Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday: Furry

If you saw this picture:

hairy surface

… what would you guess it is?

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Swarm Sunday – 7/21/2013 – 7/27/2013

Dragonfly Swarm Project logo

Time for the weekly swarm update!  Dragonfly swarms were reported from the following locations last week:

USA:

Villa Park, CA
Vista, CA
Clearwater, FL
Harbour Beach, FL
Highland Beach, FL
Jacksonville, FL
Riviera Beach, FL
Charleston, IL
Maple Park, IL
Groton, MA
Nesbit, MS
Gilford, NH
Meredith, NH
Parrot Shell, TX

And this is the map for the week:

Map of the week's swarms

The red pins are static swarms, blue are migratory. Click on the image to make it larger.

While the majority of the week’s swarms occurred near the coastlines or along the Great Lakes as they have over the last few weeks, there were finally a handful of reports of swarms further inland, including one migratory movement in Texas.  However, all but one of the swarms were sighted near coastlines or along rivers.  The appearance of swarms near oceans, large lakes, or major rivers seems to be the general trend so far this year.  There have been very few swarms in areas without significant bodies of water nearby so far this year.

I’ve heard rumblings on various dragonfly listservs and Facebook pages I follow that the green darners have just recently begun to appear at many bodies of water in the country.  That is certainly the case here!  I saw my first green darner in two months a few days ago, and only my second wandering glider.  Up until Saturday, however, there were more comet darners at the pond I monitor than green darners, and that’s not normal.  It’s actually a bit of a relief to hear that people around the country are starting to see more of the green darners around as it means we might still get some of them here too!  Perhaps they’ve just been slow to emerge this year?  We have had very odd weather in many areas this year, so it’s possible that the dragonflies have been delayed.  Or perhaps the migratory darners haven’t even moved north yet?  More than half of the swarms reported this week were near coasts in the very southern parts of the US, and I got almost no reports before June this year.  It’s been an odd year, so it will be interesting to see how it all plays out!

That’s it for this week!  As always, I welcome any and all reports of dragonfly swarms, so keep sending them in!

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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: Great Bug Week

This was a great bug week for me! It’s National Moth Week, so that means there’s been a huge upswing in the number of insect-themed programs and activities available this week, and I got to participate in a few of them. So far, the best part of Moth Week was going to a full-day moth workshop, followed by blacklighting with several of my state’s top moth experts. It was great! However, I’m co-hosting my museum’s moth night tomorrow night and I suspect I will love that even more than the workshop. But several good bug-related things happened this week, including…

This

Mayfly

I spent a lot of time staring at my porch lights this week, snapping photos of moths for National Moth Week. I had a dinner meeting with some visiting entomologists on Tuesday and when I got home I found several of these a few inches from my front door. Mayflies! I am always thrilled when I find mayflies for some reason, probably because I don’t live in the sort of place that gets massive mass emergences and I rarely see the adults. I will freely admit that my whole expertise in identifying aquatic insects involves the stages that live in water and I could be completely wrong about this, but I think this is Isonychia sp (waiting on a confirmation). Regardless of what it actually is, however, I was super excited to see these! How can you resist those eyes?

This

Your Wild Life

I wrote a guest post on another blog! It’s about National Moth Week and how people can participate in the festivities. At the end, it tells you about the moth night I’m co-hosting tomorrow night. Want to come observe moths with me and some of the awesome people who work/volunteer at my museum? Or maybe you’d like to learn more about National Moth Week? You can read more about it in my guest post over on the Your Wild Life Blog. (Thanks, Holly, for inviting me to write this!) There there’s…

This!

Dragonfly article

My first popular science article hit the streets on Monday! It’s also my first print article about dragonfly swarms and what I’ve learned from my Dragonfly Swarm Project. This is not a peer reviewed publication, but I’m excited anyway. The photos on the right page are both mine, while the awesome photo of the swarm against the sunset in Costa Rica was taken by a relative of mine. We’ll ignore the fact that I don’t have much evidence that either of the dragonflies in my photos are swarmers… They’re there to illustrate a few quirks of dragonfly anatomy and behavior that are part of why they’re able to fly so well and form the sorts of swarms they do, NOT to represent species you might see in actual swarms.

