Saturday, September 20, 2014


August introduced me to many interesting  and beautiful moths, insects, reptiles, and plants.  

I found this T-shaped moth on a window at the back of the lab.  It is about an inch from wingtip to wingtip.  Many of the "plume moths" roll their wings up tightly when at rest which results in this characteristic shape.  I'm pretty sure this is a Morning-glory Plume Moth.  

This is a view of the Plume Moth's underside.  I read that the pairs of spikes on its legs are of unequal length.

I bought this carnivorous sundew in the spring to plant along side four different varieties of pitcher plants and a small Venus flytrap in my very small bog garden.  I read that there is a plume moth whose caterpillar actually feeds on sundew, this plant that makes meals of most insects.  Nature has all sorts of secrets!

I found this tiny moth next to a brick mortar joint at the lab.  It took me a while to identify it, but with the help of a moth field guide and that powerful tool called Google, I believe I've got it. It believe it is a Double-banded Grass-Veneer Moth. Several references say that its larvae feed on "various grasses".

In August I came across two different species of Thread-Waisted Wasps.  

The first was this mated pair that flew in tandem from one large Rudbeckia bloom to the next.  This wasp does not have a common name.  Its scientific name is Eremnophila aureonotata.  The genus name translates to "lover of solitary places".  The species name refers to the white/gold markings on the side of the thorax and on the forehead.

They flew quite gracefully from flower to flower.  These wasps are members of a family known as digger wasps.  The female digs a burrow in the ground.  She captures a large caterpillar, places the paralyzed prey in the burrow, and lays her eggs on it.

Below you can see the twin vertical white markings on each wasp's head.

The other thread-waisted wasp I saw was this "sand loving" species named Ammophila procera.  These wasps hunt caterpillars, too, but usually dig their burrows in sandy soils. 

The front section of the abdomen of these wasps is orangish-red.  They have white stripe-shaped markings on their thorax which is a little difficult to see in these pictures.

Flying around the Rudbeckia the same day was this skipper butterfly.  It seemed to have a greenish color with a tinge of orange or yellow.  When I went searching for the species of skipper butterflies in North Carolina, I found that there are over 70!  It appears that one of the most common skippers in the Piedmont region of North Carolina is the Sachem Skipper Butterfly.

This is a side view of the same skipper sipping nectar through its proboscis.  Look at the link below and see if you think this might be a Sachem Skipper.

This is a side view of another individual that I believe is the same species.  The smudge marks on its wings are more noticeable.

This little guy had me scratching my head for a while.  I finally found a link that shows the development of the Fork-tailed Bush Katydid.  From the pictures at that link I am guessing this is probably a nymph (immature katydid) in its fourth, maybe fifth instar.  After hatching from its egg, the katydid molts (sheds its skin) seven times before it becomes an adult.  Each stage or period between moltings is called an instar.  The Fork-tailed Bush Katydid also has three color forms: green, pink, and dark.

One early morning in August I found our second Copperhead of the year lying on the sidewalk near our front door.  Using the dog pooper-scooper, I moved it into a five gallon bucket, covered it by placing a second five gallon bucket inside the first, and drove it to a secluded location about a half mile from the house.  The Northern Copperhead is a pinkish tan, with darker bands that are somewhat hourglass in shape draped across the snake's back.  It has a triangular head, but some non-venomous snakes also have heads that are a bit triangular.

This is my favorite creature of the late summer.  I found this moth one morning in mid-August at the back of the lab on a teak bench.  Its color and the scooped out feature of its hind wings was very eye-catching.  My moth field guide includes a picture of this moth on the book's cover so it didn't take long to identify it as a Pandorus Sphinx Moth.  Its caterpillar is fond of the leaves of grapes and Virginia Creeper.  I also read that the caterpillar had been observed eating Poison Ivy as well!  The adult moth drinks nectar with its proboscis from a number of flowering plants including petunias.

When I tried to move the Pandorus Sphinx Moth to a sheltered location, it flew a short distance and landed with its wings extended further.  The multi-green, black, and tan markings are very crisp and attractive.

This is my first voodoo lily, Amorphophallus myosuroides or Mousetail VooDoo Lily, that I bought two years ago.  The catalog says this "new" species was discovered growing on vertical, shaded rock ledges in the Khammouane Province of Laos in 2004. This summer the plant produced two blooms (shown below) that resemble the tail of a white mouse that pokes out above the foliage.

This is the second bloom of the season.

This voodoo lily, with rain drops on the tips of its leaves, is named Amorphophallus Symonianus.  The species is native to north central Thailand where it is often found growing in rock crevices.  We have not had a bloom this year.  Maybe next year.

