Thursday, July 29, 2010

Red beetle

Beetle or bug? I need to learn the differences so I can better guess in the field. I spotted this little fella this morning on a zexmenia leaf andsent this image to Bugguide.net. I guessed "red bug" (there's a family of "red bugs"). Wrong! Natalie Hernandez on Bugguide.net says "a flea beetle of some sort that has just emerged from its pupa and has not hardened yet (which is called teneral.) Its elytra will eventually harden to cover its abdomen." She said my specimen is similar to a Disonycha leptolineata.

I thought it was cool. Bright red!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Take a look at this sphinx!


Checked on Bugguide.net and pretty sure that this is sphinx species, Amphion floridensis. James spotted it on my potted Texas satsuma tree this evening. It was STUNNING. A deep blood red.

P.S. This sighting got Texas on the Bugguide.net map!!! Not sure what that means but I'm gonna find out....

Monday, July 26, 2010

Lost Ladybug Project and a new bug

A new ladybug species in our Wildscape! Meet the twice-stabbed ladybug (Chilocorus stigma). I spotted it yesterday while checking out spiders and bugs with my young neighbor friend, Peyton, and his buddy, Eddie. Peyton's little brother Davis, too. He wandered over later and joined us. And yes, I uploaded it to the Lost Ladybug Project.

Below is a mystery insect found in our Wildscape back in May, and I never got it identified. I posted it on Bugguide.net this morning and quickly got an ID: a white-margined burrower bug (Sehirus cinctus). Hey, I have photos of the nymphs (posted below)! I shot those May 31 in the back yard after James found a bunch of them under some rocks. Very interesting!

Adult
Sehirus cinctus

Nymph
Sehirus cinctus

Nymphs
Sehirus cinctus

Friday, July 23, 2010

New caterpillar


I spotted it on the blue mistflower this morning. And it did NOT want to cooperate with a photo-taking session. I finally plopped it in my hand, hoping it would "stand up straight." Nope. Instead, it curled up tightly and refused to show its pretty colors. I went back outside later for a second try and got a few shots but not very good ones. This specimen appears to be a yellow-winged pareuchaetes (Pareuchaetes insulata). A yellowish moth!

Monday, July 19, 2010

The life or death debate

This morning, I spotted a sparkling shell in the sunlight. A snail! Photo time. After I took a few pictures, I moved it near a rock border, out of the way so it wouldn't get crunched underfoot. Maybe that wasn't such a good idea. I later checked online, and this exotic species, Rumina decollata, isn't very nice to have in the Wildscape. According to the late John Jackman, an entomologist at Texas A&M, "This exotic snail is generally a uniform brown or tan color. The shell is about an inch long and elongate, and the tip of older snails is often broken off. It is transported in nursery stock and may accompany the brown garden snail in landscape plantings. The decollate snail is sometimes promoted as a biological control agent to feed on the brown garden snail. However, the use of Rumina decollata as a biological control agent should be considered carefully. It feeds on plants too, so it can become a plant pest even if it is beneficial as a predator on other snail pests."

To kill or not to kill? I hate to kill anything (except a few things, like mosquitos and roaches in the house). So if I run into this snail again, I guess I'll toss it across the street in the vacant field....

Master of disguise


So can you find someone that's lurking on a blue mistflower, hoping to grab a meal on the wing?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Toads

This morning, I was out making my rounds, refreshening hummingbird feeders and greeting everyone. When I glanced over at the plates we keep in the Sanctuary, I spotted this little guy, lounging in the moisture. I'm pretty sure it's a juvenile Gulf Coast toad. We've seen several around in the back yard, all about this same size. I think it's just cool when they find the plates of water that we set out.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Meet my green guy

As you might guess, I have pals all over our Wildscape. But a few I greet on a daily basis. Like this little green praying mantis on the Jerusalem sage. I noticed him a few weeks ago and have kept almost a daily watch on him. He's doubled in size and getting bigger every day. One of these days, he's gonna figure out that if he moves to the nearby blue mistflowers, he'll have a guaranteed diet of queen butterflies!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Snowberry clearwing moth

