23 September 2010

2010 Vacation - Part Two

The next day (8/4) we made it over to Natchez and drove around town quite a bit.

We visited the Melrose Plantation (somewhat by accident..)

got a good view of the Mississippi..

then got on the Natchez Trace parkway.

The first visitor info stop we encountered had a small grave yard behind it.

12 September 2010

2010 Vacation - Part One

This year we took a camping trip up through Mississippi. The first night, 8/3, we spent at Homochitto National Forest.

(The drive up)

It was dark and late when we got there - we setup the tent and got a fire going.

(The next morning)

The next morning we found a really nice lake with a recreation area there, but it started pouring rain not long after we got out of the car.

19 May 2010

A.I. staff field - Louisiana Nature Center 5/19/2010

On May 19th, we made a trip to the Audubon Louisiana
Nature Center (Zack plus 5 in the morning, only 2 could stay through the afternoon).
The site was flooded badly during Katrina; buildings are decrepit; remediation
has been done on the grounds (which total 85 acres of mixed bottomland hardwood
and swamp) such that the blackberry and tallow are not the sole plants on site,
thank goodness. That said, it was nice to have a little blackberry around...and
by that I mean the picking was extraordinary. We brought home plenty.

As for bugs, we collected a large number of pill
bugs and several greenhouse millipedes for our “rotten log” exhibit in the Insectarium’s
Louisiana Swamp gallery. We also brought in about a dozen large slugs for a
display in our Main Hall focusing on non-arthropod invertebrates. A few patent-leather
beetles and giant water bugs (Belostoma sp.) rounded out the stuff we took to
the Insectarium.

Diversity was pretty good considering what took
place on site in the late summer of 2005. A partial list is below. We found
2 juvenile wheel bugs with prey (images attached). In one instance, a ladybug
is the meal. In the other, an ironic twist as the insect being sucked on is
itself a predatory stink bug (subfamily Asopinae).

Spiders – 12 families (either web only or spider itself), including
the well-camouflaged trash-line orb weaver (Cyclosa sp.) and a feather-legged
spider (Uloborus glomosus).

Dragonflies – 6 species, including the gorgeous Carolina saddlebags

Lepidoptera – lots of giant swallowtails, a gulf fritillary, a viceroy,
a grape leaf skeletonizer, and a noctuid of some sort rounded out the adults.
Larvae consisted of a few salt marsh tigers and fall web worms and one pink-striped

Hymenoptera – not much ant diversity (result of flooding?), bumble bees,
carpenter bees, honey bees, leafcutter bees, and a lot of wasps of many species
(vespids, and sphecids mostly). Someone found a sawfly larva, too.

Beetles – Here again, the lack of numbers and diversity may be partially
a post-flood result. Patent-leather beetles (more larvae than adults); many
click beetle larvae (and one adult of a smaller species); a couple of larger
bombardier beetles (Brachinus sp., I think); ladybugs; a couple of un-IDed ground
beetles; a hardwood stump borer; a nice lepturine longhorn beetle (wasp mimic,
visiting lizard’s tail).

Others of note – a two-striped walkingstick, adult spittlebugs, a pale-bordered
field cockroach (which were occasionally easy to find on grounds), lots of stink
bugs of one species a well as at least two others, some katydids, a couple of
different assassin bugs, a nice, large Tabanus atratus, only one deer fly (thank
goodness), a mercifully light load of mosquitoes, and a pair of different carne
flies (one was quite long and thin, even by this family’s standards – did not
get a close look at it).

- Zack

Pearl River + Honey Island Swamp 5-8-2010

Pearl River/Honey Island Swamp May 8, 2010 field notes:

The day began with light drizzle/mist but finally cleared up before noon. Many
roadsides at front gate had been sprayed with herbicides. Self-heal, Prunella,
was blooming everywhere. Host plants-passion flower and cassia- were beginning
to sprout by the railroad tracks; but, no butterfly eggs yet.

Mahaw berries by shooting range.

Multiple baby Lubber grasshopper migrations on each trail.

