Long Weekend Bug Collecting Trip!

On Saturday, I’ll be joining a number of other Missouri biologists as a Group Leader for a BioBlitz at Penn-Sylvania Prairie (“C” on the map above).  Penn-Sylvania Prairie is a 160-acre tract of native tallgrass prairie in southwestern Missouri owned by the Missouri Prairie Foundation. I’ll be leading the “Beetles” group (of course), and as far as I can tell there has been little to no work done to survey beetles in this prairie.  Late May is an awesome time to look for beetles in southwestern Missouri, and with the forecast calling for sunny skies with highs in the mid-80’s, what better opportunity to add an extra day to an already long holiday weekend and do a…

Long Weekend Bug Collecting Trip!

The BioBlitz is not until Saturday afternoon, so I’ve padded the itinerary with a few nearby southwestern Missouri spots that I’ve wanted to visit for some time now.  The first stop will be Ha Ha Tonka State Park (“B”) and its mosaic of dolomite glades and post oak savanna.  My interest in this area stems from two jewel beetle specimens collected there by a student at the University of Missouri, who gave them to me for identification.  These two specimens caused a stir when I first saw them, as I could not definitely ID them – they resembled Agrilus impexus, a common inhabitant of the desert southwest and Mexico, but they were much larger and, of course, were found in Missouri.  These specimens played a key role in clearing up a case of taxonomic confusion on the identity of Agrilus impexus when I sent them to U.S. Agrilus-guru Henry Hespenheide.  Through comparison with type specimens, he determined that these were among a smattering of specimens collected across the Great Plains that represent the true A. impexus, while the common southwestern U.S. species to which the name had long been applied was actually an undescribed species.  He described the latter as Agrilus paraimpexus (Hespenheide 2007), and the true A. impexus remains rare and little known.  Obviously, my two specimens are the only ones known from Missouri, and indeed only one other specimen of this species has been collected in the past 60 years!  I know that makes finding it a long shot, but the student who collected them told me he swept them from woody vegetation along the edge of a glade at Ha Ha Tonka Savanna Natural Area.  I suspect they may be associated with honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos), thus, I will have my beating sheet and will be beating lots of honey locust on Friday – wish me luck!

On Sunday, I’ll work my way slightly northeast to some of the sandstone glades that are found in St. Clair Co. where the Osage Plains to the west transition into the Ozark Highlands to the east.  The two most interesting of these are Lichen Glade Natural Area (“D”) and Dave Rock Natural Area (“E”).  Here, sandstone glades and bluffs are surrounded by dry and dry mesic sandstone woodlands dominated by post oak (Quercus stellata) and blackjack oak (Quercus marilandica).  Many years ago, I beat a single specimen of Agrilus frosti off of post oak at Lichen Glade.  I have not collected the species since, and I know of only one other Missouri specimen collected by state agriculture personnel in a malaise trap in central Missouri.  I also hope to photograph the lichen grasshopper (Trimerotropis saxatilis), which I have seen commonly at both of these sites.  This Great Plains species is at its eastern limit of distribution in Missouri, occurring exclusively on sandstone and igneous glades where its cryptic coloration makes it nearly invisible against the acidic, lichen-covered rocks that dominate these habitats.

Otherwise, I have no specific goals for the trip, but as late May is prime time in this area for jewel beetles, I’ll be doing lots of general beating on the oaks and hickories that many species in this family favor as hosts for larval development.


Hespenheide, H. A.  2007. The identity of Agrilus impexus Horn, a new species, and taxonomic notes and records for other Agrilus Curtis species (Coleoptera: Buprestidae).  Zootaxa 1617:57–66.

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Cylindera celeripes Larva Revealed

In a recent post, I provided the first ever glimpse of the previously unknown larva of Cylindera celeripes, or swift tiger beetle.  This little-known flightless species is among the tiniest in North America (adults measure only 8 or 9 mm in length), and so far nobody has succeeded in rearing the species in the lab, or even finding its larva.  As the photographs in that post showed, I am reasonably close to accomplishing that first goal, having successfully obtained a number of eggs from field-collected adults placed in a terrarium of native soil. I fed the subsequent larvae a diet of small rootworm larvae and Lygus nymphs before putting them to sleep for the winter in a cold incubator, and the larvae resumed activity when I pulled them out of the incubator 2 months ago. Since then, they have feasted heavily on small noctuid larvae that we rear in our lab, and now most of the dozen or so larvae have sealed their burrows – I presume for pupation before (hopefully) emerging as adults in the next few weeks.