Snowberry clearwing moth
Hemaris diffinis

I really thought I'd posted a photo of this species, the snowberry clearwing moth (Hemaris diffinis). But I searched my archives and couldn't find one. Earlier today, I was noting which species we've seen here on my Butterfly Checklist/Blanco County post. And I didn't see the snowberry on the list. So I dug up this photo I shot Sept. 2, 2007, and sent it to our state coordinator, Kelly Mortensen, who's with the Butterflies and Moths of North America website. Right now, the staff is tied up, trying to get a new website up and running so she probably won't acknowledge my report for awhile. That's okay.

The snowberry clearwing moth is really a cool species. Check out my article, "The Enigma of the Clearwing Moth" in the June 2010 issue of Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine.

More more more


Yes, more of EVERYTHING! Rocks, beds, plants, WORK....

But not as much work as James did last week when he gathered up big limestone rocks from the sewer line project on our street (yes, he called City Hall and got permission first). He spent most of the afternoon, hauling what turned out to be a rather large pile of rocks! It was raining that day, too, so he had to deal with wet stuff and mud. But that didn't deter our determined, hard-working guy!


A few days later, he laid out new beds in the back yard and filled the areas with mulch. Last Tuesday, we headed to Austin, visited four different nurseries and bought more....

From Texas Grown Plants....

Texas betony
(I've been wanting another one of these.)

Heartleaf skullcap

From Natural Gardener...

Salvia greggii 'Orchid Delight'

Lantana 'Cream Spreader'
(also–not pictured–a Salvia greggii 'Red')

Salvia greggii 'Compact Orange'

Lyreleaf sage
Salvia lyrata
(new to me)

Wedelia hispida

Lantana x 'Purple Trailing'

Salvia greggii 'White'

Pigeonberry
(I LOVE pigeonberry!! We bought a second one and a rock rose, too.)


From Emerald Gardens...

Blood weed 'Silky Scarlet'
(Asclepias curassavica)
(This butterfly week–which I planted near blue mistflower in a front bed–won't likely overwinter, but I HAD to buy one for all the queens. Milkweeds are caterpillar
host plants for queens and monarchs.)

Dwarf goldenrod 'Golden Baby'
(I was really excited to find this short version of the fall-blooming native!)

Rollin' in Thyme & Dough

Yellow bush daisy
Euryops pectinatus
(nonnative)

American beautyberry
A gift from Kaye Northcott, my former editor at Texas Co-op Power magazine

* * * *

AND HERE ARE OUR FINISHED BEDS! Nature, you take it from here!


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

New butterflies

Bordered patch
Chlosyne lacinia

Asterocampa celtis

Nowadays I just can't stand to walk by something in the Wildscape and not know what IT IS. So time to get out the camera, the field guide and the Internet. The border patches (host plants: sunflowers, ragweed and cocklebur) are visiting the lantana blooms while the hackberry emperors (host plant: hackberries) love the live oak sap. The latter is a new species to me! I've been thinking they were variegated fritillaries. Wrong!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Flies and frogfruit


The frogfruit that I transplanted from the street has taken off. So in honor of its success, I decided I'd shoot a few photos. This strange looking insect showed up so I took some portraits of it as well. It looks very much like a mosquito. But mosquitos do NOT feed on nectar (I have the bites to prove it). Once again I went to Bugguide.net. It's a bee fly in the genus of Geron.






Click beetle

Wow, look what I spotted when I was checking on the butterflies up in the live oak–a pair of LARGE click beetles (uh, mating)! "I've never seen those before!" I exclaimed to James. They were feeding alongside the butterflies. I checked on Bugguide.net, and I think they're a click beetle known as Alaus lusciosus. They're really beautiful insects. I was impressed.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Chomping among the sunflower leaves

"So have you checked on those caterpillars on the sunflower?" James asked me awhile ago. No, I replied, shaking my head, "I keep forgetting."