Not many predator dragonflies hunting. Overall delayed activity due to cold
winter and cool spring. Delighted to see 4 gorgeous Indigo buntings!

Combined reports:
4 Pipevine Swallowtail
1 Giant Swallowtail
4 Tiger Swallowtail
16 Black Swallowtail
4 Palamedes Swallowtail
3 Spicebush Swallowtail
2 unidentified dark swallowtails
11 Pearl Crescent
2 Southern Pearly Eye
11 Carolina Satyr
4 Question Mark
2 Red Spotted Purple
1 Hackberry
1 American Painted Lady
1 Viceroy
5 Buckeye
1 Sleepy Orange
4 Clouded Skipper
3 Common Checkered Skipper
7 Dun Skipper
4 Fiery Skipper
1 Least Skipper
6 Silver Spotted Skipper
11 Southern Broken Dash
1 Swarthy Skipper
4 Twin-Spotted Skipper
15 Whirlabout Skipper

26 species
134 Individuals

- Linda

A.I. staff field trip to Audubon Zoo

This is a late report on the staff field trip from last week to Audubon Zoo.

We got a late start on account of a meeting, but we were at our red-tip cutting site by the Zoo's perimeter fence in time to catch up with staff from Mosquito Control and Jerry Howard of UNO. I think they'd already been looking for trap-jaw ants at another site or two on Zoo grounds, but now they were upon the colony I found in Feb. To make a long story short: we spent about 30 minutes there, but the good part was that the head tree guy at the Zoo, Daniel, showed up with a chainsaw and cut the railroad tie in which we hoped most of the ants and the queen might be. And in fact both the look of the wood and the lack of ants to be found in the surrounding soil makes us think we succeeded in getting the bulk of the colony and the queen. I plan on emailing Jerry Howard in the near future to check on the ants.

Our next stop was the Swamp exhibit, where we first met up with Cathy Landry - she was feeding 4 downy woodpeckers she managed to save (orphans), and the whole scene was pretty neat. After chatting with the rest of the staff, we went dip netting at a couple of sites. Several interested zoo visitors stopped to ask us about the activity, and I commend the trio of us for our enthusiasm in explaining stuff, showing bugs off, and talking up the Insectarium!

The day's take included several aquatic plants that I hope were of use in exhibits and also the following:

- dragonfly naiads (10 or so)

- Belostoma (8 or so)

- predacious diving beetles (only 2 or 3 adults, but we sure found a lot of their larvae - makes me want to black light there at some point later this summer!)

- spicebush swallowtail caterpillars (6 or 7)

- Zack

07 May 2010

Species Survival Center - 5/5/2010

Folks usually want to know what we encountered on our field trips. This is probably
the best way to be sure everyone gets an update of sorts.

Species Survival Center, 5/5

In spite of it being Cinco de Mayo, we did not see any bugs drinking beer while
we were traipsing about in the West Bank woods. But we did see or collect quite
a number of neat things. Among them:

Hymenoptera -
- Many carpenter ant queens (kept 7) and workers (kept about 12-15 for presentations)
- In addition to the ubiquitous (if not universally loved) fire ants, we saw
about 5 other ant species
- Found a queen yellow jacket in wood, and saw 2 others in flight. The former
has now happened a few times at SSC for me, but I'd never seen one flying about
- The number of newly-started paper wasp colonies on buildings was really impressive,
especially in crane (bird) stalls. See note below about these stalls.
- Honey bees all over the blooming privet

Coleoptera -
- Dead triceratops beetle Phileurus valgus outside staff building
- Several click beetle larva, one of the eyed click, Alaus oculatus, and a wiggly
- un-IDed ground beetle larva (found 2 in rotten wood) with nice sclerotized
banding on the dorsum
- 8 or 9 patent-leather beetles (added to Bait Shop)
- Small pleasing fungus beetles (I think a Triplax species) in some shelf fungus

Diptera -
-1 male and 1 female robber fly of the genus Laphria
-Soldier flies on good number at a manure-rich compost pile along South Bunker
Road (genus Hermetia)

