Friday 5 (on Saturday): Insect Haikus for the End of Summer

For some reason, I was feeling poetic today.  I started making up poems in my head on my way home from work and made excellent progress on a multi-stanza educational poem about dragonflies I might share with you sometime.  But I also came up with a series of haikus, inspired by the changing seasons and some of the insects I’ve seen recently.  Without further ado, I give you five illustrated insect haikus!

Woolly Bear

Woolly bear caterpillar, Pyrrharctia isabella

Little fuzzy worm
Brown and black on the dirt road
Winter is coming

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Brunner's stick mantid

Brunner’s stick mantid, Burnneria borealis

Green stick-like mantid
Lurking in the tall prairie
As fall quickly comes

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Pipevine caterpillars

Pipevine caterpillars, Battus philenor

Black caterpillars
Munching on a pipevine leaf
At the summer’s end

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Swarm over upper prairie

Dragonfly swarm over upper prairie

Shorter summer days
Bring a swirl of dragonflies
Over goldenrod

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Whirligig beetle swirls, Dineutus sp.

Whirligig beetle swirls, Dineutus sp.

Whirligig beetles
Dart on the water’s surface
A riot of life

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I love writing haikus!  Anyone want to add to what I’ve started here?  I welcome original insect haikus in the comments, or post one on your blog and paste the link to it below.  Remember, haikus follow a 5-7-5 syllable structure and traditionally were about nature and the seasons.  My whirligig haiku is, for example, not a traditional haiku because it is all about the beetles and doesn’t address how they are tied to a season.  I’d love to see what other people can come up with, so I hope some of you will take me up on my haiku challenge!

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

Friday 5: All The Right Bugs in All the Right Places

I told you about my trip to Ireland a couple of days ago, and prepping for and going on that trip sucked up close to 4 weeks of blogging time.  Here’s what I’ve been up to since I got back from my trip!  There will be bugs, oh yes, there will be bugs.

LOTS of Work

Dragonfly swarm!

Dragonfly swarm!

I have had three days off in the month of September.  Total.  A lot of those abundant work days were long days too.  However, it’s also dragonfly migration season, so there has been a LOT of dragonfly swarm activity.  I still haven’t gotten what I’d consider a “good” photo of a swarm that really represents what you see when you come across one, but at least you can see 7 individuals easily in one shot in this photo.  Most of the dragonflies in these swarms have been common green darners, but some have been black saddlebags, wandering gliders, and the Carolina saddlebag makes an occasional appearance.  I’ve stayed at work late several nights this month watching dragonflies.  They are 100% worth staying late for!

My First Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar

Spicebush swallowtail caterpillar

Spicebush swallowtail caterpillar

I took this photo with my phone and it’s really not great, but I was showing my intern around the field station where I work on her first day and wandered over to the spicebush in the off-chance that I was going to see a spicebush swallowtail caterpillar on it for the first time ever.  My intern is doing a project focused on pollinator gardens this semester, so I was familiarizing her with the garden plants, and I always feel the need to check that spicebush.  I’ve looked for those stupid caterpillars dozens of times and was just telling my intern how we weren’t actually going to get to see one given my track record when I spotted one on the very first branch I saw!  It was heading downward, presumably to pupate and turn into one of the gorgeous black and blue swallowtail adults that have been flying around lately.  These are really stunning caterpillars, so I was thrilled to see one.  Those little eyespots and the way they curl themselves up is just so cute!

