Saturday, August 22, 2009

One of the Weirdest Moths I Have Ever Seen

A few days ago, my friend John Howard, one of the best all around naturalists I know, sent me a picture of the coolest moth. At the time, we weren't even certain it was a moth. It looked just like a giant treehopper! It did have scaly wings like a moth, but its appearance was so strange. It looked like it could have easily walked out of a Lord of the Rings movie! Plus, treehoppers are usually a lot smaller; most are less than a centimeter in length.

The critter looked just like a dead leaf with its antennae curled back to look like a petiole, the stem part on a leaf that attaches to the tree. Its legs were also jagged and thickened in places to resemble a dried up leaf. Perfect camouflage! Below is a crop of John's picture that shows the legs up close.

I was really curious about this critter conundrum. What was this bizarre bug? I looked in some of my books. No luck! Then I looked through some pics on my favorite website BugGuide. Nope, I couldn't find it. There are so many moths out there, it can make one's head spin.

So finally I e-mailed Eric Eaton, otherwise known as Bug Eric. He is called Bug Eric because he is extremely knowledgeable about bugs and is the principal author for the Kaufman Field Guide to Insects. Wonderful book! I tend to "bug" Eric with all the unknown insects I find. And in return, he kindly obliges an answer and gently corrects my ID boo-boos.

Eric quickly came up with the ID. It was on BugGuide all along, I just couldn't find it. This crazy-looking moth is actually a Trumpet Vine or Trumpet Creeper moth, Clydonopteron sacculana. Its name comes from its host plant, which is a showy vine with large showy red flowers. Trumpet Creeper is also a hummingbird magnet. The caterpillars of the moth feed on the pods of Trumpet Creeper and pupate inside the seedpods.

Here is a picture I took of Trumpet Creeper, Campsis radicans, at Garfield Park this summer. I love the scarlet flowers! They are so inviting, especially to a hungry hummingbird.

When I told John Howard I was doing this post, he sent me a picture he had taken of Trumpet Creeper. How gorgeous! If you have this plant nearby, take a peek and see if you can find the caterpillars of this crazy moth!

That is what is great about the amazing world of insects! You never know what you will discover next!
For more amazing critters, visit the Camera Critters site.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


I love nature's adaptations and camouflage is one of my favorites. Check closely and see if you can find the Blanchard's Cricket Frog, Acris crepitans blanchardi, in this picture.

It's there and I would never have seen it if it hadn't hopped. It blends in perfectly with the mud around the edge of our pond.
How about now that it has turned sideways?

Here you can see it now that I have cropped the photo. Check to the right of the brown leaf in the previous photos. Looks just like a clump of mud. Camouflage at its finest!
For more Camera Critters go here. To visit more Friday Ark critters visit here.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Midwest Birding Symposium

I want to let all of you know about an exciting event coming up in Ohio. An opportunity to meet some of the best of the best in the birding community. What event is this, you ask? Why the Midwest Birding Symposium!!! This stellar event will take place in Lakeside Marblehead, OH Thursday September 17th through Sunday September 20th, 2009.

So why should you go to this event? Here are a few of my top reasons...

Number One: Great Birding. I have been to this area on quite a few occasions. It has tons of great birding this time of year. Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge is nearby. Magee Marsh (some of you know it as Crane Creek) is located nearby. You like warblers and shorebirds? They will be here. A list of some of the local birding sites can be found here. Then pair a great location with phenomenal leaders. What more could you ask for?

Number Two: Twenty-two, count 'em, twenty-two great speakers on a large variety of bird topics. There is something for everyone! Most birders will recognize many of these names. Can you say SIBLEY! He will be there with his brand spanking new tree book.

Number Three: I will be there. What more of a reason will you need? :) Just kidding! I will be there helping out. Hopefully not cleaning toilets, though I did tell Weedpicker Cheryl I would volunteer without knowing what I will actually be doing. Hmmmm. Maybe I should check on that!

Number Four: Quite a few of my blogger friends will be there. If you enjoy reading their blogs you will have a chance to meet them in person. Cheryl Harner, Bill Thompson III, Jim McCormac, Kenn Kaufman, Kim Kaufman, Nina from Nature Remains, Susan Williams from Susan Gets Native, KatDoc, Jeff Gordon, Liz Gordon, Julie Zickefoose, Birdchick, Donald the Birder, The Zen Birdfeeder, Laura Kammermeier , Chad Williams, Connie Kogler, and Scott Weidensaul will all be there. I am just going off the top of my head, so if you are a blogger buddy of mine and I forgot you, just drop me a line. I will add you to this list, no problem.

Number Five: Lots of top birders will be there. You want to become a better birder? I know personally of many, many fantastic birders that will be there that love to help beginning and intermediate birders work on their skills. Most of us are birders because we love birds and enjoy sharing them with others. You may think-Oh, I am not a good enough birder to go to an event like this. This is just the event to go to. You will learn so much and have a lot of fun doing so.

So check out the website and see what all there is to offer. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Wild Bergamot

Yesterday I went strolling around our butterfly gardens to check out what was out and about. I noticed our Wild Bergamot, Monarda fistulosa, was looking rather nice.

While snapping a few pics I notices this critter hiding among the blossoms. Can you see it? It looks just like a dead petal, or leaf.

How about now that it has moved a bit? It's an Ambush Bug, Phymata pennsylvanica, and it relies upon the element of surprise.

Sorry the crop is a bit blurry, but you can now see the little red-eyed predator much better. It has thick front legs that graps an unsuspecting pollinator visiting the flower.

And they can even multi-task. This female is eating her meal while she is mating! The male, which has a dark back is on top and the light green female is underneath, clutching a small bee.

After checking a few more flowers, I noticed about eight Ambush Bugs hiding in the Bergamot. I am glad there are no life-size Ambush Bugs hiding in my fridge! You can view some great closeups here at BugGuide.