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.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Canada Thistle and Insects

Pseudodynerus quadrisectus, or in simpler terms, a Mason wasp. Most Mason Wasps have iridescent blue-black wings, and a black and white body. I recognize this one by looking at the yellow-white patch on the abdomen. Inside it has the picture of a Batman cape.

 I hate to admit it, but the invasive Canada Thistle is a huge nectar source. I didn't mention in my previous wetland post that before I started hiking, I spent 45 minutes in a six foot patch of this just admiring the diversity of insects it attracted. Here's a few more highlights.

Peek-a-boo, I see you. What look like holes in the wing are actually white and yellow patches of colored scales. This is the 8-spotted Forester Moth, Alypia octomaculata.

Here's a look from behind. 4 yellow and 4 white spots on the wings make up both the latin and common name. Forester Moths fly during the day. Those color markings are typical of moths that advertise a warning to predators. Tiger Moths commonly show this, but Foresters are members of the Noctuidae family.

We're in the middle of a heatwave, no need to be wearing those orange arm muffs in this weather! Combinations of orange & black, red & black, or yellow & black only add to defense warnings in insects.

I'm busy looking around, and this nosy neighbor pops his head in. This is the Ermine Moth, Atteva aurea. Originally restricted to the extreme southern, sub-tropical portions of the country, it has spread everywhere because of the abundance of the introduced Tree-of-Heaven, from which the caterpillars now feed. This has resulted in another common name, the Ailanthus Webworm.

Once again it's no surprise this brightly colored moth is found during the day. You can see the tongue or proboscis busy searching for sweet nectar.

The Summer Azure Celastrina neglecta, is one of the two more common Blues seen in Ohio. Once considered the same species as the Spring Azure C. ladon, they are now accepted as different. Spring Azures start flying at the beginning of April, and will pretty much have disappeared by mid May. The sudden rise in sightings after that is this guy, the Summer Azure. It has two broods during the summer, so it will be seen throughout the season.

"Sit on it Potsie". Ooh, this would not make a nice whoopee cushion. Porcupine butt here is the typical appearance of the more common members of the Tachinidae family of flies. There is always variation, but generally these flies have a rounded shape or are robust in appearance. Stiff bristly hairs protrude from the abdomen like a pin cushion. They also have very large calypters, or flaps that cover the halters behind the wings.

Since there is no good comprehensive field guide to spiders, I continue to collect photos and search Bugguide and other sites for names. Though I am an insect collector, I have avoided collecting spiders. Most species will shrivel up on pins because they are soft bodied arthropods. You have to put them in alcohol vials, not exactly ideal for making displays.

This is the Western Lynx Spider, Oxyopes scalaris. The other Lynx Spider in Ohio is green. Lynx Spiders can be recognized by the thorn like bristles that cover the legs. He may be comfortably situated under those leaf spines, but it's not necessary considering he has so many of his own. I mentioned in my post on roadside plants that Canada Thistle leaves are covered with spines. Be very careful when grabbing these plants, especially today, it's Friday the 13th.


  1. Great post. I appreciate your blog and have learned a lot from it. Thanks!

  2. Is the brightly colored moth an ermine moth? I thought those were white (hence the name)?