Lepidoptera -
Sighted (none in great number): hackberry, question mark, fiery or whirlabout
skipper, snout, American painted lady (probably), a few small leaf-mimic moths,
and one slat marsh tiger larva

Spiders -
Azilia affinis, a rarely encountered spider in this part of the world, it
is usually associated with cave entrances

Sphodros rufipes, a fantastically interesting purse web spider which I thought
we gone from a previous spot - great to know they are still (or once again)

Acanthepeira stellata, a very attractive little orb weaver
Leucage venusta
Verrucosa arrenata
Argiope aurantia egg sacs
Other araneids too young for ID
4 wolf spp.
2-3 salticids, incl. a male T. sylvana
Ant-mimic (genus likely is Castianeira)

Other -

- Rosy wolf snails (2 young) and an assortment of other snails and slugs
for exhibit

- In rotting wood - we busted open a fair bit - we found 2 of our native Scolopendra
sp. and one each Vonones ornata and Vonones sp. (both harvestmen, the latter
quite pretty). Brought back a good bit of wood for use at the Insectarium.

- The small wooden entry ways (stalls) into fenced in crane enclosures are
interesting little microhabitats. They are loaded with old nests built by at
least 2 mud dauber species; they house jumping spiders, cellar spiders, and
occasionally large fishing spiders (though we did not get any on Wed.); black
and yellow garden spiders leave egg sacs in the stalls, and Carolina praying
mantids leave oothecae there as well. We collected about a dozen mantid nymphs
(at IRF now) that were part of a large batch that had clearly emerged from their
eggs quite recently.

- Zack

21 April 2010

April 18-20, Grand Chenier, LA

James Beck is a birding demi-god! He was the “guide,” Zack Lemann the host, and three other folks came along as well. The idea was to show some Yankees (nice ones, actually) what quality bird watching is all about. We hit the spring migration at its peak and catalogued well over 100 species. This is not the best forum in which to detail all the particulars, but I’ll say this: terrific birding, near-perfect weather, no mosquitoes, great company!

Along the way, there was some bug hunting (surprise!) initiated by Zack. We found black widows in the field in large numbers at Johnson Bayou. All were residing in dead trees. We collected three nice females.

Butterflies were in short supply, but Phaon crescents and giant swallowtails to the tune of about 5 each were spotted along with a couple of sleepy oranges and two other swallowtails that I think were blacks. (Serious drought is in effect in SW Louisiana.) Plenty of damselflies if you looked for them in low vegetation along the cheniers, but almost no dragonflies. Carpenter bees in good number concentrated at certain trees, no other flighted hymenoptera of note. Got one eyed click beetle from a rotten log! I’ve not had time to look at Wagner’s caterpillar guide yet, but the hackberry trees were absolutely littered with a geometrid larva of some sort.

Back in Grand Chenier, we set up a 150-watt MV light and a 15-watt UV 2 nights in a row. Very similar insects both nights, but substantially more on the first evening. I’m not sure the weather or moon were different enough to account for this disparity, but I don’t have a good explanation. Gobs of water boatmen and substantial numbers of several other types of beetles: smaller hydrophilids and dytiscids, rice and sugar cane beetles (both scarabs), rove beetles, and a pretty good carabid mix, including bombardiers, false bombardiers, and quite a few others. Moths were mostly small, but some tiger moths and a couple of carpenter moths came in, along with about three fishflies (all female) over the course of our two evenings.

The most exciting find among the bugs was…a large payload of pleasing fungus beetles (Megalodacne sp.)! This is a beautiful beetle, but they are not often collected. If it’s been wet, they are spread far and wide over rotting wood that has their host fungus on it or nearby. But in winter or times of drought (did I mention it was dry?), they cluster under bark. Well, we found some bark, and we found some beetles! I am waiting on a hard count, but I believe it’ll
come in above 50! They are now at the Insect Rearing Facility of Audubon Insectarium.

- Zack