Cylindera celeripes 3rd instar larva - USA: Oklahoma, Woodward Co.

There is more to the story, however.  I had brought the adults back home in June 2009 from a population I found at Alabaster Caverns State Park in northwestern Oklahoma.  This was a reasonably robust population – news enough for a species that has not been seen in good numbers for many years now, and my discovery of equally healthy populations at several other locations in the general area gives new hope for the long-term prospects of a species that some regard as a potential candidate for listing as an endangered species. It also gave me hope that I might be able to find the larva were I to return to the area in the fall.  I also had a hunch that Cicindela pulchra (beautiful tiger beetle) could be found in the area, based on some very large larvae I found during that June trip, so in early October I made a quick return to northwestern Oklahoma to search for these two species.  While it was too cold and wet to have any hope of finding Cicindela pulchra adults (I still think the species is there), it did not prevent me from realizing my other goal.  May I present one of the first ever field-collected larvae of Cylindera celeripes!

Cylindera celeripes 3rd instar larva - closeup of hump on 5th abdominal segment with hooks to aid in securing the larva in its burrow

I found the larvae at Alabaster Caverns where I had found the adults earlier in June, and although the larval burrows were very small (only 2 to 3 mm in diameter), I knew what they were immediately when I saw them.  As I had observed for the adults, burrows tended to be near the edges of barren patches of soil in proximity to vegetation and not out in the middle of the barren areas.  This makes sense, considering where it would be more likely for prey to be encountered.  Because the weather was cold and gray, I didn’t see (or expect to see) larvae actively sitting at the tops of their burrows, so I began “fishing” to see if I could yank a few from their burrows.  I fished quite a few burrows for the first half hour or so, but none of my attempts were successful.  I began wondering if the larvae were even active at all or if they had already entered hibernation for the upcoming winter.  While I was fishing, I noticed that the burrows all seemed rather shallow – only about 6” or so (most tiger beetles, having larger larvae, dig burrows that are much deeper). This gave me an idea.  I went back to the truck and retrieved a small spade that I carry in case… well, I’d never actually used it before.  Anyway, I inserted a grass stem into a burrow and sunk the spade into the ground right next to it, making sure I got the spade at least as deep as the grass blade.  I then removed the spade and sunk it into the ground on the other side of the burrow, then pried until the entire chunk of soil came up intact.  With the bottom of the soil chunk exposed, I used my knife to carefully remove slivers of soil until I found the end of the grass stem that I had inserted into the burrow.  Carefully removing the soil in this area revealed the larva in a side chamber at the bottom of the burrow.  Success!  I took many photos of that larva right then and there, and over the next hour or so collected several more larvae, all but one of which I presumed were 3rd instars.  I packed each larva in its own small vial of native soil for the trip home, and although I have been attempting to rear them out for confirmation of their identity, there is little doubt that they do indeed represent this species.

Cylindera celeripes 3rd instar larva - that grotesquely beautiful head!

The photographs I’m showing here are not those first field photographs that I took when I first discovered the larvae.  Looking at those photographs after I returned home, I was dissatisfied with the amount of soil and debris that covered the larvae – especially their grotesquely unique head and pronotum.  Instead, I removed one of the larvae from its rearing tube and gave it a “bath” – brushing it with a fine camel-hair brush in a shallow dish of water – to clean it up for the photographs shown here.  After the photo shoot, I sacrificed this larva for the collection – it will be the basis for a formal description of the larva of this species (along with examples of the 1st and 2nd instars that I had sacrificed from my rearing, not yet confident that I would succeed in getting any of the others to 3rd instar).  The only thing I am waiting on before preparing that description is to see whether I actually succeed in rearing this species from egg to adult – stay tuned!

Photo Details: Canon 50D (ISO 100, 1/250 sec, f/13-16). Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5X macro lens, MT-24EX flash (1/8 power) w/ Sto-Fen diffusers. Typical post-processing (levels, unsharp mask).