James is busy this afternoon, loading up limestone rocks that the city guys have unearthed and left near The Meadow. They're installing new sewer pipes, which is an eyesore right now but (I guess) will be wonderful later on down the road. As our little cousin, Drew, so wisely told James yesterday, when they surveyed the project, "You gotta have a mess first before you can have progress." (He's still amazed at how wise she is for a six-year-old.)

Back to caterpillars. Oh, yes, the silvery checkerspot larvae are absolutely stripping the sunflower. I leaned over and listened. Sure enough, I could hear them all munching! I wonder what's gonna happen when they run out of leaves? Move to nearby lantana leaves? We'll see.

Here's what J.P. Michaud says about the larvae of Chlosyne nycteis in connection with sunflower crops (Entomology, Kansas State University): "Females lay their eggs in relatively large clusters, often as many as 100. It is also sometimes called the sunflower butterfly because it has a strong preference for the Asteraceae. In Kansas, there are typically two generations per year. Although the first generation lays its eggs too early to be of concern to commercial sunflowers, the flight of the second generation can coincide with the period of crop development. Even large plants can be completely skeletonized by larval feeding, but more damage can occur when egg clusters are laid on young plants in the V4-V6 stage, in which case the entire plant is quickly consumed and larvae migrate to neighbouring plants, sometimes creating a bare hole in the field."





UPDATE–When I showed my son, Patrick, what was left of the sunflower leaves last Saturday (the next day after this post), nearly all the caterpillars had VANISHED! Packed up and left. Vamanos-ed. I still have no clue where everyone went.

Cousin time!


Meet Kendall (eight) and Drew (six), the beautiful daughters of my cousin Rusty and his wife Tina from Austin. The pair spent two nights with us and just left this morning. It mostly rained while they were here, but we were able to tour the Wildscape some the first day. Right off the bat, we found the empty shell of an ox beetle. I explained that it was a male (because of the horns) and how it digs big holes to live in. Then I pointed out some holes in our yard. I also showed them a Gulf fritillary caterpillar on a passionflower vine. We heard white-winged doves and watched hummingbirds.

Next time you visit, Kendall and Drew, we'll get outside more! Thank you for coming!

Our ox beetle (or what's left of him)

Butterflies and moths for Blanco County

Skippers (Hesperiidae)

Spread-wing Skippers (Pyrginae)
Hammock Skipper (Polygonus leo)
Northern Cloudywing (Thorybes pylades) *
Confused Cloudywing (Thorybes confusis)
Outis Skipper (Cogia outis)
Sleepy Duskywing (Erynnis brizo)
Juvenal's Duskywing (Erynnis juvenalis)
Meridian Duskywing (Erynnis meridianus)
Horace's Duskywing (Erynnis horatius) *
Funereal Duskywing (Erynnis funeralis) *
Common Streaky-Skipper (Celotes nessus)
Zilpa longtail  (Chioides zilpa) *
Brazilian skipper (Calpodes ethlius) *
Sickle-winged skipper (Eantis tamenund) *
White-striped longtail (Chioides catillus) *

Grass Skippers (Hesperiinae)
Clouded Skipper (Lerema accius) *
Least Skipper (Ancyloxypha numitor)
Orange Skipperling (Copaeodes aurantiaca)
Southern Skipperling (Copaeodes minima) *
Fiery Skipper (Hylephila phyleus) *
Green Skipper (Hesperia viridis)
Sachem (Atalopedes campestris)
Whirlabout (Polites vibex)
Southern Broken-Dash (Wallengrenia otho)
Northern Broken-Dash (Wallengrenia egeremet)
Arogos Skipper (Atrytone arogos)
Delaware Skipper (Anatrytone logan)
Zabulon Skipper (Poanes zabulon)
Dun Skipper (Euphyes vestris)
Nysa Roadside-Skipper (Amblyscirtes nysa)
Dotted Roadside-Skipper (Amblyscirtes eos)
Celia's Roadside-Skipper (Amblyscirtes celia)
Eufala Skipper (Lerodea eufala)
Ocola Skipper (Panoquina ocola) *

