Mayslake Bugs

by Carl Strang

The warming weather has produced the first wave of insects at Mayslake Forest Preserve. These early-season adults overwintered in that form or in the stage just prior, or in some cases, migrated from the South.

The Carolina saddlebags is one such likely migrant.

The Carolina saddlebags is one such likely migrant.

This individual gave me a rare opportunity to photograph it in such a way as to show off its diagnostic purple forehead. The slender legs have the strength to hold the dragonfly to its perch.

Though I think of the eastern tailed-blue as a late-summer butterfly, that is the second generation of the year. Here is one of the early-season firsters.

Though I think of the eastern tailed-blue as a late-summer butterfly, that is the second generation of the year. Here is one of the early-season firsters.

Wild indigo dusky wings frequently may be encountered at Mayslake early in the season.

Wild indigo dusky wings frequently may be encountered at Mayslake early in the season.

The preserve harbors two host plants for the caterpillars: white wild indigo, a desired native prairie species, and the unwanted crown vetch, an introduced invasive.

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.

Mayslake Insects Update

by Carl Strang

We’re at the edge of summer, and bees and butterflies and Odonata are center stage. Skippers have been appearing at flowers.

Earlier in the season there were wild indigo dusky wings. This is one of the skippers that typically rest with wings open.

Earlier in the season there were wild indigo dusky wings. This is one of the skippers that typically rest with wings open.

This week a new skipper appeared in Mayslake’s main prairie. This is one that closes the wings at least part way, and had practically no detail beneath.

This week a new skipper appeared in Mayslake’s main prairie. This is one that closes the wings at least part way, and had practically no detail beneath.

With the wings partly open there clearly is some color on the leading edge of the forewing, and small groups of dots. It appears to be a tawny-edged skipper.

With the wings partly open there clearly is some color on the leading edge of the forewing, and small groups of dots. It appears to be a tawny-edged skipper.

Carolina saddlebags have been one of our more consistent early season dragonflies.

The violet forehead is just visible in this back-lit individual.

The violet forehead is just visible in this back-lit individual.

So far the only spreadwing damselflies I have seen have been slender spreadwings.

Slender spreadwings continue to be common this week.

Slender spreadwings continue to be common this week.

In the past few days a number of dragonflies have made their first appearances of the season.

One of the recent species is the eastern amberwing. I like the way the light projects a distorted image of this male’s wings onto the rock.

One of the recent species is the eastern amberwing. I like the way the light projects a distorted image of this male’s wings onto the rock.

Early bumblebee colonies have begun sending out workers.

This bee was diving into the foxglove beard tongue flowers so quickly upon landing that flight photos were needed to show sufficient detail for identification. The black basal abdominal segment followed by two yellow ones is one clue. The trace of yellow on the back half of the dorsal thorax is another.

This bee was diving into the foxglove beard tongue flowers so quickly upon landing that flight photos were needed to show sufficient detail for identification. The black basal abdominal segment followed by two yellow ones is one clue. The trace of yellow on the back half of the dorsal thorax is another.

The other details are consistent with an identification of Bombus auricomus.

The other details are consistent with an identification of Bombus auricomus.

New insects will be emerging frequently for the next couple of months.

Recent Butterflies

by Carl Strang

Earlier I mentioned that one winner in the winter survival sweepstakes appears to have been the spring azure. Another butterfly that apparently benefits from mild winters is the red admiral, and I have been seeing enough of these already at Mayslake Forest Preserve to regard them as another beneficiary in 2012.

Sometimes the red admiral can be seen at a flower or on territory, but often all you get is a flash of orange on an otherwise dark wing as the medium-sized butterfly flits past.

It’s too soon to tell with other butterflies. Last week I got the opportunity to photograph both genders of the wild indigo dusky wing, but they are the only two individuals I have seen to date.

The female of this species is somewhat brighter and lighter.

These skippers indeed often hang around Mayslake’s wild indigo plants, but their population reportedly has increased in recent decades as their larval diet has broadened to include other legumes.

The darker male wild indigo dusky wing is different enough that one easily could believe it belongs to a different species.

It seems I have been counting a few more black swallowtails than usual, as well, but again I need to see more before I will think they had greater than usual survivorship.

Added Insects

by Carl Strang

It’s fun to discover new things, and at Mayslake Forest Preserve I continue to add new species of insects or plants almost daily in the summer. This week the most recent added insect was the question mark butterfly.

This species is named for the tiny silvery markings on the hind wings.

Last week this moth appeared, and I’ve seen another since.

The yellow-collared scape moth is a smaller relative of the similar looking Virginia ctenucha.

An abundant visitor of flowers in the stream corridor prairie this summer has been the great black wasp.

This solitary species digs tunnels, where it places katydids and grasshoppers for its young to eat.

A final new species remains to be identified.

One of the biggest weevils I’ve ever seen, this interesting looking insect turned up in one of the kids’ sweep nets on Take Your Kids to Work Day.

Of course, it’s also enjoyable to see familiar insects.

The wild indigo dusky wing is one of our more common skippers. I have seen them hanging around wild indigo plants at Mayslake, but their caterpillars also feed on other legumes.

Lately I’ve been seeing scattered slender spreadwings.

The pale vein at the tip of the wing, as well as the dark abdomen tip on this male, are distinguishing features.

Two bluets appeared to be large enough, and matching the correct color pattern, to identify as familiar bluets. First was a male.

The violet color seemed odd.

Later a female appeared.

She was feeding on another damselfly, which appeared to be a newly emerged forktail.

I owe thanks to Linda Padera, who accompanied me on a lunch break walk and spotted some of these insects.

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