More Mayslake Insects

by Carl Strang

Today, some recent photos of insects from Mayslake Forest Preserve.

Broad-winged bush katydid, July 26

Broad-winged bush katydid, July 26

Broad-winged bush katydids have been a personal challenge to photograph. They are very good at staying out of sight, and quick to flush when they know they have been seen. This one was on the move, making it easier to spot, and I was able to go slowly enough to get in a couple shutter clicks.

The red hind tibias are striking. They don’t seem to occur on every individual, but from photos made by others, and my own few observations, they seem to appear in this species more than others.

The red hind tibias are striking. They don’t seem to occur on every individual, but from photos made by others, and my own few observations, they seem to appear in this species more than others.

The banded longhorn beetle closely resembles Strangalia luteicornis, which also recently has been visiting Queen Anne’s lace.

Note the black antennae and thorax, and the more stripe-like elytra markings.

Note the black antennae and thorax, and the more stripe-like elytra markings.

Here is Strangalia, for comparison.

Here is Strangalia, for comparison.

Like Strangalia, the adult banded longhorns visit flowers, but this one is more a woodland species rather than woods edges, and its larvae live in decaying trees. Despite the superficial similarity, it is in a different genus.

Another longhorned beetle, Batyle suturalis, like so many adults in its family, feeds on pollen.

The larvae of this one most commonly bore oak and hickory trees.

The larvae of this one most commonly bore oak and hickory trees.

The seven-spotted lady beetle was imported from Eurasia for aphid control.

Seven-spotted lady beetle. The odd number of spots comes about from the forward most spot, which forms from a half on each elytron.

Seven-spotted lady beetle. The odd number of spots comes about from the forward most spot, which forms from a half on each elytron.

The introduced lady beetles have proven to be problematic, their competitive and possibly predatory activity driving down our native lady beetle species.

The final two insects are Hymenoptera.

This little wasp, Euodynerus hidalgo, is a solitary species. The females nest in holes in wood or in the ground, partitioning them with fine soil and feeding their young with paralyzed caterpillars.

This little wasp, Euodynerus hidalgo, is a solitary species. The females nest in holes in wood or in the ground, partitioning them with fine soil and feeding their young with paralyzed caterpillars

I am accustomed to seeing cicada killers, which indeed capture cicadas to feed their young, in sand soil regions. Where these are finding soil soft enough to dig their nursery tunnels at Mayslake is a bit of a mystery.

Eastern cicada killer, the 200th insect species I have observed on the preserve.

Eastern cicada killer, the 200th insect species I have identified on the preserve.

Lessons from a Tiny Teacher

by Carl Strang

A moment came Saturday night when I had an experience which seldom happens anymore. I was walking to my car to head home from Mayslake Forest Preserve after watching First Folio Theater’s excellent performance of Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor on the outdoor stage. I heard a singing insect that I did not recognize.

This was at the end of a day that had been fairly productive. I had found green-winged cicadas in two additional counties in the afternoon. During the play’s intermission I heard the first sword-bearing coneheads of the year in Mayslake’s prairies. I also heard the first unambiguous fall field crickets of the season.

But then, as I headed for the car, I heard a trill that seemed unfamiliar. At first I thought it was probably something I was hearing for the first time this season, and its identity would click if I just listened for a short time. While waiting for that click to happen I went through the mental checklist. It was a high-pitched, musical trill. So, it had to be a cricket. I approached it, and the hidden insect kept singing until I was beneath it. So, it had to be a tree cricket. I looked up into the spruce above me, but without a flashlight there wasn’t even a small possibility of seeing it. The checklist continued. All the early arboreal tree crickets have pauses in their trills, at least little ones. Therefore it wasn’t a two-spotted, or a Davis’s, and certainly not a snowy. I knew I would be there at night in a little over a week, and resolved to make a recording then. It wasn’t until later that the obvious solution filtered through the late night fatigue. It had to be a pine tree cricket. I realized that I had allowed myself to think of Oecanthus pini as a late-season species, but that was because Nancy Collins introduced me to pine tree crickets in September last year. I had noted that they were going strong at that point, and so could not say when they had begun. Everything fit. It was a continuous musical trill, but not as loud as tree crickets usually are. It was in a conifer. The Singing Insects of North America website gives starting dates consistent with the end of July at this latitude.

