Red milkweed beetles

Mating pairs of red milkweed beetles (Tetraopes tetrophthalmus) are not rare (they can couple for hours at a time), but I thought this couple looked cute, in a worried sort of way. The half-lidded expression is because their compound eyes are bisected by their antennae. Beautiful beetles.

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Red milkweed beetles (Tetraopes tetrophthalmus)

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Hummingbird and snowberry clearwing moths

Here are some photographs of the hummingbird clearwing moth (Hemaris thysbe) and the snowberry clearwing moth (H. diffinis).

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Hummingbird and snowberry clearwing moths

Day-active, colorful moths are rare enough, but these take it to the next level in their uncanny mimicry of hummingbirds and bumblebees, respectively. The mimicry presumably protects them from being eaten by predators such as crab spiders, praying mantids, and birds. In addition to the obvious behavioral and morphological resemblance to hummingbirds and bumblebees, the moths also make a slight humming noise that completes the disguise. The noise could easily be an unavoidable consequence of hovering flight (approximately 30 beats/second), but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if their wings are rigged in some way to exaggerate the noise. I’d love to know the answer to that. My other burning question is why the hummingbird clearwing moth has clear wings at all … I would expect selection to favor individuals that did not lose scales, because such a mutant would more resemble a hummingbird, which has opaque wings. I’m guessing that reason is not because fully-scaled wings are too heavy — the hummingbird hawk moth (Macroglossum stellatarum) in the Old World has opaque wings and can manage 70-90 beats/second (wow). I wonder whether a fully scaled wing might damp the humming sound. All photographs were taken at Natural Lands Trust’s Hildacy Farm Preserve in Media, Pennsylvania. Oh, and happy National Moth Week.

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Hummingbird clearwing moth (Hemaris thysbe) with unfurling proboscis

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Hummingbird clearwing moth (Hemaris thysbe) showing wing veination

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Hummingbird clearwing moth (Hemaris thysbe) nectaring

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Hummingbird clearwing moth (Hemaris thysbe) nectaring at wild bergamot

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Hummingbird clearwing moth (Hemaris thysbe) nectaring at wild bergamot

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Hummingbird clearwing moth (Hemaris thysbe) arriving at flower

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Hummingbird clearwing moth (Hemaris thysbe) nectaring at wild bergamot

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Snowberry clearwing moth (Hemaris diffinis)

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Snowberry clearwing moth (Hemaris diffinis)

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Sycamore tussock moth

Sycamore tussock moth (Halysidota harrisii) caterpillar at Hildacy Farm Preserve in Media, PA. I remember these as a child mainly because of their urticating hairs. But they are also really, really cute. I especially like the white ones because their orange tufts stand out better than on the yellow variety. Don’t you just want to pick it up?? If by chance you don’t know what “urticating” means, I highly recommend the experience. You won’t forget.

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Sycamore tussock moth caterpillar (Halysidota harrisii)

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Insects from Gambier, Ohio

I spent a few hours over the weekend taking photographs at Kenyon College’s Brown Family Environmental Center in Gambier, Ohio. It was fun to be back in the area — I spent a good chunk of my childhood in Granville, Ohio, about 45 minutes away.

1. Robber fly (Asilidae; probably Dioctria hyalipennis). I watched it for awhile but didn’t see it take prey. Menacing little guy. Love the forked antennae.

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Robber fly (Dioctria hyalipennis)

2. Small flies on a milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) flower. It was quite the hangout.

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Small flies on milkweed flower

3. Milkweed plants (Asclepias syriaca), with a monarch butterfly caterpillar (it’s there). It was the only monarch I could find in the whole field. It didn’t seem to be eating, and I for the life of me I couldn’t find any evidence that it had been eating anywhere on the two milkweeds in the frame. Odd.

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Milkweed with monarch caterpillar

4. Helmeted squash bug (Euthochtha galeator), I think, on a milkweed leaf. This is a nymph, of course — adults grow up to look completely different.

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Helmeted squash bug (Euthochtha galeator) nymph

5. Wooly aphid caught on a spider web. These were flying all around, so it was nice to have one that was relatively stationary because I didn’t have a tripod with me.

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Wooly aphid stuck on spider web

6. Goldenrod gall caused by the midge, Rhopalomyia solidaginis (diptera).

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Goldenrod gall midge (Rhopalomyia solidaginis)

7. Goldenrod gall (with Eurosta solidaginus):

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Goldenrod gall (with Eurosta solidaginus)

8. Grape filbert gall (Schizomyia coryloides) growing on a grape vine (Vitis sp.). The namers of this species thought the gall looked like clusters of filberts (hazelnuts). I found a photograph of filbert fruit if you are curious, like I was. Coryloides is apparently a genus of extinct filbert, by the way. I’ve never seen one of these galls before, so this was a real treat.

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Grape filbert gall (schizomyia coryloides)

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