Monday, October 28, 2013

Chinati Checkerspot

28 October 2013
Marathon, Brewster Co.

Chinati Checkerspot (Chlosyne theona chinatiensis)


Chinati Checkerspot (Chlosyne chinatiensis)

Once considered its own separate species, C. chinatiensis, it is now considered by many, but not all, a subspecies of Theona Checkerspot C. theona.  Thus the subspecies name of Chlosyne theona chinatiensis.

See any difference from below?

Chinati Checkerspot (C. theona chinatiensis)


Theona Checkerspot (C. theona), Big Bend National Park, 2012

For this type comparison, it is unfortunate that today's Chinati Checkerspot was a well-worn adult.  The individual Theona Checkerspot photographed back in 2012 is a fresh adult.

Now, same individuals from above:

Chinati Checkerspot (C. theona chinatiensis)

Theona Checkerspot (C. theona)

Chinati Checkerspot was a new species...uh, subspecies for our backyard. Its larvae like to feed on Leucophyllum.  We call that, generally, Cenizo out here.

We have actually had decent rainfall this calender year and it has been a great year for checkerspots and crescents.

And for this late-October afternoon, this worn Chinati Checkerspot was still hanging on...

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Agapema Are Among Us

Every Autumn.

October 9th, this year.

**UPDATE EDIT** PM 11 October 2013:  Well, do read the whole post before reading this updated blurb.  Done?  All right. Thank you.  I may just keep everything the same down there...
Anyways, the complex of genus Agopema is a mess.  You just read it down there.
I am privileged to be acquainted with a few learned and experienced minds when it comes down to the subject of Lepidoptera in the state of Texas and the Southwest.  They are above and beyond me, and I am better for them.
I often seek their input.  Time and again, after some genuine effort on our part, I/we seek their help on identification and education.  They are more than one. They are more than two.  An odd number helps my sample size.  Well, it can help a stalemate at least.
Our particular area is within a somewhat disjointed area-range of what is being determined Agapema dyari.  OR  Agapema anona dyari; depending perhaps if you read the Old Testament or read the New Testament as well.
One short discussion/treatment is within the comment section of this post.
See what I mean? As always, thanks for reading. ***

"Mexican Agapema" (Agapema anona)
This beautiful bug belongs to family Saturniidae, the New World "Silkmoths."

Male moths generally have antennae that are fanned-out in shape.  Some species, like this, are fairly pronounced and evident.  This gives this male the ability to detect pheromones given by a female from sizable distances; for some, up to miles away.

A. anona larval hosts in southeastern Arizona are Ziziphus ziziphus and Ceanothus spathulata. (Powell & Opler, 2009)
While I have recently learned of a house in town that has a Zizphus sp., I suspect it Zizphus jujuba and the fruits are quite nice to eat, the plant this moth uses as a larval host in the Marathon Basin is Condalia ericoides.

"Javelina Bush."

Check out a Mexican Agapema cocoon by clicking on this LINK.
This pupa, in this Javelina Bush, is somewhat unique and peculiar.  If you read further in that 3-yr-old post you would come to understand.

The cocoon is pretty much a cocoon within a cocoon.  Surrounding and separate from the interior cocoon is a mesh, net-like structure.  It is quite unique and one must see it in-person to fully smile about it.

In south Brewster County and Presidio County there is also a shrub named Condalia warnockii.  The Mexican Agapema caterpillars are quite cool with that plant as well.

Last night, we did not have just this individual.

Another male.  Lost an antenna.  You remember that old bumper sticker, "$--- happens."

He's lost an antenna and also shows a little wear on his left fore-wing.  Our earlier bug is pretty much pristine.

We always tell the kids in our children's programs NOT to grab the moths by the wings.  That they can easily lose scales.  Additionally, by grabbing at their wings we may inadvertently handicap their flight.

So, instead, we let them crawl up our fingers.  Heidi is particularly good at this.

If you want to surf around the blog for pics during certain kids' program outings, click the label "Moths" at the bottom of this post.
Or, you can find the labels in the right-hand sidebar.  Click on "moths."  They are in there somewhere.

A nice look at the patterning and eye-spots on the underside of the Mexican Agapema's hind-wings.

Since I brought up picking up moths, while briefly alluding to kids' programs, I will go a bit further.  At least outside the parameters of getting schoolchildren interested in Lepidoptera.

We aren't avid collectors.  Let me say, we do collect.  We will collect generally when asked.  Asked by research institutions, depending on the project's aim, for example.

Collecting vs. non-collecting has become a touchy subject in the world of butterflies and moths.  There is an enthusiastic, and growing, interest in the order Lepidoptera.

In truth, we would not know what we do now, in this particular matter of subject, without the collecting of specimen of butterflies and moths by field biologists and researchers down the years, decades, and centuries.

These days, there are also a whole heck of a lot of quality digital cameras.

As I said, we do collect under specific reasons. Generally when recruited by researchers.

However, this was not one of those times.

Flash popped in the above pic.  The agapema in her right hand was in flight, well working on it anyways. The Chalcopasta howardi was seriously in flight.  C. howardi is a spectacular little gold and brown moth we are privileged to have out here.  It has been a good year for them.

