Sunday, September 22, 2019

Praying Mantis

Here are some of the praying mantises of the summer of 2019.
This one is doing a good job of blending in.
Watching me. Click to enlarge.
A poem by Ogden Nash: 

From whence arrived the praying mantis? 
From outer space or lost Atlantis?
glimpse the grin, green metal mug
at masks the pseudo-saintly bug,
Orthropterous, also carnivorous,
And faintly whisper, Lord deliver us. 

The other day a mantis appeared on one of my windows. I took its picture, just a silhouette without the usual tangled background of leaves. It was easy to isolate with Photoshop to make graphics like this one. Reminds me of the Karate Kid in this pose.
And this. Gotta love a little mantis art, right?

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Yellow-Collared Scape Moth

I've seen a few of these while watching butterflies this week. It's a little moth with the scientific name Cisseps fulvicollis. They're hard to miss because of the bright collar. Some have orange collars like this one. Click to enlarge.
Here's one with a yellow collar. The moth's common name is the yellow-collared scape moth. Ironically, there are more orange than yellow ones. Luckily, an alternative common name is sometimes used. Did you guess orange-collared scape moth? Correct! I wrote a blog about this one years ago. You can read it by clicking here.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Peach Season

I went peach picking this week in southern New Jersey. It was cool in the shade and hot in the sun with a light refreshing breeze. A perfect day for picking peaches. Click to enlarge.
The orchard was full of lovely twisted trees covered with ripe easy-to-reach fruit. 
I learned that picking peaches is much easier than picking blueberries. Click here to read about my blueberry adventure in July.
I came home with about 20 pounds of peaches.
I made peach jam that tastes like summer in a jar.
It's delicious.
And I saw this lovely orange variegated fritillary butterfly, Euptoieta claudia
... and an orange flower that looks like a harbinger of autumn.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Happy Labor Day!

A black swallowtail caterpillar eating dill. Click to enlarge. It's posing like the caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland.
A black swallowtail butterfly. It is the official state butterfly of New Jersey.
Nature blogs are so easy in summer.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Io Moth

This week I am bragging about finding this Io moth caterpillar, Automeris io. This awesome caterpillar is about 2.5 inches long. It has a pretty pink-and-cream stripe down its side and is covered with bundles of branching spines. Click to enlarge.
I hear that the sting from these spines is painful, so if you are lucky enough to find one of these beauties, don't touch it. The tips of spines that penetrate your skin can break off and release irritating venom. Ew.
The caterpillar was eating leaves of a buttonbush shrub, Caphalanthus occidentalis, also called button-willow or honey-bells. The buttonbush is native to eastern and southern North America. Io moths are not picky about what they eat, though, and can be found on a variety of other host plants.
The name Io is from a Greek myth in which Io, a priestess of Zeus' wife, Hera, got in trouble when Zeus became romantically interested in her. After many adventures, which included being turned into a white cow to hide her from Hera, Io bore children with Zeus who were ancestors to all kinds of famous people including Hercules and Perseus.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Butterfly Weed Works

This is butterfly weed, Asclepia tuberosa, a native milkweed that is a host for monarch butterflies. I raised some from seeds and planted the seedlings in my yard to see if I could attract monarchs. Click to enlarge.
A monarch like this one (on another kind of milkweed in this photo) found my small stand of butterfly weed and laid eggs on it. Yay!
They grew like crazy, eating leaf after leaf. Here are two of them tag-teaming a leaf. But then it became clear that they were eating at such a pace that they would soon run out. I think I'll have a bigger supply next year after the plants spread, but this year I'm limited.
So I gathered them up with some leaves for the trip and took them to a spot I know where there is a lot of milkweed. Did I mention there are 7 caterpillars? Can you spot them all?
Here's where I took them -- a big butterfly garden with lots of common milkweed to eat.
Here they are spreading out in their new digs.
Seven more of these coming soon.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

And The Winner Is...

I played a game of creature contest yesterday. Here are the rules: take a walk in a park, photograph everything interesting, choose a favorite. The eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly above is the winner. Ta Da! Click to enlarge.
Congratulations eastern tiger swallowtail! See that band of blue spots? It identifies this one as a female.
This perky little summer azure butterfly is the runner up, ready to step in and fulfill the duties of winner if the tiger swallowtail is unable to do so. Congratulations summer azure!