Variable oakleaf caterpillar

This is a newly-molted variable oakleaf caterpillar (Lochmaeus manteo), with old head capsule still attached. I initially thought the capsule was the head and that the thorax had eyespots, but John and Jane Balaban on pointed out the obvious to me.

This species sprays formic acid, apparently.

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Lochmaeus caterpillar

Close-up of Lochmaeus caterpillar

FYI, Al Denelsbeck posted an almost identical image here, complete with close-up of the eyes.

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Galapagos mug with English and Spanish maps

I read a lot of books and articles about the Galapagos Islands, and it’s a tad annoying that the islands all have two names — colonial British, and modern Spanish. Most books (but not articles) have a map, but it’s invariably just a monolingual map and also fixed on a given page so it’s hard to refer to frequently. So out of frustration I designed myself a bilingual map mug. Just hold in right hand when reading modern works, and in the left hand when reading something older like Charles Darwin’s, Voyage of the Beagle. It’s also useful when reading about the various endemics that were given names according to the islands where they were first described. E.g., when reading about Microlophus albemarlensis barringtonensis (one of the lava lizards), a quick glance at the mug will tell you that the subspecies is on Isla Santa Fé, though primary species description was for the specimens on Isla Isabela.

I put it up on Redbubble in case you need one for yourself, or need a geeky gift for somebody who’s doing some reading in advance of a trip to the Galapagos.

Mug with English/Spanish maps of the Galapagos

If you’re curious about the map, it’s one I scanned from Darwin’s, Journal of Researches. It’s probably not suitable for navigation purposes, FYI, especially if filled with hot canelazo.

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Green lacewing larvae covered with debris

Here are three types of Chrysopidae (green lacewings) I found a few days ago. One had covered itself with insect parts (and spider web), another with (perhaps) fluff from some wooly homopteran (woolly alder aphids?), and a third with bits of lichen. There’s currently no way (as far as I know) to identify these larvae based on their debris preferences. And it seems likely that there are many undescribed species tooling around right in front of us (e.g.). Like many aspects of natural history, there’s a huge need for citizen scientists to forward information on lacewing larvae to experts — that need is apparently described in this article by Catherine Tauber et al. (Side note: don’t publish “calls for citizen science submissions” in paywalled journals that citizens cannot read.)

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Green lacewing larva (Chrysopidae) with debris

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Green lacewing larva (Chrysopidae) with debris

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Green lacewing larva (Chrysopidae) covered with lichen

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Grape leaf miner identification

There are two species of moth that commonly mine grape leaves (Vitis spp.) where I live (Pennsylvania), and I think I’ve figured out how to distinguish them. I’m sharing here just in case somebody might be in need of tips.

The one I most commonly see is the grape leaf miner, Phyllocnistis vitifoliella. It has a very prominent, dark frass line in the center of its mine path, and the epidermis is visibly pushed up by the larva. Further images of the mine (and of the adult) can be found on the relevant page.

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Grape leaf miner (Phyllocnistis vitifoliella)

Less commonly found, at least in my immediate area, is the American grape leaf miner, Phyllocnistis vitegenella. Unlike the previous species, there’s no visible frass line (the frass is dark and diffusely deposited, I gather), and the path looks more like the glossy residue left by a slug. A further difference is that late-instar P. vitegenella induce leaf margins to curl slightly prior to pupation. You can see that curling on the upper right part of the leaf in the photograph. has more mine photographs. Photographs of the adults are here (auf Deutsch).

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; American grape leaf miner (Phyllocnistis vitegenella)

There are reports of a third species in Pennsylvania (and Kentucky), Antispila viticordifoliella, but I haven’t encountered it. So here’s a link to it’s Wikipedia page, with image from that page. Apparently the frass is collected in irregular lines or big clumps. There’s also A. oinophylla, but apparently it hasn’t been found in Pennsylvania (yet?).
Antispila viticordifoliella image from Wikipedia

If I’ve made any errors in the above, let me know.

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Raspberry crown borer

I LOVE this clearwing moth. The raspberry crown borer (Pennisetia marginata) is a Batesian mimic of (I think) Vespula maculifrons and V. pensylvanica, our native yellow jackets. If you’re mildly impressed by the resemblance, you should see them in flight or walking around a leaf. They have completely nailed the cocky, jerky yellow jacket attitude. I can’t seem to find a video to link to, but this is a related species. If you live near a big patch of raspberry or blackberry, go look for them right now … they are out mating and laying eggs.

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Female raspberry crown borer (Pennisetia marginata)

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Female raspberry crown borer (Pennisetia marginata)

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