Caterpillar Hunting

Florida predatory stink bug eating a spicebush swallowtail caterpillar

Florida predatory stink bug eating a spicebush swallowtail caterpillar

Bolstered by my successful spicebush swallowtail caterpillar sighting, I took one of my coworkers out to the spicebush when she was lamenting that she couldn’t find any caterpillars to use in the weekly nature storytime for young children that she heads. She is a herpetologist and relatively new to North Carolina, so I took her to the spots I KNEW we could find caterpillars.  Pipevine swallowtail caterpillars on the woolly pipevine, check!  Black swallowtail caterpillars on the fennel, check!  Silver spotted skipper caterpillars on the American wisteria, check!  Spicebush swallowtail caterpillar on the… oh god no!  Our one lone spicebush caterpillar sighting was the one above, of a Florida predatory stink bug sucking the caterpillar dry.  Still, that particular day was fun because I was incredibly busy prepping for programs and a couple of upcoming presentations and had a zillion things I needed to do on my computer and I worked something like 12 hours that day, but for an hour I went outside and looked for caterpillars with someone who knows virtually nothing about them and was able to convince her that insects are just as cool as those sea turtles she studied for her master’s degree.  It was a good day.

Pollinator Garden Extraordinaire

soldier beetle

soldier beetle

Speaking of prepping for presentations, one of the presentations I did was a 6-hour citizen science workshop at an environmental educator’s conference that a couple of my coworkers and I developed.  We had some time to kill on the drive there, so one of my coworkers suggested that we stop at a “killer pollinator garden” in Pittsboro, NC she knew of.  This pollinator garden is, turns out, just outside a co-op health food grocery store, which seemed like an odd place for it to be (I constantly marvel at how much my museum coworkers know about all the nooks and crannies of North Carolina!), but it was stunning!  We have a lot of the same plants in the native plant garden at work, but the plants in Pittsboro were a good 3 weeks behind ours, so many of them still had a lot of flowers on them.  Lots of flowers, of course, means lots of insects!  One of my coworkers has a master’s degree in entomology, so the two of us regaled our turtle researching coworker all about the wonders of insects as we wandered through the plants sipping cold beverages and eating snacks.  After so very many hours working and looking forward to three more days at a conference, it provided a much-needed break as well.

The Workshop

robber fly

robber fly

Pretty much the whole month was leading up to the citizen science workshop so it was really exciting when the big day finally came!  Personally, I think we nailed it, and I was completely pumped after it was over.  It’s lovely when something works exactly as you envisioned – and people seemed to have a good time too!  At one point we were outside doing a photographic biodiversity scavenger hunt and I found this little guy dead on the ground.  A robber fly!  And a really big one at that!  This was easily the most impressive thing we saw that day though.  Given that the conference was held at a summer camp facility in the woods, it was strangely lacking in biodiversity.  We had a hard time finding BIRDS there!  It’s a strange day when a big robber fly is one of the best things anyone sees.

So that’s my last month and a half or so!  Hope you all have been doing fun things while I’ve been offline.  Anyone want to share what you’ve been up to?  Would love to hear some stories if you’d like to share!

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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

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

Friday 5: Good Week

This last week was a great one for me bug-wise!  I did several insect themed citizen science programs and presentations with a variety of groups, from leading lessons for a summer camp for middle school boys to teaching a training workshop for environmental educators and teachers.  It’s always fun to spend time teaching people who are genuinely interested about bugs and want to learn something, so it was fun even though it was terribly hot.  Here are some cool things I saw this past week!

Owl fly

Owl fly, Ululodes quadripunctatus

One of my coworkers came in a few days ago and told me that she’s seen a dragonfly on a tree branch outside our offices and wanted to know what it was because it was a really weird one.  Apparently I haven’t exposed her to my “dragonflies don’t have long antennae” mantra as she explained that the dragonfly she’d seen was odd because it was holding its wings in a funny way and had long antennae.  I followed her out to see what she’d spotted, expecting to see an adult antlion.  Instead, it was the insect above!  That’s an owl fly, a really cool insect in the net-winged insect group, and a relative of the antlions though they belong to their own family.  I think this one is Ululodes quadripunctatus in particular, and two things struck me about this insect.  First, it was crazy beautiful with those yellow patches down the abdomen and the divided eyes.  I was thrilled to be able to see it.  Second, how the heck did she even see this thing?  I am so impressed that she spotted it!

