2019 Bioblitz

by Carl A. Strang

Each year the Indiana Academy of Science co-hosts a bioblitz somewhere in that state. This year’s site was The Center at Donaldson, which includes a retreat center and Ancilla College, plus surrounding properties. I always take the singing insects in this annual 24-hour count of species, but no one came to cover Lepidoptera or Odonata in 2019, so I appended them to my commitment. That is just as well, because these events are scheduled early enough in the season that few singing insects have reached the adult stage.

Some Roesel’s katydids matured in time for the bioblitz.

Two of the five singing insect species I found were common early species that were nearly finished, two were common mid-season species recently coming into song, and one of them provided an observation of significance. The eastern striped cricket is thinly scattered in northwest Indiana, possibly expanding into that region from the south or west. A single male singing in the evening provided a Marshall County record, a full county’s width farther east than I have observed them before.

I enjoyed re-acquainting myself with the beauty of dragonflies, damselflies, butterflies and moths, and photographed many of them.

The widow skimmer was the most abundant dragonfly.

Most of the eastern or common pondhawks still were green. Males will change to blue over time.

The Halloween pennant pleases the eye.

There weren’t many damselflies. Here, a blue-fronted dancer.

Newly emerged eastern forktail females are orange.

A few monarchs graced the grounds.

There were many great spangled fritillaries, plus this meadow fritillary.

I encountered a few moths during the day, but most came to my ultraviolet light setup in the forest, or the Purdue team’s assorted bright lights in the open. Moths are underappreciated for their beauty, diversity, and ecological significance.

Large lace-border, Scopula limboundata

Reversed haploa, Haploa reversa

Painted lichen moth, Hypoprepia fucosa

Delicate cycnia, Cycnia tenera

Isabella tiger moth, Pyrrharctia Isabella

Imperial moth, Eacles imperialis

Hermit sphinx, Lintneria eremitus

Snowy-shouldered acleris, Acleris nivisellana

Oblique-banded leafroller, Choristoneura rosaceana

Grape leaffolder, Desmia funeralis

Grape plume moth, Geina periscelidactylus

Large maple spanworm, Prochoerodes lineola

Lesser maple spanworm, Macaria pustularia

Small engrailed, Ectropis crepuscularia

Ovate dagger, Acronicta ovata

Pink-barred pseudostrotia, Pseudostrotia carneola

The Hebrew, Polygrammate hebraeicum

The brother, Raphia frater

Along the way I encountered a few other species to add to the species count.

Narrow-winged grasshoppers were common on the bioblitz base camp’s sandy hill.

A Pennsylvania wood cockroach came to the UV light.

The light also drew this striking summer fishfly.

 

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More Mayslake Insects

by Carl Strang

As we progress into the warm season, more and more insects jump, fly or climb into view. Most of the recent photographic subjects at Mayslake Forest Preserve have been moths or butterflies.

Monarch butterflies have received a lot of attention lately. Here a nearly mature caterpillar nibbles at a common milkweed flower.

Monarch butterflies have received a lot of attention lately. Here a nearly mature caterpillar nibbles at a common milkweed flower.

The beauty of moths is more subtle. This one is called the confused eusarca, a member of the inchworm family.

The beauty of moths is more subtle. This one is called the confused eusarca, a member of the inchworm family.

The prairies and meadows have produced dozens of tiger moths in the genus Haploa. These all seem to belong to two species.

I identify this one as a reversed haploa. A dark line extends from the midpoint of the leading edge of the forewing to the back corner of the wing.

I identify this one as a reversed haploa. A dark line extends from the midpoint of the leading edge of the forewing to the back corner of the wing.

This one appears to be a LeConte’s haploa. Here the dominant line goes out from the tip of the wing.

This one appears to be a LeConte’s haploa. Here the dominant line goes out from the tip of the wing.

Each species is represented by an array of confusing variations on these themes.

It hasn’t been just about moths. Here a Batyle suturalis longhorn beetle visits an ox-eye daisy.

It hasn’t been just about moths. Here a Batyle suturalis longhorn beetle visits an ox-eye daisy.

The most dramatic recent insect observation was this Laphria robber fly, with its prey, a honeybee. Laphria are bumblebee mimics.

The most dramatic recent insect observation was this Laphria robber fly, with its prey, a honeybee. Laphria are bumblebee mimics.

Mayslake Lepidoptera!

by Carl Strang

I added the exclamation point in the title to fill a gap left by our punctuational butterflies. Eastern commas are usually fairly common at Mayslake Forest Preserve.

This recent example shows the source of the butterfly’s name: a contrasting silver or white mark on the underside of the wing is reminiscent of a comma.

This recent example shows the source of the butterfly’s name: a contrasting silver or white mark on the underside of the wing is reminiscent of a comma.

The week before, I thought that one of the comma’s less frequent relatives appeared.

There seems to be a separation here, a curved line plus a dot.

There seems to be a separation here, a curved line plus a dot.

Later I had to conclude that this was a question mark wannabe, a comma with a disruption in its namesake line. This was made clear by the upper wing pattern.

The pattern of black spots on the forewing is that of an eastern comma.

The pattern of black spots on the forewing is that of an eastern comma.

There have been appearances by two different moths in the same genus, and no ambiguity in this case.

This was a LeConte’s haploa on June 9. Note the gaps in the dark lines at the corners of the wings.

