Sunday, July 29, 2018

HumBug: Beetles and Weevils and Dragonflies

Posted By on Sun, Jul 29, 2018 at 5:54 PM

Flame skimmer recreates a carboniferous-era scene perching on a horsetail, which, like the dragonfly itself, far predates the dinosaurs. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Flame skimmer recreates a carboniferous-era scene perching on a horsetail, which, like the dragonfly itself, far predates the dinosaurs.

A recent walk along the Van Duzen River yielded a couple of interesting things. The only dragonfly I saw was a flame skimmer (Libellula saturata). This is the brightest orange dragonfly I know. I rarely see this species; I suspect they travel through my area just stopping to catch a quick bite.
A pair of tiny weevils. Is the smaller one "The lesser of two weevils?" - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • A pair of tiny weevils. Is the smaller one "The lesser of two weevils?"
I felt something on my hand which at first I thought might be a tick. When I looked it was tiny and gray. Then I thought maybe it was an aphid, although I'd never seen one of that exact color before. It was only after I took a very close look with my little Olympus camera in maximum optical magnification (4X) mode that I realized it was two of the tiniest weevils (family curculionidae) I've ever seen.
Blue willow beetles can strip entire branches of leaves. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Blue willow beetles can strip entire branches of leaves.
There was a lot of damage to some of the little willows that grow right down on the river bar. On close inspection, I found a great many blue willow beetles (Phratora vulgatissima).
A tiger beetle unable to run away. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • A tiger beetle unable to run away.
A bit farther upstream I saw the one and only tiger beetle (Cicindela oregona) for the day. While in the past they have been very common, flying ahead of me when I walked along the sandy places, I've seen very few lately. They are usually pretty skittish but this one seemed oblivious to me and my camera. I suspect something was impairing his normal neurological responses.
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Sunday, July 22, 2018

HumBug: Underfoot

Posted By on Sun, Jul 22, 2018 at 10:57 AM

A snail-hunting cychrini beetle. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • A snail-hunting cychrini beetle.

On a recent walk through a local redwood grove, my young companion, knowing I'm interested in bugs, pointed out a beetle on the path. It was dead and, although it was in the middle of a footprint, externally undamaged. So I collected it. Hey, it was dead when I got there. Interestingly enough, it was still pliable, which indicated it hadn't been dead long enough to dry out. But it wasn't playing possum because two days later it was still in the exact same position we'd found it in and rapidly losing flexibility.

So I put it in my killing jar to be 100 percent sure and a day later pinned it. It is one of the Cychrini tribe of ground beetles. This group is notable as snail hunters, using their narrowed heads to access the last little bits of escargot from the shell.
Anglewing perches, standing guard on its territory. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Anglewing perches, standing guard on its territory.
On another recent outing into the deep woods several orange butterflies displayed serious territoriality, chasing others away from their perches and through the patches of sunlight filtering down through the trees. These are Polygonia satyrus, named for their apparently ragged wings.
Genus Colletes fuels up on marigold. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Genus Colletes fuels up on marigold.
My little marigold patch is now hosting several species of native bees and, notably, I haven't seen any honeybees on them. One little native was a digger or polyester bee (genus Colletes), known to line their burrow with a cellophane-like coating, protecting their brood from water and fungi.
Bumblebee on marigold. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Bumblebee on marigold.
Attracted by the scent of fermenting vegetables in my most recent batch of homemade kimchi, a fruit fly was an unwelcome guest in my home. Rest assured it did not survive the experience.
Close up of fruit fly on fermenting lid. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Close up of fruit fly on fermenting lid.
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Sunday, July 15, 2018

Drafting Along with Whirligig Beetles

Posted By on Sun, Jul 15, 2018 at 1:25 PM

Blue eyed darner on an ornamental tree in my back yard. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • Blue eyed darner on an ornamental tree in my back yard.
The other day I was talking on the phone with my fiance when I saw a large flying insect investigate a tree in my back yard. I made my excuses, set down the phone and got my camera. The critter in question was a Blue Eyed Darner (Rhionaeschna multicolor) dragonfly. Thankfully, they were both quite patient with me, and I got the photo.

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Sunday, July 8, 2018

Humbug: That's One Big Moth

Posted By on Sun, Jul 8, 2018 at 3:21 PM

A Polyphemus moth on my hand, showing scale. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • A Polyphemus moth on my hand, showing scale.
Coming home late from the Fortuna fireworks display on July 3, on a whim, I stopped at the Carlotta Fire hall. To my surprise I got to see a species of moth I photographed for the first time last year. Near the light was a Polyphemus Moth. At 6 inches it has the largest wingspan of any moth in the area. This only the second one of this species I've ever encountered.

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Sunday, July 1, 2018

HumBug: Late Bloomers and Frisky Dragonflies

Posted By on Sun, Jul 1, 2018 at 11:18 AM

Mourning cloak caterpillars mobbing elm branch. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Mourning cloak caterpillars mobbing elm branch.

The walk started off noticing my neighbor's elm tree is infested with mourning cloak caterpillars. They're going to town on one of the branches, stripping the leaves right down to the tough ribs. I didn't tell him. It's a big tree and I doubt loosing a few leaves is going to have much effect on it. And after they pupate they will grace the world with beauty.


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