I am not a bug person. Except for dragonflies and damselflies. And butterflies. In my mind map, Odonata and Lepidotera are not bugs. I do occasionally take photographs of insects, especially when I am walking through Negri-Nepote, the grassland preserve near my central New Jersey home. Here are some of the insects I’ve seen this past spring and summer.
There is a small brook in the east wooded area of Negri-Nepote, really a trickle of water. I don’t get there often. One morning in early July I realized the brook might have some interesting odonates, and while I was photographing my life Great Blue Skimmer I saw motion. Not a bug, not anything material, just a wave, a wisk, a movement. Eventually, I saw the very thin creature with thread-thin legs making its way along the stream bed and took a photo before it became pure movement again. I thought at first it was some kind of dragonfly, but when I looked at a cropped close-up realized it was something different, I had no idea what. Fortunately, I have very nature-smart Facebook friends who immediately put me on to Phantom Crane Fly, Bittacomorpha clavipes of the family Ptychopteridae. Phantom Crane Flies fly with their thin legs perpendicular to the ground, which means that when you look at them straight-on they seem to disappear. I wasn’t even sure it was a biological creature!
There are just a few clumps of butterfly weed at Negri-Nepote and on the best days you can find wonderful things on them. I observed this wasp crawling in and out of the milkweed’s flowers in mid-July, one of four. They were quite large, almost 2-inches in length, and stunningly beautiful. I was almost disappointed when I realized they were wasps. I don’t like wasps, they sting. I think this is a Sphecid or Thread-waisted Wasp. Genus Ammophila of the Family Sphecidae. There are a lot of species in Ammophilia, over 60 in North America, and based on the best Internet research I can do late at night, I’m going to say that this is Ammophila procera. Corrections welcome. BugEric, an authoritative insect blogger, says that Ammophila procera are “shy or gentle in nature”. Right. Still not going to pick one up.
Ahhhh, Hummingbird Moths! I saw these two species along the path to the blind. As usual, my Facebook friends helped with identification, and I learned that there are more than one species. I love the way the tongue, or proboscis, rolls out. The U.S. Forest Service has a good article about Hummingbird Moths. It explains that like all Lepidoptera, hummer moths have scales on their wings. These two clearwing species are “clear” because the scales have fallen off in certain areas.
Here’s a different kind of moth. The closest I could come to identification was that it is a Geometrid Moth. It was flying during the day, like the Clearwing Moths. I really like the shape, a juxtaposition of squares and polyhedrons, and the blacks and grays. (Alas, I wanted to write “shades of gray” but that term has been co-opted.)
I don’t remember ever seeing Cicadas before. I know I’ve heard Cicadas. This one flew past me and buried itself into a bush. I’m thinking that that is the mouth feeding on the stem? According to the website Massachusetts Cicada, “Cicadas have a unique mouth part for feeding known as a beak. It is a stylus-type protuberance used for piercing” plants for water and minerals. There’s also an interesting website called Cicada Mania, written by Dan Mozgai of New Jersey of all places(!), which talks about the 17 or 13-year lifecycle cicadas versus the annual 2 to 7-year life cycle cicadas. I would guess that this one is an annual, since New Jersey isn’t due for the Magicicada (that’s the 17/13 year species name) till 2013. The annual cicada is also called the Dog Day Cicada, I guess because it emerges during late August, the dog days of summer. Species name is Tibicen canicularis.
And, finally, here is a Carpenter Bee. I think. I posted the photo on Flickr, labeling it a Bumblebee, and was quickly corrected by a bee person. If there is one thing I hate worse than wasps, it’s bees. Some bad bee experiences in my past, I won’t talk about them here, be assured, they were traumatic. So, I don’t like taking photographs of bees. But, I didn’t feel like I could write a blog about the insects of Negri-Nepote without including at least one bee (in addition to the one wasp.) Because there are an awful lot of bees at Negri-Nepote. So far, they have allowed me to explore the fields without a sting, but I do keep my distance. I respect the fact that without bees the whole ecological system of the grassland will fail. So they tell me.