Tag Archives: insect

Snow fly

If you’re out on a nature walk today, keep your eyes peeled for snow flies. These are essentially wingless crane flies loaded with antifreeze. This one is a male Chionea scita, I believe. Not much is known about these insects, although there is speculation that at least some members of the genus hang out in rodent burrows eating feces. (Don’t judge.) Please see “The crane fly genus Chionea in North America” (Byers 1983) for more details.

You might note that it has halteres, which is interesting because these are organs used in flight (they are modified wings … which is why flies only have one pair of wings). Would be fun to figure out whether snow fly halteres still work, though that would have to be inferred by anatomy and maybe some electrophysiological tricks. Or perhaps they serve a new function. To see photographs of some flies that have lost their halteres, check out the Braulidae (bee parasites) or Hippoboscidae ovinus (sheep ked). I love wingless flies. Did a presentation on them when I took entomology during high school … and have been creeped out and impressed by them ever since.

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; snow-fly

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Infestation of camel crickets

When it’s too hot to take photographs outside, I can always go down to my basement to photograph camel crickets (“sprickets” to many). I know, lucky me. But if you have a moist basement, you probably have them, too. The ones below are the introduced species (I think), Diestrammena asynamora, from Asia. They drive me nuts. So much so that I wasted time collecting ways to get rid of them (see my page, “Getting rid of camel crickets“, if you’re interested). The list is not 100% effective, as photographs attest, but at least I don’t have thousands of them anymore.

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Camel cricket (Diestrammena asynamora)

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Camel cricket (Diestrammena asynamora)

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Camel cricket (Diestrammena asynamora)

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Camel cricket (Diestrammena asynamora)

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Camel cricket (Diestrammena asynamora)

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Camel cricket (Diestrammena asynamora)

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Camel cricket (Diestrammena asynamora)

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Distinguishing tobacco and tomato hornworm caterpillars

After agonizing over the identification of hornworm larvae for years, I’ve developed two tricks that I’d like to share. Tobacco hornworm (Manduca sexta) caterpillars have stripes (seven of them), so remember that by thinking of Lucky Strikes cigarettes. Horn is usually red or red-tipped, like a cigarette. Also, tobacco gives you dark teeth and lungs … and tobacco hornworms have black shadows on their stripes. Tomato hornworms (Manduca quinquemaculata) have eight chevrons (Vs), which you can remember by thinking of V8 juice, which is primarily tomato juice. Here’s the graphic you can share with friends who might have it wrong:

Photographs of tobacco and tomato hornworm caterpillars

If you can, please spread the word … most of the tens of thousands of tobacco hornworm photographs on the internet are misidentified as tomato hornworms. Even Wikipedia page for tomato hornworm shows tobacco hornworm larvae (I’m working on it …). The problem is that tobacco hornworm eats tomatoes, and people with fancy cameras grow a lot of tomatoes.

For people living in Hawaii, please note that the above doesn’t include Manduca blackburni, which is closely related to tomato hornworm.

Photograph of tomato hornworm from Amanda Hill.

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Eastern boxelder bugs

Below are some photographs of Eastern boxelder bugs (Boisea trivittata) I took recently at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Tinicum, Pennsylvania. These true bugs are fun to watch — richly colored, morphologically variable (they go through numerous instars), and often shockingly gregarious. They move a lot, too, so rather annoying to get a decent photograph.

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Eastern boxelder bug (Boisea trivittata) nymph

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Eastern boxelder bugs (Boisea trivittata) on lichen

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Eastern boxelder bugs (Boisea trivittata) on seeds

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Eastern boxelder bugs (Boisea trivittata) congregating on plant

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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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