Saturday, July 30, 2011

beyond the poo-moths

The July/August blacklighting was hazardous for guests during the summer entomology course - and unfortunately for them, a variety of visitors to the Double Bacon ended up at SRSU's collection. This post is backdated to reflect these late-July critters.

...including the lovely, slightly decapitated-looking Datana spp. - a familiar and distinctive large-moth.

Of several adult antlions (Myrmeleons) to show up at the light, this one had the most fantastic eyes I'd ever seen (on an antlion, anyway). Unfortunately I didn't snag comparison photos of the <b>huge</b> ones that showed up, but their wings were fuzzy, a bit smoky looking from a distance and longer than my palm!

This windscorpion (Eremobates)was more fortunate than the critters above. Enough of its kin have been found already dead, so it was able to scurry off into the night without fear for its fuzzy little running-like-its-pants-are-on-fire life.

Some whose photos didn't turn out too well in the 'wild' ...well, here's a Tachinid fly of some sort, no longer at the blacklight. The microscope's light was a challenge to work with, so we'll just call this art.

Also no longer at the blacklight? This beast:

Yep. A Mantispidae - the mantisfly. Like a lacewing x mantis. Fantastic!
Edit: possibly Dicromantispa sayi.


While I'm up to my ears in dead bugs, I may as well post some pictures of live ones, eh?

This summer I've been falling absolutely in love with the Ponometia moths; they're small, they're subtle, they're elegantly streamlined and often enough, they look like poop. Bird poop. When they look like poo, they look very much like poo - and when they do not? Well, that's at the end of the post.

All of the species IDs are courtesy of Ed Knudson, photos are all Brewster Co from the Double Bacon. Some were June, most were July. Now... to the moths!

For scale, my thumb is next to Ponometia libedis: good camo for stucco!

Ponometia elegantula looks like a heavy-on-the-urates dropping:

Ponometia altera, a set of them:

Ponometia semiflava = "Half Yellow" or "Half-cloaked Midget"
...what a name. I like to think of them as semi-flavored, myself. Tastes yellow and blue. Michigan flavored? The blue is a bit too dusky for that, perhaps. Definitely not looking like a normal, healthy bird dropping.

Ponometia venustula - another ponometia that doesn't look like poop. This is a female, since the gorgeous silvery gray horseshoe is present; handy link with comparison pictures.

Now who was it that insisted that only butterflies were pretty? These little ones are just the tip of the iceberg! Happy trails to all, and to all a good summer; may it rain on you and yours. That's a blessing, at least out here!

Friday Night Blacklights 29 July 2011

It's back.
Life is full of adjustments. They are fluid. Changes. Adjust. Deal.

"The revolution will not be televised." Gil Scott-Heron

This week's session and resurrection took place on the north wall, here at the hacienda.

We had some visitors from East Tennessee show up. However, the little one was getting tired and they left early. It was after that when the moths and other lovely invertebrates began showing up.

Many moths, several of which seemed new, and we've yet to invest much time in references (both paper and people) to ID them.

One moth emerged from the leaf-litter, not as a zombie but as an adult and found its way eventually to our light and quality stucco wall.

Manduca quinquemaculata - "Five-spotted Hawkmoth"

This species, as a caterpillar, is often called "Tomato Hornworm," as its larval hostplants are in the Nightshade family Solanaceae.

Check out the five-spot along the side of the abdomen.

We had many moths; but, we also had lacewings, antlions, spittlebugs, a Solifulgid (Windscorpion), and more.

The nocturnal invertebrate life is beginning to show some promise. Here in the Marathon Basin, we are still waiting for rain. Whether storm energy from the Pacific Ocean or currently the Gulf of Mexico we'll take any leftovers.

Friday, July 29, 2011

cactus eater

With a tip of the hat to fungus eater (an ironclad beetle), here's a cactus eater:

Officially Moneilema gigas on, the opuntia long-horned beetle is absolutely fantastic. This post is backdated to reflect a date of finding, photographing, and unfortunately collecting (may it rest in peace in the collection at SRSU). The rest of the photos below are from August, but with less worry of impending class deadline!

So the above critter was hiding from me - below gives you an idea of the usual setting for our encounters, we must have half a dozen as neighbors. Look to the left of center... a little more...

They don't seem to do much damage (if you're not fond of cow-tongue prickly pear anyway), and since the entire town of Marathon is covered in pricklies of one sort or another, it's really quite negligible.

Neat snacking pattern, eh? And the toes! The toes!!! Love the toes. Somehow they manage to feast in, among, and around the pointy-stabby parts of the cactus without impaling themselves. In the process of getting photos, several direct hits were taken, but perhaps that's due to size and soft exterior.

Anyway, these delightful little neighbors are pretty much seen only on our early morning walk-of-the-dogs, and seem to retreat by the time the sun gets to their spot (which, depending on the forest next door, could be nearly 11 am!)

Mmmm. Cactus. And toes. Did we mention the toes?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Not dead yet...

Apologies for the blog silence lately; a few things are afoot. There's been a bit of travel, job shuffling, a bit of summer school overload, some baby-bird-emergencies, helping a neighbor move, and generally a lot of *stuff* that simply hasn't been able to wait. So the blog has borne the brunt of our negligence.

There are at least two Zone-tailed Hawks along Hwy 90 between Marathon and Alpine - at least one of them, most frequently seen over Marathon, is missing the tip of a primary on its right wing. There's one with a ratty tail but symmetrical wings that has been seen over Post Park. And then there's one that lurks along the Alpine end of 90 which has symmetrical wings as well (tail condition wasn't noted).

A few exciting roadkills have piled up since the freezer was last emptied: Ash-throated Flycatcher (2!), Greater Roadrunner, Eastern Meadowlark, Black-chinned Hummingbird... the latter, might I brag, was spotted at about 65 mph. Unfortunately, the freshest Cassin's Sparrow on record was removed from under a wiper blade. Poor thing.

Since I don't have a photo of a wet baby bird fished out of a fountain (House Sparrow, if you must ask), here's a photo from Post Park before the 4th of July dance: no fireworks this year except in Fort Davis. Of all places, it had nothing left to burn!