Here’s Looking at You, Kid

I ran across this fellow on our log pile.  This is a very small jumping spider–unidentified as of yet.



Taken with a macro lens and extension tubes–if you put it on a penny, it would not cover Lincoln’s head.

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Why They Call Them Brushfoot Butterflies

This is a male pearl crescent, Phyciodes tharos.


Butterflies are insects, and insects have six legs, right?  But this one only seems to have four.

Pearl crescents belong to a family of butterflies, Nymphalidae or nymphalids.  The group is also referred to as “brushfoot butterflies.”  The front pair of legs in this family is greatly reduced in size and the hairs remind some people of brushes.


The right leg can be seen just below the eye.


See it now?  Not much good for walking.

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The Other Color

A couple of days ago I posted a photograph of a female eastern tiger swallowtail.  I should have been a little more specific in my description–it was the yellow form.

Eastern tiger swallowtails have two different forms (or morphs) of females–one is yellow and black, as are all males of the species.  The other form is all black, like the one shown here.


It can look very black, or stripes can appear, depending on how the light hits it.

Scientists explain it in terms of mimicry.

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On a Better Day for Butterflies

Today was a good day for butterflies–certainly better than yesterday.  I spent some time walking the prairie and the roadside and found some good ones.



This is a Peck’s skipper, Polites peckius.


A nice silver-spotted skipper, Epargyreus clarus.



And finally, a gorgone checkerspot, Chlosyne gorgone.

It was a very good day for butterflies.

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A Good Butterfly on a Bad Day for Butterflies

This morning I wanted to take pictures of butterflies but the weather was not right for it.  It had been rainy and misty, and while the rain had stopped the ground was still wet and it was still cloudy.  I walked around and saw no butterflies.

Finally, I saw one.  It was a magnificent eastern tiger swallowtail.  It flew around and landed in a few places before I was able to get close enough to get a photo.


This is a female, as evidenced by the large amount of blue.

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What Does a Butterfly Know About Death?

I walked past a dead orange sulfur butterfly along the road.  It is not such an unusual sight, and who knows what kills them.  I would guess it was a victim of traffic. But as I traveled on, I saw a live orange sulfur butterfly land on the exact spot of the dead butterfly, as if it were attracted to it.  I took a picture, but as I went back to get closer it flew off. 8-10-140067 So I looked a little closer. 8-10-140069 The petals are from the hoary vervain that grows alongside the road. There may be a deeper meaning, but I don’t know what it is.  Who understands the brain (or heart) of a butterfly?

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The Silver-Spotted Skipper

The silver-spotted skipper, Epargyreus clarus, has been missing around here this year.  Today I spotted a few working the wild bergamot.


They spend ten seconds or less on each flower, but usually don’t move too far to the next, so with luck and persistence you can get close.  You need to move slowly, but be ready to make decisions quickly, and move fast when you have to.

Things were a little more difficult today because of the chain reaction of small grasshoppers.  I could move and not spook the butterfly, but my movements would spook grasshoppers which jumped and startled many others, which would startle the butterfly.


I never did get quite the photo I wanted, but I was able to get close.


Silver-spotted skippers are flying fireplugs–they fly with an energy not seen in most other butterflies.  They are quite charming.

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Green-eyed Lady

I just got back from a work trip to Camp Ripley in central Minnesota.  I took the opportunity to visit some local wild areas there after work.  There is a SNA site called The Ripley Esker.  I was mainly chasing butterflies, but I found some of the flies there to be fascinating.  There was a particularly large species of robber fly there that was quite common.  My guess is that it belongs to the genus Promachus, a group that is generally called “bee killers.”

I found a large female depositing its eggs on the developing seed head of a wild bergamot.  I took a number of photos, first with only natural light, then with a fill flash.  The photos with the fill flash showed more of the fine details–the hairs and the claws on the feet of the fly.


But the natural-light only shots showed the lovely green eyes.


This is a large and magnificently beautiful fly.

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We are Butterfly Bait

I hadn’t seen my brother Carl in several months, and I was getting the urge to chase butterflies near where he lives.  So I called him up.  Carl brought his son John and I brought my son Max.  I was the only one of the group into butterflies, but they all seemed to like the walk.

A hackberry emperor flew out and introduced itself to us.  It landed on each one of us at least once.  Here is Carl, with the butterfly near his pants pocket.


I think he was taking a picture of me, taking a picture of him.


Here it is up close.


Hackberry emperors seem to be attracted to large, sweaty mammals.  And it found those in abundance today.

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Another Cool Bug to Watch For

Sometimes to find a cool bug you have to look at another.  Case in point:


This is a planthopper, probably Acanalonia conica.  It’s pretty cool itself.  But there is another critter I would like to find that is sometimes associated with this critter.  It is an external parasite that lives on planthoppers.  Not such a rare thing, you say?  Lots of flies and wasps have larva that are parasites.

Only it is not a fly.  Nor a wasp.  It is a moth.

Not recorded from Iowa yet, at least not on bugguide.

Just another critter to look for.

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