Flora and fauna of the Athens County area, and occasionally habitats outside Ohio. Subject matter will consist of both interpretive material and taxonomic issues in plant and animal identification.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Get down on your hands and knees

Sometimes you just have to get off the beaten path and roll around the ground to see the little things that run the world. Of course this subjects one to every tick and chigger in the woods. I don't worry about that as I douse myself with DDT when I get home, and I'm fine. Er, maybe I should just suggest showering instead.

Sitting motionless among the green vegetation is the Sword-bearing Conehead, a long horned grasshopper. The sword is an ovipositor the female uses to lay eggs in the ground.
There are a number of grasshoppers that look similar. This species is recognized by the black mark on the tip of the head, followed by a white stripe.

Orchids wear polka-dot underwear. Standing only 6 inches tall, this is the Late Coral-root Orchid. There isn't much in the way of green leaves on this because it draws it's nutrients from the roots of other trees.

Also standing only 6 inches, this is the smallest Ladies Tress I had ever come across. Each flower was no more than 1/8 inch long. Single spiral, basal leaves, small size, and all white flowers point to Spiranthes tuberosa.

While not into Crane Flies per se, I couldn't help notice how this guy landed. He took his back legs and joined them into one and looked nearly invisible. This is Dolichopeza carolus, found in deep shady woods.
Yes I know I turned the picture sideways, but it looks so cool!

When you see a red light you STOP. Predators know not to mess with these baby Milkweed Bugs. You can tell they are immatures because the wings haven't grown out. Sometimes mistaken for small beetles, any beetle of this size would already have fully developed wings. True bugs only have 4-5 antennae segments as shown here, beetles usually have many more.  Most importantly, beetles have chewing mouthparts, bugs have piercing-sucking mouths. Look at the bug at the top, you can see the beak between the antennae. For a more detailed description of this species, see the excellent display Lisa Sells has at Zen Through A Lens.

Unless it jumps, you'll never see it. Wood Frogs are brown with a dark mask behind the eyes. They breed early in the year, often with some ice still on the water. That's the time to find them, otherwise hope to get lucky during the warm months.

Now these guys are just pure fun.  Millipedes differ from centipedes by having two pairs of legs per body segment. Centipedes will bite, Millipedes do not. Their defense is chemical. Bother them and they roll into a ball and emit a scent to ward off predators. This yellow and black species is sweet smelling. Put one in your hands and shake it.  Smells like Marachino cherries or amaretto.  In other words, a cyanide derivative.
Other millipedes do not smell so sweet. Shake this guy and sniff, it'll knock you for a loop. Smells like a skunk's old sweaty gym socks. Picture that in your minds eye.

As I said, the ground is full of wonders. This grasshopper was trying to remain out of sight in the grass. Notice how he stays blurry and out of focus to be better hidden. (ya right)
Oh my, there he is. I knew he'd come out of hiding. This species has a broad yellow stripe going down each side, converging into one at the tip of the wings. This is the Two-striped Grasshopper.

This is the Marbled Orb Weaver. It's quite variable in color. I hope to get more shots of this and other orb weavers. The fall is the time to look for this group.

When you're a small fry in a big world, any trick you have for survival is an advantage. This is the Goldenrod Stowaway Moth. It sits on yellow flowers. The orange and yellow marks break up its wing pattern and resembles flower heads.
The dark and light tufts of hair on the thorax also mimic the flowers of goldenrods and sunflowers. Notice how it rests in a hand stand, protecting its head at all times.

Hmm, there are no warning colorations, so it must be safe to handle. Hey, it's not called a Blister Beetle for nothing. Notice how the elytra (wings) do not cover the abdomen tip. This is typical of the family. When handled roughly, they emit a liquid that can irritate the skin.  Crushed blister beetles were used to make the aphrodisiac known as Spanish Fly, and that's all I have to say about that.

Damselflies are dragonfly relatives, but are slower fliers, skinnier, and usually stay near the ground. This is the Giant Spread-wing Damsel. These damselflies hold there wings out, not folded on their back like other damsels. The Giant is so large, it's often mistaken for a dragonfly.

Starry starry nights. Mantispidflies (neuroptera) are attracted to light. I thought the eyes were worth putting this up.

Net-winged Beetles have soft rather than hard wings.  They are apparently quite distasteful. A number of other insects mimic this pattern and avoid being eaten.
This guy was being rained on, and was hanging on for dear life.  I only saved this pic for the antennae shape, but upon closer examination, you can see the detail responsible for the name net-winged beetle.

To the unaware, this must look mighty scary. Imagine being pierced by that long stinger.  Well it's not a stinger at all, but simply a long skinny abdomen. This is a Pelecinid Wasp. Only the females have this long of a body. Examination of collections in the midwest states have shown between 90-99% of all these in collections are females. This makes the species one that practices Parthenogenesis, requiring very few males be present in the population.

I had the pleasure of a clinic with Tom Eisner where he demonstrated insect defense mechanisms. This Tortoise Shell Beetle was one of those. Much of his work is shown in the movie Secret Weapons. This Florida beetle clamps down on Saw Palmetto with oversized feet that emit oil for sticking to the plant. You can barely see a portion of the white foot near the back. I couldn't get any close shots in focus since he wouldn't stop moving. Here in Ohio we have a relative known as the Golden Tortoise-shell Beetle.

Moths hide during the day, so it's harder to get good photos of them. This Cross-lined Wave moth was moving from plant to plant near the ground. This is one of the Inchworm moths. There are a number of ways to determine you have an inchworm, one clue is many of them have this broken, uneven edge to the wing margin.

After flushing the adults, I could still hear movement in the grass. Sneaking up slowly I found this young furball, I mean Turkey, breathing hard but sitting motionless in hopes it wouldn't be spotted.

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