Its a frenzy… flies, beetles, spiders, aphids, Oh MY!

I took my weekly walk through the CeleryBog on Wednesday (2015.07.22) and gathered some cool photos while there.

Taking photos for the sake of getting a nice photo is one thing, but for me an equally interesting and important part of the adventure is the documentation of the natural world: What’s There. What’s Happening? Why? How? By What/Whom? And how can any of this be connected to LIFE, LIVING, DAILY, BEING.

The most amazing thing occurs when you take the Leopoldian view (Land Ethic) of nature, is that – when considered – in the context of the ENTIRE SYSTEM (ie, Systemic) you will most assuredly see connections you did NOT previously. It is educational. Eye opening. Enlightening. Entertaining. And downright enjoyable. Each time this line of data collection/analysis is conducted, you add to your existing database of knowledge, increasing your understanding — and hopefully — giving rise to a newer/better/richer level of Wisdom.

And this should make your life, my life, and for ALL LIFE … a better, more productive adventure each time it happens.

I have a love for the Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus). So I am constantly looking over stands of the milkweed plant (Asclepias syriaca) for feeding larvae and/or the jewel-link chrysalis. But so far this summer, I am batting a big goose-egg, ZERO! But I have seen a number of other insects… and did so on this outing as well.

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Photo caption: Tetraopes terophthalmus, the Longhorn Red Milkweed Beetle. CC (Les Booth, c.2015)

First up, is the Tetraopes terophthalmus, the Longhorn Red Milkweed Beetle. Yes, this insect that feeds on the milkweed plant is actually a beetle, of the…

  • Order: Coleoptera
    Family: Cerambycidae
    Genus: Tetraopes (Longhorn)
    Species: T. terophthalmus

The T. terophthalmus are found alongside, but should not be confused with, the Large Milkweed Bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus), a medium-size member of the true-bugs…

Order: Hemiptera, Family: Lygaeidae, Genus: Oncopeltus, Species: O.fasciatus

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Photo caption: Oncopeltus fasciatus, the Large Milkweed Bug. CC (Les Booth, c.2015)

O. fasciatus are also found foraging on the milkweed plants. Along with the more notable, Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus).

These three insects are joined by a couple of unruly, if less noticeable, pests, Oleander aphids (Aphis nerii) and the Greenhouse/Glasshouse Whiteflies (Trialeurodes vaporariorum) .

The A. nerii cluster about the heads of new growth, in the upper canopy of the milkweed. And when you find them, you will also find the likely ‘herders or tenders’ of the herd. Yes, herd. The ‘tenders’ mentioned are ants, most notably, the Red Ant (Formic, possibly a Formicae rufa: aka, red wood ant, or horse ant

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Photo caption: Aphis nerii , the Oleander aphid. CC (Les Booth, c.2015)

know to be primarily feeders of the honeydew produced by the aphids. Honeydew is the sweet liquid secreted by the aphids as the waste by-product of sucking on the plant’s juices. The ants stroke the aphid with their antennae and the aphid gives-up the honeydew. The ant protects the aphids and in return the aphid feeds the ant. Symbiosis in action.

The Greenhouse Whitefly (Trialeurodes vaporariorum), is another matter entirely. They are pests and as well provide themselves as ‘food for the upper-level predators of their zone’. These little insects also secret honeydew and though it also feeds an assortment of passersby of the insect world (when they are not eating the whitefly!) – the honeydew produced by the whitefly generally becomes food itself for fungus. Fungus that causes damage to the plant, which in turn reduces production of the fruit: tomatoes, potatoes, members of the Cucurbitaceae (or cucurbits) better known as gourds.

Photo caption:  Trialeurodes vaporariorum, the Greenhouse/Glasshouse Whitefly. CC (Les Booth, c.2015)

What an interesting little group of critters. They all can be found relentlessly feeding on its favorite meal, Milkweed – specifically (Asclepias syriaca), or better known as the, Common Milkweed (aka: butterfly flower, silkweed, silky swallow-wort, and Virginia silkweed).

Photo caption:  Asclepias syriaca, the Common Milkweed. CC (Les Booth, c.2015)

Along with this group of patrons, regulars, of the neighborhood, Milkweed bar, I found a few other interesting insects.

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Photo caption: Chrysosoma leucopogon, the (female) long legged large green fly. CC (Les Booth, c.2015)

One being the Large Green Legged Fly – (Chrysosoma leucopogon) – Family Dolichopodidae. The one in the photo, I took, is a female. Her most distinguishing characteristic, allowing for positive identity of her sex, is her most robust abdomen. The males are narrow/slender; not really six-packed, but slender; and females are thicker/robust … or curvaceous … if you like.

At the time I was unaware of the variations between the two sexes, with regard to abdominal construct. As well, the fly I photographed is the same – in every respect to one that would be found 8,949 miles away in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia! How about that.. !! Pretty cool. Or is it? Do we have the exact same fly in both places because of natural placement .. or do we have – in one of the two places – an invasive species. I am not yet sure. But I am MORE sure of the species Identification. I will investigate and when I find a clarification, I will report back, here, on it.

