"There is grandeur in this view of life.” ― Charles Darwin

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A Moth

A yellow moth

A yellow moth, a creature of the night, an amazingly beautiful insect.

I couldn’t identify this moth, but does it matter? Do we always have to name things to make them valuable? We usually think of insects as pests, but in truth the world is enriched by them. Nectar hunters pollinate, ants aerate the soil, some insects clean up after the dead and others bring life by feeding the hungry in parts of the world. We could not do without them.

Moths and butterflies are both classified in the order Lepidoptera of which 89 to 94 percent are moths.

Identifiers:

  • Antennae: Moth’s are thin or often feathery, butterflies’ have rounded clubs on the ends
  • Body: Moths tend to be thick and fuzzy, butterflies, thin and smooth
  • Color: Moths are usually dull, and butterflies are colorful
  • Wings: Moths typically hold their wings flat when resting, butterflies hold them vertical. So what’s up with this moth? I believe he was trying to dry his wings out.
  • Behavior: Moths are creatures of the night, butterflies like the day.

Not all of these distinctions are absolute, for example there are moths that are active during the day.

Attraction to light: The exact reason moths are attracted to light is unknown, but possibility is that moths use a technique of celestial navigation called transverse orientation – that is they navigate by the light of the moon or stars and become confused when they see artificial lights.

Interesting factoids:

  • The Hawk moth (Sphinx) is the worlds fastest flying insect attaining speed of over 50 k
  • The Luna moth is born without a mouth … it never eats or drinks
  • Some male moths can smell the pheromones females release (with their antennae) up to 8 kilometers away
  • Moths (and butterflies) have thousands of tiny scales and hair that cover their wings (not dust)
  • Moths can see ultra violet light
  • Atlas moths (Saturniidae) are the largest known, with wingspans as large as 12 inches

References: Wikipedia1, Wikipedia2

This is the last of the 30 bugs, I have enjoyed the journey.

Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos)

Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos)

Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos)

The Pearl Crescent is found in all parts of the United States (except the west coast) including Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and southeastern California and all the eastern states, it’s also found in parts of Canada and Mexico.

I found dozens of them “puddling” along our gravel road – like many male butterflies they sip at the moisture in puddles or wet sand and soil, they also benefit from the salts dissolved in the water, which is why you often see them on wet gravel roads. The salts may help increase a male butterfly’s fertility.

Identifiers: Males usually have black antennal knobs. Upperside is orange with black borders; postmedian and submarginal areas are crossed by fine black marks. Underside of hindwing has a dark marginal patch containing a light-colored crescent.

Wing Span: 3.2 – 4.5 cm (1 1/4 – 1 3/4 inches)

Habitat: Open areas such as pastures, road edges, vacant lots, fields, open pine woods.

Taxonomy Notes: First described in 1770 by Dru Drury as Papilio tharos

References: BugGuide, Butterflies and moths of North America, Wikipedia

Spotted cucumber beetle (Diabrotica undecimpunctata)

spotted cucumber beetle (Diabrotica undecimpunctata)

spotted cucumber beetle (Diabrotica undecimpunctata)

OK, you’ve got to love the name…spotted cucumber beetle. This is another bad little bug – a major agricultural pest insect –  infesting the leaves of field crops including cucumbers, soybeans, cotton, and squashes, corn, and beans. Adults also reported damaging garden plants including hibiscus, roses.

Identifiers: Adult beetles are greenish-yellow with six large black spots on each elytron.

Size: 5 – 9mm long (Larvae to 8mm)

Reference: BugGuide, Wikipedia – Cucumber Beetles, Wikipedia Diabrotica_undecimpunctata

Tarnished plant bug (Lygus lineolaris)

Tarnished plant bug  (Lygus lineolaris)


Tarnished plant bug (Lygus lineolaris)

The Tarnished plant bug (seen here with a small bee) is the most common plant bug in North America and is considered a serious pests of small fruits and vegetables – it feeds on more than fifty economically important plants, including alfalfa, cotton, strawberries, brambles, and most tree fruits. Amazing how such a little pest can be so beautiful.

The tarnished plant bug is a true bug, with piercing-sucking mouth parts, which produces two to five indistinct generations annually.

Identifiers: oval, and somewhat flattened, greenish brown in color, with reddish brown markings on the wings. Characteristic small but distinct yellow-tipped triangle in the center of the back.

Size: Adults are 6 to 6.5 mm (0.25 in.)

Range: throughout the North America in temperate, non-desert areas

References: Wikipedia, Cornell UniversityPenn State College

American carrion beetle (Necrophila americana)

American carrion beetle (Necrophila americana)

American carrion beetle (Necrophila americana)

I was hoping, but not expecting,to photograph a carrion beetle. They are often found on carrion or decaying fungi. A few hours after flies begin arriving at a carcass, the adult beetles show up and immediately begin eating the already hatching fly larvae, mating, and laying their own eggs. These beetles prefer larger carrion – rat-sized or larger, this one was on a wild turkey. The larvae (that’s actually one hiding under the adult) often prefer dried skin. Adult beetles stay as long as the carcass last, eating competitors to give their own larvae a chance to eat and grow.

P.S., they may seem gross, but I think we owe them our gratitude – just think of the alternative.

Identifiers: Black body with a distinctive large, mostly yellow, pronotum with a cross-shaped dark mark.

Size: 12 to 22 mm

Range: North America east of Rockies

Habitat: Prefer marshy and forested areas

References: BugGuide, Wikipedia

Long-horned Fairy Moth (Adela caeruleella)

Long-horned Fairy Moth (Adela caeruleella)

Long-horned Fairy Moth (Adela caeruleella)

I couldn’t find much on the Long-horned Fairy Moth. It was very difficult to identify and I doubted myself until I read that, “depending on the angle of light, the wings can appear dark, or with very colorful metallic accents.”

Identifier: a small moth with very long antennas

Family: Adelidae

Explanation of name:  “caeruleella”: From Latin caerule meaning blue plus -ella small

Size: 5 mm

References:  BugGuide, Zen Through a Lens, Moth Photographers Group, Microleps.org

Weevil (Ceutorhynchus americanus)

Weevil (Ceutorhynchus americanus)

Weevil (Ceutorhynchus americanus)

Sometimes known as Snout or Bark Beetles?

I found very little about weevils, which is surprising considering there are more than 60,000 species in several families – of that I have no doubt. Many weevils are damaging to crops. They are usually very small less than 6 millimetres (0.24 in) – in this case maybe 2.75 mm. Not much. So perhaps a passage from T. S. Eliot’s Gerontion…

… I have lost my sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch:
How should I use them for your closer contact?
These with a thousand small deliberations
Protract the profit of their chilled delirium,
Excite the membrane, when the sense has cooled,
With pungent sauces, multiply variety
In a wilderness of mirrors. What will the spider do,
Suspend its operations, will the weevil
Delay? …

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