Thursday, September 25, 2014

Brukner Nature Center Butterfly Transit, September 20, 2014

The weather is cooler now that Fall is here but by Saturday afternoon at 2 PM the temperature was in the low seventies (Fahrenheit).  That's warm enough for butterflies to fly.

I saw a Painted Lady on a Purple Coneflower as I walked up to the Interpretive Center.  The butterfly was still there when we started our walk so it was the first one on our list.

Butterflies were sparse.  We saw this bedraggled Eastern Tailed-Blue among the grasses in hedgerow between the parking lot and the amphitheater.  The orange spot was still on it though I couldn't see the thin hairlike tail.

We saw a few more Eastern Tailed-Blues at the meadow, a couple Painted Ladies, and this Pearl Crescent.

We saw a Sulphur  flying out in the middle of the meadow but I didn't get a photo of it.  It was too far off to count as being on the butterfly transit.

We looked hard along the drive as we headed back to the Interpretive Center but all we saw were acouple Cabbage Whites.

The season for butterflies in this area is closing down though we will continue to walk the transit until the end of October.

We have seen only one or two Monarchs all season.  Maybe there will be more next year.

Ruth is helping the Monarchs as much as she can by collecting milkweed seeds and scattering in any suitable habitat.  She is also raising and releasing Monarchs. She gets the larvae from a field near her house before the owners mow it.  She learned about raising Monarchs from her grandmother when she was a little girl and is continuing her grandmother's mission.

Before we left, Ruth showed us four Monarchs she had raised and also how she tagged them.  She is part of a group called Monarch Watch.  After tagging the butterflies, she released them.  Before they flew off, several landed for a few minutes on our shirts.

This photo was taken by Molly who works at Brukner.  I took the others since neither Phil nor Jim, our regular photographers walked with us.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Brukner Nature Center Butterfly Transit for September 14, 2014

As I drove to Brukner, I wondered if we would see any Monarchs (Danaus plexippus).  Monarchs are a beautiful showy butterfly.  If a person recognizes just one butterfly it is mostly likely the Monarch.  Children learn about them in school.  Nature programs on public television often feature them.  Books are written about them.

As I drove I saw two Monarchs flying.  One almost killed itself on my windshield.  The other was flying over a field.

The sky was beautiful, blue with puffy cumulus clouds.  The sun was shining and the air was comfortably warm on our skin when we started.  At the front door to the nature center, six Painted Ladies got our butterfly transit walk off to a good start.

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) Wingspan: 1.75-2.40 inches (4.4-6.1 cm)

Because the temperature was hovering around 70 degrees Fahrenheit which is barely warm enough for butterflies to fly, they are flying slowly compared to what they can fly because they are cold-blooded like all insects.  As the air temperature warms, the butterflies move faster.  I was able to get a photo with my snapshot camera, too.

We saw at least one Painted Lady as we walked around the outer edge of the amphitheater as well as a Leopard Frog.  There were Cabbage Whites flying about and dragonflies.  Below is one of the smaller dragonflies.

We saw a few more Painted Ladies in the meadow and also blue butterflies, Summer Azures and Eastern Tailed-Blues.  Here is one of the Eastern Tailed Blues.

Eastern Tailed-Blue (Everes comyntas) Wingspan: 0.75-1.0 inches (1.9-2.5 cm)

We saw Pearl Crescents in the meadow, also.

We saw our first Silver-Spotted Skipper along the Brukner drive...and more Painted Ladies.

Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus) Wingspan: 1.75-2.40 inches (4.4-6.1 cm)

The Sulphurs were moving fast among the flowers and out into the cornfield beyond the fence but Phil but not so fast that Phil couldn't get this photo.

Sulphur (Family/Subfamily: Whites and Sulphur (Pierridael/Sulphurs (Coliadinae)

We were headed back toward the center when Phil spotted this butterfly.  It seemed large for a Pearl Crescent but the pattern seemed right.  I checked out the fritillaries and didn't find one that looked like this one.

By the time we finished our walk we had seen thirty-four or five individual butterflies so we considered the day a good one.  But we didn't find a Monarch this week.  Maybe next week.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Brukner Nature Center, Butterfly Transit, September 7, 2014

I didn't walk on the September seventh walk,  but, thanks to Phil Shafer, I have photos to show you.  The spotters found  64 individuals.  This is the highest count we have had to date.

This must be the season for Eastern Tailed-Blues.  Sixteen were seen.

The Eastern Tailed-Blue above looks like it is another bloom on the aster.

Eastern Tailed-Blue (Everes comyntas) Wingspan: 0.75-1.00 inches (1.9-2.5 cm)

The group found ten Cabbage Whites, both males and females. Cabbage Whites are common in Ohio and are seen from mid-March to late October. By checking the Butterflies of Ohio, a Field Guide by Jaret C. Daniels, I was reminded that the males have one roundish spot on the forewing  and the females have two.

Cabbage White (Pieris rapae) Wingspan: 1.5-2.0 inches (3.8-5.1 cm)

What would have been exciting for me was to have seen the twenty !! Painted Ladies.  Ruth says they saw so many that after awhile the counters were saying, "Oh, just another Painted Lady."  She says other transit sites are also reporting many Painted Ladies this past week.