Pine tree cricket

Pine tree cricket

The lessons were several: be open to all sounds, notice them all; pursue incongruities if a song isn’t a clear match with past experience; abandon assumptions that are constructed from limited past experience. That’s a lot of profit gained from one tiny cricket, and I am grateful.

Return to J-P

by Carl Strang

A few hours of singing insect searching over the weekend produced 8 county records (across 3 counties), and some photos I’d been hoping to get. High on the list of priorities for the latter this year was the green-winged cicada, Diceroprocta vitripennis. I found a number of them singing Saturday at Jasper-Pulaski State Fish & Wildlife Area in Indiana. Finding a singing cicada up in a tree is a challenge when it can be done at all. The good part is that I found one.

The less than great part is that the only line of sight was from a distance and through a canopy hole, so I will hope for a better opportunity at another time.

The less than great part is that the only line of sight was from a distance and through a canopy hole, so I will hope for a better opportunity at another time.

I also heard one of that species singing Sunday at Braidwood Dunes in Will County, my first Illinois location. So far all have been in black oak sand savannas.

Back at J-P, I was able to catch a sulfur-winged grasshopper, so as to get a photo of the bright yellow hind wing.

If anything, the yellow was more intense than the photo indicates.

If anything, the yellow was more intense than the photo indicates.

The critter stayed put when I released it, making a portrait possible.

Though study of reference material confirmed the ID, this one was much paler than the individual I photographed within 50 feet of this location last year.

Though study of reference material confirmed the ID, this one was much paler than the individual I photographed within 50 feet of this location last year.

That 2013 hopper may have had the more typical color pattern. I saw its twin at Braidwood Sunday.

That 2013 hopper may have had the more typical color pattern. I saw its twin at Braidwood Sunday.

Nearby at J-P was a pair of grasshoppers that begged to be photographed. They do not belong to either of the singing subfamilies of grasshoppers, but they were attractive to look at.

These appear to be narrow-winged grasshoppers, Melanoplus angustipennis.

These appear to be narrow-winged grasshoppers, Melanoplus angustipennis.

As I drove out of J-P, I was arrested by this group of plants beside the road.

Brilliant red flowers topped the tall stems.

Brilliant red flowers topped the tall stems.

They appear to be targeting hummingbirds as pollinators.

They appear to be targeting hummingbirds as pollinators.

The foliage accounts for the odd name (for an herbaceous plant) of standing cypress.

The foliage accounts for the odd name (for an herbaceous plant) of standing cypress.

Gilia rubra is native to the southern states, but has established some colonies of escapes from cultivation in the sand counties of northwestern Indiana.

Playing Catch-Up 3

by Carl Strang

The remaining photos in the hopper are of Lepidoptera, mainly moths, but we’ll begin with a butterfly.

Wild indigo dusky wings usually don’t wander far from their food plants at Mayslake Forest Preserve, which has both white wild indigo and, until the restoration team succeeds in eradicating it, crown vetch.

Wild indigo dusky wings usually don’t wander far from their food plants at Mayslake Forest Preserve, which has both white wild indigo and, until the restoration team succeeds in eradicating it, crown vetch.

Now for two views of different individuals of a geometrid moth called the confused eusarca.

This is a common color pattern in geometrids. One important distinguishing detail for this species is that the long line does not reach the wingtip.

This is a common color pattern in geometrids. One important distinguishing detail for this species is that the long line does not reach the wingtip.

This oblique angle provides additional detail, as well as offering an opportunity to see some individual variation.

This oblique angle provides additional detail, as well as offering an opportunity to see some individual variation.

The forage looper is a very common moth in our area.

The forage looper is a very common moth in our area.

This white-spotted sable was not interested in giving me a dorsal angle, so I settled for an oblique ventral one.

This white-spotted sable was not interested in giving me a dorsal angle, so I settled for an oblique ventral one.

Playing Catch-Up 2

by Carl Strang

Odonata continue to show well at Mayslake Forest Preserve. Today’s photo gallery features some recent sightings.

