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.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Moth Night-just for me

Several people have asked me this summer when I'm going to do another moth night at Wahkeena or elsewhere. I have done a number of them over the last couple of years, and always enjoy helping people identify their moth photos. This time I wanted to have a private night for myself, and maybe catch up on some collecting. This is Wild Bergamot, Monarda fistulosa. During the day they often look pinkish white. I took this as the sun went down, and I love how the purple color really shows.

Thanks to Tom Shisler for setting up a generator way back in the woods. With a full moon I knew it would not be productive out in the open. John Hickenbottom, naturalist at Lake Hope State Park spent the night as Tom's guest. John had never been on a moth walk. This is Orthosoma brunneum, the Brown Prionid Beetle. I'm always looking for more than just moths.

Back in the spring pools, this Long-tailed Salamander, Eurycea longicauda made an appearance late that night.

Tiger Spiketail, Cordulegaster erronea. Tom was doing a survey of dragonflies for a workshop with Bob Glotzhober the next day. Tigers are rare and endangered in Ohio. Unfortunately this one was on its last leg and didn't survive the day. The good news is Tom observed a half dozen different specimens on the area that day. They differ from other spiketails by the yellow rings around the abdomen. Yes I know the photo isn't great sitting on a piece of paper, but I had never seen one.

The Marbled Green, Leuconycta lepidula. I stick this in because there just aren't a lot of moths with green on them. I sometimes call it the lichen moth, but that common name is often applied to many other species.

This small moth looks like a type of owlet, but has jagged wing margins like an inchworm. It holds its abdomen curled like a slug moth, and does push-ups with its front legs like several other micro moth families. What is it? Tosale oviplagalis, the Dimorphic Tosale. It is in the Pyralid family. The dark patch across the wing is diagnostic, but I like the raised tuft of scales above that mark that resembles a little bird wing.

Figure Seven Moth, Drasteria (Synedoida) grandirena.

It is often pictured in field guides with the Catacola moths because it could be mistaken for an Underwing Moth. Underwings have red, yellow, orange or white stripes in their hind wings. The hindwing here reminds me of a carved Jack O' Lantern. I do well on Rorschach tests.

What in the world? I can't tell if that's a vase on a stand, or Mr. Waternoose from Monsters Inc. Yes that is a moth outline.

Something this strange could only belong to my favorite group, the Slug Moths.

From the side you can see it really is a moth, in this case the Saddleback Slug, Acharia stimulea. Those weird tufts are raised scales on the legs and abdomen.

We are all familiar with the Saddleback caterpillar, but because of the lack of color, the adult is often overlooked. It has the 3-4 white spots on the wing like many other slugs. The chocolate color is highlighted up close by silvery-purple frosting. Sometimes they sit with their legs up and look like a spider. This male appears dead, flat, and squished, but he is very much alive.

Nason's Slug, Natada nasoni.

Button Slug, Tortricidia pallida, one of the smallest Limacodid slugs.

Smaller Parasa Slug, Parasa chloris. The night after Wahkeena, I went to see Lisa Sells at her new residence outside Lancaster, and we set up a sheet. If you know Lisa, you are aware that her macro photography is second to none. So this is a collection of photos from both locations.

Skiff Moth, Prolimacodes badia, another slug species. Have you noticed a sudden change in the photographs? I hate taking pics against a sheet. The background is terrible, and the bright light always messes with my results. After moths have settled into a sheet for a time, you can often move them to a more natural background. I am learning patience!

After a few pictures, the Skiff dropped off the leaf. It took me a minute to relocate it. I'd say it shows some pretty nice camouflage while on the ground.

Cousins to the Slug Moths are the Flannel Moths. This is Norape ovina, the White Flannel Moth. It doesn't have to be multicolored to be interesting.

In an up close view, you can see the waves of raised crinkly scales on the wings. The outline of the moth is broken up by various sized tufts of hairs from head to tail.

"Oh, that's one of those gray inchworms that all look alike." Yep, I have been guilty of saying that many times. I need to work on these inside, from specimens or photos. They are too difficult in the field. I've also
said this before, but after 25 years down here, I rarely ever see a new moth. That's what happens when you ignore some of them, even the common ones. If my identification is correct, this WAS a new species for me.

Ectropis crepuscularia, the Small Engrailed. There are many color varieties of this species, including this melanic form. The fore wings do not have stripes, but look streaked. Stripes are more visible on the hind wings. The upper abdominal segment is encircled with black. The outer fore wings have a zig-zag white line. All of these similar Geometrids show 3-4 small black dots at the top of the wing.

Here's another one. The 3-4 spots are more visible on the wing edges than the previous species. Many specimens will show more distinct stripes, but this one looks drab and dirty, with sort of a marble cake design, and lots of finely shredded chocolate chip drops. Stripes on the hind wing reach to the edge of the abdomen. Similar species have a large white ring on the first abdominal segment, which this lacks. I'm going with the Porcelain Gray, Protoboarmia porcelaria.

Let's end this post with some of the showier species. The Imperial Moth, Eacles imperialis.

Spiny Oakworm, Anisota stigma. This is the only one of the oak worms that shows a distinct pink line in both wings.

Elm Sphinx, Ceratomia amyntor. The caterpillar is known as the Four-horned Sphinx.

There were a lot of Catalpa trees in the area. Hmmm, how about the Catalpa Sphinx, Ceratomia catalpae. People use the caterpillars for fish bait. These are often confused with the Waved Sphinx. The Waved is clearly marked with white, black, and gray lines. Catalpa Sphinx moths are brown and gray, with faded or indistinct wing markings. Essentially, even when fresh, they look like a worn out Waved.

This one came out very nice. Purple and orange make quite a combination. Small-eyed Sphinx, Paonias myops, is one of the five sphinx moths with eye spots. It may have the least interesting eye spots on the hind wing compared to the others, but that fore wing pattern is hard to argue with.

Royal Walnut Moth, Citheronia regalis. This huge female had nearly a six inch wingspan. It's also known as the Regal Moth, and the larva is the Hickory Horned Devil.

Yellow-shouldered Slug Moth, Lithacodes fasciola.  Now this is REAL macro photography! No it's not mine. Just wanted to show you the kind of stuff Lisa Sells has been working on.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Nature Preserves: Mill Creek & Wahkeena

Just like I started at Lake Katherine, the first thing I saw getting out of the car was a hairstreak butterfly.  This time it was a Striped Hairstreak, Satyrium liparops, one of the darker hairstreaks with more orange than blue on the hindwing. I do one of two things on this blog. Either intense taxonomic posts, or general nature hikes. This will be the latter. I'm working on the former. Those tend to be for a smaller audience, and take forever to develop. These shots come from Wahkeena in southern Ohio, Mill Creek Wildlife Area, and Vickers Preserve in Mahoning County.

Green Stink Bug, Chinavia hilaris. Species in this genus tend to show alternating black and yellow antennal segments. The thorax or pronotum behind the head is somewhat flat. In other Chinavia it looks more inflated. The white mark on the side is an egg, laid by a parasitic fly.

Quick quiz. Recognize this fruit? Pea pods in a semi-circular arrangement. It's Bird's-foot Trefoil, Lotus corniculatus.

Here it is in its more recognizable bloom.

Funny how some still call these giant mosquitos. This is a Crane Fly. The orange marked thorax, ringed yellow abdomen with a  brown stripe, puts this in the genus Nephrotoma. The sharp pointed tip on the abdomen tells us it is a female.

The body of this Crane Fly has a dark streak from top to bottom. The abdomen is paler, and the thorax is black striped. This is the Long-legged Dancer, Brachypremna dispellens. On the legs, the long tibia are white, and the femurs are black.

These guys also have a skinny neck, big eyes, and a long snout. In this position it appears helpless, or maybe hapless, like it flew into something and got stuck. These Crane Flies hang by four legs, and dangle the other two. Watching this guy try to land was a laugh. Every single time it flew, it would bounce back and forth for 30 seconds to a minute before fixating on a plant. Remember playing paddle-ball as a kid? You get the picture.

Not one to be swayed by grass species in flower, this purple was just too attractive to ignore. This is Timothy Grass, Phleum pratense in bloom.

This is how most of us probably see Timothy. Doesn't have the same effect now does it.

A cluster of round flowers dangle down from a grape vine. Judging by the leaves, this is probably Summer Grape, Vitis aestivalis.

Another cluster of round flowers, not hanging from a vine, but growing erect in a wetland. These belong to Bur-reed.

There are several species in Ohio. The fruit of these are golf ball size or larger. That makes this the Giant Bur-reed, Sparganium eurycarpum. On the other species, the fruit has longer spikes that resemble Bur-dock or Thistle heads. These remind me more of Sweetgum, and look like melted green Hershey Kiss candies. Either that or it's a Jabba the Hut convention.

Exploring wetlands with a macro limits what you can do. This Great Egret took off before I could sneak up, as if I thought I could.

A small Forget-Me-Not growing in a wetland? There are two nearly identical species. Both have the calyx with upward appressed hairs. Myosotis laxa has flowers up to 5 millimeters, while M scorpioides has flowers 5-9 mm. Funny, I carry a hand lens for such things, but never think to bring a ruler.

Also along the wetland was this legume with divided leaves and tendrils. I had to seek out the flowers.

Did I say the last plant was small? Gees these flowers were minute. It's Four-seeded or Slender Vetch, Viccia tetrasperma, and unfortunately like so many other plants at this location, it's non native.

A Dolichopodid or Long-legged Fly. A shorter bodied species, lacking the iridescent green torpedo body of most members.

A Narceus Millipede rolls up upon my approach. I must have a heavy walk! Good to see Derek Hennen again at Mothapalooza. He's up from Arkansas still surveying the Ohio species. Too bad our schedules didn't allow us any field time together.

I have been seeing tons of these little beetles everywhere. They appear to be Lightning-bugs or Fireflies, but not quite. Fireflies do not have visible heads. These closely resemble Plateros Net-winged Beetles and the first pic may actually be one. Net-wings have many striations down the back of the elytra. This mating pair only have three. That led me to Soldier Beetles, in particular Polemius laticornis. The raised bumps on the back of the thorax led me to the species. (Of course that includes the help of a great new beetle book by Howard Evans.) Not being a beetle person, I welcome corrections.

Here is a true Firefly for comparison. The head is hidden under the thorax.

A Least Skipper Ancyloxypha numitor, forages through the low vegetation. Always look near the ground for this slow flying butterfly.

Also hiding in the grass was this Tortricid moth known as the One-banded Leafroller, Sparganothis unifasciana. The red band forms a V shape on the back. Depending on how intense the other red marks are, you may even see a slight X. Check out the schnoz on this one.

Have you noticed with many of these plants and animals, the smaller they are, the more they attract my attention? Maybe it's a macro lens fetish. How about a macro lens addiction, ya, that sounds better.

I saw this little guy on a fern at Wahkeena. At first glance it looked like a Thyreocoridae. Those are known as Negro Bugs or Black Bugs. It wasn't till I enlarged the photo that I saw the X mark on the back like most True Bugs have. Thyreocordids lack that X, and look more like Shield Bugs. This is a related family known as Burrower Bugs (Cydnidae). This was another new species for me. It's called the White-margined Burrower, Sehirus cinctus.

No, these are not engorged maggots. They are beetle grubs. Leaf Beetles to be exact. Called the False Potato Beetle Leptinotarsa juncta, their name comes from the adults resemblance to the Colorado Potato Beetle. They're feeding on their host plant, Horse Nettle, Solanum carolinense.

It's easy to get the back side of these butterflies, but you have to be more patient to shoot them with wings open. It's an Eastern Tailed Blue, Cupido (Everes) comyntas. The tails make it easy to separate from the Summer Azure.

As an insect, I'd hate to get tangled in this mess. These are the seeds from the dreaded Canada Thistle, Cirsium arvense. It's easy to see how the wind spreads them to so many areas.

Carolina Rose, Rosa carolina, with its bristle like thorns and pink flowers, makes a nice resting area for this immature Orthoptera.

Climbing Rose, Rosa setigera, is much larger than Carolina, and also has larger thorns or prickles. The majority of the leaves are in threes.

As I mentioned earlier, when looking at tiny things, a closer look may be needed. When examining larger items, a second look is often necessary. I shot this thinking it was just another Climbing Rose. Yet the leaf shape and texture is all wrong. Besides it has 5-7 leaflets. I never come across non native roses with 5 petaled pink flowers. Up close, what appears to be double serrated leaves are actually glands along the margin. Could this be the Sweetbrier Rose, Rosa rubiginosa? I welcome comments from anyone who has experience with these.

Here is a new species of Treehopper I came across. It's called Publilia concava, and I've yet to find a common name. I'm going to call it the White-banded Treehopper. Notice the ant in the neighborhood.

It's not long before the ant notices it. It's common behavior for ants to protect treehoppers, aphids, scale, and other True Bugs.

Ants, wasps, and some bees derive sugar water that these bugs exude as a waste product after sucking plant sap. Here the ant positions itself over the treehopper and uses its antennae and mouthparts to tickle the bug and tell it someone's hungry.

Finally it heads towards the rear of the bug and sips a bit of 'Red Bull'.

As a sidelight to these hikes, I always keep a "mystery" folder of unknowns. I just got this one solved. Have you ever seen Buckeye leaves in the spring, (in this case Yellow Buckeye), suddenly wilt for no reason?

I have to check this kind of stuff out you understand. Turns out all these leaves had the same boring holes in the rachis. I took many of these home in hopes of hatching something. Nothing ever appeared, so I figured these were exit, not entrance holes. Thanks to Joe Boggs of OSU Extension for solving the mystery.

Turns out it is a moth caterpillar. Proteoteras aesculana, the Buckeye Borer. The adult is gray and black with green shading. With the wings at rest, there are 3 tufts of hairs visible down the back. It will attack maple, and is also known as the Maple Twig Borer. Photo courtesy of Jim Vargo.