02 August 2009

Weekend Insects

While botanizing this past weekend, I ran into an array of interesting insects, including one yellow jacket that wasn't too happy to be stuck under my shirt sleeve. Below are some photos of the more docile and cooperative species that I saw.

This gorgeous fluorescent blue and black-striped damselfly is in the group called bluets. The best that I can tell, this is a Tule Bluet (Enallagma carunculata). As always, help with identification, if I'm wrong, is much appreciated. This individual was observed at Merry Lea Environmental Center, close to Bear Lake, in Noble County, Indiana. Take a gander at the look he is giving me in the photo below. I think he's had enough of me chasing him around.

At the pannes north of Miller Woods in Lake County, Indiana, I saw the female Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera) pictured below. This small, orange-tinged dragonfly, which is typically less than an inch long, can be confused for a wasp because of its size and the way that it moves in flight. Males of this species don't have the spotted wing pattern that the females do, but instead have solid amber-colored wings. Eastern Amberwings are most often found over lakes and ponds.

Also in one of the pannes, I ran into this crazy creature...

Ever seen anything like it? I sure hadn't. This white and black-checkered member of the long-horned beetle family is a Cottonwood Borer (Plectrodera scalator). The pattern on this beetle reminds me of a Rorschach inkblot test. Cottonwood Borers have a body that is over an inch and a half long, with spiny antennae that alone exceed that length! As the name implies, this species relies on Eastern Cottonwood (Populus deltoides), willows (Salix spp.), and other members of the willow family (Salicaceae) for multiple stages of its life cycle. In the photos above and below, the adult Cottonwood Borer is feeding on Bayberry Willow (Salix myricoides).

Have a close look at those mandibles. It's amazing that they only eat leaves and young twigs! After mating, the female lays eggs in pits at the base of a Salicaceous tree. The larvae hatch and burrow further into the tree, feeding as they go. This process can take up to two years. The larva then pupates in a root below ground, metamorphizes into an adult, and digs its way out from the ground. Because it doesn't leave from the tree itself, it leaves no exit hole in the tree.

With colorful insects that have life cycles like this, it's amazing I am still able to focus on the plants!


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Scott said...

Thanks, Debera... glad you enjoyed the photos!