Thursday, July 23, 2015

Moth Week Quiz: How many do you know?

I guess we could say that these two moths are celebrating their marriage. 
Note the enormous antennae on the male on the left.  The better to detect your scent with, my dear!
Oh gosh, here it is almost the end of National Moth Week and I haven't even started to celebrate!  There are lots of reasons to celebrate moths (except maybe not for the ones that destroyed a whole drawer of my husband's wool sweaters), but most especially for their fascinating variety.  Not all are pollinators (some don't even have mouthparts for eating) and not all are beautiful (although some of the plainest moths have the most exquisite caterpillars). Since my knee injury has limited my outdoor excursions pretty much, I didn't go looking for moths outside, but went searching my past blogs and photo archives instead.  Turns out, I  have quite a number of photos, of adult moths as well as their caterpillars.  I'm posting those photos now, and inviting my readers to guess which moths they are.  I'll come back in a couple of days and add captions to identify them.

1.  This is the same moth as in the mating pair above.

Cecropia (Hyalaphora cecropia), the day after she emerged from the cocoon. She has already been found by her mate and will live only a few days after mating and laying her eggs.

2. One of the giant silk moths and one of our most beautiful of all.

Luna (Actias luna), another moth that has no mouth parts so will live only long enough to breed and propagate the next generation.

3.  No, it's not a hummingbird, but it sure acts like one!

Hummingbird Clearwing (Hemaris thisbe) sipping nectar from Wild Bergamot

4.  When the wings are closed, they form a black Fleur-de-lis, but reveal a bright gold underwing when open.

Clymene Moth (Haploa clymene), sometimes called the Crusader Moth because its closed wings resemble the shields carried by Christian soldiers during the Crusades.

5. Love the furry orange epaulets on this colorful moth!

Eight-spotted Forester (Alypia octomaculata).  The other four spots are on the underwings.

6. More subtle in its coloring, but exquisite nonetheless.

Walnut Sphinx (Amorpha juglandis) lays its eggs on Walnut trees.

7.  This moth has an abdomen as brightly orange as the furry patch below its head. Love those striped forelegs and elegant antennae!

Virginian Tiger Moth (Spilosoma virginica)

8.  I think this moth is mistakenly named, since its "collar" is orange and not yellow.  But see how blue its abdomen is beneath those chocolate-brown wings.

Same moth as above, but a mating pair of them.  I thought at first sight it was one super-long bug.

Okay, these moths may NOT be the same.  I originally thought they were all three the Yellow-collared Scape Moth (Cisseps fulvicollus) ), but the blue abdomen of the first moth indicates it is more likely a Virginia Ctenucha Moth (Ctenucha virginica). Since I can't see the abdomens of the mating pair, they may well be Yellow-collared Scapes.  Any help on this subject is most welcome.

9.  Note the delicate fringe on the wings and the elegant coloring.  Like very expensive ladies' lingerie.

Lace Border Moth (Scopula limboundata).  Aptly named!

10. Such subtle pale-green coloring.  Exquisite!

Pale Beauty Moth (Campaea perlata), another moth with a very apt common name

11.  A really strange-looking moth, indeed!

Geranium Plume Moth (Dejongia lobidactylus)

And now we have some moth larvae, better known as caterpillars.

12. Looks soft and furry as a Snow Leopard, but like that sharp-clawed cat, better not touch!

Hickory Tussock (Lophocampa caryae).  Like many furry caterpillars, it bears stinging hairs that can cause a painful rash.  Urge children NOT to touch furry caterpillars.

13. Another touch-me-not caterpillar, and quite a big one, too. As is its moth.  Big, I mean.

The Io Moth caterpillar (Automeris io).  Another stinging caterpillar.

14.  EVERYBODY knows the name of this caterpillar!  But do they know the name of its moth?

Wooly Bear is the larva of the Isabella Tiger Moth (Pyrrharctia isabella).  Although I handled Wooly Bears often as a child to no ill effect, I have read that their hairs can cause a prickling rash.

15.  Its tiger-stripe coloring warns predators that it has absorbed the toxins of the plant it feeds on.

Milkweed Tiger Moth caterpillar (Euchates egle).  I would think all that hairiness would discourage predators, too.

16.  One of our most colorful caterpillars, but will turn into one of our plainest moths.

Brown Hooded Owlet (Cucullia convexipennis). It's always a delight to find this lovely larva.

17. Here's another colorful caterpillar with a multicolored fur coat:

 I love this caterpillar's Cherry-Twizzler-red feet!.