Giant-Skippers (Megathyminae)
Yucca Giant-Skipper (Megathymus yuccae)
Strecker's Giant-Skipper (Megathymus streckeri)


Parnassians and Swallowtails (Papilionidae)

Swallowtails (Papilioninae)
Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor) *
Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) *
Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) *


Whites and Sulphurs (Pieridae)

Whites (Pierinae)
Checkered White (Pontia protodice)

Sulphurs (Coliadinae)
Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme) *
Southern Dogface (Zerene cesonia) *
Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae) *
Lyside Sulphur (Kricogonia lyside)
Mexican Yellow (Eurema mexicana)
Large orange sulphur (Phoebis agrithe) * (9-9-16)
Little Yellow (Pyrisitia lisa) *
Sleepy Orange (Abaeis nicippe) *
Dainty Sulphur (Nathalis iole) *


Gossamer-wing Butterflies (Lycaenidae)

Hairstreaks (Theclinae)
Mexican Cycadian (Eumaeus toxea)
Great Purple Hairstreak (Atlides halesus) *
Juniper Hairstreak (Callophrys gryneus)
Henry's Elfin (Callophrys henrici)
Southern Hairstreak (Satyrium favonius)
Coral Hairstreak (Satyrium titus)
Soapberry Hairstreak (Phaeostrymon alcestis)
Dusky-blue Groundstreak (Calycopis isobeon) *
Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus) *
Mallow Scrub-Hairstreak (Strymon istapa)

Blues (Polyommatinae)
Marine Blue (Leptotes marina)
Ceraunus Blue (Hemiargus ceraunus) *
Reakirt's Blue (Echinargus isola)


Brush-footed Butterflies (Nymphalidae)

Milkweed Butterflies (Danainae)
Monarch (Danaus plexippus) *
Queen (Danaus gilippus) *

Longwings (Heliconiinae)
Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae) *
Julia Heliconian (Dryas iulia) *
Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia) *

True Brushfoots (Nymphalinae)
Theona Checkerspot (Chlosyne theona)
Bordered Patch (Chlosyne lacinia) *
Graphic Crescent (Phyciodes graphica)
Phaon Crescent (Phyciodes phaon) *
Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos) *
Texan Crescent (Anthanassa texana) *
Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia) *
Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa)
Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) *
Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) *
American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis) *

Admirals and Relatives (Limenitidinae)
Red-spotted Purple or White Admiral (Limenitis arthemis)
'Astyanax' Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis astyanax)
Common Mestra (Mestra amymone) *

Leafwings (Charaxinae)

Goatweed Leafwing (Anaea andria)

Emperors (Apaturinae)
Hackberry Emperor (Asterocampa celtis) *
Tawny Emperor (Asterocampa clyton) *

Satyrs and Wood-Nymphs (Satyrinae)
Little Wood Satyr (Megisto cymela)
Red Satyr (Megisto rubricata)
Common Wood Nymph (Cercyonis pegala)


Wild Silk Moths (Saturniidae)

Giant Silkworm Moths (Saturniinae)
Luna moth (Actias luna)
Polyphemus moth (Antheraea polyphemus) *


Sphinx Moths, Hawkmoths (Sphingidae)

Sphinginae (Sphinginae)
Pink-spotted Hawkmoth (Agrius cingulata)
Walnut Sphinx (Amorpha juglandis)
White-lined Sphinx (Hyles lineata) *
Five-spotted hawk moth (Manduca quinquemaculatus) *

Macroglossinae (Macroglossinae)
Azalea Sphinx (Darapsa choerilus (pholus))
Snowberry Clearwing (Hemaris diffinis) *
Titan sphinx (Aellopos titan) *
Vine sphinx (Eumorpha vitis) *
Nessus sphinx (Amphion floridensis) *


Doid Moths (Doidae)
Doa ampla (Doa ampla)