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2010

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Introducing Chrysobothris caddo

This set of photographs comes from my June 2009 trip to northwestern Oklahoma, which I found at Boiling Springs State Park in Woodward County. They represent only the second buprestid species that I attempted to photograph with my (then) new camera and macro lens setup, the first being Chrysobothris ignicollis which I found at nearby Four Canyon Preserve. The latter species is commonly associated with Juniperus throughout much of western North America – indeed, the individuals I photographed were found on freshly cut J. virginiana (eastern redcedar), and I have reared the beetle from dead branches of this and other Juniperus species. The individual in these photographs represents another species in the same genus – Chrysobothris caddo. It was also found on cut redcedar; however, it is not normally associated with that plant. In fact, it is not very well-known at all, as it was only just described in 2007 (and these may well be the first ever identified photographs of the species).

Chrysobothris caddo is one of a number of new species that were described by Wellso and Manley (2007) in their revision of the Chrysobothris femorata species-group from North America. I’ve previously mentioned the taxonomic difficulties associated with this group, last revised by Fisher (1942), and it had been known for some time that several species – including some unnamed – were masquerading under the “catch-all” taxon of Chrysobothris femorata. Normally, the only people who care about such situations are taxonomists and those who enjoy placing ID labels on specimens (me on both counts – I just hated those “Chrysobothris femorata species-group” labels).  However, there was farther reaching impact in this case since C. femorata is a widespread and important economic pest of shade and fruit trees (eggs are laid on the trunks of the trees, which are then damaged by the boring actions of the larvae that hatch from them). The Wellso/Manley revision has brought some degree of clarity to species limits within the group (doubling its number of described species), but they remain difficult to identify since their recognition relies upon “suites” of characters rather than single “key” characters. For example, we know this individual (a female, based on the form of the pygidium, or upper surface of the tip of the abdomen) represents C. caddo because (see if you can find the characters in the photos as we go here):

  • the antennae are narrowed to the apex (eliminating C. rugosiceps, which has the last antennal segment strongly quadrate)
  • the post-median (back of middle) foveae (circular impressions) of the elytra (wing covers) are joined (eliminating C. viridiceps, which has the foveae distinctly separated)
  • the pygidium is deeply impressed on each side of the middle (eliminating C. quadriimpressa, which has the pygidium shallowly impressed)
  • the pygidium lacks a hyaline (membranous) lateral margin (eliminating C. adelpha, which is unique in possessing this character)
  • the elytra have the posteriolateral margins arcuate and the tips bronze (eliminating C. femorata, in which the margins are straight and the tips reddish)
  • the elytral costae (longitudinal ridges) are connected by cross-veins and interrupted by the foveae (eliminating C. comanche, which lacks cross veins and has indistinct foveae)
  • the frons (face) has the callosities (elevated patches) transverse and bronze (eliminating C. shawnee, which has larger, bronze-black callosities)

Are you cross-eyed yet?! If not, there are four additional species in the group that are distinguished by similarly subtle character suites but whose geographical occurrence outside of Oklahoma (see checklist below) automatically eliminates them from consideration.

Chrysobothris caddo is primarily associated with Celtis (hackberry), and my finding it on redcedar is simply an incidental association. There was a large tree dump in the back area of the park with freshly cut wood from a variety of plant species – such tree dumps are famous collecting grounds for woodboring beetles in the families Buprestidae and Cerambycidae. However, little importance can be given to beetle-plant associations observed in such situations, with multiple potential host plant species in such close proximity to each other. The third photograph shows another female probing cracks in the bark of cut Ulmus rubra (slippery elm) with her ovipositor – perhaps she will have laid an egg or perhaps not, and if she did it is unknown whether the larva that hatched would be able to feed and develop successfully to adulthood on this non-preferred host.

For those with an interest in this group, following is a checklist of the species with their geographical distribution and preferred hosts:

