Friday, July 20, 2018

Echinacea Eatery, Part 1: The Perils of Pollinators!

I took this video in hopes of helping with identification of the butterfly which I found nectaring on Purple Cone Flower next to McDowell Creek.  I didn't even see the predators until I got home and put the clips on my computer.   In the first two clips, you can see a Jagged Ambush Bug (Phymata sp.) in the lower right hand side of the disk-florets.  (You can tell Phymata by their conglomeration of shapes and enlarged front legs--green in this case!)  

Next, a crab spider appears (Misumenoides formosipes).  I can't believe that with the naked eye I didn't even see the spider stalking the butterfly!   The butterfly (turned out to be a Silvery Checkerspot) leaves just in time.  However, the final clip shows other, smaller insects moving around inside the flower disk.  The spider's day isn't over yet.

Both the Purple Cone Flower (Echinacea purpurea) and the Silvery Checkerspot (Chlosyne nycteis) like moist prairies and streamsides.  Despite the drought, E. purpurea is flourishing and numerous, not only in the stream buffer where this drama took place, but throughout the prairie restoration in our Creek Field.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Restaurant Rosinweed, Part 1

 This gorgeous beetle--Flat Headed Baldcypress Sapwood Beetle(Acmaeodera pulchella)--was perched on the just-opening flowers of Rosinweed (Silphium integrifolium) in our Creek Field prairie restoration on July 17, 2018.   

(Thank you,, for the identification!)

The larvae feed on cypress, locust, and hawthorn.   By far the most likely host plant for this individual was one of the numerous Black Locust or Honey Locusts along McDowell Creek.

The adults feed on shrubs, trees, or--as here--flowers!

In fact, this one had his head buried in the blossoms to the point that I never got a chance to see if it really is "flat."

I was struck by the differences between his thorax and wings--and the strange perforations in his wings.  His wings look porous--like Triscuit crackers.

He has a look-alike cousin (Acmaeodera mixta) that apparently can be distinguised only by the colors on the wing tips.  A. pulchella's are all black; A. mixta's are mixed with yellow.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Milkweed Metropolis Part 3

Look at how many creatures come to take the sun's energy, converted by the milkweed into pollen and nectar,  into themselves!  (And in the case of male Tachinid flies, they also come to meet the ladies.)   

This is Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca),blooming in our Creek Field, on June 18, 2018:

Compare the above with a neighboring plant, where the buds haven't opened yet.  Since the nectar isn't available, it's pretty quiet:  

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Halloween Pennants on Ragweed Stalks in Prairie Restoration

I found these striking orange dragonflies in the toe of the Creek Field, on July 11, 2018.

My field guide quickly identified them as "Halloween Pennants"--so named because of their orange color and their habit of perching at the top of a plant, with wings and abdomen extended like a pennant in the breeze.  Their Latin name is Celithemis eponina.  

The two I found were perched atop last year's ragweed stalks, and they had all they could do to keep from blowing away in the wind, banner and all.

I was happy to find them in the prairie restoration!   They lay their eggs in water, and for that they could use McDowell Creek, just a wingbeat or two away.  The newly hatched larvae are aquatic and carnivorous.  But the adults need to eat flying insects, and to get flying insects, you need a variety of plants.  I am happy that even in this drought year there is water in the creek and a variety of blooming plants in the Creek Field.  

Since I am finding adult dragonflies in the Creek Field, I am eager to see if I can find their aquatic larvae in the creek!  

Monday, July 9, 2018

Eastern Amberwing in Creek Field

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The red-orange stigmata on the wings are striking!
This is the tiniest dragonfly I've ever seen!  

It is a male Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera), clinging bravely to a seed of Shepherd's Purse, in the toe of the Creek Field.  

The wind was fierce!

Amberwings eat even tinier flying insects and lay eggs in still parts of bodies of water.

Some years McDowell Creek is churning and swirling--no still parts.    Though our current drought is cruel to so many creatures, it has slowed down the creek and created many quiet puddles--just right for Amberwings.  

This clip shows my little guy hanging onto Shepherd's Purse, pumping his abdomen and waving his wings.   Amberwings are wasp-mimics: presumably, the threat of being stung makes predators back off!  But I'm not sure if we're seeing his wasp-imitation or just a wind-whipped balancing act!