Thursday, November 22, 2007

A few mammals

This is a downtime for insects, so maybe I'll show you some mammal pics. This cooperative chipmunk often hangs out on the knob set up in a friend's garden. There have been at least three little brown bats resting for days during late summer at the side entrance to the Atlantic Forestry Centre where I work. I have pics of all of them. And finally, this raccoon was caught robbing my bird feeder last week. I'm going to have to move the feeder out of reach.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Western Conifer Seed Bugs

On 11 November 2006 I found two Western Conifer Seed Bugs (Leptoglossus occidentalis), one inside the house and one outside (see photographs). They were tame and easily handled, and I was able to take many images.

Dwayne Sabine of the New Brunswick Department of Natural Resources (DNR) says this: “As near as I have been able to determine, the first report of Western Conifer-seed Bug in the province was on 12 July 1999 at the conifer seed orchards at Kingsclear [near Fredericton], and from Fredericton a few times thereafter (Danny O'Shea, DNR). Tony Thomas also found it in Fredericton, on October 27, 2004. It apparently showed up in Ontario in the mid-1980s and in Quebec in 2003. Its distribution and abundance in NB is probably unknown.”

The original range of Leptoglossus was confined to the western third of North America, but is now expanding its range eastward. The insect can be a nuisance because the adults enter buildings looking for a warm place to spend the winter. However, they will not feed or cause damage to fabrics, wood or anything else.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The case of the disappearing moth

This Large Yellow Underwing (Noctua pronoba) appeared on the wall under my porch light. I grabbed it and, while I held it on my hand, it disappeared before my eyes in a ghostly transformation! Pictures don't lie, do they? Now you can say you've seen a picture of a ghost moth!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Virginia Ctenucha, a day-flying wasp moth

The Virginia Ctenucha (Ctenucha virginica) is a large, common day-flying wasp moth in the Subfamily Ctenuchinae (Wasp Moths) in the family ARCTIIDAE (Tiger Moths). The body is metallic blue and the head and sides of the collar are orange. It feeds on grasses, sedges and irises. These pictures were taken at a Christmas tree farm on Upper Woodland Road south of Stanley on 6 July 2006. It's not often that you find and are able to photograph a moth emerging from a pupa.

The other moth species (seen here mating on a leaf, 10 August 2006 in Fredericton) is a look-alike, which I had misidentified as a Virginia Ctenucha. It is a Yellow-collared Scape Moth (Cisseps fulvicollis), of the same subfamily as Ctenucha, and is common to abundant in our area. The body is bluish black with an orange collar that forms a narrow band behind the black head. Scape moths eat grasses, lichens and spike-rushes.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Pelecinid wasps in my backyard

This large black wasp with the incredibly long abdomen is a Pelecinid Wasp (Pelecinus polyturator), the only member of the pelecinidae in North America. These are females, as the smaller males are seldom seen. Pelecinids parasitize of the grubs of June beetles, which are those white C-shaped grubs that you dig up in your garden. The female uses her long abdomen to probe into the soil and lay eggs on the grubs. I found and photographed these three different females in my yard last year (2006), but I haven't seen any this year.

Edit 27 Jan 08: With the help of BugGuide, I have identified the image of a small black wasp as a male pelecinid. See above.

Monday, August 20, 2007

A harvestman eats a fly

We were in Ferry Beach State Park in Old Orchard Beach, Maine, on 11 August when I spied this tiny drama taking place. One of the kids present was fascinated and another couldn't care less. A harvestman (Order Opiliones) was sucking the juices out of a large fly.

Eventually it got nervous and dragged the fly to a lower leaf, where it continued feeding.

I returned an hour or so later, and the harvestman was finished its meal and was resting on a nearby leaf. (The conical structure beside its body may be a gall produced by a gall wasp - see comment for correct id.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

More on Gypsy Moth

A holiday in the Bar Harbour area of Maine last week produced these images of mating European Gypsy Moths (Lymantria dispar). This female crawled to a sheltered spot under a board behind a shed at a campground. She pupated (see the image of the dark mass with a shed larval skin beside it), then emerged as a large white adult. The females don't fly, so she moved a short distance away, emitted her pheromones, and attracted a much smaller, brown male. After mating (next image), she deposited her eggs close by (third image). The egg masses can contain an average of 500 eggs.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

NB Crane Flies

Phantom Crane Fies (Bittacomorpha clavipes) are an amazing sight when seen drifting along a wooded trail with their legs outstretched. The white bands on their black bodies and legs give them the appearance of a series of unconnected mid-air dots. Two are shown here mating. These flies are in the family PTYCHOPTERIDAE, while other, more common crane files, such as this Pedicia Crane Fly (Pedicia sp.) are placed in the TIPULIDAE. These 2 images were taken about this time last year.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A quick trip to Texas

We made a quick trip to Austin, Texas, last week to visit family. I managed to get out for some walks near where we were staying just southwest of the city.

