Posts Tagged ‘moth’

My selected bark patch as it appears in the evening. Click/double click to enlarge.

My selected bark patch as it appeared last night. Click/double click to enlarge

Let’s end National Moth Week with a quick backyard activity that takes just a few minutes and requires only a good flashlight. Feel free to add a camera – even a good cell phone camera works for this – if you’d like!

Begin by selecting a tree with a heavily ridged or lichen-covered trunk. Select several large furrows in the bark or among the lichens. Make a mental note of where these surface irregularities lie, and select several easily identifiable spots. Return to the house, come back out, and see if you can find those exact locations again. Once you can do this, you are ready for a night observation!

Several hours after dark, go out with a good flashlight, and examine each area closely. You will likely be surprised by the variety of arthropods you encounter on a single evening. If you photograph each area, be certain to upload your images, and enlarge each on your monitor. You will likely see things you missed while doing your visual examination of the areas.

The same area illuminated by my camera flash. Click/double click to enlarge.

The same area illuminated by my camera flash. Click/double click to enlarge.

Be certain to enlarge your images significantly on your monitor, adjust your sharpness, definition and contrast, and you may be amazed by some the portraits you are able to capture.


This moth, now greatly enlarged, was slightly off to the right center in each of the previous images. Click image to enlarge.

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European Corn Borer. Double click image for best view.

I used the XotoPro to capture this image last night.

This species was introduced in the early 1900s. Larvae damage corn stalks while burrowing and feeding. They also feed on beans, potatoes and a variety of other plants.

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Victim of one of the University of Illinois Plant Conservatory's outdoor sundews.

Six months ago I went to the University of Illinois Plant Biology Conservatory for the first time. It’s a wonderful place to see a variety of plants.

My focus was the large number of carnivorous plants cultured and displayed in an indoor room. Because the summer population can become large, a number of specimens were moved outside, where I captured the image above.

Carnivorous plants are typically found in wet, boggy, acidic soils that are low in the mineral salts and other nutrients vital for plant survival. Many carnivorous plant make up for the reduced availability of nitrogen by obtaining it from insect tissues.

For more about sundews check out Sundews (https://thingsbiological.wordpress.com/2010/07/20/sundews/).

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Forecasting a cold, snowy winter? Maybe, but I wouldn't count on it...

Woolly worms/wooly bears (Pyrrharctia isabella), larvae of Isabella tiger moths, are common throughout the fall. They are thought by some to be endowed with the ability of forecast upcoming winter weather conditions. There is no basis or data that supports this supposition, but folklore is always fun and it is arthropod-related, so here I go!

A few generalizations…

Black and brown banded – Bolder black bands forecast cold; wide brown bands forecast milder weather.

White woolly worms indicate heavier than average snows.

All white as well as all black worms in combination forecast a long, cold spell accompanied with deep snow.

Spiky protrusions forecast ice.

Woollier than normal forecasts cold.

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Sphingid moth caterpillar covered with braconid wasp cocoons. Click image to magnify.

One of my students found two of these caterpillars dining on their neighbor’s tomato plants.

The female braconid wasp lays its eggs within the caterpillar.

The wasp larvae feed on the caterpillar’s body until they chew their way to the surface and spin the white cocoons.

The majority of the wasps already emerged, though a few emerged while we had the caterpillar. More about the wasps later…

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Twig-resembling caterpillar (Gordes, Provence, France)

Appearing similar to your surroundings does have its advantages. This noctuid moth caterpillar was feeding along one of the paths to some of the many ruins areas of Provence, France. This cryptically colored larva will eventually become an equally cryptically colored adult moth.

Source: Insectes de France. Michael Chinery http://www.amazon.fr/Insectes-dEurope-occidentale-Michael-Chinery/dp/2082013758/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1276609225&sr=8-1

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Tomato Hornworm Pupa

Tomato Hornworm (Manduca quinquemaculata) Pupa

While stirring up last year’s soil and adding compost in preparation for planting this year’s tomato plants, I encountered the tomato hornworm pupa shown above. I’m hoping to get some pictures during emergence. We’ll see how well I can do with being in the right place at the right time with the right equipment…

The developing abdomen, wing and eye are clearly apparent. The hooked structure encloses the developing mouthparts.

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