Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday: Rosy Maples

Well, it’s officially July!  I’ve got a few lovely days off this week (woo!) and I’ve already started to get excited about this year’s National Moth Week.  I love Moth Week!  I wrote about it for the blog at my museum last week and I am going on a local news morning show on Saturday to talk about the event I put on for it at the museum each year, so I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently.  Really ready to start seeing things like this again:

Rosy maple moth

Rosy maple moth

Rosy maple moths are pretty common around here, but they are spectacular and put a smile on my face every time I see one.  How can you resist  a fuzzy moth that’s the color of rainbow sherbet?

Are you all ready for National Moth Week?  It’s July 19-27 this year, so make plans to view some moths that week.  You never know what amazing things you’ll see!

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

What Time is it in Nature: Common Whitetail Dragonfly

dragonflywoman:

I wrote this for the blog at the museum where I work a few weeks ago. Thought you all might be interested!

Originally posted on NC Museum of Natural Sciences Blogs:

Summer is nearly here, and the dragonflies have returned to Prairie Ridge!  On any given day, you might see 15 or 20 species of dragonflies and damselflies at the pond, but some species are more common than others.  The Common Whitetail (Plathemis lydia), as the name suggests, is one of the most commonly spotted dragonflies at Prairie Ridge.

Common whitetail male at the pond

Common Whitetails are found throughout the US and in every county in North Carolina, so they are one of the most common species in the country.  They are medium-sized dragonflies that reach lengths of just under 2 inches with wingspans of about 2.25 inches and have relatively broad abdomens.  Males, as seen in the image above, have wide black or dark brown bands along the center of each wing and a bright white abdomen.  Females look quite different, sporting three black spots along the upper edge of each wing and brown abdomens with…

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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

The June Bugs are Back!

This is going to be short and I’m working on a longer post that I’ll get up tomorrow or Thursday, but I just couldn’t help but share an insect sighting from yesterday!  I was driving past the American beautyberry shrub at work on my way to close the back entrance for the night when I spotted a bunch of loudly buzzing insects flying around the flowers that were just beginning to open.  I assumed they were bumblebees and was about to drive off when I realized they weren’t flying quite right for bees.  So, I took a closer look and saw dozens of these little guys sucking down nectar from the flowers:

Green June Beetle, Cotinis nitida

Green June Beetle, Cotinis nitida

June bugs!  Or at least what most people in North Carolina consider June bugs, the green June beetle, Cotinis nitida.  These beetles send me straight back to happy moments from my childhood and I absolutely love seeing them, so I was thrilled to find a bunch of them out and about.  They tend to have a sort of mass emergence here, so apparently the emergence has begun.  I will expect to see hundreds – thousands! – of them over the next month or so!  I want to get some really good photos of them this year, but I am totally happy just watching them do their thing too.

Just had to share because these beetles are something I really love and they represent summer to me.  I hope you all love your June bugs – whether green, brown, or some other color – wherever you are!

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

Swarm Sunday: 6/15/14 to 6/21/14

Dragonfly Swarm Project logo

Another slow week for dragonfly swarms this week.  I received reports from the following locations::

USA:

Panama City, FL
Petersburg, FL
South Pasadena, FL
Walker, MN
Gastonia, NC

And here’s the map:

6.15.14 to 6.21.14

 

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

Almost every swarm reported this week was in the south, with the exception of the one lone report from Minnesota.  I’m hoping things will start picking up this week, but I guess I’ll just have to see what the week brings!

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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

Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday: Good Day

It’s always a good day at work when you go to visit one of your coworkers and he plops a big cecropia moth into your hands out of the blue:

Cecropia moth

Cecropia moth

That isn’t a particularly great photo, but what spectacular creatures!  I love working at a place where these sorts of things are relatively common occurrences.  I work with a whole horde of nature nerds – and I love every minute of it!

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

Swarm Sunday: 6/8/14 to 6/14/14

Dragonfly Swarm Project logo

It was a slow week for dragonfly swarms again this week.  The only reports came from the following locations::

USA:

Fryeburg, ME
Matthews, NC
Eugene, OR
Walla Walla, WA

And here’s the map:

 

6.8.14 to 6.14.14

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

The swarm season seems to be getting off to a slow start, but that’s not entirely unexpected.  Everything in NC is about 2 weeks later than normal this year, and I expect a bit of a slow start every year anyway before things really start to pick up in July.  Still, if you see a swarm next week, I hope you’ll consider reporting it.  Every sightings makes a difference!

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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