Saturday, August 31, 2013

Copper Underwing

Amphipyra pyramidoides, family Noctuidae.  Though it has "underwing" in its name, it is not a part of the relatively famous (by moth standards) genus Catocala, the Underwing moths. 
The caterpillars feed on a wide variety of plants.  Females lay eggs in the late fall, and the eggs overwinter.  The distinctively shaped caterpillars hatch in the spring and begin feeding on a wide variety of plants.

The adults gather together in sheltered areas during the day.  The two individuals pictured were part of a group of about six moths that were inside of an empty bee hive.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Two Little Moths With a Little Pink On Their Wings

Two small, brownish moths I've come across recently that both sport a little bit of pink on their wings.  Both are members of the Noctuidae family.

Pink-barred Lithacodia - Pseudeustrotia carneola

It took me a long time to identify this moth, its small size led me to believe it would be in one of the micromoth families.  I've seen it a number of times in our yard.  The larva feed on a few different plants; goldenrods (Solidago sp.) are one of them, which is what they are probably eating in our yard.  The light bar between the two dark patches on each fore wing are a very light pink, not entirely clear in my picture.  This one is perched on the edge of a bok choy leaf.

Pink-patched Looper Moth - Eosphoropteryx thyatyroides

At first glance, another little brown moth, but closer inspection will reveal some eye pleasing detail.  Each forewing displays a pink patch towards the front, a smaller yellow patch towards the middle, which is next to a slivery white spot, all highlighted by a crooked black line.  The moth also has an interesting profile with relatively tufts over the eyes, and a couple of bumps along the thorax.  My photo really doesn't do it justice, but I just had my phone with me.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Lobster and Scaber Stalk Saute

Last week while camping at Jay Cooke State Park I had high hopes of finding lots of Lobster mushrooms and boletes.   But there were few to find.  But I did find one good sized Lobster and one nice Scaber Stalk (Leccinum sp) that got cooked up into a pretty tasty dish.
We threw together what we had: tomatoes, red peppers, onions, and bratwurst, and cooked them them up with the mushrooms in butter in an iron skillet over the fire.  The Lobster mushroom added a nice crunch, while the Scaber Stalk was very soft.  It might not have been the most obvious combination of ingredients, but it worked out well, especially for a campfire dinner.
Lobster mushrooms are actually species of Russula or Lactarius that have been parasitized by the fungus Hypomyces lactifuorum.  The bright orange color is the H. lactifuorum fungus covering the mushroom.  It also causes the mushroom to grow in a very twisted and lumpy fashion.  It also makes the mushroom very tasty and gives it an unusually crunchy texture.  Some species of Russula and Lactarius are poisonous, but either the H. lactifuorum neutralizes the toxins, or it only infects non-poisonous species.
As I mentioned, the bolete was a species Leccinum, or Scaber Stalk.  It's a fairly "easy" bolete genus to recognize as they usually have scabers on the stalks; little bits of the stem that stick out, often colored differently than the stem itself.  However, other bolete genera may feature stem ornamentation that on paper differs from scabers, but in the field is more difficult to identify, especially to a someone new to mushrooms (such as glandular dots found in the genus Suillus and reticulation found in a number of bolete genera, most famously on Boletus edulis).

While a fairly easy genus to recognize, it can difficult to identify a Leccinum to species.  It matches fairly well the description given to L. aurantiacum, the Red-capped Scaber Stalk, in the "National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms.  A few identification details, besides size, shape and color that may aid in identification:

  • pores were sunken around the stem
  • pores quickly bruised reddish brown (see next two pictures).
  • the stem only faintly bruised bluish when cut (see third picture below).
  • flesh didn't discolor immediately, but did eventually turn brownish
  • habitat was a mix of conifers and hardwoods.
From an edibility stand point, you don't have to know the species if you know it's a Scaber Stalk, all are apparently edible.  But know your scabers vs. glandular dots vs reticulation, though overall boletes are a pretty safe group, but of course, there are always exceptions.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Mothing at Jay Cooke State Park

I just got back from a family camping trip at Jay Cook State Park.  We had a great time hiking, poking around in the water and amongst the rocks, and keeping an eye out for Death Eaters . . .

After dark, I turned on our Propane lantern to watch for moths, and was surprised with how many different kinds of moth it attracted.  

Four-spotted Ghost Moth - Sthenopis purpurascens

A member of the primitive Ghost Moth family, Hepialidae.  The family is lumped together with the micromoths, but it's not at all small, with a wingspan of up to 100 mm.

The Neighbor - Haploa contigua

Arctiidae, the Tiger, Lichen, and Wasp Moths.
I wonder where it gets its common name, The Neighbor.  I imagine it has something to do with the species name, contigua, as in contiguous.  Moth common names can be rather strange.

Little White Lichen Moth - Clemensia albata

Another Arctiidae moth, but one with a common name that makes complete sense, it's one of the smaller members of the Arctiidae, the caterpillars eat lichens, and it's white.

Painted Lichen Moth - Hypoprepia fucosa

One more Arctiid.

Reticulated Fruitworm Moth - Cenopis reticulatana

I love it when the name is longer than the thing it names.  It's in the Tortricidae, or Leafroller Moth family.

Bronzed Cutworm Moth - Nephelodes minians

Snowy Geometer - Eugonobaptia nivosaria?

There are certainly other white moths out there; I ruled out a few other similar species, but I'm not positive there aren't others out there.  Geometridae, Inchworm family.

Northern Pearly-eye - Enodia anthedon
A butterfly crasher at the moth party.  I wonder if Northern Pearly-eyes are commonly attracted to lights at night.

I photographed a lot of other moths, and many more came that I didn't get pictures of.  Overall, a very successful two nights of mothing!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Water Fleas

Water Fleas aren't fleas at all, or even insects.  They are crustaceans in the Cladocera order, Daphniidae family, also commonly called daphnia.  There are about 150 species in North America.

Some interesting facts about water fleas:

They reproduce parthenogenetically, that is without mating, and generally, most populations are made up females.
  • You can observe a lot with only modest magnificatrion, including: their heartbeat, filter feeding, and giving birth.
  • They eat mostly algae, helping to clarify water.
  • They are food for a lot of other animals
  • Most have a transparent shell, which on the MN DNR website is described as taco shell shaped.  Legs are inside of this shell.
  • They swim with their two large antenna, using their legs to move water for filter feeding.
  • They sport one large compound eye.
  • If you've swam in a MN lake, you have probably swam with water fleas (don't worry, remember, they aren't actually fleas).