The Bug Geek

Insects. Doing Science. Other awesome, geeky stuff.

Category Archives: Forgotten Photo Friday

Forgotten Photo Friday – Oblong-winged Katydid

Sadly(?), it’s that time again.

It’s too darn cold out for most bugs, and I suspect that my recent run of finding critters IN the house has dried up for the most part, so real-time photos will be quite scarce until the spring (*cry*). While I do plan on practicing (and sharing) my studio-style photography during the winter months whenever I can find a subject, I think it’s time to bring back the Forgotten Photo Friday series for another year.

After returning from BugShot and dropping some coin on a new-to-me flash, I spent quite a few days playing outside, experimenting with this new light source. I managed to get a few decent snapshots of critters around my house.  Here’s the first:

Mine foot is tasty (omnomnom) - a green Katydid

Amblycorypha oblongifolia - Oblong-winged Katydid - nibbling her toesies.

It seemed like there were a LOT of katydids around this year, more than I can remember in past summers. They were frequent visitors to my back porch light, and the chorus of their combined songs at night was marvelously loud.

I somehow spotted this chunky-pretty and incredibly cryptic female on a low, still-green shrub alongside a trail in the woods in mid-September.  I plucked a red leaf off the ground and offered it to her, to offset her vibrant green colour bef0re snapping her portrait. She kindly obliged.

Apparently entirely unbothered by me, she spent most of her photoshoot grooming her toesies tarsi.

Fun fact: this species comes in two other color morphs – tan/orange and PINK. PINK!!!  I’m pretty sure I would lose my bananas if I came across a pink katydid.

Forgotten Photo Friday: Sympetrum vicinum (Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly)

Sympetrum vicinum (Autumn Meadowhawk)

So here’s a case that illustrates why field notes are important.  I managed to snap this lone hasty picture of a striking red dragonfly on a fallen leaf in my garden before it darted off.  Today, months later, I stumbled on the image in one of my photo folders and thought it would make a nice FPF entry, partly because it’s lovely, and partly because surely such a dashing and brightly-coloured insect would be easy to identify.  Right?

Wrong.  Knowing little-to-nothing about dragonflies (Odonata), I turned to my books.  I first decided that it was a skimmer of some kind (Libellulidae) using my own field guide; then, feeling pretty certain that it might be a meadowhawk, I turned to BugGuide for a higher-resolution ID. 

Here’s what I found: a page called “Mature red adult: internum, janaeae, obtrusum, rubicundulum species group“.  Nuts.  Plus, a whole bunch of other similar-looking species of red meadowhawks, with plenty of warnings from other BugGuide-ers that proper identification of many species was next to impossible without a good closeup photo of the male genitalia.  Unfortunately, my dragonfly and I did not have time to get that well aquainted. Dang. 

I was flipping through the guide pages a bit disconsolately, managing to eliminate a few species from the list, until I noted one entry for a species whose “Season” notes stated:  “Primarily late in the summer. Often the last species to be seen in a given area.”  A little lightbulb went off, and I checked the date the photograph was taken: October 17, 2010.  It was the last day of really nice weather that fall, and a goodish number of insects were out and about for what seemed to be their last hurrah.  Armed with this information, I feel more confident about making the match and declaring this to be an Autumn Meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum).*

Sometimes, in absence of a specimen-in-hand, one’s observations about habitat, host plant or prey, behaviour, or even just a date, can make or break an identification!


* Feel free to now tear my logic and subsequent ID apart and provide me with the right name for this critter.  kthnxbye.

Forgotten Photo Friday: Brown Lacewing (Neuroptera: Hemerobiidae)

The snow is melting; there is a pond in our front yard. 

The exposed grass is – I swears – greening up a bit. 

Tree buds seem fuller. 

A many-hundred-strong flock of snow and Canada geese flew overhead, heading north, as I drove home from The University today. 

I think…I think…spring might actually be here. 

I’m hoping that this will be close to the last Forgotten Photo, at least until next winter rolls around.  Today’s installment is PINK and BROWN.  Very trendy colour combo (so I’m told).

Brown lacewing (Neuroptera:Hemerobiidae, Hemerobius sp.?)

A brown lacewing (Neuroptera: Hemerobiinae), which I am very tentatively going to call Hemerobius sp.  Like their green relatives (Chrysopidae), brown lacewings are carnivorous as larvae and as adults, feeding on aphids and other smallish critters; browns tend not to be encountered as frequently, however.  They deposit their eggs singly or in clusters on the underside of leaves; they are not stalked like those of the greens (the subject of much controversy in some circles).

Forgotten Photo Friday: carrion beetle (Nicrophorus tomentosus)

Today’s forgotten Photo features a beetle that some people might consider to be a little nasty (at least under certain circumstances): a carrion beetle (Nicrophorus tomentosus, the tomentose burying beetle; Silphidae).

Carrion beetles eat…carrion: dead stuff.  Two summers past I spent a good part of an afternoon watching a male/female pair drag a mouse carcass across my back garden and systematically entomb it via careful digging.  That mouse eventually became food for their offspring, whose eggs would have been deposited near the “food source”. 

This handsome beetle daintily and thoroughly groomed his face after I plucked him off the siding of my house.  See? He’s a CLEAN dead-flesh-eating bug!  (The question remains: was he cleaning because he just enjoyed a delicious dead-thing, or because an icky-icky human dared contaminate him?)  I don’t think the face-washing was brought about by the little dudes riding on his elytra (see those two little blobs there on the upper-left patch of orange? Here, this may help:)

As I snooped around the BugGuide Silphidae images, I noticed that many showed beetles carrying mites such as these, sometimes in very , very, very high numbers. Here’s another nice pic of a different species of carrion beetle with its entourage (look at the row of mite-bums hanging over the edge of the pronotum!), courtesy of Shelly at MOBugs:

Image courtesy of Shelly (MOBugs)

 I didn’t know that these mites are common on and beneficial for the beetles: they hitchhike a ride to the dead (insert name of dead critter here) and then feed on fly maggots and eggs found in/on the flesh.  They actually CLEAN and PRESERVE the food for the beetle, and get an easy-t0-access food source themselves in return (Greg Laden’s Blog has an excellent description of how this type of mutualism can come about in nature. The whole arrangement is quite incredibly awesome, actually.

Forgotten Photo Friday: Aculepeira carbonarioides (Araneidae)

Today’s Forgotten Photo features an orb-weaving spider Aculepeira carbonarioides* (Araneidae) from Kugluktuk. 

Spiders are a huge component of the terrestiral arthropod community in the arctic north.  With each footfall on the tundra, ground-dwelling wolf spiders can be seen scattering left and right, the females dragging round egg sacs on their abdomens.   Occasionally I saw pretty crab spiders lying in wait on flowers, and found one clever individual gorging itself silly in a corner of my Malaise trap.  What I didn’t see, for the first few weeks, was a proper orb-weaving spider…the quintessential arachnids responsible for the round, ornate webs we all tend to associate with this group of animals. 

I finally figured out where they like to “hang out”: at the base of the cliff, there was a mound of huge rocks that had cleaved from the cliff face some very long time ago.  The rubble pile was all sharp edges and angles and gaps large enough to admit a human.  And apparently large enough to meet the needs of the orb-weavers:

This lovely creature (a male – you can tell by the boxing-glove-style pedipalps) was preparing for a meal.

Here’s another individual (female, I do believe), showing the pretty yellow and black markings:


* ID is tentative for now  ID confirmed, thanks BugGuide!

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