The Bug Geek

Insects. Doing Science. Other awesome, geeky stuff.

Category Archives: Forgotten Photo Friday

Forgotten Photo Friday: “Dory’s Looper”

Despite the sunny weather we’re enjoying at the start of this long weekend, it’s still cool and windy, meaning the bug-shooting opportunities are  pretty typical of early spring (i.e., lousy).  Add this to the fact that I found myself spending the entire day working on another grant application (it’s the life, isn’t it?) and I have no new picture for today’s photo Friday.

However, I remembered that I hadn’t shared this little shot that I took in the fall. As part of her PhD project, my labmate Dory is working on caterpillars living in forest canopies, and was trying to determine the identity of a whole bunch of tiny little looper (Geometridae) caterpillars. I posed one on a white piece of printer paper on a lab benchtop and took a few shots.

The caterpillar complied by being extra cute:

Dory's Looper (Geometridae)

Dory's Looper (Geometridae)

We submitted this image and others to Bug Guide, but alas, we never got an ID on this little critter.

Forgotten Photo Friday: differential grasshopper

On a hazy, warm, sunny morning in late summer, a  grasshopper feeds on the bud of a yellow composite flower .

Differential grasshoppper, Melanoplus differentialis

Differential grasshoppper, Melanoplus differentialis

This photograph was taken at the Shaw Nature Reserve in Missouri, while at BugShot 2011. On that note, I want to thank everybody who has supported my fundraising efforts to attend BugShot 2012. Thanks to your generous donations and your enthusiasm for consuming hot beverages out of geeky mugs, I am 60% of the way to my goal!  I can’t even begin to express my gratitude….

This image (note the yellow) makes me yearn for warmer weather. Oddly enough, the forecast here is calling for temperatures in the high teens and mid-twenties (degrees Celsius!) for the next few days – totally unheard of for mid-March! I’m feeling optimistic about getting some new photos this weekend!

Forgotten Photo Friday: death of a butterfly

This photo, while neither compositionally nor technically lovely, captured one of the more dramatic insect-insect interactions I’ve ever encountered:

Polistes sp. with Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus)

A large wasp (Polistes sp.) was dangling by the slender tarsal claws of its two hind legs, clutching a frantic and struggling newly-eclosed Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus).  Its wings still soft, wrinkled and useless, the butterfly could do little to ward off or flee from its attacker. It valiantly tried nonetheless, twisting its body and kicking as the wasp hung on with great determination.

After several minutes, the weight and motion of they prey caused the wasp to lose its grip on the blade of grass, and both tumbled to the ground, still in their deadly embrace.  I left the scene then, feeling fairly certain of the butterfly’s fate…

(Photo taken at the Shaw Nature Reserve in Missouri).

Forgotten Photo Friday – a cryptic caterpillar

I still have no idea how I spotted this among all the lush, green September foliage blanketing the edges of a forest path:

Cryptic caterpillar (topside)

I suspect my eye was drawn to the bits of missing leaf that indicated insect damage (usually a good place to look for bugs).  This critter was chewing its way up the midrib of the leaf, being careful to align its body perfectly with the smaller veins, disguising its body as just another part of (albeit damaged) plant.  This is a wonderful example of cryptic camouflage: the animal uses its colour, shape and behaviour to blend in with its environment, thereby escaping the sharp eyes of its predators.

The view underneath was pretty interesting, too. It revealed that the animal was actually holding TWO leaves in place, managing somehow to line them up nicely enough to fool the eye into seeing a single unit of greenery when viewed from above:

Cryptic caterpillar (underside)


Edited to add: Ok, ok.  Dave called me out on my “ID” of this animal (or perhaps lack thereof). This is in fact the larva of a sawfly, which is a type of wasp – the biggest hint as to its identity is the number of prolegs (also, the head capsule is pretty typical of sawflies).  However, “Cryptic Sawfly Larva” does not nearly have the same alliterative resonance as “Cryptic caterpillar”, so I took creative liberties. So there.

Forgotten Photo Friday: Hackberry Emperor Butterfly, Asterocampa celtis (Nymphalidae)

At the base of a large tree just outside the main cabin in which we had most of our BugShot2011 workshops, a slime flux was oozing. This flux was attracting all manner of six-legged beasties, including ants, yellowjacket wasps, clearwing moths and butterflies.

At times, the tree trunk seemed alive with the subtle, lazy flapping of resting butterfly wings. I fell a little bit in love with the Hackberry Emperor butterflies (on account of their cuteness, you see) and spent several hours stalking them to get just the right shot. This was the winner for me:

Hello, butterfly! (Hackberry Emperor Butterflies, Asterocampa celtis (Nymphalidae))

O hai, butterfly! (Hackberry Emperor Butterfly, Asterocampa celtis (Nymphalidae))

That face! Those eyes! The little forelegs all cutely tucked up against the body!

They look pretty nice from the side, too 😉

Hackberry Emperor Butterfly, Asterocampa celtis

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