  1. Chrysobothris adelpha Harold – eastern US and southern Canada west to Texas.  Primarily associated with Carya, also reared from Amelanchier and Prosopis.
  2. Chrysobothris caddo Wellso and Manley – Florida west to Arizona and north to Missouri, abundant in Texas.  Primarily associated with Celtis, reared also from Cercis and Ebanopsis [= Pithecellobium].
  3. Chrysobothris comanche Wellso and Manley – New Mexico, Texas, and Utah.  Associated exclusively with Juglans.
  4. Chrysobothris femorata (Olivier) – all continental states and Canada.  Associated with a wide variety of woody plant species, especially those in landscape and orchard settings.
  5. Chrysobothris mescalero Wellso and Manley – New Mexico and Texas.  Associated exclusively with Quercus.
  6. Chrysobothris quadriimpressa Gory and Laporte – eastern US west to Continental Divide.  Primarily associated with Quercus, reared also from Juglans, Liquidamber, and Sapindus.
  7. Chrysobothris rugosiceps Melsheimer – eastern US and southern Canada west to Texas.  Primarily associated with Quercus, reared also from Castanea.
  8. Chrysobothris seminole Wellso and Manley – Georgia and Florida.  Associated exclusively with root crowns of Chrysoma, making it the only species associated with a non-woody host.
  9. Chrysobothris shawnee Wellso and Manley – eastern US west to Colorado.  Primarily associated with Quercus, reared also from Salix and Prunus.
  10. Chrysobothris sloicola Manley and Wellso – Known only from Michigan in association with Prunus.
  11. Chrysobothris viridiceps Melsheimer – eastern US and southern Canada west to Continental Divide.  Associated primarily with Quercus, reared also from Carya, Prosopis, and Ulmus.
  12. Chrysobothris wintu Wellso and Manley – Arizona and California.  Primarily associated with Quercus, reared also from Salix and Prunus.

I have, over the years, collected numerous specimens of most of the species in this group (lacking only mescalero, seminole, and sloicola in my collection), with specimens now assignable to caddo, comanche, shawnee, and wintu included in the original type series as paratypes.

Photo Details: Canon 50D (ISO 100, 1/250 sec, f/14-16), Canon 100mm macro lens, Canon MT-24EX flash (1/4 ratio) w/ Sto-Fen diffusers. Typical post-processing (levels, unsharp mask, minimal cropping).


Fisher, W. S.  1942. A revision of North American species of buprestid beetles belonging to the tribe Chrysobothrini.  U. S. Department of Agriculture, Miscellaneous Publication 470, 275 pp.

Wellso, S. G. and G. V. Manley. 2007. A revision of the Chrysobothris femorata (Olivier, 1790) species group from North America, north of Mexico (Coleoptera: Buprestidae). Zootaxa 1652:1–26 (first page only).

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2010

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The Marvelously Cryptic Dicerca lurida

Dicerca lurida on trunk of wind-thrown mockernut hickory (Carya alba).

This is Dicerca lurida (family Buprestidae), another of several woodboring beetle species that I found on the trunk of a large, wind-thrown mockernut hikcory (Carya alba) tree during my early April hike of the lower Wappapello Section of the Ozark Trail.  Actually, I had already spent some amount of time at the tree photographing a checkered beetle (Enoclerus ichneumoneus) and a longhorned beetle (Stenosphenus notatus) giving a ride to a phoretic pseudoscorpion before I even noticed not one, but several of these cryptically colored jewel beetles on the trunk of the tree.

Like other species in the genus, the brilliant metallic gaudiness of Dicerca lurida as a pinned insect specimen in a cabinet belies its near invisibility when sitting on the bark of its host trees.  Several different trees have been reported as hosts (Nelson 1975), but hickories of the genus Carya seem to be the most preferred.  The beetles rapidly colonize wind-thrown or cut trees and branches while the wood is still hard and strong, and I have collected it from a number of hickories and reared it from dead pignut hickory (Cary glabra) and shellbark hickory (Carya laciniosa), as well as sandbar willow (Salix exigua).  Most jewel beetles are active as adults only during a limited time during the season – typically late spring and early summer in eastern North America, but species of Dicerca occur as adults throughout the year – even during winter hibernating under loose bark.  This individual probably represents one of those hibernating adults that resumed activity in the first warm days of spring, searching for freshly killed host trees on which to mate and lay their eggs.  Widespread across eastern North America, it is perhaps the commonest species of the genus and one of the commonest jewel beetles in North America.  Yet, despite its abundance, year-round occurrence, relatively large size, and attractive coloration, its cryptic habits keep it seldom seen by those who don’t look for it.

Photo Details: Canon 50D (ISO 100, 1/250 sec, f/18), Canon 100mm macro lens, Canon MT-24EX flash (1/4 ratio) w/ Sto-Fen diffusers. Typical post-processing (levels, unsharp mask, minimal cropping).