Cicadas were everywhere, and calling at peak capacity, making a walk through the treed neighbourhood a noisy experience. I found several pupal skins and one newly emerged adult. These are not the 17-year species, but an annual species (Tibicen sp.) that emerges every year during the "dog days" of summer (hence another name for them, the Dog-day Cicada). You can clearly see the bright green adult and the cast skin in the picture above.

Two good butterflies were the Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia) and the White-striped Longtail (Chioides albofasciatus).

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Collecting Gypsy Moth larvae

I have been to the south end of Grand Lake recently collecting Gypsy Moth larvae in an oak stand for a Canadian Forest Service study. The critters have increased in numbers a bit this season because of a milder winter. A close look at the older larvae reveals some striking red and blue spots, but the younger ones look more orange (bottom image). The image at top shows caterpillars massed on an oak trunk; the pale mass near the bottom is an egg mass.

The next image shows a larva killed by a naturally occurring fungus, which in a small way helps to limit the population. A close look will reveal many tiny fungal fruiting bodies.

The third image shows a mature larva actively munching away on an oak leaf.

The Gypsy Moth (Lymantria dispar) is in the family LYMANTRIIDAE (Tussock Moths) of the Order LEPIDOPTERA (Moths and Butterflies).

Monday, June 18, 2007

Dragonflies and a sphinx moth

These two dragonflies and the sphinx moth were found last week in Fredericton. The black one is a Dot-tailed Whiteface (Leucorrhinia intacta) and the other is a Four-spotted Skimmer (Libellula quadramaculata). The moth is a Twin-Spotted Sphinx (Smerinthus jamaicensis).

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A caddisfly in the front yard

This is an adult of one of the large caddisflies (Family Phryganeidae, Order Trichoptera), very likely the species Agrypnia. It was sitting on a large cranesbill geranium in my front yard, and allowed me to hold it in my hand. The larvae of this family live underwater and build smooth tubular cases from which they feed.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Predation in action - crab spiders

This Goldenrod Spider (Family Thomisidae) has ambushed and captured a bee that wandered innocently onto this flower. This common spider lies in wait in white or yellow flowers, and changes colour to match them. The brown spider is another crab spider. It is sitting in wait ready to grab whatever comes by.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Yes, this is a moth!

These are plume moths (LEPIDOPTERA: PTEROPHORIDAE), found near my front door on this June and last July. The characteristic T-shaped resting posture makes them easy to identify as plume moths, but getting them to species is much more difficult.

Top photo is probably the Geranium Plume Moth (Amblyptilia pica); bottom photo is the Morning-glory Plume Moth (Emmelina monodactyla). Thanks to an expert at the Moth Photographers Group for the ids (see comment).

Friday, June 1, 2007

The NB Avenger Project

This is a picture of the TBM Avenger on display at the Woodmen's Museum in Boiestown, NB. Avengers are medium-sized torpedo bombers (hence the name TBM) that operated from aircraft carriers during the last years of WWII. The name Avenger comes from the US response to the bombing of Pearl Harbour. After the war, many surviving TBMs were converted to fire bombers and spray planes. Many were contracted from all over the US and Canada by Forest Protection Limited of Fredericton for spraying forests to fight the spruce budworm and other species of defoliating insects from the late 1950s to the mid 1980s. FPL once owned the largest fleet of Avengers in the world, but has only three left, which are used now as fire bombers.

I am compiling a history of the Avengers that came through New Brunswick during that period, which will lead eventually into a history of FPL.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

"My daddy's weird."

"My daddy's weird. He takes pictures of bugs!" So says my daughter, here caught in the act of bugging me as I take a picture of a firefly.

Two more moths, 30-31 May 2007

These two moths appeared near my front door recently. The top one is a Yellow-veined Geometer Moth (Orthofidonia flavivenata) (GEOMETRIDAE) and the other is a Lunate Zale Moth (Zale lunata) (NOCTUIDAE). Thanks to an expert at the Moth Photographers Group for help with the ids.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A sphinx moth on the doorstep

I take pictures of many insects. On Saturday morning (26 May) I spied a large crane fly on the glass of the front door. I got a couple of poor photos, then opened the door to get an overhead shot. The crane fly flew away, but as I looked down, I saw this wonderful sphinx moth on the door sill. This is a One-eyed Sphinx (Smerinthus cerisyi) (LEPIDOPTERA: SPHINGIDAE).

A new moth on my garage

I got in the car, looked up, and there was a fantastic moth on my garage. I identified it as a Curve-toothed Geometer (also called Purplish-brown Looper), Eutrapela clemataria.