Prominents (Notodontidae)
Black-Etched Prominent (Cerura scitiscripta)
Common Gluphisia (Gluphisia septentrionis)
Heterocampa astartoides (Heterocampa astartoides)
Heterocampa benitensis (Heterocampa benitensis)
White-blotched Heterocampa (Heterocampa umbrata)
Pink Prominent (Hyparpax aurora)
Georgian Prominent (Hyperaeschra georgica)
Double-lined Prominent (Lochmaeus bilineata)
Drab Prominent (Misogada unicolor)
White-dotted Prominent (Nadata gibbosa)
White-Streaked Prominent (Oligocentria lignicolor)
Schizura errucata (Schizura errucata)
Morning-glory Prominent (Schizura ipomoeae)
Unicorn Caterpillar Moth (Schizura unicornis)


Tiger Moths and Lichen Moths (Arctiidae)

Pericopine Moths (Pericopinae)
Gnophaela aequinoctialis (Gnophaela aequinoctialis)

Lichen Moths (Lithosiinae)
Lead-Colored Lichen Moth (Cisthene plumbea)
Thin-Banded Lichen Moth (Cisthene tenuifascia)
Yellow-headed Lichen Moth (Crambidia cephalica)
Painted Lichen Moth (Hypoprepia fucosa)
Black-and-yellow Lichen Moth (Lycomorpha pholus) *
Mouse-Colored Lichen Moth (Pagara simplex)

Tiger Moths (Arctiinae)
Delicate Cycnia or Dogbane Tiger Moth (Cycnia tenera)
Ectypia bivittata (Ectypia bivittata)
Euchaetes bolteri (Euchaetes bolteri)
Three-spotted Specter (Euerythra trimaculata)
Figured Tiger Moth (Grammia figurata)
Banded Tussock Moth or Pale Tiger Moth (Halysidota tessellaris)
Fall Webworm Moth (Hyphantria cunea)
Pygarctia eglensis (Pygarctia eglensis)
Salt marsh (Estigmene acrea) *
Texas wasp moth (Horama panthalon) *

Syntomine Moths (Syntominae)

Yellow-Collared Scape Moth (Cisseps fulvicollis)


Owlet Moths, Miller Moths (Noctuidae)

Heliothentine Moths, Flower Moths (Heliothentinae)
Schinia chrysella (Schinia chrysella)
Schinia citrinella (Schinia citrinella)
Clouded Crimson (Schinia gaurae)
Schinia jaguarina (Schinia jaguarina)
Brown Flower Moth (Schinia saturata)
Schinia volupia (Schinia volupia)

Forester Moths (Agaristinae)

Eight-spotted Forester (Alypia octomaculata)


Oecophorid Moths (Oecophoridae)

Stenomatine Moths (Stenomatinae)
Antaeotricha leucillana (Antaeotricha leucillana)
Antaeotricha osseella (Antaeotricha osseella)

Ethmiine Moths (Ethmiinae)
Ethmia longimaculella (Ethmia longimaculella)


Goemetrid and Swallowtail Moths (Geometroidea)

White-tipped black moth (Melanchroia chephise) *



* Spotted in our Texas Wildscape

(Note: You can create a checklist of butterflies and moths for your own county on Butterflies and Moths of North America.)

That's one flat bug

We were sitting outside the other night with friends in the back yard, under the live oaks, when I came across these VERY flat tiny bugs. Literally. A few were crawling on James, and I found one or two on me. I'd never seen anything like them before. When I say flat, I mean FLAT. But I didn't get any photos. However, last night, I got a second chance when I spotted one on our bathroom floor. So I snagged some pictures to post. Then this morning, I got on Bugguide.net and decided to do a random search for "flat bugs." Sounded like a good description to me. Lo and behold, there is an ENTIRE family of flat bugs! Honest! It's called Aradidae. And ours appears to be in the genus of Neuroctenus or Mezira. These bugs apparently feed on fungi found under bark, which would explain how some probably fell on us. Mystery solved!