Another beauty:

Golden-winged skimmer

Golden-winged skimmer, Libellula auripennis

I got to visit a new-to-me state park near the Carolina coast yesterday to teach a group of 5th grade teachers about citizen science.  Part of the activity I had planned involved sending them outside with cameras to document the biodiversity around the environmental education center for a project we host at the museum where I work called Natural North Carolina.  I arrived early so I could scout before my presentation, but I made it as far as the parking lot before I stopped.  There were dozens of these golden-winged skimmers flying around the parking lot and resting in the trees around the edges.  They were gorgeous, so I stopped and stood in the hot sun watching them for about 15 minutes before I went inside to present.  We saw a few other dragonflies too, including some great blue skimmed females and some eastern pond hawk females.  It was great!

Speaking of dragonflies…

Blue dasher

Blue dasher, Pachydiplax longipennis

One of the activities I did with summer campers involved recording the dragonfly species we observed at the pond for three different citizen science projects.  I had them watch for the species the Dragonfly Pond Watch is interested in and count the number of common whitetails they saw for Nature’s Notebook.  Then I let them loose with nets to catch as many different species as they could so we could photograph them for our Natural North Carolina project.  These were 5th grade boys, and they got bored watching dragonflies fairly quickly.  I wouldn’t let them use the nets until we filled out the whole data sheet and we counted the whitetails, but then I let them loose.  They were THRILLED to be out catching dragonflies!  And they caught 12 species too.  Not bad for a group of nerdy 11 year olds!

I got to work with the same group of boys last night when I helped out one of my coworkers, the curator of our Arthropod Zoo, as he led a blacklighting activity for them:

Blacklighting

Blacklighting

About half of the dozen boys got REALLY into the blacklighting and would have happily stayed up all night watching bugs with us if their camp leaders would have let them.  It was great watching them stalking the sheets looking for cool things coming in to the lights.  My favorite insect of the night was this massive mayfly:

Mayfly

Mayfly, likely Hexagenia limbata

I haven’t ever seen one this big before, so I had to look it up.  I am 95% sure it’s Hexagenia limbata, a very large mayfly that is common in the eastern US.  It was nearly 4 inches long if you included the tails!!

That was my week.  What cool things did you all see?  I’d love to hear your stories, so I welcome comments below!

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

Friday 5: The Last Two Weeks

I had a relative in town last week, so I never had a chance to get a blog post up.  This week you get two weeks in one!  But before I get to that…

You might have noticed that I changed things up a bit around here.  May 28th was my 5 year blogoversary (FIVE YEARS!!!  Crazy!), so I decided it was time to make some changes to the ol’ blog.  This is only my second overhaul since I started, and Wordpress FINALLY gave me another template option that I liked.  As I was changing the look anyway, I decided to move some things around too.  My copyright info seemed clunky, so I shortened the text on the homepage and have a page with more information about what I allow.  I couldn’t get my links to display the way I wanted them, so I’ve now got a page just for my links.  The info about scientific names is now found under the educational materials tab – just hover over the tab text and the old menu options will drop down.  The photos can be bigger in this theme, so you’ll get larger pictures starting today.  And, I’ve decided I no longer care that just one post shows up on the homepage.  Now you can scroll down through post after post all the way to the very first one, 610 posts ago!  Anyway, I’m liking the new look and new organizational scheme, so I hope you do too.

And now on to Friday 5!  These were some great insect-related moments I had over the past two weeks.  Last time I did this, I tossed a non-insect nature sighting in at the end, and I think I’m going to keep doing that, but we’ll start with the bugs:

Insect ID In the Nature Research Center

Insect ID lab day

Insect ID lab day

I know I’ve mentioned them before, but I have this awesome group of teens from a local high school that have been working with me all year on a citizen science project that they designed and are carrying out in the stream at Prairie Ridge.  They’ve come out every three weeks the entire year to sample insects and we finished up the school year with lunch at the Museum followed by an insect ID session in one of the hands-on lab spaces.  These teens are AMAZING!  They work very hard on this project even though it’s 100% extracurricular.  They don’t get anything out of it except the experience of doing scientific research in the field and they do all of the work on their own time after school.  I’m kinda sad that they’re on summer vacation now because they are really fun to work with, but if all goes well most of them will be coming back next year.  AND their teacher, in the photo above, is going to be teaching a research class next year for the first time and some of these students will be doing the data analysis for this project as part of that class.  I’m really excited about that!

