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.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Back to Wakeena

Ya it's been awhile since I posted, but I've been traveling around. From looking for nighttime insects at Wakeena Nature Preserve, to exploring prairies, visiting Mill Creek Farm in north-east Ohio, and collecting Mosquito Creek Wildlife Area. I'll be posting photos from each of those places in the next week or so.

We started this with the critter closeup above known as a Camel Cricket. They are related to Grasshoppers, Crickets, and Katydids. Unlike the rest of the order, Camel Crickets do not "chirp", nor do they grow wings like their relatives. The thorax is rounded or humped like a camel. You can find them in wet rotting logs, but usually they only come out at night. Camel Crickets are also called Cave Crickets because they hide in dark places. Besides caves, look for them in root cellars or old buildings. Some consider them a nuisance when they get in your basement, but being scavengers, they present no danger.

You can see in these last two pictures what is special about these animals. They have the longest antennae of any of our local insects. Antennae are used to pick up scents in the air, or essentially they smell with them. People often call them "feelers", and this is the one time that is a correct description. Living in dark areas, and without the ability to fly away, they use these antennae to feel around for any potential predators ahead of them. The antennae are often 3-4 times their body length.

Six of us gathered together that night to photograph, collect, and just learn more about the Arthropod world. Plenty of caterpillars were being found. Last month I posted about slug moths. Here is one of the most commonly seen, the Saddleback Caterpillar. These were very small and in an early instar (life stage). The pink spines around the head will turn dark brown with age. If you get stung, these spines pack quite a wallop.

Though it's a silk moth and not a slug moth, the IO also has a nasty bite to those spines, probably worse than the Saddleback. Easily recognized by the red and white stripe, the green spines alone should warn you not to handle it carelessly. The IO is quite common, and feeds on a large variety of plants.

Another caterpillar found was Macremphytus testaceus. This is not the larva of a butterfly or moth. The adult is a Sawfly, a type of wasp. Most Sawflies feed on conifers, but some can be found on hardwoods like this Dogwood Sawfly.

The way you can tell a sawfly from other caterpillars is by the number of prolegs it has. You can see the three sets of true legs up front, but notice how almost every segment of the abdomen has a set of prolegs. On butterflies and moths, there will always be a break or gap somewhere on the body without them.

S is for Sawfly. Hardwood Sawflies when alarmed take this curved shape for a defensive posture. Conifer Sawflies when disturbed literally spit up balls of pine pitch they store in their cheek pouches, and wave it at the attacker. Believe me, no insect predator wants to be vulnerable glued to sticky tree resin.

So how was the mothing that night? Slim pickings! While Alex found a fair number of newbies, Roger found only one, and I found none. It was only a half moon, but the thunderstorm that passed through earlier may have played a part. I did see this noctuid moth Panthea acronyctoides that I thought was interesting. Usually it is much darker, with the black outweighing the white. To see such a light form was worth a photograph.

Roger set out some rotting fruit bait, but even that didn't work. We were hoping to see the arrival of the Underwing moths, but all that came in was this Locust Underwing, Euparthenos nubilis. He's a fake, and not a true Catacola underwing at all. The Locust has four black stripes on the hindwing, true underwings have only two.

With moths disappointing us, we turned to whatever was in the area. Dolomedes tenebrosus, the Nursery Web Spiders were plentiful on all the buildings. Notice the white strand of silk it keeps itself attached to. These are often called Fishing Spiders.

Crawling along the roof of a building was the largest spider any of us had ever seen. Not being a spider man, I presume this was also the same Dolomedes species. It's the largest spider in Ohio. For perspective, he's on a 2 x 4. They say it reaches 4 inches in length, but I can tell you this thing spread out would cover the palm of your hand. Ha! I didn't know we had Tarantulas in Ohio. They can inflict a painful bite if irritated, but they are not venomous. My concern is, what is their definition of "irritated".

I have mentioned in previous posts that while the big stuff is cool, it's usually the smallest things that attract my attention. During the evening this Hemiptera crawled onto the sheet unnoticed. Later we looked a little closer and found a fly maggot apparently feeding off this bug. It is known that several types of flies will parasitize True Bugs, but the ones I'm familiar with eat from the inside! I put out a request for information on this, and am still awaiting a response. All I know is by the end of the night, this bug was dead.


  1. Interesting information about the Dolomedes Spider. It must have been what we discovered inside a wood topped whiskey barrel used as a temporary table outside. That barrel is now a planter!

  2. If you can't find much information on the maggot feeding off that leaf-footed bug, you might want to check out "Tracks and Sign of Insects and Other Invertebrates," by Charley Eiseman and Noah Charney. It has some good chapters on parasitoids of different insects that might help you out.

  3. Interesting on the maggot feeding on the leaf footed bug that's a new one for me as well. Thanks for sharing.