Late Season Critters

Our weather has cooled down lately, particularly at night.  It is still warm enough for most of the insects though, so I went to a backwater area of Big Creek State Park and took some photos.

This eastern tailed-blue was mudding near the water.

A female eastern forktail was hanging out near the edge of the water.

New England aster is a native plant, often seen growing in the ditches.  This plant is very attractive to insects like this small bee.

In fact, the flowers were covered with several pollinators.

There were a few pearl crescents flying around as well.

Flowers are still blooming, and the insects are still flying around.  But they won’t be for long.  Some welcome the change in seasons, but I much prefer summer.


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In the Grand Scheme of Things….

You have to wonder–what kind of guy would spend an inordinate amount of his time posting photographs of insects to the internet?  I don’t know.  Seems like an odd thing to do.

I just sat outside on my little patio and listened to the music of the cicadas.  And it gave me a tiny bit of pleasure.  And so do photos of the odd little things that run the world.  I check out Facebook pages that deal with insects.  Some specialize in robber flies, some in jewel beetles.  I check out one that deals with slime molds (absolutely amazing creatures if you look at them closely.)  I browse pages on native fishes and reptiles and amphibians.

I also look at pictures of babies, especially when I know or am part of the family.  I block a lot of political stuff though.

But I am going to post some pictures of a fly that I photographed this weekend.  Because it’s a cool fly.  I am not sure why I think it is so neat but I do.

This is a feather-legged fly, Trichopoda pennipes.  It is not particularly rare.  It belongs to the tachnid group, which typically have larvae that are internal parasitoids of other insects.  This particular fly lays eggs on true bugs, typically squash bugs.  The larva burrows into the insect, eating it from the inside out.  It is a parasitoid rather than a parasite because it kills its host.

Glad I could bring a little bit of insignificant information into your life.

You’re welcome.


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Late Summer Prairie Walk

I went on a nature walk today, organized by the Iowa Prairie Network, at the property of Bill and Sibylla Brown.  They have land in southern Iowa, and have done a lot of work to restore the biological function of the prairie and especially the savanna on their property.  People who track biological diversity in Iowa have been amazed at the species they have documented.  Many species of rare butterflies, rare fungi, and other creatures have been found on the property.

The flying insects stayed hidden early with the cool wet weather, but came out later when the sun came out.  This is the common eastern bumblebee, Bombus impatiens.

This eastern tailed-blue was on a grassy path in the prairie.

There was a nice gray hairstreak on the rough blazing star.

This was a colorful syrphid fly.  I don’t think I have seen this one before.

It was a pleasant morning.  It is great to see people managing property for biological diversity.


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Cool Fly

Some sort of dance fly.

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A Few Late Season Insects

We have had some strange weather lately.  Cloudy with light mist, followed by intense rain, then sunny, hot, and humid.  In between the rain, lots of insects come out and visit flowers or chase their prey.

This bumblebee, Bombus impatiens  was on sedum right outside my apartment.

This one was on a thistle near Big Creek Lake.

This is a familiar bluet, Enallagma civile.

This is a syrphid fly, probably in genus Toxomerus.

Another syrphid, Syritta pipiens.

Finally the least skippers, Ancyloxphs numitor, were quite busy on the fog fruit.

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On Bugshot Alabama

I just got back from a macro photography workshop called Bugshot Alabama.  These workshops have been going on for several years and are named after their locations–typically some place with high biological diversity.

This is from the outside a pretty nerdy thing to do.

So we spent a lot of time playing around with expensive camera equipment, plus lots of cobbled together equipment designed to create special light or conditions to show insects at their awesome best.   There are neat little tricks that are not always obvious and are fun to know.

I started thinking about why I was there and came up with a little bit of an analogy.  Suppose you are a musician.  You play guitar in a local band.  You spend a lot of time and effort at it, and you are really good at it.  But you get a chance to jam with some famous musicians–let’s say Eric Clapton, Bruce Springsteen, and some others of similar skill.  Wouldn’t you jump at the chance?

I’ve been taking closeup photos for decades.  My experience goes back to when Kodachrome 64 was the best film to use.  I have reversing rings, bellows, extension tubes, and macro lenses for the “universal screw mount.”  I have other equipment I have purchased through the years and the progression of photography.

Most of the pictures I take are closeups.  I take terrible photos of people, but good pictures of bugs and other little things.  And I am pretty good at it.

But I am not Eric Clapton good.  I am not Piotr Naskrecki, John Abbott, or Jena Johnson good.

There were some natural history talks, and I came to another realization.  Not only are these folks world class macro photographers, they are also world class scientists and naturalists.

I enjoyed mixing with the other participants, all of us looking for that special shot.

I found this little syrphid fly visiting some small flowers near the woodlands.

This bee fly was in the short grasses near one of the machine buildings.

I loved the event.  I will do it again as time and finances allow.

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Butterflies after Rain

We have been having some very dry weather lately, and today we had a small amount of rain.  Not nearly what the crops need, but the rain did bring the butterflies out in higher numbers than I have been seeing lately.

Some of the activity involved mudding, as with this black swallowtail.

The question mark butterfly has a natural camouflage, and seems somewhat colorless until you look at it closely.  But it is full of color when seen up close.

There were several silvery checkerspots flying around as well.

The iron week was in bloom, and it attracted this monarch.

And this silver-spotted skipper was working the blossoms.


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Up Close to More Bugs

I spent a little bit of time near Big Creek Lake today taking pictures of bugs.

This small bee was in the middle of a cup plant flower.

One of my favorite small flowers is called fog fruit.  It stands only a few inches tall, and has dainty flowers in a little button.  I don’t know what this bee is, either.

Several butterflies were drinking moisture from the mud near the lake.  This is a Delaware Skipper.

This is a least skipper on fog fruit.

This red admiral was also drinking from the mud.

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More Butterflies from Saturday

Last Saturday I visited Waubonsie State Park.  My post from Sunday shows some of the critters I saw.  Here are some more of the butterflies I saw.

Hackberry emperors were common throughout the wooded areas.

I got some help with the ID on this one.  It is an old, and worn common roadside skipper.

This is a Peck’s skipper.

American snout.

Delaware skipper.

Male Zabulon skipper.

And a trio of silver-spotted skippers.


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More Big Bug Adventures

I went to Waubonsie State Park yesterday, taking pictures of the small wildlife.  Waubonsie State Park is a very diverse natural area in Iowa.  Prairies, woodlands, and loess hills are all part of the park.

Red-spotted purples are fairly common in Iowa, but this was the first one I have seen this year.

This small robber fly was along one of the paths.  Aside from the fact that it is a robber fly I know nothing about it.

I saw a small wasp enter this hole in the sand on several occasions.  She would go in head first, and back out tail first.  She move rapidly and was difficult to photograph.

Ironweed is a tall plant with a characteristic purple flower.  I have seen it often, and the flowers always seem to bare of butterflies, while they look like they should be very attractive to them.  Yesterday, I saw a few ironweed plants and they were full of butterflies, including this painted lady.

This silvery checkerspot was a first of the year for me as well.

Giant swallowtails are our largest butterfly.  This seemed to be a female, sipping nectar from the flower, while a male flew behind her, trying to get her attention.

When they flew away from the flower, I could hear their wings hitting each other above me.

Beautiful weather, lots of butterflies, lots of other critters.  It was a great way to relax and find my center.

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