Monarchs!!

Monarch ovipositing

Monarch ovipositing

Last year was such a horrible year for monarchs that I’ve been unusually excited about every single monarch I’ve seen so far this year.  I point at them and yell “monarch!” every time I see one, even if no one’s around to hear me!  Just today I saw 6, two individuals and two mating pairs.  We don’t normally have a lot of monarchs in Raleigh at this time of year, so I’m not entirely sure what they’re doing here, but I hope they’re taking advantage of the very abundant milkweed that we’ve got out in the prairie at the field station.  This is normally the lull in caterpillar and egg production between the two bursts of activity we get in the spring and late summer, so it will be interesting to see if we get the same lull this year with all of these monarchs still flying around.

Speaking of milkweeds, we seem to have a LOT of my favorite milkweed insect this year…

Milkweed Longhorn Beetle

Milkweed longhorn

Milkweed longhorn beetle, Tetraopes tetrophthalmus

These beetles have been very abundant his year, which makes me happy because I really love them.  Now I’ll admit that my love for these beetles began because I simply like the way they look, but they’re super cool.  They’re thought to be red with black spots because they feed on milkweeds and store the toxins from the plants the way ladybugs do.  Their scientific name refers to their eyes, which are split apart by their antennae.  These beetles are four eyed!  Plus, they’re crazy cute.  I’m loving watching these this year!

Randy Morphos at the Museum of Life and Sciences

Morphos in love

Morphos in love

My visitor last weekend (my 70’s something aunt) wanted to go see the Museum of Life and Sciences in Durham, so off we went!  The museum is, I think, a little too heavily geared toward kids, but their butterfly house and insect zoo alone make it worth the price of admission.  As with many other butterfly houses, the bulk of the butterflies are tropical, but the enclosure is huge and they have a lot of butterflies so it’s a really nice one.  Sometimes you can go into an outdoor enclosure and see native butterflies and moths too!  I love people watching in butterfly houses.  I can’t tell you how many people walked by this amorous pair of morpho butterflies and said, “Wow, that one is HUGE!” without even noticing that it was actually TWO butterflies involved in some X-rated action.  Am I the only one that notices the difference?  Another bonus: I got to see a little exhibition of Alex Wild’s photos in the gallery space outside the enclosure.  Woo!

And speaking of randy animals:

Rat Snakes in Love

Rat snakes mating

Rat snakes in love

A couple of weekends ago, one of my volunteers came into my office to tell me that they’d seen a pair of mating black rat snakes outside the classroom building during the citizen science walk he led.  I went down to check it out and found them still at it.  What I hadn’t realized was that the snakes were attracting a lot of attention from the kids attending the first ever Museum birthday party at Prairie Ridge.  Apparently the kids had been watching the snakes for some time before I arrived.  I would be willing to bet some parents got more than they expected at a cute little innocent child’s birthday party when their offspring started asking one of the most dreaded questions: “Mommy, what are those snakes DOING?”  :)

And that’s it for this week!  I’m still working on my post about my recent Bug Shot excursion and look for Swarm Sunday in a few days.  I might even get it up on Sunday this week!

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

The Return of Friday 5!

I never would have guessed this, but I miss doing Friday 5 posts!  So, I’m bringing them back, but in a slightly different format than before.  From now on, I’m going to bring you my 5 favorite insect encounters of the week.  Most of these will likely be live insects (though not all, especially in the winter), I might have no idea what some of the insects are but include them anyway, and a lot of these bugs will have been photographed with my iPhone because I always have it on me, even when I’m out working on the prairie and have very little stuff with me.  Every now and again, I might include something that isn’t an insect, just because it’s cool (today, for example).  And with that, let’s jump right into this week’s sightings!

