Week 26 = we’re half way through 2018 already!
Today I want to share some pictures of a Comma butterfly (Polygonia c-album), I’m not entirely sure but I think it’s a summer generation of sub-species (f.hutchinsoni).
In most languages this butterfly is called something with a reference to the white mark it has on its side, e.g. in English it’s Comma, in Spanish it’s C. Although in French it’s called Robert-le-Diable (“Robert the Devil”) because of its jagged wings. The scientific name also refers to the mark: “c” + “album” (which means white).
This butterfly has very good camouflage, both as a larva (mimicking bird droppings) and as an adult (mimicking a dead leaf).
PS. I’m off to Sicily so there won’t be any updates the next coming weeks!
Today I want to share FIVE FUN FACTS about dragonflies 🙂 A beautiful Common darter lady (Sympetrum striolatum) kindly agreed to demonstrate the facts in my pictures!
★ FACT 1: They were the first insects to inhabit this planet – 300 million years ago! In other words: they’ve had a looong time to perfect the art of flying and hunting.
★ FACT 2: They’re flat out terrifying if you’re a mosquito or other kind small bug, because they don’t simply chase down their prey but they snag them from the air with a calculated aerial ambush! Dragonflies can judge the speed and trajectory of a prey target, and they’re so skilled they have an impressive 95% success rate when hunting.
★ FACT3: They can fly in any direction, including sideways and backwards! (How cool is that!) Plus, they can hover in a single spot for a minute or more. But that’s not all. They’re also fast – some species reach almost 30 km/h (18 mph) – and one species (Globe skimmer) flies almost 18,000 km (11,000 miles) during migration which is the world’s longest insect migration. (Compare this with the famous Monarch butterfly migration of 2,500 miles.)
★ FACT 4: Both dragonflies and damselflies are in the order Odonata, which means “the toothed ones”. When hunting, they can catch the prey with their feet, tear off its wings with their sharp jaws (so the prey can’t escape) and scarf it down – all without needing to land. In short: Their ability to rip apart their prey takes their predatory prowess to another level.
Update: It should be noted that dragonflies don’t bite humans and they don’t have any stinger! i.e. they cause no harm to humans. (Thanks for pointing this out, Greta)
★ They have nearly 360 degrees vision! The enormous compound eyes contain 30,000 facets and they can see the world in colors we can’t even imagine. (In depth read here)
Update: It’s also worth mentioning that dragonflies have a significant, positive ecological impact. In its nymph stage, they eat harmful aquatic organisms and thus help keep our waters clean. The nymph can contribute to the ecosystem for up to five years before becoming a mature adult! As adults, they mainly help humans by eating mosquitoes and other insects that spread diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, anthrax, etc.
The Azure damselfly (Coenagrion puella) is quite common here in The Netherlands, and always a pleasure to see!
At first glance it could be a bit tricky to distinguish the Azure from a Common blue (Enallagma cyathigerum) damselfly, but if you look at the antehumeral stripe (that’s the long blue section on the thorax), the Azure’s blue stripe is narrower than the black stripe beneath it, and there’s an extra black line, a “spur” extending from the wing base towards the legs. The Common blue’s antehumreral stripe is broader than the black stripe beneath it and there’s no “spur” on the thorax.
Another thing to look at is the second segment of the males’ abdomen (just behind the thorax): both are blue but the Azure has a black U-shape and the common blue has a black mushroom-shaped mark.
And now I need your help! Please take a look at the second photo below, it’s not a great shot but I hope someone can help me identify this little damselfly.. I’m doubting if it’s either a Variable damselfly (Coenagrion pulchellum) or perhaps a female Azure in blue form. If you know which one it is, please leave a comment below!
The cardinal beetle is actually three different species of beetles. The most common one is the Red-headed cardinal (Pyrochroa serraticornis), which is an orange-red beetle with a – duh – read head. It’s about 2 cm long and easy to spot as it kind of glows (in the closeup shot below you can see the color is kind of red metallic). The Black-headed cardinal (Pyrochroa coccinea) has a – uhm – black head and is rarer, slightly larger and its body has a deeper blood-red color. The third kind is the Scarce cardinal (Schizotus pectinicornis), it also has a black head but is less than 1 cm long.