Then There’s This…

luna

I adore luna moths! This is only the second wild adult I’ve ever seen, and certainly a lot nicer than the ratty, old one I saw in Missouri a few years ago. Luna moths are my very favorite moths and I think they are fantastically beautiful. That green! Oh! Just perfect. And there it was, sitting right out on a wall in the middle of the day. Even if the rest of the moth workshop I went to had sucked (and it didn’t), this one moth sighting would have made it completely worth it for me.

And Finally, This!

Spider and wasp

The photo is crap, but I had to share it anyway. I was sitting out on the back patio during the moth workshop, eating my lunch and talking to several of the moth experts about moths and photography and whatnot, when one of the guys got up and started snapping photos of something crawling around on the ground. He soon called me over and said I had to take a photo of what he was looking at. It was what you see in the photo. That’s a wasp (I suspect it’s Tachypompilus sp.) dragging a very large spider, presumably one that it has stung and is dragging off so it can lay eggs on it. It’s larvae will enjoy a great fresh, live spider buffet when they hatch. The spider wasps fascinate me. Their mode of life is so greusome because they eat their spiders alive, but it’s just such a cool system too.

So, lots of fun bug stuff happening in my neck of the woods this week! Any week that involves blacklighting is bound to be good, but I got to see some cool bugs and the products of some writing I did too. What a great week! And speaking of blacklighting, I’ve been working on developing a way to make a portable, free-standing, and inexpensive blacklighting rig and I’ve finally come up with a design that’s easy to construct and cost about $20. I’m field testing it at my moth night tomorrow, and if all goes well, I’ll share the design with you all next week!

Have a great weekend everyone!

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

Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday: Letter to a Spider

Dear Spider Who Builds Its Web Across the Door to My Backyard,

You are lucky that I’m an entomologist.  Most people, after running face first into your terribly inconveniently placed web in the dark, probably wouldn’t have just backed away and looked to see where you were.  While I will admit that I was quite happy to learn that you weren’t in my hair, nearly any other person probably would have tried to kill you after discovering you lurking up near the roof.  Instead, I took down one little support from your web and squeezed out the door around the rest, leaving you be.  I was sorry to see that you were back tonight, even though by now you should know better than to build your web across the back door.  Don’t you know that large mammals walk often through that area?  I did snap a few photos, true, and flashed bright lights in your eyes, but look how cute you look:

spider on web

That was worth a few bright lights, right?

Please note that continued web construction across the only rear exit from my house may result in relocation to the front of the house.  There, you will have to compete with other spider of your kind who has been building a web across the walkway to the front door.

Sincerely,
The Dragonfly Woman

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

Swarm Sunday (On Monday) – 7/14/2013 – 7/20/2013

Dragonfly Swarm Project logo

I’m getting Swarm Sunday up a day late this week, but sometimes that’s just how it goes.  Last week, dragonfly swarms were reported from the following locations:

USA:

Hephzibah, GA
Denver, IN
Huntington, IN
Eagan, MN
Garfield, NJ
Margate, NJ
Passaic, NJ
Curtice, OH
Philadelphia, PA
Conway, SC
Leander, TX
King George, VA
Bayside, WI

Canada:

Hussar, AB

Here’s the map for this week:

7.14.13 - 7.20.13

The red pins are static swarms and you can click on the image to make it larger.  You’ll notice that a large proportion of the swarms so far this year have been relatively near large bodies of water or the ocean.  You’d think that with all the rain that many parts of the country have been getting lately that you might see more activity inland, but apparently not.  We’ll see how things look in the coming weeks, whether this pattern holds or things start moving inland as I would expect at this time of year.

Another short update this week.  Keep reporting your swarms!  Every new point is a valuable new piece of the puzzle on how and why these swarms form.