Nelson, G. H. 1975. A revision of the genus Dicerca in North America (Coleoptera: Buprestidae). Entomologische Arbeiten aus dem Museum G. Frey 26:87–180.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2010

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May Beetles and Herps

Issue #4 of An Inordinate Fondness is up at xenogere, and once again Jason Hogle has unleashed his natural talent as a blog carnival host in fine form.  Join Jason on a meandering road trip across the continent and back, as he visits the latest crop of beetle bloggers and engages them in coleopterous conversation.  I hope you’ll join the fun and visit the links, and as always don’t forget to tip the waiter!

Another carnival that I follow with interest is House of Herps, and Bernard Brown at Philly Herping has just posted HoH #6. There is a nice assortment of posts featuring frogs, salamanders, snakes and lizards (including one on a very rare Florida endemic, submitted by some guy – I forget his name), and I think the gopher snake photos are the gem of this issue. May is a happening month for herps, so be sure to check out this month’s presentation (and as always don’t forget to tip the waiter)!

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2010

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The Moth and Me #11

The Moth and MeWelcome to issue #11 of The Moth and Me, the monthly carnival devoted to the “forgotten” lepidopterans. Most people – even entomologists – regard these as the lesser leps, denizens of the night, as if to hide their somber-colored drabness from the flashy brilliance of their rhopaloceran relatives. Of course, this simply isn’t true, as the contributions to this month’s issue well demonstrate. Butterflies may be among the largest insects on earth, but the largest lepidopteran in the world is a moth. They may also be as gaudily colored as the rainbow itself, but what butterfly is more colorful than the Urania day-flying moths (the genus name literally means, “The heavenly one”).   And, they may be almost universally accepted by a largely insect-indifferent public, but who among us does not think back to that first sight of a luna moth as the most stunning insect we had ever seen to that point.  Yes, moths are all that butterflies are, and for this month’s issue of TMaM, 15 contributions by nine writer’s show us why.

Family Saturniidae – Giant Silkworm & Royal Moths

Tales from the Butterfly Garden: LepcuriousLuna moths belong to the royal moths of the family Saturniidae, and as the name implies they are not the only stunningly beautiful member of the group. Kristen at Tales from the Butterfly Garden: Lepcurious writes about an encounter with the Sweetbay Silkmoth (Callosamia securifera).  Like other members of the family, larvae of this species are rather particular about the type of tree that they utilize for food, which in the case of this moth is sweetbay (Magnolia virginiana).  I’m a little too far north here in Missouri for this tree, so I have never seen this moth.  However, I have seen (and reared) some of its close relatives, the Promethia Silkmoth (Callosamia promethea) which hosts on several plant species and the Tulip-tree Silkmoth (Callosamia angulifera) which hosts on Tulip Tree (Liliodendron tulipifera).

Family Zygaenidae – Leaf Skeletonizer Moths

xenogereJason Hogle at xenogere is fond of the unusual and has a gift for finding it. In his post The Unmoth, Jason shows us a male grapeleaf skeletonizer (Harrisina americana) – not your typical moth!, The uniformly black color and bright red neck collar just screams “Don’t eat me – I’m poisonous”, and indeed species in this family are among the few insects capable of producing hydrogen cyanide!  As the name suggests, larvae skeletonize the leaves of both wild and cultivated grapes (Vitis spp.), as well as the related Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia).

Family Noctuidae – Noctuid Moths & Tiger Moths

Tales from the Butterfly Garden: LepcuriousRoyal moths are not the only stunningly colored moths that Kristen at Tales from the Butterfly Garden: Lepcurious has found in Florida, as she shows in this post on Oleander Moths (Syntomeida epilais) and a companion piece on its Oleander host plant.  This striking day-active moth, also called Uncle Sam Moth (for its red, white, and blue colors) and Polka-Dot Wasp Moth (for obvious reasons), may seem like an easy-to-spot target for would be predators, but its gaudiness is actually warning of the toxic chemicals it has sequestered in its body from the Oleander on which it fed as a larva.  Oleander contains the toxins oleandrin, a cardiac glycoside, and neandrin and is toxic if ingested.  Although oleander is an Old World exotic, oleander moths may also be found feeding on devil’s potato vine (Echites umbellata), which may have been their native Florida host before the introduction of oleander to the United States.

