Sunday, June 24, 2018

Friday, June 15, 2018

Early Summer Moths 2018

Plume Moth - unknown species
I found a number of these small, spiny caterpillars on a patch of Joe-pye Weed (Eupatorium sp.).  Many Plume Moths have leaf mining larva, so I wonder if the leaf mines found on the same plants are from earlier instars.  The adult Plume Moth pictured above was found a few feet from the caterpillars, but could be a completely different species that just happened to be close by.

Plume Moths are distinctive as a group with their T-shaped body, but very difficult to identify to species. 

White-striped Black - Trichodezia albovittata

 Family Geometridae.  Caterpillars feed on Jewelweed (Impatiens sp.).

Grapevine Skeletonizer - Harrisina americana
I first identified this moth as a Yellow-collared Scape Moth, Cisseps fulvicollis which looks very similar but is from a different family. 

Broad Ashen Pinion - Lithophane laticinerea

You could talk me out of this identification, but the presence of more or less continuous middisoral and subdorsal (stripes on the back) leads me to choose L. laticinera over the very similar (but less back stripey) L. antennata.  Noctuidae family.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Larva Eating Creeping Jenny

Over the years I've noticed that the Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia) in our garden always gets grazed on pretty heavily in the late spring.  Leaves would have numerous holes chewed into them or would be completely gone.
Until this year, I had never discovered what was eating the leaves.  I didn't really mind; the Creeping Jenny looks really nice growing between the bricks and stones that make up our garden pathway, but I always have to remove large patches of it throughout the summer to prevent it from taking over the whole garden.  But this year I happened upon what was behind the chewed leaves.
This isn't a caterpillar, it's a Sawfly larva, a primitive group of insects found in the Order Hymenoptera, along with bees, wasps, and ants.  This particular sawfly larva is Monostega abdominalis.  One way to tell the difference between sawfly larva and caterpillars (which of course are the larva of moths and butterflies) is to count the number of prolegs, the peg-like appendages found along the latter half of either type of larva.  Generally caterpillars have up to five prolegs.  Sawfly larva have six or more prolegs, in the case of M. abdominalis there are eight.  Both groups have three pairs of thoratic legs just behind the head, so don't include these in you count.
The adults of M. abdominalis are minute, one could rest on the tip of your finger with room to spare.  This post from the Home Garden blog has some good life history information on M. abdominalis, and it's possible interactions with native plants (neither M. abdominalis or Creepy Jenny are native). 

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Common Baskettail Emergence 2018

A favorite late spring event of mine is the mass emergence of Common Baskettail dragonflies, Epitheca cynosura at Westwood Hills Nature Center.  Sometimes thousands of dragonflies all emerge over a day or two, usually just after a hatch of midges.

I didn't see any Common Baskettails last spring, possibly because of an unusually late cold spell. 

This year's "hatch" seemed a bit on the small side, and seemed to occur over a longer period of time; four days instead of one.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Artist's Conk and Forked Fungus Beetle

Artist's Conk, Ganoderma applanatum, is a somewhat common fungus found on rotting trees and stumps.  If you've spent any amount of time in the woods you've probably come across this large, wood-like conk.  It's a perennial structure and adds a new, white spore producing layer on the underside every year.  Cutting through one reveals a stack of brown layers, each layer was a previous years spore producing layer.

A. Broken Artist's Conk showing old layers with new, white spore producing tissue developing.
B. Looking down at the top of an Artist's Conk.
C. Artist's Conks sometimes have these brownish drops on their undersides.  I think it coincides with growth of the new growth, but I don't know what causes it.
D. New growth starting to discoloring with age.
E. Just thought it looks cool.
F. Note the brown spores dusting the bark.
G. Stump full of Artist's Conks 

But a cool as Artist's Conks are, this post is more about an insect that inhabits them: Forked Fungus Beetles, Bolitotherus cornutus.  I've come across these beetles a few times, and they were brought to my attention again this spring.  The spend almost their entire lives on or near Artist's Conks, from egg to adult beetles.

There's actually quite a lot written about Forked Fungus Beetles, so instead of repeating what's already out there, I'll share a few links. 

University of Florida Entomology and Nematology Featured Creatures
Good overview of Forked Fungus Beetles.

Bug Guide
Over one hundred images and some interesting comments.

A Study of the Life History of the Forked Fungus Beetle, Bolitotherus cornutus
Liles, M. Pferrer.  1956.  The Ohio Journal of Science.  Vol. 56, Issue 6
A thorough study.

Even if you don't feel like reading more about the Forked Fungus Beetle, I highly recommend stopping at the next stump with conks you come across and taking the time to look more closely.