This was a LeConte’s haploa on June 9. Note the gaps in the dark lines at the corners of the wings.

Ten days later a reversed haploa appeared. The dark lines are connected.

Ten days later a reversed haploa appeared. The dark lines are connected.

These are tiger moths that commonly emerge this time of year, and I continue to see individuals of both species at Mayslake. The haploa caterpillars generally feed on a wide variety of plants, but I have no information on their local diet range.

Another common moth is the large lace border, one of the geometrid or inchworm moths.

Not a big moth, contrary to the name, wingspan perhaps an inch.

Not a big moth, contrary to the name, wingspan perhaps an inch.

Again, the relative abundance of this species probably is tied to its broad dietary range, which includes plants in several families.

June Insect Phenology

by Carl Strang

Insects, like plants, continue to reflect an early phenology this year. First appearances of insect species in June at Mayslake Forest Preserve were a median 22 days earlier than last year (13 species, range 66 days earlier to 46 days later). As was true for first flower dates, the difference was less extreme between 2012 and 2010, with a median of 15.5 days earlier this year for 14 species, ranging 48 days earlier to 62 days later.

The reversed haploa was close to the median values, appearing 22 days earlier than last year and 2009, 7 days earlier than in 2010.

The median difference was back to 22 days relative to 2009, ranging 80 days earlier to 31 days later for 13 species.

Insect Catch-Up

by Carl Strang

I consider photos to be an indispensible part of this blog. Blogs are based on writing, but in a visual medium like a computer screen, I believe images are needed as well. I try to get photos of everything new I encounter in the field, and edit and copy selected ones into a file I keep for the blog. They then are the basis for new posts. Sometimes there are orphan photos, ones which by themselves may not be enough for an entire entry. Today I want to clear out three such photos of insects. The first goes back to mid-June.

Unicorn clubtail on May’s Lake

I had been seeing a few jade clubtails at Mayslake Forest Preserve, perched on shore or occasionally on floating algae, but then on June 16 there was an odd-looking individual that clearly was a new species for the preserve list. The photo made clear that this was a unicorn clubtail, a species in the same genus as the jade clubtail, common in some places but not, in my experience at least, in DuPage County.

Reversed haploa, a member of the tiger moth family

This was a big year for reversed haploas. Usually I see 5 or so in a season, but I saw dozens at Mayslake in the first half of July.

Bombus pensylvanicus. I think.

There are two species of bumblebees in northern Illinois that are so similar I cannot distinguish them confidently. From what I have seen in internet sources, I am not alone in this. Both have large areas of black on the thorax and large areas of yellow on the abdomen. There are variations in “fur” color on the head and posterior thorax that bring enough overlap into the picture to confound the identification of individuals. As far as I can tell, it comes down to the color of the basal abdominal segments. Less black and more yellow indicates pensylvanicus, more black and less yellow indicates Bombus auricomus. In my limited experience, though, there appears to be another possible indicator. B. auricomus seem to be brighter, the yellow and black so sharp as to really stand out, while the colors are duller in pensylvanicus.

Here is an auricomus from an earlier year

If any readers can lend insight on this, I would appreciate a comment to that affect.

Insect Phenology June

by Carl Strang

In my previous post I updated first flowering dates for Mayslake Forest Preserve in 2010. Today I’ll share first insect sighting dates for June. In the limited time I had to be out on the preserve during the month I noted only 12 new species for the year. The median difference from last year was a negligible half day earlier. These observations included the reversed haploa (15 days earlier than last year),

and Roesel’s katydid (27 days earlier).

New species for the preserve list included the familiar bluet

and the moth Scopula limboundata.

In English the last is usually called the large lace-border. It belongs to the Geometridae, or inchworm family.

More Mayslake Lepidoptera (and others)

by Carl Strang

A couple days ago I updated the dragonflies and damselflies I have been finding at Mayslake Forest Preserve in my first year there. Today I’ll continue with newly sighted butterflies and a moth. These include black swallowtails, both female

black swallowtail female b

and male.

Black swallowtail male b

I have not seen larvae, but there are plenty of Queen Anne’s lace and other members of the family Umbelliferae that are potential food plants. When I saw the following hairstreak, I made sure to get photos.

Banded hairstreak b

This proves to be a banded hairstreak. A year ago I was alerted by Forest Preserve District invertebrate biologist Tom Velat to watch for southern or oak hairstreaks. That alert was prompted by the following photo I took of that species at Fullersburg, which I failed to identify correctly.

Southern (oak) hairstreak b

The hairstreaks require a close study of patterns in the lines of dots beneath both wings, and the arrangement of colors in the corner of the hindwing. I have one moth to share this time, the reversed haploa.

Haploa reversa Reversed haploa b

Haploa is a genus of tiger moths. I’ll close with three insects of milkweeds. The first is a familiar butterfly, the monarch, here visiting a purple coneflower in Mayslake’s Historic Garden.

Monarch Echinacea b

Monarch caterpillars feed on the leaves of milkweeds, in the process sequestering defensive poisons which then protect the specialist insect from its own consumers. Other insects have solved the milkweeds’ chemical challenge, and gone on to advertise their own poisonous status with bright colors. Two species in this category which recently have appeared at Mayslake are the red milkweed beetle

Red milkweed beetle b

and the large milkweed bug.

Large milkweed bug b

I’m sure I have barely scratched the surface of Mayslake’s Lepidoptera.

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