Gossamer Tapestry

Reflections on conservation, butterflies, and ecology in the nation's heartland

Monday, June 04, 2007

Fen Bugs

The purple coneflowers are just comijng into bloom

Saturday was my first visit to Bluff Spring Fen in a couple of weeks, and the insects have arrived in a big way. I did my first butterfly census route of the year, and recorded 12 species- a healthy diversity for this early in the year. While I was walking my census route I saw lots of other stuff, so I grabbed my camera and went out to record what was there.

There were abundant dragonflies and damselflies everywhere. I saw at least a dozen different species. All were beautiful, and many are common species. One, however, is listed as threatened in the state of Illinois. Bluff Spring Fen is one of only two Illinois sites where you can see the elfin skimmer. At just over an inch and a half wingspan, it’s North America’s smallest dragonfly.

Female (above) and male Calico Pennants (Celithemis elisa)

Pronghorn Clubtail (Gomphus graclinellus)
This is the first photo I've ever made of this species. I was unable to identify it as more than just a clubtail before today.

Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicolis) - a study in green

Elfin Skimmer (Nanothemis bellus)

I got some nice caterpillar photos. The monarch seems a bit cliché, but I don’t care. This one was posing so nicely on the milkweed leaf that I had to take it’s picture. The other caterpillar is a Baltimore checkerspot- probably my favorite butterfly in the world. I did see a couple of adults this week. Very early in their flight period, it’s not uncommon to be able to see adults and caterpillars on the same day. The caterpillar here had been feeding on swamp betony, one of the plants that older larvae feed on. I expect to see many more adults over the next few weeks.

Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

Baltimore Checkerspot (Euphydryas phaeton)

Finally, there were tons of beetles around today. I only got pictures of a few species. Two that I’m posting here feed on milkweed. The milkweed longhorn beetle and swamp milkweed leaf beetle both advertise their toxicity by being bright red-orange. Also noteworthy was the reappearance of the clay-colored beetle, after a long absence. It was unintentionally transferred to Bluff Spring Fen during a plant rescue (I’ll blog about that another time). It feeds on only a few plants, including leadplant, a prairie species. Today, I found a half dozen individuals scattered about on various leadplants. I haven’t seen it on site in over ten year. Has it been hanging on at very low levels all this time, or did it recently re-colonize? We may never know.

Milkweed Longhorn Beetle (Tetraopes tetropthalmus)

Swamp Milkweed Beetle (Labidomera clivicollis)

Clay-colored Beetle (Anomoea laticlavia)
Not the best picture, but I'm thrilled that they're back.

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At 19:46, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those are some really nice pics! And some of my all time favorite bugs too!

At 20:42, Blogger robin andrea said...

What a great day, and a wide diversity of species there.

At 21:53, Blogger Ur-spo said...

it is cheering to see something in nature actually thriving; I get rather discouraged at the decline in biodiversity.

At 02:14, Blogger lifescolorfulbrushstrokes said...

Dang, there is nothing like a cool breeze and an open green field. I can smell the scents right now!

At 12:52, Anonymous Mark H said...

I get very intrigued reading a post like you do occasionally on the extent of insect life YOU see. Since becoming only the tiniest familiar with your work, I've tried to see MORE of what's around me in the garden at the BIRD feeders, WHAT the birds are carrying to young, etc., and I KNOW I miss MOST of what you would see. I can see I've confused SOME cute little bugs with Lady bugs when actually they're intent on destroying something I'm trying to grow. For example: WHAT the HELL is eating my Rhubarb leaves (little round holes on the interior of the leaves, not slug feasting on the edges)..... Oh well. Thanks for another absorbing write.

At 17:05, Blogger rodger said...

I'm jealous! I want to spend a nice day bugging at the fen. What a beautiful day you had and the picture of the milkweed beetle is great with the light shining through the leaf.

At 20:49, Blogger Katie Marshall said...

Congrats on seeing Nannothemis! I spent quite a bit of time running around bogs in Nova Scotia last summer and we managed to record some new sites for it :).

At 13:53, Blogger Doug Taron said...

Hi and welcome to the Tapestry. Thanks for stopping by. Nannothemis is such a cool species. I'm glad you have gotten to see it in Nova Scotia. Recording new sites is alway fun. I checked out your blog. Nice stuff, I'll be sure to stop by again.


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