More Costa Rican Frogs!


Lots of insects lately... how about some frogs for a change?


Garden Food Webs: Lovely Lacewings


The flower flies, and ladybugs are not the only predators in my garden.  I occasionally see these green lacewings flying rather clumsily amongst the foliage and flowers.  Their eggs are rather remarkable:

Ants would carry the eggs away, but all they find is a thin stalk that they cannot climb.  The eggs hatch into hungry larvae - I call them 'alligators.'


Green lacewings comprise the insect family Chrysopidae, the Greek root words mean 'golden eye.'  They are rather beautiful and mesmerizing up close:

You are what you eat: the Small-eyed sphinx

Paonias myops blends in on Prunus serotina
The small eyed-sphinx, Paonias myops, is a moth in the family Sphingidae.  Many of the sphinx moths are specialists, and can only feed on a very limited range of host plant lineages.  This one feeds on black cherry Prunus serotina.  One of the advantages of specialization on a host is that insects can adapt cryptic coloration and behaviors that match the plant on which they are found.  This one has brown spots that appear to mimic the spots found on late-season cherry leaves.  It may be just enough camouflage to keep a hungry bird from noticing the caterpillar.

The small eyed sphinx is so named because of small eye-spot on it's hind wing (not visible in the photo below).
Two small-eyed sphinx moths on black cherry, shortly after leaving their underground cocoons

Leaflets three, wipe with me?

Toxicodendron radicans aka Poison Ivy
 Oh summer! Wonderful long days, firefly studded evenings, suntanned arms, and an itchy rash between my fingers all tell me that the entomology fieldwork season is under way.  I almost always have poison ivy on my fingers by the time the solstice comes around.  This is usually from reaching into poorly directed sweep nets, and tying bootlaces that have tromped through fields of this intresting (if inconvenient) native plant.

While it seems that the rash spreads itself up my arms, this is not the case.  Different parts of my arms and hands react at varying rates and severities to the same exposure to urushiol, the chemical that causes the allergic reaction.  Sometimes I get repeated exposures if I haven't washed everything that came in contact with the plant (typically my boot laces) but the oozing rash itself does not beget more rash.

This post was brought to mind when my wife brought home a new brand of toilet paper.  I'm all about sustainable products (especially when thay are actually eco-friendly and not just marketed as such) - but did this brand take 'going green' too far?  The graphic designer responsible is either having a good laugh, or they need to take botany 101.
hmmm.  Cause for concern?

You're invited

Migrating Monarchs nectar on New York Aster

This Saturday, June 16th, is the annual opening of the butterfly pavilion at Springton Manor Farm in Glenmoore, PA.  If you're in the area, bring the family and visit the gardens, trails, and of course, the butterflies!  I'll be speaking about my research on Monarchs, and how to garden for wildlife beginning at 10:30 in the carriage house.  The event is free, and more information is available at the Springton Manor Farm website.

Butterfly House Grand Opening Celebration
"A Kaleidoscope of Colors"
Saturday, June 16
10:00 AM - 2:30 PM

On June 16, Springton Manor Farm will celebrate the 10th season of the Butterfly House by officially welcoming a variety of butterflies to their new summer home among colorful, fragrant native flowers. Walk through the house to learn about the butterfly’s life cycle as they flutter around you. Keep your eyes open for caterpillars too!
Activities planned include family games, butterfly crafts, educational exhibits, and special guest speakers.
Springton Manor Farm is located at 860 Springton Road, Glenmoore, PA 19343; 5 miles west of Downingtown off Route 322.

Stink bugs are CUTE!

Edessa florida nymphs just after hatching
The talented Alex Wild at posted what he suspects is the cutest wasp ever.  That may be so, but I think that these first instar Edessa florida stink bug nymphs are face-meltingly adorable.  What do you think, is the wasp cuter?

E. florida is one of our native pentatomids; not the introduced brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys) that invades homes and destroys crops.  Some researchers think that stink bugs acquire an important first meal by feeding on fluid in their eggs or the glue that attaches the eggs to a leaf.  I have not seen any research to support this hypothesis, but it would be an interesting explanation for why they stick around after hatching.  Either way, I think the stink bug huddle may give them an unfair advantage in the cuteness department.

Green Frog

Rana clamitans
 This is one of the first photos I added to this blog and it's still one of my favorites so I am reposting it.  The duckweed in the photo covered the pond so entirely it looked like a putting green.  The dog has tried to run across it twice, with bad results both times.

Food webs in the garden: feasting flower flies

Syrphid fly and spiderwort
Most people are familiar with flower flies (also called hover flies), and even those who aren't have probably come across one of the 6000 species in the family Syrphidae.  Recognizing flower flies can be difficult, as many species mimic the yellow and black color patterns of bees and wasps.  Despite their warning colors, the pollen feeding adult flies are harmless.  The offspring of some species, however, are fearsome predators.  The are the stuff of nightmares, if aphids would have bad dreams:

This is what I think it would be like to be eaten by 'The Blob'

These maggots might be confused with caterpillars, as they crawl around on leaf surfaces looking for a meal.  Some species will slime their way through a group of aphids, turning around to consume the now stuck insects at a leisurely pace.  In combination with the ladybird beetles, these have really started to lower the populations of aphids on some of our plants.  Had I not planted a diverse garden that supports other aphids for they syrphids to eat, these predators would not have been around to keep the goldenglow aphids in check.
Not your compost's maggot!
 And for those of you that are feeling terrible about my little red plant-sucking friends, I want to ease your worries: I have reason to believe that aphids do not suffer from night terrors.
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