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