I have got to get off this blog tonight.  It's getting late.  Ha!.  "It's getting late," says the moth-er.

But before I put a metaphorical bow on this picture-heavy post, I should only lightly address something. Barely dip my toe in the pool, at my current energy level.

genus Agapema is a mess.  Subspecies may be full and separate species, and species maybe be subspecies. Which was the nominate of what?

It wouldn't have been out of the question to utilize an opportunity with two Agapema anona in hand to whisk them away for mtDNA work-ups and analysis.

It's a discussion for another time, and perhaps another forum.

At our geographic location, and our general elevation and element, it is fairly agreed upon (currently) repeatedly that Heidi and I should be and are in habitat and range of Agapema anona.
Not A. a. dyari, nor A. homogena, nor A. galbina, nor A. solita...

Good night.
Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Let the Fall moths begin.

Here are three of the quality species that came to the lights last night (8 October 2013):

Plagiomimicus olvello  "Planet Arium Moth"  *okay, so we made that common name up a few years back. It has no common name.  Call it Tim... if you wish.
P. olvello is a Fall flyer, with unknown larval host plant and a fairly restrictive range.  Here is a map taken from North American Moth Photographers Group website:

Last night was also the first sighting of this calender year for us.
In the past we have had singles of this species.  Last night we had the pleasure of three freshly flying adults.

Below, another nice species with at least 3 fresh adult flying last night we have had back in September as well:

Eulithosia papago 
This equates to another species that not a whole heck of a lot is known about and is always a welcomed sight to the blacklights.  For E. papago, the following is also a Moth Photographers Group website range map:

I was able to camera flash the above individual fairly well.  They were quite active for a good while.  The following photo didn't freeze the wings of a different individual quite as well..

...but a decent look at the underside of a fore-wing and a hind-wing.

A new bug to our lights, perhaps even to the range map of the website I've been linking to, but not to Brewster County (Knudson & Bordelon, 2011) as I have the list I just cited laying next to me:

Anemosella obliquata

This species has also been found in locations in south Texas.  New bug for us, new bug for the year.  Really, who doesn't love a green family Pyralidae (snout moths and what-have-you..)- member moth?

Fall is an excellent time of year in the Big Bend Region of the state of TX.  Fall moths can get real interesting as well.  It has started off nicely, and there are still some show-stoppers and personal faves we are awaiting.

Come on out to visit our region.  There are so many things you can do in Brewster County, even with Big Bend National Park shut down; so many things to do in the region.  Don't cancel your trips.

Don't let them think they've won...

Work Cited:
Knudson & Bordelon,  2011.  Checklist of Lepidoptera of Big Bend National Park Texas.  Texas   Lepidoptera Survey

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Big Bend Ranch State Park bustling during BBNP closure

The Texas Highways Blog just reported that Big Bend Ranch State Park (SW Brewster Co and Presidio Co, just west of BBNP)has had a 100% increase in visitors since Big Bend National Park closed due to the furlough -- and Big Bend Ranch State Park is still only at 25% of its maximum capacity!'s big, like 311,000 acres worth of big. And it's usually quite empty, too! Peaceful, if you ask us.

Click here to read the article.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Birding the Furlough

I was really hoping that I wouldn't need to post this, but...

National Parks and National Wildlife Refuges are AMAZING. They are essentially frozen in time right now due to the government shutdown. Except instead of time freezing with them, money has stopped flowing and it's a slow starvation.

Aside from the obvious travesty of political stupidity, it's also slowly squeezing the communities that depend on the National Parks and NWRs; all of the above has been squeezed since 2009 due to budget cuts and this shutdown is not helping.

A few folks who were planning on visiting Big Bend National Park have already been diverted - their options are surprising, all things considered.

*** all of these links exist in the side bar with additional information!

Balmorhea Lake - bring a scope, pay the $5/person fee and bird the edge of desert on the edge of water

Balmorhea State Park - small park, but promising large cottonwoods for fall migrants

* San Solomon Springs wetlands - not sure how they're doing this time of year, might be worth checking into

Big Bend Ranch State Park - west of the park, north of the border, an excellent option for river corridor access with plenty of scenery

CMO / Christmas Mountains Oasis - south county at its finest, but without the hikes!

CDRI / Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute - this is a must see; between the cactus gardens, hummingbird feeders, canyon trails and mixed elevation species, a small daily fee is entirely worthwhile

Davis Mountains State Park - closed for renovations until March 2014! Indian Lodge remains open, however, so living vicariously is still an option

Mountain Trails Lodge - hummingbird feeders and excellent desert grassland habitat are literally right outside the door!

L.E. Woods picnic area / Madera Canyon trail (TNC property) - near the observatory, always an excellent stop for Davis Mts birds and bugs

Post Park - 5 miles south of Marathon, Post Road can be quite productive as well

Prairie Dog Town - 10 miles north of Hwy 90 on Hwy 385, excellent spot for raptor viewing

* Marathon treatment ponds can be birded with prior arrangements; please email us before your trip!

Gray Fox, sitting in the shade, also waiting for the furlough to end.