Sunday, September 13, 2015

Ferruginous Spider Wasps Battle Over Spider, Burrow

Here two female Ferruginous Spider Wasps (Tachypompilus ferrugineus) battle over two prizes--an excellent burrow site in the concrete foundation of our back porch and a paralyzed spider.

Off camera, the loser flies away & sits under my truck.   On camera, the winner carries the spider a few feet along the foundation.   After grooming herself extensively, she checks out her burrow, retrieves the spider, and disappears into her nest site.   Meanwhile, a fourth character, never quite clear, follows behind & even enters the burrow.   My superhero Dr. Bugman (aka Ph.D. entomologist Dick Beeman) suggests that the shadowy figure could be the mate of the doomed spider--following her pheromone trail.    The smaller wasp at the end could be the mate of our leading lady.  Indeed, the males of this species are smaller than the females.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Copperheads at Night: Doing The "Combat Dance!"

This was a thrill!   Not only did I not get bitten by these copperheads, but I was privileged to observe their "combat dance."  This is a mating-season ritual engaged in by males in competition for a female.
In Amphibians & Reptiles in Kansas, Joe Collins wrote that copperheads engage in combat dances "infrequently."  Because they do so at night, they are even more infrequently observed.

But I got to see it!

I was coming down from the Prairie Top shortly after dark.   The two copperheads were in the left lane of the Oak Road, just before the Old Barn.    They were lit up by the headlights of my truck.  My cell phone camera was the only one I had with me, but thank goodness I had at least that!

Imperfect as the video is, it catches some of the ghostly presence that was animated and urgent and came looming out of the dark as I drove down the road.  As I got out of the truck, I was super-charged with adrenalin.   I was so excited I was thinking but not-thinking.   I was careful not to get too close to the combatants, at the same time that I completely forgot to watch out for the third copperhead--the female that was no doubt close by and that had caused the duel in the first place.  

But if I was within striking range, she let me go my oblivious way.   The two males did not appear to notice me.   I had to make them notice me after awhile, though, as there was no room to drive around them.   I jumped up & down & waved tree branches.   Finally, they uncoiled.   One slipped away uphill, the other went downhill.  

I do not know if the issue between them had been resolved or if they had to reconvene once my truck went by.

The video was taken September 8, 2015, ca. 8:30 p.m., along the Oak Road that runs through the gallery forest along McDowell Creek, here at Bird Runner.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015




5 Golden Rod Sodier Beetles
(Chauliognathius pennsylvanicus)

1 Dark Flower Beetle
(Euphoria sepulcralis)

1 Tall Thistle
(Cirsium altissimum)