Cardinal beetles prey on other insects, while their bright red color prevents them from being targeted by other predators because red usually means toxic in the bug world.
If you see a beetle with red wings and black underside and wonder if it’s a cardinal beetle or not, the easiest tell is to look at the antennae: Cardinals have toothed antennae. It’s often confused with the Scarlet lily beetle, which is smaller and usually found eating lily leaves.
Two different takes on two different kinds of butterflies-
(1) Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria), photographed today with Fuji 18-135 mm + Raynox 150. Goal was to get close to the butterfly and capture as much detail as possible. Picture not edited except it’s been slightly cropped.
(2) Green-veined white (Pieris napi), photographed with Pentacon 50 mm. Goal was to capture the moody light in the forest, not so much details in the butterfly (although enough to determine that it’s a female spring brood). Picture not edited or cropped.
Would you do me a favor and let me know which one you prefer? Not saying one is “better” than the other, but just curious to know your preference. You can use the voting buttons below! Thanks 🙂
There are many “firsts” this time of the year! Here are the first flies of the year as well –
The first picture shows a Flesh fly (Sarcophagidae) sunbathing on a staircase. Flesh flies look a lot like house flies, but are generally larger. They are gray, have a checkerboard pattern on the top of their abdomen, three black stripes running along the top surface of their thorax just behind the head, while house flies have four, and sometimes a reddish-brown tip at the end of the abdomen.
The second picture shows a Yellow dung fly (Scathophaga stercoraria), or – if you want to make the name sound a bit nicer, which could be a challenge for a dung fly – also known as Golden dung fly. I think it’s a female as she has a more of a green tone to her rather than yellow. These flies are very important in the scientific world due to their short life cycles and susceptibility to experimental manipulations, thus have contributed significant knowledge about animal behavior.
Yay, first butterflies of the year! The European Peacock butterfly (Aglais io) usually spend the winters in buildings or trees, and therefore often appear quite early in the spring. Before it goes into hibernation, it convert some of their blood sugar into glycerol which works as a kind of “anti-freeze” during the cold winter. Clever, eh! After hibernation (March or April), it will lay its eggs, often in batches of 500 (!) at a time and several layers deep to increase the chance that some will be protected from desiccation and birds. In the next coming weeks, the adults have lived for almost a year and they die of old age. Around the same time, the caterpillars of the next generation hatch and in July they form chrysalides, in August they emerge as adults, and in September they go into hibernation. And so the cycle goes on!
Note: It shouldn’t be confused with the American Peacock butterfly (Anartia), they’re not closely related.
More interesting information and pictures can be found on this excellent learning site here
I visited Hortus Botanicus the other day, it’s a botanic garden in Amsterdam and one of the oldest in the world (founded 1638). There are more than 4,000 plant species to see, but I spent most of my time there in a small butterfly greenhouse 🙂
(1) The Julia butterfly (Dryas iulia) originates from South and Central America but because of the bright orange color it’s often called “The flying Dutchman” as orange is the national color of the Netherlands.
(2) The Zebra longwing (Heliconius charithonia) can make a creaking sound by wiggling its body. They do this when disturbed but even though I would’ve liked to hear it, I didn’t want to alarm him so I still don’t know what it sounds like.
This little Oak bush-cricket (Meconema thalassinum) has been sitting on my bicycle for over a week, clinging to the basket as I’ve been biking around town almost every day 🙂 It’s a small cricket, about 1.5 cm long with very long antennae, usually not found on bicycles but in he foliage of trees (including oaks, where the female lays eggs under the bark).
In America, it’s known as the Drumming katydid, probably because the male drums on leaves with his back legs. (Click here to listen!)
Never really noticed it before… Bumblebees have very long tongues! But a study (Science 349, 1541–1544) has shown that bee tongues also tell a tale of climate change; warmer temperatures lead to fewer flowers which in turn yield shorter bee tongues. et al.
When we think about iconic climate change images, we usually picture a polar bear clinging to a melting piece of ice. We (most of us, anyway) don’t think about a bumblebee, flitting about an alpine meadow with a shorter-than-average tongue. Still, it’s a very interesting study, I recommend reading it.