Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday: Late Season Odonates

I finally made it to the North Carolina Zoo a few days ago!  I had wanted to go since I moved here, largely because they have a Sonoran Desert exhibit with a lot of the species I miss from Arizona, and I was excited I finally had a chance to go.  The Sonoran Desert exhibit was not my favorite part, however.  It was this:


Lestes sp

Archilestes grandis?

There were dozens of dragonflies and damselflies (=odonates) out flying around the marshy area near the entrance!  I am not 100% sure which species this is as they were a ways off and I am really that not great at IDing lestid damselfly species anyway, but they were huge so probably Archilestes grandis? And there were a lot of them.  I was excited to see any dragonflies or damselflies out this late in the year!

Anyone else still seeing dragonflies and damselflies?

(Thanks to Mike Powell for making me question my initial identification of this damselfly as a Lestes sp.!)


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

Swarm Sunday: 10/1/14 – 10/26/14

Dragonfly Swarm Project logo

I am all kinds of behind on my weekly swarm reports, but I’m trying to get caught up!  Rather than bombard you all with a bunch of swarm posts all at once, today I am going to focus only on the swarms that have been reported so far this month. I’ll post the other weeks as weekly swarm posts, but I am going to backdate them so that they fit in where they should have earlier this summer.  Once I get them posted, I’ll make another post here that includes links to all of these new posts containing the data from August and September.  Then because the season is mostly over now, I’ll start my yearly wrap-up posts.  Getting caught up!  Woo!

Swarm reports came from the following locations in October:


Anniston, AL
Orange Beach, AL
Weed, CA
Hoschton, GA
Rolla, MO
Lexington, SC
Coldspring, TX
Denton, TX
Plano, TX
Talty, TX
Waxahachie, TX


Chaloklum, Koh Phagnan

And here is the map for the month:

Dragonfly swarms 2014 10 1 to 26

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

Most of the activity that has taken place this month has, unsurprisingly, taken place in the southern US, with one notable American exception in northern California and a foreign swarm in Thailand (new country, and brings the total up to 26!).  Swarm reports have slowed way down, as expected at this time of year, but I did receive a report of a swarm that took place today.  That is quite late for a dragonfly swarm in the US and supports my idea that the swarm season would be shifted a few weeks later this year. Normally the last report trickles in around mid-October, but there were several reports submitted at that time and a few more reported after that date.  Interesting!

The Dragonfly Swarm Project is still going strong, even if I haven’t been able to get the data online in a timely manner recently, so please keep sending in your reports if you see swarms.  These late season swarms are quite interesting, so keep an eye out for unseasonable swarming in your area!


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

Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday: On Mammals and Insects… on Mammals!

Well, life keeps getting in the way of blogging, but I really wanted to get SOMETHING up today!  So, I bring you the noble cotton rat:

Cotton Rat

One of my coworkers at the natural history museum where I work live traps small mammals to monitor their population at the museum’s field station.  I finally had an opportunity to go with them a few weeks ago, and this rat in particular, though quite elderly and a little soggy, ended up being my favorite.  I love rodents in general, but we were also collecting insect and arachnid parasites off the mammals in the traps, you see, and this was the ONLY rat we got that had anything on it: a single flea.  My coworker grabbed the flea and I carried it around in a little vial in my pocket the rest of the morning.  I can’t say why, but the idea that I was carrying a flea in my pocket really amused me.  Granted, it WAS quite early in the morning at the end of an exhausting week, so my threshold for what I thought was funny that morning was perhaps a bit lower than normal…

I get my whole weekend off this week, so I might actually have time to get caught up on my dragonfly swarm blog posts.  Here’s hoping nothing else comes up before then!


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

Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday: Sluuuuuurp!

