Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Mother Nature's Jewel Box
I'd hoped to get back to the woods this week, but doctor says No Go, not until my retina stops bleeding. Darn! I'm afraid that by then, with this warm weather, the snow will be too porous to support my snowshoes. Oh well. I can't see to focus my camera yet, anyway.
When I was a little girl home sick from school, I'd go through my mom's jewelry box, delighting in all the beautiful shapes and colors. So today I went through Mother Nature's jewelry box, delighting in all the beauties of hers I've managed to capture in photos. Of course, I've got hundreds and hundreds of flower pictures, since wildflowers have been the major focus of most of my nature ventures. I've got lots of butterflies, too, and mushrooms of every shape and color. But I'm going to show you some bugs: one beetle, one adult moth, two caterpillars, and one spectacular dragonfly.
First up, a Six-spotted Green Tiger Beetle (Cicindela sexgutata). Some jeweler should make a pretty pin out of this one. The photo doesn't do its actual radiance justice. My bug book (Audubon's) says this: "3-5 (commonly 4) white spots." So that's why it's called "six-spotted." Go figure.
Next is Eight-spotted Forester Moth (Alypia octomaculata). Yes, I know, you can only count four in the photo, but when he spreads his wings all eight appear. But who's counting spots? Check out those furry orange armbands! And those ermine epaulets! And those spangled antennae! This is one handsome moth. I read that its caterpillar likes to eat grape leaves, so it's probably considered a pest by vintners. But not by me.
Here's a Milkweed Tiger Moth caterpillar (Euchaetias egle). And yes, I found it on milkweed. It's sometimes called a Harlequin caterpillar, for obvious reasons: such a colorful guy. It's color alerts predators that its flesh is toxic. But who'd want to eat all those hairs? I read that it uses those hairs to make a nice warm felt for its cocoon. The adult moth is really drab. But such a pretty baby!
Another caterpillar: the Brown-hooded Owlet (Cucullia convexipennis). Can you believe this is not included in Audubon's insect guide? What a beauty! Stripes of yellow, red, white, orange, black, all shiny as if enameled. And once again, the moth is just a mousy brown little thing.
I identified this caterpillar with the help of David L. Wagner's Caterpillars of Eastern North America. Wow! The most amazing critters you've ever seen in that comprehensive book. I highly recommend it.
Finally, here's a Blue Dasher Dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis). I found him (yes, it's a male) along the Bog Meadow Nature Trail outside Saratoga, and I couldn't believe how still he sat while I shot his photo. Move over, Frankie; this is the real Mr. Blue Eyes. I didn't manage to capture the cool blue of his tail, but look at that tiger-striped jacket he's got on. And the lovely amber stained-glass panes in his wings. I've been showing a smaller photo of him (the Eight-spotted Forester, too) over there in my blog's sidebar gallery, but I wanted to let you see him up close.