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.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

A Prairie Insect Walk

My plans to head for the western Ohio prairies isn't going to happen this year. So when all else fails, visit the prairie we manage ourselves. This is peak blooming time for prairies, and I'm always interested in seeing if anything new has appeared. This also means there will be plenty of insects to find. Rudbeckia hirta, triloba, fulgida, and Ratibida pinnata are all common at this site.

Every year when I inspect the grounds there is always something new in bloom. This year it is Steeplebush, Spirea tomentosa, a native member of the Rose family.

The Two-spotted Bumble Bee, Bombus bimaculatus, busily probes a Spiked Blazing-star, Liatris spicata.

The Eastern Carpenter Bee, Xylocopa virginica on the other hand seemed to prefer feeding on the Nodding Wild Onion, Alium cernuum. Both these bees have dark spots on their thorax. Carpenter Bees have smooth shiny abdomens, while Bumble Bee abdomens are fuzzy.

Narrow-leaved Mountain Mint, Pycnanthemum tenuifolium, is another common plant that grabbed the attention of a Leaf-cutter Bee, (Megachilidae). Leaf-cutters can be recognized by the silky hairs on the bottom of their abdomen.

Butterflies and bees weren't the only things nectaring on the Blazing-stars. This is the Bumble-bee Sphinx, Hemaris diffinis. Of our two Clearwing Moths, this is the smaller, and with more black and yellow, versus the green and red of the Hummingbird Sphinx.

Bush Kaydid, Scudderia curvicauda? Katydids are not uncommon in prairies and open fields, though they prefer to frequent the Sumacs and other shrubby plants over the wildflowers. One of these days I need to learn how to recognize them all by sound.

Where there are Bees, there will be Robber Flies. Hunting them in the field is the Red-footed Robber, Promachus rufipes. A closely related species is P. hinei. They look the same, with one major difference. rufipies has a black femur and red tibia. In henei, both leg parts are red.

Small-flowered Agrimony, Agrimonia parviflora.

Slender Yellow Flax, Linum virginanum.

Water Horehound, Lycopus americanus. All three of these plants have tiny flowers, which means you have to get up close, which means I get a chance to spot very tiny insects.

A Yellow-striped Stink Bug, Mormidea lugens.

Diamonback Spittle-bug, Lepyronia quadrangularis. With the ability to hop and fly away, the adults no longer need the protection of a bubbly froth. This species looks somewhat like a little Spring Peeper.

Striped Anacampsis, Anacampsis agrimoniella. This little micro was wandering near the ground. I must admit, this is a very worn specimen, with many of the scales missing. It's usually a bit more colorful. To find a member of the Gelechiidae family that's easy to identify is the exception, not the rule. Most importantly, I finally found a new species for my list.

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