This male spreadwing clearly was not a slender spreadwing, which species has dominated the spreadwing damselfly fauna at the preserve this year. I generally photograph these from the side and above, as I haven’t yet internalized their distinguishing features.

This male spreadwing clearly was not a slender spreadwing, which species has dominated the spreadwing damselfly fauna at the preserve this year. I generally photograph these from the side and above, as I haven’t yet internalized their distinguishing features.

The abdomen tip tells the tale, both with the triangular black intrusion in segment 8, and in the shape of the terminal appendages, which demonstrate why this species has been named the lyre-tipped spreadwing.

The abdomen tip tells the tale, both with the triangular black intrusion in segment 8, and in the shape of the terminal appendages, which demonstrate why this species has been named the lyre-tipped spreadwing.

This is only the second or third time I have encountered that species at Mayslake. A dragonfly which likewise has made few appearances is the Halloween pennant.

This teneral individual was perched near Mays’ Lake, from which it probably emerged.

This teneral individual was perched near Mays’ Lake, from which it probably emerged.

The following dragonflies are regulars, but no less beautiful for that.

Common green darner

Common green darner

Jade clubtails have been resting on algal mats in the lakes.

Jade clubtails have been resting on algal mats in the lakes.

One of the fiercest dragonflies for its size, a common pondhawk.

One of the fiercest dragonflies for its size, a common pondhawk.

Common whitetails are easy photographic targets, as they often rest on the ground.

Common whitetails are easy photographic targets, as they often rest on the ground.

Playing Catch-up 1

by Carl Strang

Photographs have been accumulating in the blog file, but the inspiration to tie them together sensibly hasn’t come, so this week I will simply empty the file out. These all are from Mayslake Forest Preserve, and today’s collection is a miscellaneous one.

We’ve had more rain than usual this far into the summer. Here some fresh mud captured a set of chipmunk tracks.

We’ve had more rain than usual this far into the summer. Here some fresh mud captured a set of chipmunk tracks.

The parking lot marsh surprised me last week with an array of a plant new to the preserve. This is an aquatic buttercup, the yellow water crowfoot.

The parking lot marsh surprised me last week with an array of a plant new to the preserve. This is an aquatic buttercup, the yellow water crowfoot.

This has been a good year at Mayslake for a bumblebee species that varies in numbers considerably between years: Bombus auricomus. The yellow cap on the head, large size, and bold black and yellow pattern are distinctive.

This has been a good year at Mayslake for a bumblebee species that varies in numbers considerably between years: Bombus auricomus. The yellow cap on the head, large size, and bold black and yellow pattern are distinctive.

Queen Anne’s lace is blooming, and on Friday it pointed me to two arthropods new to the Mayslake list. This one has a name I like: Strangalia luteicornis. It is a woods-edge long-horned beetle whose larvae bore into woody plants including grape vines.

Queen Anne’s lace is blooming, and on Friday it pointed me to two arthropods new to the Mayslake list. This one has a name I like: Strangalia luteicornis. It is a woods-edge long-horned beetle whose larvae bore into woody plants including grape vines.

Here a northern crab spider, Mecaphesa asperata, feasts on a flower-visitor fooled by the spider’s camo.

Here a northern crab spider, Mecaphesa asperata, feasts on a flower-visitor fooled by the spider’s camo.

Not an Indicator?

by Carl Strang

Prairie cicadas are small, early-season cicadas that I first met on July 4 of last year at Woodworth Prairie in Cook County. Soon after that I found them at West Chicago Prairie and Belmont Prairie in DuPage County. Researchers at Woodworth have documenting them as emerging during a relatively brief period, mid-June to mid-July. This year I have been making weekly checks at West Chicago Prairie, and they did not appear until last Sunday, July 6.

This one sang from a bush clover stalk.

This one sang from a bush clover stalk.

That opened the door to seeking them on other sites, and I have been to two of them so far. I failed to find prairie cicadas at Horlock Hill Prairie in Kane County and at Wolf Road Prairie in Cook County. That spoils my working hypothesis that they would prove to be indicators of prairie remnants.

Here’s another West Chicago Prairie cicada, singing from a dead stem.

Here’s another West Chicago Prairie cicada, singing from a dead stem.