When cold weather sets in, we bring the voodoo lilies inside. The leaves will die back and store energy in a corm which remains dormant until Spring when we will return the barren looking pot back outside and begin watering again.

My good friend from Montgomery County, NC brought in this multicolored jewel of a beetle.  It had passed on, but was still beautiful.  This insect is a dung beetle known as the Rainbow Scarab Beetle. The horn protruding from the beetle's head indicates that this is a male.  I found the following interesting story in my search for information:

"There have been incidents where dung beetles accidentally infested humans, such as occurred with a group of 186 boy scouts in Pennsylvania in 1957.  The beetles crawled into the ears of the boy scouts while they were sleeping.  Bleeding was induced by the hind tibial spines of the beetles, but no secondary infections were reported (Mattuck and Fehn 1958)."

This is a nest of Fall Webworm.  These guys show up in late summer and feed on as many as 100 different species of trees.  Since these caterpillars build their webs in late summer, the leaves that they eat would have been shed in the next month or so, and therefore does not usually injure the tree.

These are Fall Webworms on a Sweet Shrub (aka Sweet Betsy, SpiceBush, or Carolina Allspice) at home. They are very fuzzy and have hairs of different lengths.  Notice the two parallel rows of dark spots along the back.  The caterpillars vary in color from green (as above) to yellow (as below).

This is another Brown Marmorated Stink Bug that I found behind the lab.  Notice the light bands on the antennae. Since it does not have wings, I believe this is a nymph.

This is Duc L'Orange, an male Eastern Box Turtle we often see behind our house.  It was a very hot day and he had his legs stretched out to cool off in the shadier part of the yard. I'd say he was "cooling his heels".

Recently this cicada exoskeleton was left behind when its occupant emerged after spending two to five years in the ground feeding on tree rootlets.  Adult cicadas spend most of their two week life finding a mate and laying the next generation of eggs. 

I have not seen many June Bugs in the last ten years or so.  I found this old and worn individual behind the lab.  These insects bring back memories of visits to Pop's garden in the Sharon Church Community north of Kinston, NC where they were abundant on his row of Wiggins June Sweetening apple trees in the late summers.

I picked up this Carolina Mantis for a closer look.  I suspect is it not full grown.

This interesting plant showed up in our yard this summer.  At night and on cloudy days, the leaves would completely fold up.  This picture was taken in the middle of the night when I was out walking Sadie, our old Labrador Retriever mix, in an effort to prevent another "accident" in the house.

During the day the foliage flattens out into arrays of six leaves that are all in one plane (not an airplane, but a flat surface).

For many weeks we saw no evidence of flowers until very late August.  Here you can see the beginnings of a seed pod emerging directly from the center of the blossom.

And below are the long sickle shaped pods that give this plant its common name, Sicklepod.  This plant is in the Senna group of the Pea family.

Grammy found a large Black and Yellow Garden Spider with the remnants of a Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly in her web which was suspended between a bird feeder pole and an azalea.  Other names for this spider are Yellow Garden Spider and Writing Spider.  We used to hear that it was bad luck if the spider wrote your name in its web.  That part of the web is called a "stabilimentum" and there are a number of theories about its function, including as a visual warning to birds to avoid the web, as a camouflage for the spider, and as a landing area where insects might land much to their detriment.

I noticed this interesting spider web in some tall grasses this summer.  The web's stabilimentum reminded me of the smoke rings my grandfather would puff for his grandchildren and of his metal ashtray complete with two open-mouthed pelicans for parking his lit cigarette.

I visited this spider web several times and noted a small spider with green, white, black, and yellow markings on its abdomen.  I expected it to get larger each week, but it didn't seem to grow.

After searching the internet for weeks, I finally found a link to the Lined Orbweaver, Mangora gibberosa. has some nice pictures, too.

I found these bright orange and black insects feeding on the seedpods of Tropical Milkweed that I have planted in the front yard in hopes of providing a food supply for Monarch Butterfly caterpillars.  So far no Monarchs, but these Large Milkweed Bugs, as they are aptly named, are sucking on the juices of the milkweed seeds.  The adults are able to pierce the flesh of the seed pod's outer covering to get to the seeds inside.

The nymphs cannot reach the seeds until the seedpod has begun to mature and split open.  After hatching, Large Milkweed Bugs go through 5 molts before becoming adults. Like the Monarchs, they incorporate the toxic substances of the milkweed into their bodies which protects them from creatures who try to prey on them. It's not a good idea!

Tropical Milkweed (Silky Mix) is an annual milkweed in our area that I planted to attract Monarch Butterflies.  I have harvested some of the seed to start new plants next Spring. Already some of the seed are spreading their parasols and floating off across the yard on the breeze.