I was out with my intern a few weeks ago looking for caterpillars and showed her some spicebush swallowtail and black swallowtail caterpillars before we made our way to the pipevine to look for pipevine swallowtail caterpillars. She hadn’t ever seen the pipevines, so I pointed out a few and we started looking around to see how many we could find on the plants.  I peered into the leaves trying to find a big caterpillar that was about to pupate when I saw a really odd-looking, shriveled caterpillar.  I assumed it was dead, but when I looked a little closer it moved.  So I looked even closer and saw this:

Jumping spider eating a pipevine swallowtail caterpillar

If that spider could smile, it totally would!  He (or she) looked quite pleased with himself and was dragging the wrinkly carcass around with him as he tried to hide under a leaf.  He was NOT letting that thing go – it was probably the score of a lifetime!

Isn’t nature grand?


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

Throwback Thursday: My First Digital Insect Macro Shot

I missed Wordless Wednesday yesterday, so today I bring you a Throwback Thursday shot instead!  If you have been living under a social media rock (I know lots of people who do!) and don’t know about Throwback Thursday, it’s a day each week where people post old photos of themselves, their families, anything from the past.  I’m not going to start doing this every week or anything, but today I have a lovely little shot for you, my very first insect macro shot taken with a digital camera.  This beauty was shot in 2003 with a Nikon Coolpix 995, my first digital camera, shortly after I took the camera out of the box and long before I read the instruction manual.  That was the camera I got, but swore up and down to myself and everyone else that I was going to keep shooting film with my retro-riffic 100% manual Nikon F and use the digital camera just for insects and shots that I didn’t want to waste film on.  Ha!  The roll of film that was in my Nikon F at the time is STILL IN THAT DARNED CAMERA!  Someday I’m going to finish that roll and get it developed.  It has a bunch of lovely shots of the Tetons on it…

Anyway, that’s neither here nor there.  Without further ado, here it is, my very first digital insect macro…

blurry vespid

Whew!  What a stunner!  With a photo like that, it’s a wonder I didn’t win the National Geographic photo competition that year.  Magazines should have been knocking down my door to take advantage of my obvious natural genius.

I keep all of my photos.  I think I’ve maybe deleted 100 digital photos since I got that first digital camera, and I’ve never thrown away a negative or print from my film camera.  I probably have close to a quarter of a million photos at this point, and I won’t lie: a lot of them suck.  But, I keep them all so that I can learn from my mistakes, gauge how much I’ve improved over time, and remember the moment that I took them.  That photo above is total crap, but I remember that I took that photo of an insect that’s in a display behind me as I type this, that I took it in the living room of my first apartment as I sat on the horrid brown carpet on the floor, that the background is the antique Filipino coffee table I got from my grandparents a good 5 years before my dog chewed it up, that my hedgehog was running happily in his wheel at the time and my gerbils were chewing up a toilet paper tube in that adorable way that gerbils devour paper products.  I was so incredibly happy to have that camera that I would have loved this photo if it were even worse than this!  That photo also helped me learn something about photography and cameras that made me the photographer I am today.  I like that photo.  It marked the beginning of an era of journey into insect photography.  An apparently blurry and improperly white balanced journey, but a journey nonetheless!  :)


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

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


Brunner's stick mantid

Brunner’s stick mantid, Burnneria borealis

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


Pipevine caterpillars

Pipevine caterpillars, Battus philenor

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


Swarm over upper prairie

Dragonfly swarm over upper prairie

Shorter summer days
Bring a swirl of dragonflies
Over goldenrod


Whirligig beetle swirls, Dineutus sp.

Whirligig beetle swirls, Dineutus sp.

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


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!


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

Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday: Sometimes It’s Okay to Be Blurry

Ever have this happen: you take a photo of something that’s moving quickly in low-ish light and it’s super blurry, but you kinda like it anyway?  That’s what happened with this millipede:

Millipede blur

Millipede blur

No idea what kind of millipede this is, but it was pretty and I wanted a photo.  This is not a clear photo by any means, but it’s my favorite of the lot anyway.


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