Sunday, August 28, 2011

Large Milkweed Bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus)

We found this beetle on a couple of Green Comet Milkweed (Asclepias viridiflora) plants growing in the Oconee WMA on the east shore of Lake Oconee just north of the dam. This was one of the easiest bugs to identify. Just ‘google’ ‘milkweed’ ‘large’ ‘orange’ ‘black’ ‘bug.’ And up it comes: Large Milkweed Bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus).

A couple of bugs on a developing Green Comet seed pod.

A closer view, still on the developing seed pod

A closer view of the bug on a particularly fascinating curled section of the Green Comet stem.

In spite of photographing more than a hundred different asclepias plants, we’ve only seen these bugs on a couple of Green Comet Milkweed plants at this location.

Click on an image to view a larger image

Identification resources:
- North American Insects and Spiders: Large Milkweed Bug - Oncopeltus fasciatus

- Bug Guide: Large Milkweed Bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus)

Related posts:

- 2010: Year Of The Wildflower

- Green Comet Milkweed (Asclepias viridiflora)

Another Luna Moth

A couple of weeks ago, we ran across a recently emerged Luna Moth (Actias luna) at the Fishing Creek WMA in Wilkes County Georgia. W spotted this one in the Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge as we drove south along Allison Creek Rd from the Woodpecker Trail trail head but before it crossed Allison Creek. The moth had emerged from its pupa and climbed up a dead twig to expand and dry its wings. These photographs were taken at about 6:00 pm EDT on August 20, 2011.

From a distance. The moth is at the edge of the woods – in the center of the photograph just below the base of the tree.

A closer view.

Much closer. It was possible to sit beside it and photograph.

A close view of the ‘eye’ on the forewing.

A side view showing the large body size. The body size was smaller and drier than the one we saw at Fishing Creek WMA.

A view from above

The antennae. This moth is a male. See the difference between antennae in males and females.

I was busy taking photographs. I was aware that the moth had moved but hadn’t seen what happened. W said, ‘It peed.’ Not exactly a scientific description but, indeed, it had expelled quite a volume of cloudy fliuid – onto a leaf where we could see the volume; I estimated that the moth had expelled about 0,5 ml of fluid. The moth voids reddish-colored, liquid meconium which is composed of the breakdown waste products of the old larval tissues. In this case, we had seen the moth expel fluid later in the process; the fluid was cloudy but no longer reddish-brown.

See more information on the life cycle of the Luna Moth here.

Click on an image to view a larger image

Identification resources:

- BugGuide: Luna Moth (Actias luna)

Related post:

- Luna Moth (Actias luna)

Friday, August 26, 2011

Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa): Yellow Variant

While driving south from Pond 2A in the Piedmont National Wildlife Area in Jones County, Georgia, we spotted this. Even at a distance we could tell it was a Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa). Asclepias tuberosa flowers are usually bright orange so we had to take a closer look.

A little closer…

And closer still. Clearly a Butterfly Milkweed plant.

The leaves were alternate

The flowers from the top

From the side…

And closer still.

Corpuscula that connect the pollinia via translators are visible between the hoods on several florets and missing from others.

This, clearly, is a yellow variant of Asclepias tuberosa. Earlier in the year we saw a plant with yellow-orange flowers over by the Woodpecker Trail but this is the first clearly yellow variant of this species we've seen in Georgia.
Yellow flowers have been reported elsewhere.
Click on an image to view a larger image

Distribution Map:
- United States Department of Agriculture Plants Database: Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Milkweed)

- University of North Carolina Herbarium:
Asclepias tuberosa

Identification resources:

- Southeastern Flora:
Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa)
- Natural and Naturalized Plants of the Carolinas and Georgia:
Asclepias tuberosa

Related posts:

- 2010: Year Of The Wildflower – Wildflower Index

- Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Eastern Lubber Grasshopper (Romalea microptera)

So, I don’t jump when I encounter a snake; I just stop and gasp quietly. However, when I encounter a grasshopper I startle and squeal. Well, you might too if it jumped just as you opened a car door and put your foot on the ground right beside it. It was a relief to see that it was only a grasshopper.

And that was how I encountered my first Eastern Lubber Grasshopper (Romalea microptera) by a culvert on the road south from Pond 2A in the Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge in Jones County, Georgia last Saturday. Eastern Lubber Grasshopper is a flightless grasshopper – a male, I believe - that wanted to walk rather than hop. It covered ground fairly rapidly and only hopped when it had to.

From the right

From the left

From almost directly above

It made its way to a bush nearby and climbed to the top. I managed to coax it onto my hand for a close-up shot.

We spotted another landlubber climbing in a Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) plant across the road from this sighting. Eastern Lubber Grasshoppers (Romalea microptera) are found in the coastal states from North Carolina to eastern Texas. They may occur in large numbers and cause damage to crops.

Click on an image to view a larger image


- University of Florida, Department of Entomology and Nematology: Eastern Lubber Grasshopper (Romalea microptera)

Identification resources:

- BugGuide: Eastern Lubber Grasshopper (Romalea microptera)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Halloween Pennants In A Storm

Halloween Pennants (Celithemis eponina) are one of my favorite dragonflies and I never pass up the opportunity to photograph them – even in the rain.

We went down to the Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge in Jones County, Georgia yesterday. We went up to Pond 2A.

Pond 2A is southwest of the pond in section #6 that we visited a few weeks ago. The route to Pond 2A requires going south on Starr Road to the bridge over Little Falling Creek and then taking a road north to the pond.

It wasn’t raining when we arrived at the pond although the skies were quite gray and it was windy. It looked like it might rain.

We drove slowly across the dam, looking for dragonflies. By the time we reached the north end of the dam it was raining.