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Photo Caption: Male C. leucopogon; note the slender abdomen of this fly compared to the female.

Meanwhile, I did manage to capture one, not-so-good-photo, of a male C. leucopogon for comparison.

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Photo caption: The Transverse Flower Fly (Eristalis transversa) feeding on its favorite meal, milkweed. CC (Les Booth c.2015)

While on another plant I captured a couple of good shots of another fly, a Syphid fly, specifically the (Eristalis transversa), or the Transverse Flower Fly; one of the Hoverflies. In this case a reasonable — quick-glance-mimic — for the local honeybee. It was, like the many bumblebees, honeybees and service bees, feeding on the large stand of Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulas).

 

 

072215_celerybog_japanesebeetle-mating1The Japanese Beetles (Popillia japonica) were all over the various plants in the prairie grasses, in mating coitus, with abandon. Not a good sign for the heath of leafed plants. I captured coital pairs, individually and in gangs, primarily on the Showy Tick-trefoil (Desmodium canadense).

Photo caption: Japanese Beetles (Popillia japonica) keeping the populations up on the stem of the Showy Tick-trefoil (Desmodium canadense). CC (Les Booth c.2015)

There you have it. A few of the interesting characters I captured as digital records on this outing. More critters and interesting images can be seen on my lesOfieldstream Flickr site as I process images.

– lesOfieldstream

Hawkmoth (Hemaris thysbe)

Yes the Hemaris thysbe, commonly known as the hummingbird clearwing, is a moth of the Sphingidae (hawkmoth) family.

They are still (in some places) quite common. They were that way 35 years ago – amid the many wildflowers of midwest heartland – Indiana, where I grew up.

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Clearwing Hawkmoth (Hemaris thysbe) photographer: Mike Boone • CC BY-SA 2.5

But due to massive use of chemical spraying, dredging anddraining of land, invasive plant removal (honeysuckle),  of those wild flowers (loss of orchids) – the natural habitat of the  Hawkmoths has all but disappeared.  Thus it is no real surprise they too are becoming a rare sighting. They still exist due to plant availability of modern suburbia – but that is also greatly mixed with chemical cocktails.  Despite them not listed as endangered, their necessary habitat is taking quite a hit. Setting the species up for a collapse due to unrecoverable systemic shock.

When I was a kid in the early-mid ’60s and in 4-H, my passion was entomology: I still love it a lot!   I collected specialty species – one of them was the Hawkmoths.  I never ventured – because of 4-H regulations on my 4-H collections – outside of my county: Warren.  During my 5th and 6th 4-H years (’64-’65)  I collected specific for the Hawkmoths.  I ended up with 10 boxes of moths, covering 15 species and 21 variants.

Recent taxonomic changes (from the 1970s) collapsed the many species listings back to one single species (Hemaris thysbe) having hundreds of variations.  Someone, may one day, when genetic testing becomes as easy and inexpensive as litmus paper – will no doubt test all the remaining species variants for DNA profile variation.  Then maybe restoring a number of the original taxnomic labels.  But for now… they are all: regardless of color, wing pattern, and more …  Hemaris thysbe w/variants.

Let’s hope there are still H. thysbe variants around when that time comes.

lesOfieldstream

PhotoTip #15: Enhance for Info

To 'see animation', Click the IMAGE

There are a couple of very easy steps any digital photographer can take to enhance those prickly identification characteristics on many insects; especially in the larval and/or instar stages.

[1] Contrast and Brighten – ad a bit more ‘illumination’ and bit more ‘pop’ to the image to bring out the sometimes ‘hidden’ elements. Generally only a tiny amount is needed to make the difference between a squinting, “… not sure?” and a bona fide “… you betcha!”.

However, if the image is really under or over exposed, then – as we all know – that’s what the beauty of digital photographic capture’s immediate delete ‘n re-shoot is all about.

But again, sometimes even then nature does not give us the 2nd shot. So, getting it right the first time is still the best bet.

Just remember, with digital, that first time can be a lot closer to the edge of usable and still be brought into the light of useful imagery. And it doesn’t require you to be an expert photographic technician to learn to do this either.

[2] Shooting in RAW format provides a huge degree of latitude. If you’re off by 3 f-stops – over or under in film or in a digital JPEG, you’re out-of-luck. But in a digital RAW image, you can still recover – at least 90% of the time – a very usable image. It may not win any contest awards for clarity and quality, but it will be usable.

So, just imagine how powerful this digital tool can be when it’s used within the optimum recoverable parameters of 1.25 and 2 stops UP or DOWN.

Again, this, too is not outside the reach of the common knowledge photographer. A bit of practice and your images will garner more ‘Wows!’ than you would have imagined.

Have fun.

The image above is an animated GIF showing the difference between the original image – a very properly exposed image, shot by my friend (Flickrname: urtica; Realname: Jenn Forman Orth ©2010) .. and one slightly enhanced for optimizing the shoulder spines.

Also take note the rest of the insect’s more visible characteristics… without compromising the overall integrity of the photo for true-to-life identification