The Virginia Ctenucha Moth caterpillar (Ctenucha virginica).  This is the larva of the blue-abdomened moth in photo 8 above, the one I confused with the Yellow-collared Scape Moth. The adult moths may be easily confused, but their caterpillars look quite different.  This one is more spectacular.

18.  Wow!  This furry caterpillar is certainly YELLOW!

Spotted Apetelodes (Apetelodes torrefacta).  This caterpillar may be astoundingly vivid, but its moth is no more colorful than a ragged piece of leaf duff.

19.  Looks as cuddly as a teddy bear.  But better not give it a hug.  The adult moth is furry, too, and safer to touch.

Called a Yellow Bear (although it can be quite ruddy or orange as well as yellow), this is the larva of the Virginia Tiger Moth (Spilosoma virginica) pictured above in photo 7.  Yes, this caterpillar can prickle you with venomous hairs, but the adult moth's snowy-white fur is as soft and harmless as a kitten's.

20. I love the toothbrush bristles on this beautifully colorful caterpillar, but I would not want to put it in my mouth!

White-marked Tussock Moth caterpillar (Orgyia leucostigma).  Another one with venomous hairs.  But wow, what a beauty, especially arrayed on a yellow-edged oak leaf that serves as a foil for its brilliant colors.

21. This amazing critter got mad at me and lashed those acid-emitting red whips around.

This Black-etched Prominent Moth caterpillar (Cerura scitiscripta) was just quietly moseying along until I poked my camera too close to it.  That's when it reared up and puffed up its fat front end, and out of those long prongs on its rear shot bright red tendrils, which it whipped about in a frenzy.  It was quite something to see!  The adult moth is more subtly colored, furry and white, etched with black markings.

PS:  Here's a link to find out some very cool things about moths.

PPS:  I found a video I made of that whip-lashing Cerura caterpillar.  Not very high-fidelity, but you get the picture:

This Poet Knows

The poet Denise Levertov knows something true about the healing power of nature and expresses it perfectly in this poem that was read on NPR's The Writer's Almanac today.

A Reward
by Denise Levertov

Tired and hungry, late in the day, impelled
to leave the house and search for what
might lift me back to what I had fallen away from,
I stood by the shore waiting.
I had walked in the silent woods:
the trees withdrew into their secrets.
Dusk was smoothing breadths of silk
over the lake, watery amethyst fading to gray.
Ducks were clustered in sleeping companies
afloat on their element as I was not
on mine. I turned homeward, unsatisfied.
But after a few steps, I paused, impelled again
to linger, to look North before nightfall-the expanse
of calm, of calming water, last wafts
of rose in the few high clouds.
And was rewarded:
the heron, unseen for weeks, came flying
widewinged toward me, settled
just offshore on his post,
took up his vigil.
                               If you ask
why this cleared a fog from my spirit,
I have no answer.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Midsummer Mood-lifter

Well, I kind of expected depression would happen, since it's a known side-effect that often follows surgery.  So I tried not to let them get me down too much, these feelings of loss, of lack of interest in much of anything, I've been experiencing these past few weeks, along with reviving pain and fatigue.  To cope, I slept a lot.  Naps in the morning and again in the afternoon.  None of my wonderful books could hold my interest.  Did I think I could post a blog?  Nah, forget about it!  And I almost turned down my friend Nancy's offer to take me out for a nature walk on Wednesday afternoon.  Too tired.  But oh, the weather was just so gorgeous, perhaps it might do me good.  And oh boy, did it!  Just what the doctor ordered!

We chose Bog Meadow Nature Trail as a relatively easy spot to walk, and this wooded wetland was in full mid-summer GREEN, all lush and lovely.  And for some miraculous reason, the woods was relatively free of biting bugs.  The gods were smiling on my efforts to get back outdoors this day.

We didn't expect to find many flowers in the deep shade of the woods, but we were pleased to find a number of lovely mushrooms.  This sulphur-yellow mushroom is Boletus ornatipes, the Ornate-stalked Bolete.  The porous underside of many Boletes will stain blue when pressed, but this one does not, which helped to clinch the ID.  The rough dark shreds on the stalk was another identifying factor.  This is a mushroom I have never encountered before.

I'm guessing this is a Painted Bolete (Suillus spraguei, also called S. pictus) because of the reddish shreds atop a yellow cap, although the color is not as red as I usually see it.  But it was still a pretty thing, especially arrayed with this lovely green Pincushion Moss (Leucobryum glaucum).