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) Wingspan: 1.75-2.4 inches (4.4-6.1 cm)

It was nice to finally see a Monarch.  We have been looking for them for weeks.  Monarchs have been scarce in Ohio for several years.  People have come up with several possible reasons.  One is that farming methods have changed so there are fewer Common Milkweed, the favorite food of Monarch larvae.  Some say the drought in Texas is also a factor since that is an important feeding area as the Monarchs head south to Mexico for the winter and again in the spring when they are returning to the northern states.

Monarch (Danaus plexippus)  Wingspan: 3.5-4.0 inches (8.9-10.2 cm)

When Ruth sent out the final count, she grouped all the Sulphurs in one group.  The walkers found a total of six.  Some were Orange Sulphurs (Colias eurytheme), some were Clouded Sulphurs (Colias philodice) and Phil took this photo which, we think, is of a  Southern Dogface (Zerene cesonia).  You can see the shadow of the black pattern on the upper side of the wings through the underside of the wings. Southern Dogface is a butterfly which is rare in Ohio, classified as a stray by Jaret C. Daniels.

Southern Dogface (Zerene cesonia) Wingspan: 1.9-2.5 inches (4.8-6.4 cm).

Sulphur (Colias)

Sulphur (Colias)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Brukner Nature Center, Butterfly Transit, August 30

Jim and Ruth, Stephen and I walked the transit on August 30.  It was a good day to see butterflies.  We saw thirteen species, thirty-four specimen.

I think the Black swallowtail may have been the first one Stephen has ever seen.  They are not as common as some of the other swallowtails.

Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) Wingspan: 2.5-4.2 inches (6.4-10.7 cm)  It is sitting on a Field Thistle.

We saw nine Eastern Tailed-Blue (Everes comyntas).  It was especially interesting to see this mating pair.  It is good to know Eastern Tailed-Blues will be around next year.

Eastern Tailed-Blues (Everes comyntas) Wingspan: 0.75-1.00 inches (1.9-2.5 cm)

The other butterflies we saw included five Hackberry Emperors, one Question Mark, Thirteen Cabbage Whites, 2 Summer Azures, one Painted Lady, one Pearl Crescent, and one Silver-Spotted Skipper.

Thanks, Jim, for the photographs.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Killer Wasps, Our Backyard Entertainment for August

Our neighbor called us on July 31.  "We have insects swarming in the back corner of our yard close to your lilac bush.  Will you come out and see if you know what it they are? I think they are wasps."

There were dozens of insects flying, sometimes landing on the grass briefly, sometimes flying about, mostly  four or five feet above the ground.  Sometimes they disappeared for a while into the arborvitae  hedge at the edge of our properties.  They did look like wasps but they ignored us, didn't seem at all interested that three humans were infringing on their chosen area.

"They're not aggressive. They act like the Cicada Killers  we had in the yard last year but they aren't big enough," Polly said.  We agreed.

"Go get that peanut butter jar Stephen was catching lightning bugs in," Tom told me.

I brought it but we were all leery of riling any wasp.  Nobody wanted to know what the insect was bad enough to risk being stung.

"Oh, I know...the butterfly nets," I said.  Sometimes being a well-equipped bug enthusiast has its rewards.

And that's how Polly caught this insect.

That evening her husband drove his riding mower through the area and the insects didn't bother him at all.

We  still weren't convinced the swarming insects were Cicada Killers (Specius speciosus)  because they were just too small. Finally, Tom typed "Cicada Killer" on the computer and via the world-wide web he confirmed that the coloring was right for a Cicada Killer.

Tom solved the problem of the size when he went down our driveway ramp on August 11.  There was a dead Cicada Killer on the ramp.  It was big like the ones we remembered from other years.  Mystery solved.  As in many  insect species, the Cicada Killer female is larger than the male.

Later I learned that the males hatch from the underground burrows before the females.

The female Cicada Killer digs a tunnel underground.  She digs chambers off the main tunnel.  Then she begins capturing Cicadas (Cicadidae) which she paralyzes and carries to her burrow one by one.  If she stuffs one cicada in the chamber and lays one egg on it, the egg develops into a larva which feeds on the paralyzed cicada.  It makes a pupa case and remains underground until the following summer.  When it emerges it is a male.  Eggs that will develop into females are provided with two or three cicadas.

We continued to watch the back corner.  On August 16, Stephen spotted a Cicada Killer carrying a cicada into a burrow.  We got a photo of the Cicada Killer reemerging.

We searched the area and found other burrows.  The holes were sometimes hard to see but the tiny balls of dirt which had been removed from the burrows were a giveaway.

I circled the hole with a blue line.  The tiny balls of dirt are circled with red.

On August 18 another neighbor brought over "a strange insect"she found on a young lilac sapling her son brought her.  It had a strange "thing on its back end".  The strange insect was a cicada emerging from its final molt.  We watched the insect pump up its wings and turn from white with tinges of green to the familiar dark colored insect we find every year about this time.  The cicada shell is on the bark above the cicada.

On August 26, Tom saw a Cicada walking slowly on our driveway.  Either, it had not yet completed its emergent changes or it was nearing the end of its life span.  Tom laid the dead female Cicada Killer beside the Cicada to get a photo of the comparative sizes of the two insects.