Saturday, August 14, 2010

A Very Popular Plant!

While visiting Illinois, I've been trying to get out to explore the nearby woods like I do most days here... This summer though, for the first time in my 5 (!) years coming here, the mosquitoes are so thick you really can't stand still for more than a few seconds without being swarmed. It is probably a combination of the higher-than-normal heat and the wet summer that makes it so. The last few summers have been reasonably cool without skeeter issues.

So when trying to take pictures, especially with the macro lens, you get at most about 10 seconds to frame, focus and shoot before you need to stand up, swat, shake them off, or move on. Similarly, changing lenses takes the skill of an Indy pit crew to coordinate motions.

Today, I spent over an hour walking through Tekakwitha Forest Preserve, half for exercise, half for the photo ops, returning home about midday, when the pests are usually not very active. Their activity had lessened somewhat, so I walked down to the Fox River a few yards from our house and noticed a literal beehive of activity around some thistles in full bloom.

After searching for signs of Monarch butterflies the last few weeks around the milkweeds here (butterflies, caterpillars or chrysalises), I finally saw one and watched it for several minutes feeding on the thistle nectar. This one was a male, identified from the lighter black markings, and the small pheromone emitter spots on the top of the rear wing. It was interesting to see him feeding, moving from flower to flower, occasionally sharing with other insects. I got a pic of him with a bee, and while they would share for a bit, the butterfly would always defer to the bee and take off when it got too close.

With the plentiful food supply, the insects were quite tolerant of each other's presence. Here is a shot of 6 insects of I think 3 species sharing a single flower. Still, I think the honeybees were the alphas, taking dominance over all that I saw, but they did share. I still need to develop my id skills - the copper-colored butterfly is likely in the skipper family, given the thick body, large eyes and long proboscis. Melinda, is on the case and names it a Fiery Skipper, known to be in the Kane County area. The honey bees looked happy with their little thigh-bags packed full of pollen.

In all, I took about 50 picturesin 11 minutes elapsed time(from the data files), from which these pics were culled. A nice variety of insects in such a short time, particularly from a single plant!

I'll leave you with a mystery - one which I've never seen and have a hard time describing, let alone look up - the colorful fellow on the right... There is another honeybee in the background, and what looks to be a cabbage white on the left. Late-breaking news - Melinda found it! It is an Ailanthus Webworm moth. A new find for me!

ADDENDUM! Today (Sunday) was one of those treasured Midwest summer days - pure blue sky, temps in the low 80sF, dry with a nice breeze. The breeze kept the skeeters at bay, and I went down to yesterday's popular thistle plant and found more of the Ailanthus Webworm moths. Though the wind made imaging difficult, I managed to get a little better angle than up it's rear end. A striking insect!


David A. Harvey said...

Nice macros! Skeeters eh - what are they? :-) Remember my motto - Real photographers don't photograph flowers, bugs or bugs on flowers! :-)

Dean said...

Hi Dave- I never claimed to be a real photographer!