Saturday, August 14, 2010

Cool critters!

Just when I think I've seen every strange thing that Mother Nature has to offer, something else amazing comes along! The other night while I was looking at moths on the sheet on the carport, I spotted a brown lump. When I investigated more closely, I saw that it was some kind of weird beetle with long, hairy horns protruding from its head and a short, sharp horn near its mouth ! I looked it up in one of my insect guide books and found out it is a Forked Fungus Beetle (Bolitotherus cornutus). It is one of those beetles that plays dead if disturbed, when I picked it up to put it in a better position, it pulled its legs in and didn't move for over half an hour! The males have the horns so they can fight each other for the females.

I love having Common Milkweed in my yard, there is always something interesting coming to it or living on it. The main reason I planted it years ago was to attract Monarch butterflies to lay their eggs on it, but many other kinds of insects use it too. I spotted these newly-hatched bug nymphs and their empty eggshells on one of the leaves. I like the way they cluster close together for protection. I also saw 3 syrphid fly larvae (left)crawling around on one of the leaves and munching on yellow aphids. These larvae will turn into Hover Flies after pupating.

I gave a program on pollination today, called "The Birds and Bees of Pollination" at the University of Tennessee Arboretum. After the talk the participants and I went out into the garden to look for pollinators. We didn't see many butterflies or bees, but we did see some interesting caterpillars. One fellow spotted several Snowberry Clearwing caterpillars eating the leaves of Coral Honeysuckle. These green caterpillars have black spiracles (breathing holes) and a black "horn" on the end of their abdomen.

Last night a huge katydid landed on the sheet. Since he was close to the pole where I could prop the camera, I was able to get some good close-up shots. I was happy to get a photo of his "ear", called a tympanum, on his foreleg!

Even though yesterday was Friday the 13th, it was a lucky day for me. I got 3 new moths for my list, I'm now just about 12 shy of 200! Not too bad considering I just started "mothing" at the beginning of June! This large Sphinx Moth was very cooperative for me, I got some great face shots!


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These critters are really some cool creature.I loved reading your article about these critters.The best part is their turning into butterflies from catterpillar.

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