Sunday, July 27, 2014

National Moth Week

Presented below are the moths that I turned up during this year during National Moth Week.

Burdock Seedhead Moth  - Metzeria lapella
The larva feed on Common Burdock's (Arctium minus) developing seeds, which are held in large, clinging burs.  I was talking to my daughter about this, and she brought up the point that maybe living inside a bur helps disperse the moth when it sticks to an animals fur.  Hmmm . . .

Grass-veneer Moth - Crambus sp.

Chestnut-marked Pondweed Moth - Parapoynx badiusalis
I love these guys!

Painted Lichen Moth  - Hypoprepia miniata

Ruby Tiger Moth - Phragmatobia fuliginosa
I included the blurry picture below because I'm not sure if identification would have been possible without seeing the colors on the underwings and abdomen.

Glossy Black Idia Moth - Idia lubricalis
Variable Zanclognatha - Zanclognatha laevigata

Unknown species of Zanclognatha - Zanclognatcha sp.
I think it's either Z. cruralus or Z. jacchusalis

Monday, July 21, 2014

Rest Stop Luna Moths

These Luna Moths, Actias luna were found at a rest stop somewhere in Nebraska, on our way back from a family trip to Rocky Mountain National Park.
I've found that some rest stops are excellent places to look for moths.  Definitely not all, there must be some combination of habitat and lighting that makes certain ones good spots to look for moths.  People might look at you strange, especially if you have one of your kids on your shoulders with a camera by the front door, apparently photographing the window trim or something.  They notice you, but they don't usually notice the big, showy green moth.

And remember it's National Moth Week!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Band-winged Meadowhawk

There was a big hatch of these Band-winged Meadowhawks, Sympetrum semicinctum over the 4th of July weekend at Westwood Hills Nature Center. I don't think I've seen this particular dragonfly before; I wonder if there is an unusually big hatch this year, or if I've just never noticed them before (and not just me, two other acquaintances have noted their appearance this year.  Or maybe it’s some of both.  Here are some relevant facts from the guide books I consulted.
·         it is a relatively uncommon dragonfly, and usually occurs in small numbers, unlike other meadowhawks
·         it is very susceptible to predation by fish
·         it does not compete well with other dragonfly larva
·         it often lays eggs above the water line in vegetation, which over-winter, and hatch the next spring when water levels rise with melting snow and rains.
We’ve has a couple of cold, snowy winters in a row, which has led to a very low fish population at Westwood lake.  It was also a very wet spring, with higher than normal lake levels, so maybe a higher percentage of Band-winged Meadowhawk eggs ended up in the water this year to hatch and develop.  The expanded habitat may have also led to less competition with other dragonfly larva.  So perhaps Band-winged Meadowhawks have been present at Westwood in very low numbers, but the combination of cold winters and a very wet spring created very favorable conditions for this dragonfly to thrive and appear in large numbers this year.  Perhaps.

With the amber patches on all four wings, it's a fairly distinctive dragonfly. Most species of meadowhawks are often difficult to identify to species, though as a group they are pretty easy to recognize. They are smaller dragonflies that often perch horizontally, with their wings held slightly forward.   Males are generally red, and females are a yellow-orange. 

You might find in some sources that this dragonfly is split into two separate species, S. semicinctum and S. occidentale, or the Western Dragonfly.  The Western Dragonfly is often further split into a number of subspecies.  The latest studies seem indicate that while there are geographical variations in these dragonflies, there aren’t enough differences to warrant a split into separate species.  

Sunday, July 6, 2014

False Turkey Tail

The False Turkey Tail, Stereum ostrea is probably one of my favorite mushrooms.  It's not particularly interesting or unusual.  It's certainly not rare.  It's more like a "comfort" fungus maybe.  It's always around, hard at work, quietly decomposing lignin.  It's not showy or grand in any, but to one who has a discerning eye it offers many nuanced patterns, textures, and colors to admire.

Note: this is available in a number of formats at Red Bubble.