactura pupula

I’ve been unsuccessfully trying to figure out what it is since I got home from that trip.  Tonight, I spent another hour trying to get an ID before I finally gave in and posted it to the Moths of the Eastern United States group on Facebook.  I had an answer in less than a minute.  It’s Lactura pupula apparently.  Isn’t the internet grand?  Less than a minute to solve a problem I’ve spent a good 5-6 hours on!

Speaking of moths, National Moth Week starts tomorrow and runs through July 27th.  Consider attending a public moth night in your area (you can search for them on the NMW website), or just turn on your porch light have a moth party of one!  Snap a few photos and submit them to a citizen science project of some sort (I recommend iNaturalist, Discover Life, or Butterflies and Moths of North America) so scientists can use the data you collected through your photos.  Easy peasy!  I think it’s a great project and really fun, so I’ll likely be out every night looking for moths next week, starting with the big public event I do for my museum each year.  I don’t get a lot of sleep during moth week…

Have a great week everyone!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday: Eggs

It’s blackberry time in North Carolina!  Blackberries all over the Triangle Area are currently laden with ripe fruit, so I went out picking at work before we opened last weekend.  We’d been finding little groups of metallic gold insect eggs all over the grounds for a few weeks, and I found another little group of them while I was blackberry hunting:

Golden insect eggs

Golden insect eggs

The picture doesn’t do the coloration justice at all as these are bright, shiny gold in real life, but I’m sharing them anyway.  After searching around a bit, I believe these are eggs of a leaf-footed bug, an insect in the family Coreidae.  I love it when I randomly come across beautiful bugs when I’m out looking for something else!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

Swarm Sunday: 6/22/14 to 7/5/14

Dragonfly Swarm Project logo

I didn’t have a chance to post last week, so what you see here represents two weeks of data.  Swarm reports came from the following locations:

USA:

Leesburg, FL
Miami Beach, FL
Milton, FL
Parkland, FL
Livermore, ME
Marbury, MD
West Bend, MD
Lakeway, TX
Ogden, UT
Williamsburg, VA

And here are the maps for the last two weeks:

6.22.14 to 6.28.14

6/22/14 through 6/28/14

6.29.14 to 7.5.14

6/29/14 through 7/5/14

 

Red pins are static swarms, yellow pins are migratory. Click the map to enlarge!

It continues to be a little slow so far this year, though there was one migratory swarm reported from Utah this week, which is exciting.  There has been rather consistent activity in the southeastern part of Texas over the last month, though nothing really extraordinary seems to be happening anywhere so far.  Hurricane Arthur didn’t even seem to stir anything up!  I’m still hoping things will pick up soon, but you never know.

One thing has disturbed me though.  In the past several years, green darners have made appearances in swarms over and over again.  They often form the bulk of swarms.  This year, very few people have described anything that sounds like a green darner from their swarms.  I’ve also started to hear some ominous rumblings on the odonate listservs and Facebook pages where people have started to ask where the green darners are this year.  People have really started to notice their near absence, which isn’t good.  We typically have a lot of darners at the pond at the field station where I work, but this year I haven’t seen many at all, maybe 5 or 6 total.  At this time of year, we should have 5-6 on the pond every day, not 5-6 for the entire season!  There’s always a chance things are just terribly late this year and things will normalize at some point, but I’ve personally noticed some weird things happening this year.  Monarchs are out in North Carolina in droves right now, and they’re normally long gone for the heat of the summer, having migrated further north.  The common milkweed is going absolute gangbusters, but there are several conspicuously common butterflies (eastern tiger swallowtails and pipevine swallowtails among them) that are well below their normal numbers this year.  Fireflies are STILL out here, and the June bugs emerged a week or two early.  Have any of you noticed similar things out of whack in your area?  I shouldn’t extrapolate what I’m seeing in North Carolina to the rest of the country, even the rest of the east coast, but I’ve heard enough from other entomologists on social media to think that this is going to be an odd year.  It will be interesting to see if this ends up being a weird swarming year too!

Keep reporting those swarms!  Was very pleased to see swarm reports from several regular readers over the last couple of weeks.  Thanks everyone!!

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Have you seen a dragonfly swarm? I am tracking swarms so I can learn more about this interesting behavior.  If you see one, I’d love to hear from you!  Please visit my Report a Dragonfly Swarm page to fill out the official report form.  It only takes a few minutes! Thanks!

_______________

Want more information? Visit my dragonfly swarm information page for my entire collection of posts about dragonfly swarms!

_______________

Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth