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, 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.

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