Sunday, July 23, 2017

Camouflaged Looper

The Camouflaged Looper, Synchlora aerata takes the camouflage strategy to a higher level by attaching small pieces of whatever flower it finds itself feeding on.  They eat quite a variety of flowers, but are most commonly found on flowers in the composite family; David Wagner in his excellent book "Caterpillars of Eastern North American" lists ageratum, black-eyed susan, boneset, daisy, goldenrod, ragweed, and yarrow from the composite family, plus a good variety of other plants.

Camouflaged Loopers are also known as Wavy-lined Emeralds for the light green moths they eventually develop into.  They belong to the inchworm family, the Geometridae.  This family never ceases to amaze and surprise me.  It's members contain such a variety of camouflages, feeding strategies and are some of the first and last moths active in Minnesota.  I think most people would recognize an "inchworm", but don't realize how much more there is to them.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Little Black Toads

Toadlets of American Toads have been everywhere at Westwood Hills Nature Center.  They are about a centimeter in length and somewhere in between dark grey and black in color.  They must have just completed metamorphosis and are now on the move, dispersing through the woods.  In a few weeks they'll be a lot harder to find, settled somewhere shaded and full of invertebrates for them to eat, or possibly eaten themselves. 

I'm still disappointed that American Toads were moved from the genus Bufo and into the genus Anaxyrus.  I'm not sure what the specific reasoning was for the change, and I doubt I'd have any qualms about it; my disappointment is purely onomatopoeic.  Bufo sounds just so quintessentially toadish.  There are still toad species in the world in the genus Bufo, but not the American Toad.  Sad

Saturday, July 15, 2017

An Illustrated Life List: Spotted Sandpiper

Spotted Sandpiper, Actitus macularius under the Broadway Avenue bridge which crosses the Mississippi River between north and northeast Minneapolis.


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

June Flies

My interest in flies (order Diptera) has been increasing the past few years.  Here are a few I've come across recently.  All pictures were taken with my iPhone in and around Minneapolis in June.


Toxomerus marginatus
One of the many bee mimics in the flower fly family, Syrphidae.  The larva eat aphids, which are doing serious damage to some of the wildflowers in our backyard this year.  It's very possible the larva in the photo below is of T. marginatus.

Ptecticus sp.
 This fly is in the soldier fly family, Stratiomyidae.  According to Bug Guide there are five North American species.  P. trivittatus is the only species found in MN pictured at Bug Guide.  They are regular summer inhabitants around our compost bin.

Ctenophora nubecula
A species of crane fly, family Tipulidae.  Crane flies represent a different taxonomic branch of the Diptera.  Despite resembling a super-sized mosquito, they are harmless.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Painted Turtle with Snapping Turtle




A number of years ago I was witness to an odd animal sight; two small painted turtles, Chrysemys picta basking on a floating snapping turtle, Chelydra serpentina.  Nobody really believed me.

But this week I saw a similar sight (and with witnesses).  This time it was one painted turtle with one snapping turtle.  The snapper was mostly submerged with just its snout out of the water.  The painted turtle was floating just  above it.  Occasionally the painted turtle took a good nibble at the snapper.  We all expected retaliation from the snapping turtle, but none came.  The snapper barely registered the bite.

So what was happening?  We entertained a few ideas before coming up with a plausible explanation.  We speculated that the painted turtle was eating leeches off the snapper.  Later I looked for some information on this behavior.  I found a few references to this behavior, including a scholarly article from the journal Canadian Field Naturalist.  I wonder if this is a rare interaction, or maybe only occurs in certain types of water bodies.  Or maybe it's a common, but rarely observed because snapping turtles spend so much of their lives at the bottom of lakes and pond.