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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: In the Front Yard

One thing I love about North Carolina is the sheer abundance of life. I didn’t know what to expect when I moved here apart from “humid” and “green,” but coming from the very biologically diverse and unique Sonoran Desert (aka, pure awesomeness!), I’ll admit that I was a little worried that I would be disappointed in my new digs. Happily, that hasn’t been the case at all! I am constantly encountering insects I haven’t seen before, and many of them are just a few steps outside my house. And let me tell you, my house is not in any way designed to be attractive to insects. We’ve got grass and a few trees, but it’s all really sterile and a little too perfectly landscaped. I’m working on building up my native plant population, messing up my yard a bit so I can actively attract insects, but there are still a lot of things to see even in my disturbingly well landscaped yard. Here are a few things I’ve discovered in the last week:

Delta Flower Scarab, Trigonopeltastes delta

Delta flower scarab

Delta flower scarab

These scarabs are gorgeous! They’re fairly small, but look at that pattern! They’ve become one of my favorite beetles and I always get a little giddy when I see them. I found this particular individual sitting on a mailbox one evening as my husband and I went for a walk around our neighborhood. To my great horror, I didn’t have ANY of my cameras with me, not even my phone, so I scooped the little guy up and carried it home. The guy walking his dog a few feet in front of us was treated to a full-on bug-induced squeal fest as I loudly exclaimed, “Ooh, ooh, OOOH! Look, look! Delta flower scarab! FLOWER SCARAB!! Yesssss!!!” There may or may not have also been a little happy beetle dance and a lot of wild gesticulation involved in the discovery. Sometimes I wonder what my neighbors think of me… :)

Blue Dasher Dragonfly, Pachydiplax longipennis

Blue dasher

Blue dasher

It probably doesn’t come as any surprise to you all, but dragonflies in my yard make me very happy. I saw a few dragonflies around the yard in Arizona, but they were far and few between. I was lucky to see just 1 or 2 a year. I saw 10 individuals in my Raleigh yard just yesterday, three different species! This blue dasher female let me get REALLY close to her too, within an inch. I was thrilled! I now have a lot of photos of this individual, should you ever want to see a couple dozen more nearly identical photos.

Orchard Spider, Leucauge venusta

Orchard spider

Orchard spider

I first encountered these gorgeous little spiders at Bug Shot in Florida last year and was immediately taken by their excellent good looks. The photo is a little overexposed, but these tiny arachnids are turquoise with a big orange spot on the underside of the abdomen and are well worth taking a close look. After seeing and photographing them in FL, I was thrilled to find several in the bush immediately next to my front door! It can be hard to get these spiders to slow down enough to get a good shot, but I also just enjoy watching them without a camera. I haven’t quite gotten to the point where I say hi to them every time I leave or enter the house, but honestly that day isn’t too far off at this point…

Asian Multicolored Ladybug, Harmonia axyridis

Asian multicolored ladybeetle

Asian multicolored ladybeetle

These non-native ladybugs are incredibly common in Raleigh, so it’s no surprise at all that I see them at my house too. They’re awfully cute little ladybugs with their dome shaped bodies and the showy patterns on the thorax, but they don’t belong. There is also some recent evidence from Europe that these ladybugs carry a pathogen that can kill native ladybugs! The study should be replicated in the US, but if it holds true here too, I think we’ll see even more of these ladybugs in the future. Not that that we really need more…

Katydid

Katydid

Katydid

This was the first katydid I spotted in my yard! Showy little bugger too. I don’t know what it is specifically, but suspect it’s one of the meadow katydids. This one hangs out right by my front door, so hopefully I’ll get to see it as an adult too!  (Update: Thanks to Sean McCann for letting me know that this katydid is in the bush katydid group, Scudderia!)

That’s just a small fraction of the things I’ve seen around my yard! It’s impressive to have SO many bugs around, and I am especially loving my dragonflies. While I’m not sure the local diversity is higher than that of southern AZ, it’s still fun to see so many new things, observe new behaviors, and take new photos.

Do any of you have a favorite insect that visits your yard? If so, leave a comment below! I’d love to hear all about your amazing finds!

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

Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday: Nom Nom Nom

When I was a kid, I never would have expected that I would own a cell phone, that I would spend a lot of my time sharing things I write via the internet, or that anyone other than James Bond could capture videos with a tiny device that you could hold in your hand.  Younger me carried an enormous 126mm camera around with her, took 3.5 inch square photos, and had to take them to a drug store and pay someone to have them developed.  Take a moment to appreciate this fact: we can do truly magical things with our phones!  Case in point, I took this video last week to test out Instagram’s new video function.  A cell phone, an inexpensive macro lens attachment, and a woolly pipevine plant, and here’s what you get:

That’s a pipevine swallowtail caterpillar, munching away on its host plant.  How awesome is it that we can do this sort of thing with our phones??

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