See TrailAside from the underwings (genus Catacola) and the recently incorporated tiger moths, Noctuids are typically thought of as the “basic brown moths” – relying on just the aforementioned groups to add a splash of color to the family’s otherwise drearyness.  Nothing could be further from the truth – check out the stunning Eight-spotted Forester (Alypia octomaculata) in this post by Matthew York at See Trail. Larvae of this beautiful little moth feed on ampelopsis, Virginia creeper, and other plants in the grape family (similar to the grape leaf skeletonizer above). “A great moth; brilliant color, diurnal…… and yes… Noctuid. Some moths, like people, don’t go with the trends.”

See TrailFor the most part, tiger moths shun the daytime in preference for the safety of the night. That does not mean, however, that they are any less colorful, as Matthew York at See Trail shows in his post Poor Grammia. Notarctia proxima, the Mexican Tiger Moth, and its relatives have had a bit of name shuffling over the years at the hands of taxonomists – formerly placed in the genera Grammia and Apantesis. Whatever name you call it, the striking white and black striped forewings give a clue about their common name of tiger moths, and the red, black-tipped abdomen not only add to its beauty, but belies the defensive compounds it surely contains.

Speaking of tiger moths and defensive compounds, watch the video that Chris Grinter at The Skeptical Moth included in his post Moth Perfume. In it, Chetone angulosa gives a striking display of a common defensive mechanism for the group – excreting hemolymph (sweating blood, so to speak!). So spectacularly does the moth do this that you can actually hear the hissing sound of the fluid being pumped from the body. Moreover, there seem to be at least a couple of active ingredients in the froth – one that smells like peppermint, and another that causes numbing of the tongue (as Chris can testify firsthand – he is a truly dedicated experimental naturalist!).

Karthik's JournalIn similar fashion to our North American species of underwing moths (Catocola spp.), the related Eudocima materna, one of the fruit-sucking moths of south India, uses its drab-colored forewings to hide its brilliantly colored hindwings, as Karthik at Karthik’s Journal shows us in his post Startling Displays.  This forms a double line of defense against would-be predators – the forewings blend marvelously into the color of the tree trunks upon which it rests during the day, camouflaging the insect and making it nearly invisible.  If this doesn’t work, a sudden flash of the hindwings may startle the predator just enough to allow the moth to take flight to another tree – where it instantly “disappears” as soon as it closes its wings.

Snails Eye ViewAustralia also has some very colorful fruit-piercing moths, and Bronwen Scott at Snails Eye View presents some beautiful photos of the particularly strikingly-colored Othreis iridescens. Like other members of the group, this Far North Queensland endemic feeds on fruit (Pycnarrhena novoguineensis and Hypserpa laurina, both Menispermaceae, in the case of this species), but as it is apparently the rarest of the primary fruitpiercing moth species in Australia it is not considered to be a pest (and Bronwen would cut it some slack even if it was!).

EntophileAdults are but only one of four life stages that all moths go through. If moths are the “forgotten” leps, then caterpillars are the “forgotten” moths. In many cases, the caterpillar stage cannot be recognized until it becomes a moth (and in some cases the caterpillars are completely unknown). Fortunately, Navy entomologist corycampora at Entophile recognized the caterpillar he found on his croton bush, which he features in the post Croton caterpillar, Achaea janata (Linnaeus), (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae). These “eating machines” can be just as fascinating to observe as their scaled adult counterparts, and while croton seems to be a preferred host in Hawaii, it apparently also feeds on castor beans (judging by its other common name, Castor Oil Semi-looper).

Family Notodontidae – Prominent Moths

the Marvelous in NatureOften dismissed as noctuids, the prominent moths tend to be fuzzier, more thickly-bodied moths that rest with their wings curled around their abdomen or tented over their back (rather than flat like noctuids and most other moths). TMaM organizer Seabrooke Leckie at the Marvelous in Nature has a love affair with prominents, and in her post Georgian Prominent, she features the nicely thick-bodied and fuzzy Georgian Prominent, Hyperaeschra georgica. The caterpillars of this widespread species feed on oak (Quercus spp.), thus, unless you live in the Pacific Northwest you stand a good chance of encountering this species – if you’re you’re willing to make the effort.

