Usually, when one first meets a Cicada Killer, their first impression is one of intimidation. They look like giant pulsating Yellow Jackets and by the time your brain processes the fact that you’ve seen one, they are usually already strafing circles around you like a military helicopter waiting for launch orders. These would be the males of the species by the way. I should also mention that the males have no stingers and this is really just them checking you out to see if you are either a suitable female or another male who needs to get the hell out of his territory. They won’t actually attack you (though my wife at first thought differently based on her run-ins with them).
Anyone reading this site knows by now that I have a general catch and release policy when it comes to insects in my house. I just can’t seem to bring myself to kill them if I can help it. So, at this point you may be wondering why the heck would I eat them? In a nutshell, it’s because I can’t avoid it.
I was surprised to see these when I did for a couple of reasons. The first one is that I don’t expect much from the forever unwanted milkweed that seems to creep up every year. Don’t get me wrong, it does attract its fair share of creatures (mostly green bottle flies and the occasional butterfly), but never anything that caught my eye like these. Sure, they are just caterpillars from some boring moth eating the leaves of a weed, but it was something about the way I found them that made me take a greater interest.
The first thing that caught my eye was the vibrant yellow-orange colored tufts that lined the body. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t pet it. The next thing I noticed was the fact that there was more than one. It seemed like each time I noticed another one, more and more would pop into my field of vision. There was a pretty good number of these things climbing all over the plant, either munching the leaves or making their way up the vines to get to the leaves. While observing them, I came across the perfect photo op. Two of them were crawling up the stalk almost in a mirror image of each other. They were a perfect example of symmetry in nature. Part of me wants to say that it was a sign from the universe especially for me and it’s my mission to interpret the meaning, but the boring part of me says it’s because there’s only enough room for one on either side and they both reached the top of the stalk with nowhere else to go. Oh well… enough of me now.
The Tussock Moth caterpillars are really good at eating. Like me. They are able to reduce leaves to a skeletal state in record time. Like me… except by leaves I mean whatever is on my plate. One interesting tidbit is that they acquire their chemical defenses from their host plants. This kind of gives a purpose to that milkweed I neglect to get rid of year after year… I’m saving Tussock Moths.
As a followup to my previous post about Mt. Airy Forest, I plan to go into deeper detail about some of the insects photographed on our outings. First up is the Soldier Beetle (Cantharidae) you see here photographed by my wife. We came across a bed of flowers at the arboretum where just about everyone of the yellow trumpet shaped flowers had one of these yellow beetle inside.
A friend sent me this photo and I must say that I’m jealous that I didn’t get to see this Regal Moth caterpillar in person! I look and look and look, and all I ever find are wooly worms or tent caterpillars.. nothing like this in all its bizarre evil horned cucumber glory!!
A common nickname for these things is the ”Hickory Horned Devil”. It’s a pretty fitting name being that Hickory is a common host plant for these.. the “Horned Devil” part is self explanatory. They go through 5 molts and the one pictured above appears to be in the 6th stage (instar).
You know the guys that glue all kinds of plastic add-ons and useless mufflers to their economy cars in an effort to make them appear more powerful than they are? Well, this is the caterpillar version of that. All those horns, spines, and flashy colors serve absolutely no purpose other than to threaten would-be predators. I guess it works well enough since evolution hasn’t phased it out…
Anyways, the adult moth form of this is really a sight to behold. A sight yet to be beheld by me. Giant and orange….all I can say. It’s really worth it to check it out..I won’t post bug pictures on here that are from other sources other than myself or friends and submissions so check out the Wikipedia link here.
I’ll have to admit that it not only took me a while to get these pictures, but it may have taken even longer to identify this thing. After about 10 minutes of walking in circles and randomly lying down in the grass, getting up, then lying down again, I did manage to get some decent shots. Here’s the funny thing about trying to identify a black and blue butterfly with orange spots. I used keywords such as ‘orange’, ‘blue’, and ‘black’… you know, because those are the colors that actually appear on it. Red-Spotted Purple is what I would use to search for a skin condition…
You want to know something about this butterfly? It’s a total poser… There’s this other butterfly out there called a Pipevine Swallowtail which possesses something this one doesn’t..a defense. You see, the swallowtail is poisonous so all the big baddies know to leave it alone. The poser here just mimics to look to reap the same benefits. It works, yes, but he does sacrifice a little dignity in the process. Be yourself man…
These pictures come from a friend in Indiana. I love this first photo because the shape/coloring of the dragonfly coupled with the graininess of the photo totally reminds me of either a historical WWII aircraft photo or your typical UFO/mysterious aircraft picture (I grew up looking at both in various books).
These are supposedly pretty common throughout North America, but this is the first I’ve seen of one. The coloring of the abdomen and wings are striking and make this one of those insects that’s hard to forget. I’m an art/design guy, and I’d have to say that <insert deity name here> worked extra hard on the drafting table with these. I’m in a weird mood, let’s move on to the details…
They are pretty much similar to other dragonflies in that you’ll find them near water, in fact, their life-cycle depends on it. The nymphs are aquatic and feed on other aquatic larva, crayfish, tadpoles, and even minnows. They are like the jerks of the pond. Ya know what? They are pretty much jerks when they grow up too (at least the males are). They are very territorial, often resting along the water’s edge just waiting to start a fight with the other males. That white abdomen of theirs is their way of saying ‘back off’ to the other males.
I have to admit that this isn’t an insect typically found in Cincinnati. If you look closely at this photo, you’ll notice that it’s crawling through sand. Remember that for now…it’s a clue. Now let’s look at the name Agave Snout-Nosed Weevil… that’s the second clue. If you’re familiar with agave, you know that it grows in the South. Let’s put the clues together now shall we?
South… sand… south… sand… south … sand…..
Not that hard eh? It’s pretty obvious that I took this on a vacation to the beach… more specifically on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina. Yeah..I was lying on a beach and still took bug pictures. Help me, I have a problem 🙁
I don’t have a specific discovery/identification as I typically do with my posts today. I ‘m just writing about a nice time had a few weeks back. After going for a run with my wife and taking a walk with our dog on very pleasant evening, we came home to find most of the neighbors out chatting. We joined in and I mentioned that I like to photograph and write about the insects I find around the area. I was happy to find that they were genuinely interested!
A neighbor of mine, who happens to be a fanatic of abstract thinking games, mentioned a game that he had called ‘Hive’. We ended up playing a few rounds and I’d have to say it’s quite a fun game. Think of it like chess without a board and insect themed pieces. The overall goal is to surround your opponent’s queen bee. Click the pic to read more at the game’s site…
The next day, my wife was surprised to find a mysterious jar on our front porch with a mystery specimen in it for me to identify and she was awesome enough to photograph it for me! After some looking around, I’ve identified it as a super mystery bug. They are very rare around these parts. Seriously though, I have absolutely no idea what the heck this thing is. It’s one of the more interesting thing’s I’ve seen. It just cracks me up that they were able to find the strangest insect that I can’t even identify. I’m posting some pics below.. any help identifying it would be awesome.
.. or June Bugs….I meant NO THANKS by the way! This grub is the larval stage of this pesky beetle you may have seen buzzing around you porch lights on a muggy June evening. I usually hear them clacking against the light bulbs and find them landing in my hair (when I had hair).
Anyways, the adults are chafers, which means they feed on leaves and foliage. The grubs feed on roots as they poke around underground (they kind of remind me of a less threatening graboid). They are known for being a common lawn pest too… if you find dead spots in your lawn, pull it back like sod and you’ll likely find one or two underneath…