Tag Archives: media

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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The best science in Media

For science fans near Philadelphia, here are photographs from a recent visit to the Delaware County Institute of Science, based in Media, Pennsylvania.  First my favorite (a grumpy dried frog), then small thumbnails of the rest. Mouse-over a photo to see a brief description of what it is (but try to guess, first), or click it to launch larger version with titles. If you want to see any of the photographs even larger, or want to read the gruesome details, visit my original gallery.

 colin purrington photography: Delaware County Institute of Science &emdash; preserved-frog

If you are in Media to eat (and you should … see http://www.mediarestaurants.com for listing) or in court because you’re a bad person and got caught (it’s the County seat), you can visit DCIS on a Monday, Thursday, or Saturday morning (9am – 12pm). They also feature monthly talks: the next one is November 9th and focuses on the Mason-Dixon line (oh, yes, there’s a story there).

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