Family Psychidae – Bagworm Moths

xenogereMany of us are probably familiar with the evergreen bagworm moth (Thyridopteryx ephemeraeformis), whose large, cone-shaped bags almost look like fruit hanging from the evergreen bushes on which the caterpillars feed. But did you know there are other species of bagworms as well? Jason Hogle at xenogere does, and he compares and contrasts two of them in this duo of posts, Rainy day on the patio and The Other Bagworm. One huge and prominent, the other (Dahlica triquetrella) very small and oft unseen. One with all manner of plant matter stuck to its bag, the other usually mistaken for small bits of dirt or wood. Jason is so good, he can even determine the sex of the caterpillar inside the bag!

Family Sphingidae – Hawk Moths

Roundtop RumingsCarolyn at Roundtop Rumings is hoping that somebody can Name this moth, which she found on the door of her cabin in the forests of Pennsylvania. Don’t let her inability to name this moth fool you, however, for her post contains loads of information on exactly the kinds of characters one should take note of when trying to identify hawk moths. Large size and membership in a popularly studied group aren’t enough – what do the hindwings look like? Are there any spots on the abdomen? As a coleopterist, I hesitate to offer my relatively uninformed opinion on the exact genus and species for this moth, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest maybe something in the genus Ceratomia, perhaps the waved sphinx (C. undulosa)?

I hope you have enjoyed this issue of The Moth and Me, and my sincere thanks go out to all of those who contributed!  The hosting slot for next month’s issue of TMaM is still open, but you can submit your contributions anyway to Seabrooke Leckie at the home site for inclusion in the June 2010 issue once a host is selected.  The submission deadline is June 13, with the issue appearing a few days later.  Perhaps you might like to host the June issue – hosting is not only fun, but also a great way to introduce readers to your site and generate a little traffic.  Contact Seabrooke at the home site if you’re interested – I’m sure she would love to hear from you.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2010

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BitB Gets a Facelift

How do you like the new look? This is the just-released Enterprise theme from StudioPress.  Truth be told, I’ve been looking for a new theme for a while now to replace the MistyLook theme that I adopted when I first migrated my blog from Blogger to WordPress.  MistyLook is a good theme, but there are two things I’ve never liked about it: 1) its relatively narrow width (500 pixels for the posts); and 2) the search box at top right that overlaps the page headings, limiting the number of pages that can be added.  I’ve never understood why so many fixed-width blog themes are as narrow as they are, resulting in long, skinny posts with lots of wasted space on each side.  Perhaps this is to accommodate even the oldest and smallest of computer monitors, but 750 pixels total width seems to be rather extreme.  Flexible-width themes eliminate this problem, but the variable post width plays havoc with paragraph formatting in my (usually) image-heavy posts.  There’s also one more reason I’ve become dissatisfied with MistyLook – it has, over the past year, become a very popular theme (even with the recent exodus of Myrmecos to Science Blogs).  I know, I know… I’m blogging for free, and beggars can’t be choosy – if I want my own look, I can either pony up for a customized theme, or I can look for greener pastures.

Enterprise appears to be those greener pastures.  It has all the features I want – two columns, fixed width, and customizable header.  It’s wider though – 630 pixels for the posts, and the sidebar is slightly wider as well (limits annoying text-wrapping).  It also has a clean, professional look with smaller font and a pleasing blue color for highlighting linked text.  WordPress suggests that Enterprise is “perfect for … a more corporate look,”  but it seems to me to work well as a backdrop for a science-oriented nature blog as well.  The greater width will allow me to add at least one more main page along the top (I’m thinking along the lines of a photo gallery, or maybe a page of techniques articles), and the customizable header allows me to keep the distant image of me in the field to maintain some visual continuity.  I wasn’t sure I would like the blog title and subtitle on top of that image, but matching the color to the background makes it at once visible and unobtrusive.

There are two new features with Enterprise that I really like: 1) the prominent two-level navigation at top, with pages (featuring drop-down menus) in the first level and most-used categories in the second; and 2) a footer with three widget areas – perfect for small, miscellaneous widgets that would clutter up the more list-oriented sidebar.  I’ve gotten things arranged in a way that seems to work for me, although you might see further adjustments over the next few days or so.  I hope you like the new look – please do let me know if you have any ideas on how I can best use its features.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2010

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