Friday, September 23, 2011

Kreepy Krawlies and Flutterbys!

The other day while still in Illinois, we finally had a break from home improvement and were able to get in an amble down the bike path into Tekakwitha Forest preserve and through some of the forest trails.  As I mentioned the other day, the weather has been beautiful and Fall-like compared to the 100 degree days of Tucson, but still warm enough the trees were just starting to stray from their Summer shades of green.  A few of the maples were just starting to turn...

Flowering plants were also starting to get rare and as a result, the few vibrant ones were host to lots of insects.  In particular, this Goldenrod was feeding grounds to at least 3 kinds of wasps and these two butterflies.  The white one is a male Cabbage White (sexed from it's single spot), and a female Pearl Crescent (from it's larger abdomen and colored antenna tips).  It is easy to take many photos while they are distracted feeding, thus you can get a couple good ones while throwing most away.  Why keep the ones that are inferior or slightly out of focus?

Every trip back I still marvel at the stands of Milkweed.  While I've heard that they are becoming rare, they are anything but in our area of Illinois.  They serve as hosts for a variety of insects, most commonly the Monarch Butterflies, which we rarely see, unfortunately.  I think it is because of our irregular trips to the Midwest - between their migration between Mexican wintering ground and their Summers in southern Canada, we are missing them coming through.  That is my excuse, anyway! 

But there are other insects that live exclusively on the Milkweed - the Milkweed Bug (at left) and the Milkweed Beetle(at right).  I still get them mixed up, though the Beetle is much more common.  In fact, I've only seen the Bug once and was able to get his portrait here this last July.  The Beetle goes through several instar stages, and last week, you could see nearly all nymph stages from a little red spot a couple mm across, to the adults shown about 1.5cm.  Reading about the Milkweed Bug at the above link, I found that the antenna base splits the eyes, shown in the picture too.

Returning home after our walk, Melinda pointed out a few of our spider buddies with webs near the house.  She is deathly phobic of them and would rather empty a Raid can on them than look at them.  So of course, I photograph and post about them.  Hopefully the blog title will keep her from looking!  I'm amazed how well the macro works (Canon 100mm F/2.8) - the photo at left is cropped down slightly, the right is the same frame, enlarged to actual pixels...  The on-camera flash helped freeze motion and maximize details.

Unfortunately, the one thing I've learned about spiders is that they are notoriously difficult to identify.  Both of these, living a couple feet apart, are Orb Weaving Spiders, but that is about as far as I've gotten.  The bottom photo shows the smaller with an unusual feature, even seen with the naked eye - enlarged pedipalps that may be a palpal bulb that carries sperm.  So this particular fellow might be the same species as above, since the coloration and leg striping is similar and females are typically larger.  Plus they were withing a meter of each other, so the chances may be good. 

I think insects are fun to find and photograph - certainly as fun and interesting as astro-imaging.  Too bad Melinda is so phobic.  Anyone have suggestions or therapy to try?


Anonymous said...

seriously.......I'm on Melinda's side here. Them there critters need to stay way way way outside.

Anonymous said...

I like the butterflies, but, yes, I agree... please keep the spiders outside!.. they're only cool from afar. :P

Glad you're enjoying yourselves!

Zeebra Mann said...

there are several great websites to cure arachnophobia. The one that cured mine is:

another good one is run by several spider hugger types, and they do a GREAT job.