I can't believe I actually spotted this pinhead-sized Eyelash Cup Fungus (Scutellinia scutellata) nestled down in the mossy mud.  Of course, that vivid red color makes it hard to miss.  You have to look REALLY close, though, to see the tiny "eyelashes" that give this miniature fungus its common name.

For redness, as well as for beauty, the Red Russula mushroom (Russula emetica) really has few rivals among the fungi.  Even though it was small, its lovely velvety cap was hard to miss.

This Eyed Brown Butterfly couldn't have known how delighted I was to see it and how badly I hoped it would hold this pose so I could take its photo.  But I do thank it for doing so, anyway.  We have a number of small brown butterflies with eye-spots on their underwings, so I always have to study the placement and number of eyespots very carefully to determine the species.  I'm pretty confident that this is indeed an Eyed Brown.  A subtle beauty, but a beauty, nevertheless.

A couple more butterflies, Skippers of unknown species,  kept visiting this beautiful pink Swamp Milkweed, so even though they never sat still, I just kept clicking away with my camera and managed to capture a shot of them.

As I mentioned before, wildflowers are not that abundant this deep into summer in wooded areas, but wherever the sunlight could find its way to the ground, we were delighted by the vivid blue beauty of Blue Vervain.

The big wildflower prize, though, was sighting a splendid Canada Lily glowing like a lamp in the shaded woods.  I had thought we were too late to find them by now, so I am imagining that this one held on long enough to give me a jolt of joy when I needed it.  Thank you, you lovely creature.  Your beauty was better than Prozac for lifting my mood.

Thanks, too, to this other beautiful creature, a tiny Marbled Orb Weaver who spun her web on my back porch,  where the setting sun lit up its diaphanous strands to remind me that beauty can surprise me at any moment, anywhere.  Life is good!

And a special thanks to Nancy, who called me out of my gloom and into the delights of a summer woodland and the pleasure of her companionship.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Revisiting the River

I am truly counting my blessings.  I never imagined I'd be getting around as well as I am, only a few weeks after I fell and shattered my kneecap.  With just a cane for support, I've been able to visit on foot some of my favorite trails and greet anew many of the beautiful wildflowers I've come to cherish and delight in revisiting each year.  But one great pleasure I know will not be mine this summer is paddling my beloved Hudson River in my sweet little Hornbeck canoe.  No, I would have to bend my knee to get into and out of this boat, and that will not be possible for many weeks yet.  But happy for me, I have many photos of previous paddles along these banks, so I can revisit the river with simply a click of  my computer mouse.  So that's what I did today, giving myself a virtual tour of my favorite stretch of the Hudson between the Spier Falls and Sherman Island Dams, as recorded during early July over the past six years.

Just see what a glorious bounty of natural beauty you could expect to find if you went for a paddle here this week!

The quiet bays will be studded with emerald-green clumps of Arrow Arum, each one hiding its fascinating flower stalk within.

Look closely to see the elegant stripes on the Arrow Arum's leaves.

The shallows will be ornamented with the snowy flowers of Arrowhead.

Bright yellow spikes of Swamp Candles will light up the forested shadows.

Narrow-leaved Vervain thrives on a sandy shore.

Pink tufts of Meadowsweet lean over the banks.

Rosy spikes of Steeplebush parade around the perimeter of a marsh.

Small Sundrops open their sunny blooms along the banks.

The quiet water reflects the deep green of the forested mountains that rise either side of the river.

Buttonbush explodes with blooms in the marshy backwaters.

The brilliant Cardinal Flower blazes along the banks.

Swamp Milkweed bears blooms of a deep rosy pink.

The bright-blue faces of Monkeyflower  peek out along the shore.

Lovely little coves invite the paddler to linger and enjoy the view of mountains and sky.

You might find a Smaller Purple Fringed Orchid hiding among some Royal Ferns.

Some mossy banks will be carpeted with the waxy white flowers of Partridgeberry.

Masses of Golden Pert carpet the mud and line the cracks in boulders.

You have to look close to find the dainty blue flowers of Marsh Speedwell.

All the local St. Johnsworts love the Hudson banks, including the very colorful (and misnamed!) Pale St. Johnswort, with its bright-yellow blooms and deep-orange buds.

The Dwarf St. Johnswort, however, is very aptly named.  Such a wee little flower!

Also well named is the Great St. Johnswort, with its great big blooms.

Then there's the Marsh St. Johnswort, which, unlike the others, has blooms of satiny pink.

The male Calico Pennant Dragonfly is as showy as any flower, with his patches of brilliant red.

The elegant Great Blue Heron stalks through the quiet shallows.

After all that paddling under a hot sun, nothing feels better than a restful dip in the river's cool waters.