In fact, it was pouring

The only dragonflies we could see were Halloween Pennants. At first, they looked like dead leaves hanging onto the tips of grass blades. And then they’d adjust their wings to cope with a change in the wind speed or direction and it was clear they were dragonflies. They were the only dragonflies that were obvious, I did see a Slaty Skimmer (Libellula incesta) and a Widow Skimmer (Libellula luctuosa) sheltering down in the grass. The Halloween Pennants, however, were riding out the storm – including the pouring rain - on the tips of twigs or grass stems looking like they were really enjoying the weather.

A male adjusting his wings in a sudden gust of wind. The salmon colored segments near the tip of the front wings are a dead giveaway that this is a male.

Another male. This one was clinging to a twig at the edge of the water. I managed to make my way down the dam to get a closer shot. The salmon-colored markings on the dorsal side of the abdomen are visible in this photograph.

A female clinging to a twig. The cream segments near the tip of the front wings are clearly visible. She is also lighter in color than the males above.

I disturbed this female when I attempted to get close to her. She flew down into the grass and settled on a grass stem. Soon after I left, she flew back up onto a twig in the open. The cream-colored dorsal markings are just visible in this photo.

I think this is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to see male and female Halloween Pennants at relatively close quarters in the same place. Although it was nice to see the salmon- and cream-pigmented segments on the wings to differentiate between the males and females, it was easy to distinguish one from the other by the overall darkness of the males compared with the females.

Click on an image to view a larger image

Identification resources:

- Georgia Dragonfly Survey: Halloween Pennant (Celithemis eponina)

- BugGuide: Halloween Pennant (Celithemis eponina)
[Male] [Female]

Related posts:

- First Halloween Pennant Of The Season

- Dragonfly: Halloween Pennant

- Zen: Halloween Pennant on Rush by Water’s Edge

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Zen: Green On Green

I found this charming green grasshopper that had overnighted in a Dogfennel (Eupatorium capillifolium) plant in the field. It was trying to decide if I was a threat – or not. I wasn’t.
Click on the image to view a larger image

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Luna Moth (Actias luna)

On our scouting trips, we often see things that are ‘out of place.’ On most occasions, it’s a shape that ‘doesn’t belong.’ On this occasion, I yelled, ‘Stop!’ In the instant I saw it, I knew what it was. As we backed up, I was able to follow up with, ‘Luna moth!’

Usually, our only sightings of Luna Moths (Actias luna) occur when they land on our windows in the evening. The windows are high that we can’t get up to photograph them. Seeing one, accessible in the woods, was a real treat.

From a distance.

About the actual size I saw as we drove down the road.

Much closer. At first I lay on the ground a little distance away but then moved up to it.

W saw flex in the legs. This was probably a newly emerged moth which hadn’t yet developed full strength in its legs.

A close view of the ‘eye’ on the front wing. The ‘eye’ on the rear wing wasn’t visible in this pose.

A view of the head and antennae from above

A view of the body from underneath. This moth has a large body. It will have to lose much of the fluid before it can fly. The ‘eye’ on the rear wing is visible from underneath

The moth took off but didn’t make it too far. Another sign that it had probably emerged recently.

A closer view. The ‘eyes’ on both sets of wings are clearly visible.

A close up of the ‘eyes’ on the rear wings.

This one is a female; see the difference in antennae between males and females.

We relocated the moth to the trunk of a nearby pine tree.

Another close view of the head and body, and…

... the head and antennae.

We left it basking in the late afternoon sun. Farewell…

See more information on the life cycle of the Luna Moth here and here.

Click on an image to view a larger image

Identification resources:

- BugGuide: Luna Moth (Actias luna)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Carolina Lily (Lilium michauxii)

W had his ‘orange sensor’ on high as we drove along Scull Shoals Road after visiting the Sandy Creek area to check on some wildflowers. We’ve been roving the countryside looking for Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) plants that are setting seedpods – without much luck.

He spotted some ‘orange’ flowers high up on an embankment just a short distance along Scull Shoals Road from its junction with Macedonia Road. Out we clambered and were rewarded with three Carolina Lily (Lilium michauxii) plants. They were relatively inaccessible. I climbed up to the top of the embankment, walked along to a vantage point with the idea of working my way down the slope. However, I was on a bed of pine needles and slid straight past the plants until I could stop my slide against some roots. So we had to content ourselves with photographing them from the road below.

Lilium michauxii
is one of two species with similar blooms – Lilium michauxii and Lilium superbum – that grow in Georgia. Lilium michauxii is known by the common name Carolina Lily.

Two of three plants blooming on the embankment above the road.

A quick check of the leaf arrangement.

A closer view of the two blooms.

A close view, from the front

A close view, from the side

Lilium michauxii
is native to the United States and grows in southeastern states from Virginia to Texas. Lilium michauxii is one of two similar species – Lillium michauxii and Lillium superbum – that have been documented to grow in several counties in Georgia including Greene County.

Lilium michauxii is only one of several Lilium species that grow in the United States. Visit A. L. Gibson’s post at the Natural Treasures in Ohio on several Lilium species that grow further north.

Click on an image to view a larger image


- United States Department of Agriculture Plants Database: Lilium michauxii (Carolina Lily)

- North Carolina herbarium: Lilium michauxii

Identification resources:

- Southeastern Flora: Lilium michauxii (Carolina Lily)

- Natural and Naturalized Plants of the Carolinas and Georgia: Lilium michauxii (Carolina Lily)

- Alabama Plants: Lilium michauxii (Carolina Lily)

Related posts:

- 2010: Year Of The Wildflower – Wildflower Index