I hope to squeeze in a few more site checks in the next couple of weeks, but already I have the sense that this species is very limited in the locations where it occurs. I’ll also hope to get a sense of how long they are out at a given site. The July 6 appearance seems late, but this has been an odd year phenologically. So far the 11 species of singing insects have ranged from the earliest starting date in my record to nearly the latest, and the median is right in the middle. That is a little surprising given the severity and length of the winter, but first flower dates (which I hope to analyze soon) have been equally all over the place.

Sun Dapples

by Carl Strang

Recently I noticed a patch of sun dapples on the trail, and was reminded of a surprising observation from a decade or two ago.

Notice how they all are circular in shape, with fuzzy outlines.

Notice how they all are circular in shape, with fuzzy outlines.

There was a mid-day eclipse of the sun that day, not total but the moon covered a significant percentage. I happened to be where there were patches of sun dapples like these, and as the eclipse progressed I was amazed to see the dapples changing shape. They all were images of the eclipse, at the peak showing little crescent suns.

Warnings had been broadcast in advance of the event, reminding people not to look directly at the eclipse, but to create a pinhole camera effect, holding two sheets of white cardboard, the one closer to the sun with a pinhole in it. The image of the eclipse would be formed on the back sheet, and could be sharpened by changing the distance between sheets. I realized that the tiny spaces between the leaves in the tree canopy above were, in effect, tiny pinholes, and the ground was covered by myriad images of the eclipse. The ground was not the correct distance from the canopy to produce sharp images, but they were clear enough to show the effect. The implication is that these dapples always are giving us images of the sun, as in the photo above.

Singing Insects in Transition

by Carl Strang

We are at a point in the season where the spring-singing insects are finishing, and the early summer brings new voices to the chorus. Green-striped grasshoppers seemed to tail off rapidly in their crepitating flights this year. I have heard very few in recent weeks.

The male green-striped grasshopper usually is brown. He’s the one who does the displaying.

The male green-striped grasshopper usually is brown. He’s the one who does the displaying.

The object of his displays usually is green, and a bit bigger than him.

The object of his displays usually is green, and a bit bigger than him.

Roesel’s katydids rapidly are increasing the number of buzzes they are contributing to the meadows and prairies.

Note the blur in the wings as this short-winged Roesel’s katydid sings. Some individuals have much longer wings.

Note the blur in the wings as this short-winged Roesel’s katydid sings. Some individuals have much longer wings.

Over the weekend I heard first songs from three additional species: Linne’s and dog day cicadas, and the gladiator meadow katydid.

This was one of several gladiators singing beside the Regional Trail in south Blackwell Forest Preserve Saturday evening.

This was one of several gladiators singing beside the Regional Trail in south Blackwell Forest Preserve Saturday evening.

Those Tibicen cicadas, especially, characterize the sound of summer for me.

Some Mayslake Birds

by Carl Strang

It seemed the ideal situation. Muskrats had built an enormous mounded den in the center of the parking lot marsh at Mayslake Forest Preserve, and it was a sure bet that it would platform a Canada goose nest in the spring. Sure enough.

A female incubating her nest on April 15.

A female incubating her nest on April 15.

Something happened. The nest was abandoned before incubation was completed. The water is deep, and it’s hard to imagine a coyote making that swim for so small a return. The story wasn’t over, though, as a second attempt was underway by early June.

The same pair? Cannot say, but there was a new nest under incubation by June 3.

The same pair? Cannot say, but there was a new nest under incubation by June 3.

This was very late, but still there would be plenty of time to get young flying by fall. The result, however, was the same.

By June 24 the nest had been abandoned. The eggs appear to be intact.

By June 24 the nest had been abandoned. The eggs appear to be intact.

To close on a more positive note, I will share some recent portraits of Mayslake’s other birds.

Green herons have been regulars in the marshes and lakes.

Green herons have been regulars in the marshes and lakes.

A red-winged blackbird carries lunch for her nestlings.

A red-winged blackbird carries lunch for her nestlings.

A single common yellowthroat is all I’ve been hearing on the preserve.

A single common yellowthroat is all I’ve been hearing on the preserve.

This cedar waxwing thoughtfully lifted its crest as I aimed the camera.

This cedar waxwing thoughtfully lifted its crest as I aimed the camera.

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