1. Palmetto Tortoise Beetle Larva, Hemisphaerota cyanea

Palmetto tortoise beetle larva

Palmetto tortoise beetle larva

I am going to write a whole post about it (maybe 2 or 3…), but I returned to the Bug Shot insect photography workshop for a third time last week.  This year it was on Sapelo Island in Georgia and I got to see some pretty darned amazing things while I was there!  These larva are found on palmetto fronds and you’d never guess they were insects unless you accidentally flipped one over or (like me) you are surrounded by entomologists that know more about the local fauna than I do.  These larvae cover themselves in their own fecal material to form a protective fecal shield.  Many people were calling them poop hats though, which I enjoy more.  So, that’s an upside down larva of Hemisphaerota cyanea lying in its poop hat.  The adult beetles are spectacular, so if you don’t know what they look like, you can check one out from my collection of photos from Bug Shot 2012 in Florida.  They’re beautiful and blue and you’d never guess they start off in life wearing poop hats.

2. Sapho Longwing, Heliconius sapho

Sapho longwing

Sapho longwing

The museum that I work for has a live butterfly exhibit.  I really love it, but I typically only go inside when I am giving tours to friends, family, interns, collaborators, etc.  My second intern for the summer started yesterday, so I took both interns downtown to see the museum and we made the obligatory visit to the Living Conservatory to see the butterflies.  There were more butterflies out than usual, which I was excited about, and there were a few that weren’t on the guide.  I’m pretty sure this is a sapho longwing, though I’d need to ask the people in charge of the Conservatory to be sure.  Still, a gorgeous butterfly – and I was super excited the shot came out as well as it did with just my phone!  Ditto for this:

3. Common Sanddragon, Progomphus obscurus

Common sanddragon

Common sanddragon

I spotted this lovely dragonfly sitting on the sidewalk as the interns and I were headed back to my car.  I couldn’t believe it let me get close enough to get this shot.  I had to touch it before it would move!  It seemed a little out-of-place in this location.  This is a stream species, yet there it was right in downtown Raleigh, rather far from the nearest suitable habitat.  Odd.

4. Margined Leatherwing, Chauliognathus marginatus

Margined leatherwing

Margined leatherwing

The milkweed patch between my office and the nearest bathroom at the field station where I work is SO impressive this year!  There is a ton of it out there and it’s all blooming now.  It smells wonderful, is quite beautiful, and the flowers are covered in bugs.  I especially love watching these beetles.  Common milkweed stores its pollen in structures called pollinia that stick to the feet of things that walk around on the flowers, as these beetles do.  This one had a good dozen pollinia on its feet by the time I lost track of him and he kept stopping to try to pull them off with his mouth.  Interesting behavior to watch, and a very pretty beetle!

5. Red-headed Woodpecker, Melanerpes erythrocephalus

Red-headed woodpecker

Red-headed woodpecker

And here’s my non-insect!  There’s been a pair of red-headed woodpeckers building a nest in a dead tree at work recently, and I have fallen in love with them.  They sound horrible, but wow are they pretty.  One of the museum’s ornithologists is interested in how they nest (apparently this hasn’t been well-studied for this species) and asked that people take photos of them.  So, I’ve been taking photos.  So far I’ve gotten photos of one going in and out of the nest and dumping sawdust out of the hole, a photo of one sticking its tongue out, and a bunch of shots like the one above that show the whole bird.  I really enjoy watching them.  Photographing them is a nice bonus!

That’s it for this week, but I’m going to try to get back into doing these once a week again.  Hopefully I’ll have another Friday 5 for you all next week.  In the meantime, I’m hoping to get a Swarm Sunday post prepped (it’s that time of year again!) and a summary of my weekend at Bug Shot.  With any luck, you’ll have several things to read here in the next week – a nice change of pace from my perspective!

Have a great weekend everyone!

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