Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Spiny Oak-slug Moth

Spiny Oak-slug Moth, Euclea delphinii, family Limacodidae, or the Slug Caterpillars.  Maybe the name needs some explaining:

  • Spiny refers to the caterpillars appearance, which is indeed very spiny as well as colorful.  And the spines deliver a mild sting.  The spines are hollow and contain a toxin; when contact is made with the caterpillar, the spine breaks off and sticks into the skin, delivering the toxin.
  • Oak refers to one of this caterpillar's foods.
  • Slug is another reference to the caterpillars appearance, which is slug-like.  There's a whole family of slug caterpillars (Limacodidae), with about 30 species in eastern North America.  The head is covered by the fleshy thorax, and instead of legs and prolegs, slug caterpillars bear seven pairs of suckers along their abdomen, which causes them to glide instead of crawl.
  • Moth, because everything else in the name refers to the caterpillars.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Recent Mushrooms - Mid June 2012

Yellow Bolbitius - Bolbitius titubans

Small and fragile, with a slimy yellow cap and brown gills.  Growing on a wood chipped trail. 

Pholiota limonella

Crown-tipped Coral - Artomyces pyxidata

Parasola sp.

They look very different at first, as in the above photo.

Hackberry Emperor

I found this Hackberry Emperor butterfly, Asterocampa celtis, family Nymphalidae, or the Brushfoots taking shelter from the rain (as were we) under the eaves of the visitor center at Afton State Park.  It's a butterfly that rarely feeds on nectar from flowers.  instead it feeds on animal dung, rotten fruit, and sap flows.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Rosy Maple Moth

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Rosy Maple Moth, Dryocampa rubicunda, in the family Saturniidae, or the Giant Silkworm Moths.  They don't feed and are short lived.  The caterpillars feed on various maples, and is an occasional pest.  They overwinter as pupa underground.

There is a very similar moth called the Pink Prominent, Hyparpax aurora in the family Notodontidae, or the Prominents.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Comma, or Question Mark?

The title refers two butterflies, the Eastern Comma, Polygonia comma, and the Question Mark, Polygonia interrogationis, both in the family Nymphalidae, (Brushfoot butterflies).  The caterpillars of the two species are both spiny and of variable coloration, and have similar food preferences, making identification a little tricky.
Key identification features for the two, paraphrased from Caterpillars of Eastern North America by David L. Wagner are as follows:

Eastern Comma: head with black and white spines.  Spines on the back of the body usually light colored with darker tips.

Question Mark: body spotted white, with cream to rusty strips.
So I think these are E. Comma caterpillars.  The E. Comma will also make a shelter to feed in by folding a leaf over itself and sticking it together with silk.  From what I've read, the Question Marks  usually don't make shelters

I've been finding these caterpillars on Stinging Nettles (Utrica dioica).  With the spines with the food, it seems like they might be unpleasant to touch, but the spines are harmless.  Maybe I've never really looked before, but it seems like there are a lot more than usual (it seemed like there were more of the Comma, and/or Question Mark butterflies in the spring too).
There is another caterpillar, of the Satyr Comma (Polygonia satyrus), that is also similar and feed on Stinging Nettle, but it usually features green-white stripes.  The butterflies of all three are also similar in appearance; orange with brownish markings above with irregular wing outlines.  All three sport whitish markings under their wings in the shapes of the punctuation marks that their names reference.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Recent Mushrooms - Early June 2012

Stinkhorn - Phallus sp.

Spring Agrocybe - Agrocybe praecox species cluster

Brown spring mushroom with a faint ring zone and brown spore print.  They were growing singly in the woods, while other I found this spring were growing clusters in wood chips.

Witch's Margarine - Ductifera pululahuana

Very common at Westwood in the summer after a good rain.  It's not featured in most field guides.

Pholiota sp?

A lot of features indicate a species of Pholiota including: growth on wood, brown spore print, scales on cap, ring zone on stalk, and scales on the stem.
The scales on the cap were sparse.
As were the scales on the stem and the ring zone.
In general, Pholiotas are larger mushrooms.  It also had a snapable stem, which is a feature mentioned in many guides of mushrooms in the genus Psathyrella, but the spore color is usually darker (purple-brown to blackish).  Maybe I would be better off leaving it as a LBM.  Whatever it is, it was part of a very attractive log tableau which also featured other fungi, moss and possibly even a slime mold.    

Unknown polypore

All the mushrooms in this post were found in Hennepin County, MN.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Inchworm That Looks Like a Twig

Maple Spanworm - Ennomos magnaria
The only reason I saw this caterpillar is because it was hanging from a silk line over a path at eye level. It's another member of the Geometridae, which make up a large part of our spring time lepidopterans (never mind the butterflies, they're nothing compared to this group in terms of numbers).  I found it hanging from an Amur Maple; according to the "Caterpillars of Eastern North America" it eats leaves from a wide variety trees and shrubs.  It'll spend the summer as a pupa, emerging as a moth in the late summer or early fall.  While the caterpillar is a twig mimic, the adult moth mimics dead leaves.  The eggs overwinter.

Monday, June 4, 2012

(Little Brown) Moth Watching Party

In the past two weeks, Naomi and I have had a couple of moth watching parties on our porch.  Though mostly small and brownish, I've been surprised at how many different species have showed up in our Minneapolis backyard.  The moth above is a Three-patched Bigwing, Heterophelps refusaria, family Geometridae.  Text below refers to moths pictured above the text.
Bent-line Carpet Moth, Costaconvexa centrostrigaria, family Geometridae.
Forager Looper Moth, Caenurgina crechtea, family Noctuidae.
Unknown moth that showed up in our bathroom.
Also unidentified.
Leafroller Moth, maybe a species of Pandemis or Choristoneura, family Tortricidae
While we waited for the moths to show up, we did a little reading and drawing.  And of course snacks were served