Sunday, September 26, 2010


(Yeah, even more bugs. So?)

What's in a name?

These moths are sublime, whatever they may be called--and I sincerely doubt any name could begin to do justice to that glorious creature on the miniature rose. (My moth book is no help whatsoever; everything pictured in it is dead and spread-eagled with a pin in its back, and many of the plates aren't even in color.)

ED. NOTE: Unlike myself, the Cape May Brit loves to pin names on things. Therefore I now know that the funky brown moth is a Soybean Looper ("looper" for a description of the caterpillar--an agricultural pest--and its locomotory efforts) and the lovely tan moth is called something I can neither spell nor pronounce and that doesn't do it any sort of justice at all.

Last week was also aflutter with butterflies: migrants, vagrants, and the last batch of locals.

Mourning Cloak. My-favorite-color blue, metallic-y cream and burgundy-brown... And how about that striation on the underside? Magnificent. (Little too much sun and shade to show this beauty off as it deserves, but with flutter-by's you take whatever photos you can get.)

Silver-Spotted Skipper. The only skipper (the "little brown jobs" of the butterfly world) other than Long-Tailed that I can confidently ID. And one that actually stays still nearly long enough to see clearly, although that silver spot stands out well even when the skipper is being a typical hyper skipper…

Question Mark. See it? A Comma doesn't have the dot. (I kid you not! Honest, those are truly the common names of these incredible dead-leaf mimics.) The white legs kill me...

Believe it or not, the topside of the Question Mark. Neat, huh? I'm not sure what's up with lavender edges on an orange butterfly, though... (Freaky Fact: this individual, because it is orange throughout and doesn't have mostly-black hindwings, is recently-hatched and will over-winter as an adult. Unusually warm and sunny winter days can bring out the commas and question marks and mourning cloaks. Butterflies in February! Nature is a weird and wonderful thing…)

Not-yet-wingéd thing: a clearwing moth caterpillar, hanging out on its food plant, a native honeysuckle. Caterpillars of Eastern North America tells me this is the less-typical brown coloration. (The green/teal/turquoise-y version must be spectacular in person.)

An adult clearwing from a few years ago. Also called hummingbird moths for their habit of hovering while feeding, thereby being frequently mistaken for hummingbirds.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


I have only one thing to say about posting yet more creepy crawlies:

Black Swallowtail caterpillars are too damn photogenic.

Landscape! (with bug)

Sunday, September 19, 2010


And on the third Saturday of September, the Wildwoods throw the parade of every little boy's dreams. (And not a few of the big boys' and quite a few gals', judging by the crowd.)

Fire trucks: all fire trucks, just fire trucks, only fire trucks. (Okay, there were a couple of pipe—bagpipe—and drum corps, a handful of high school marching bands—what’s a parade without a marching band?—and an honor guard or three thrown in for good measure.)

(Blimey, but that's a big truck.)

Guess I don't need to mention that the annual New Jersey State Firemen's Convention was held this weekend? They have seminars and such (and even an appearance this year by the Governor—during which he was roundly booed), vendors and demonstrations, but the most visible aspect surely is the parade. No longer the most audible aspect, by the by; horn blowing was banned some years back. (Now if we could only get the hogs muffled during the motorcycle rally the weekend before…)

The parade consists, as I said, of fire fighting trucks. Over an hour and a half of fire trucks. That's a lot of fire trucks. (Really makes you wonder who was minding the shop…)

Old ones.

Really old ones. (Atlantic City's self-proclaimed First Fire Engine, 1854.)

Hand drawn.

(Water) Jet-powered!

No hydrants? No problem.

"Only you can prevent forest fires…" Given the scope of out-of-control fires in this country that weren't started by natural causes such as lightning, one can't help but wonder if perhaps not everyone knows this bear? Forest fire prevention through safe campfire practices and common sense is a great message to promote. But total suppression of all wildfires is another matter entirely... I can't help but wonder if the endearing mascot helped the catchy slogan gain the connotation that all wildfires were bad and had to be suppressed as quickly as possible, or if "forest fires are bad" was already a part of the forest service psyche of the time. (I believe a bit of research is called for!)

Whichever came first, it seems to have taken us an overly-long time to realize that fires are not only beneficial but necessary in many natural areas. Some plants can only germinate where fire has been (the extreme heat is needed to open seed cones). Fires knock back vegetative succession (thereby keeping plains open instead of growing up into forests). Regularly occurring fires keep fuel from building up to excessive levels, effectively limiting their own potential power. (The Yellowstone fires of the eighties likely would not have been what they were if natural fires hadn't been suppressed for so long.)

Luckily, the whole study of fire ecology has been widely accepted in the past few decades, and controlled burns are more and more a component of habitat management everywhere.

That's not to say we shouldn't listen to Smokey: I passed a fresh burn in the median of the Garden State Parkway just the other week… (Given how many cigarettes I see tossed out car windows on a regular basis, it's a miracle we don't have more, or worse, fires.)

Fire engine red---… Er, yellow?

Fire engine re---… Uh, green?

Fire Engine Re---… Aah, chartreuse!

Fire Engine RE---… Blue??? (But such a very lovely shade of blue.)

I missed the white ones. It was, after all, a workday.

And finally…

A fire engine that looks like… a bug!



It's an arachnid! *hee hee hee*

A friend was recently fussing (in fun--she's a fellow naturalist) that I was getting a little buggy on this blog. (I have to save the cats for those times when I have absolutely nothing else to blog about!) So today I give you a spider:

Notice the posture: legs tucked together and back like a crab. That tells me "crab spider" and crab spider is as far as I'll go. Last time some of us tried to ID a crab spider, we gave up when the spider id book mentioned dozens of species of crab spiders but only showed photos of a few...

::Ew. I really must stop taking macro shots of spiders; it's ruining my enjoyment of the fascinating creatures.::

Sunday, September 12, 2010


...sailor's delight.

Aaahhh... Sunset--on the evening before Hurricane Earl was to pass by our shores. Earl not only didn't send at the very least some much-needed rain, he barely took the trouble to spit at us.

Why the dickens do we even bother with modern, high-tech weather forecasting?


Yet my wildflower guide is telling me it isn't in that actual genus.

It is, however, what is commonly called a mallow (as are some hibiscus). And it is commonly found at the seashore. Ergo: Seashore Mallow. The lovely little plant (the flowers are barely two inches across, and on stems about two feet tall) is native to the region (hooray!) and is spreading beautifully all by its ownsome over our little bit of saltmarsh in Avalon.

Isn't it amazing what shows up after you stop applying herbicide to keep "weeds" out of a stone yard?


Ok, it's bad enough that we have to deal with two-months-early holiday decorations in the retail world, but does the natural world have to get in on it as well?

A Halloween bug! Mess loads have been all over the flowers (possibly hyssop-leaved thoroughwort) blooming all over the Avalon yard this week.

They're not really bugs, though; they are Ermine Moths, aka Ailanthus Webworm Moths. I knew where to start looking* for an id when I saw the beasties' tongues in the photos.

* Ha! I was able to get to my stash of field guides, including my insect and moth guides, without toppling the pile in front of the bookcase. Bring on the bugs! (Getting a second chance to see that giant beetle that crossed the drive the other day would be nice...)


Er, Jemima Cricket?

Whichever, this is the second such beastie (camel cricket) I've removed from the office lavatory in two days. They're getting bigger each day. Eep.

Hope they appreciate that I was the person to find them. Hope my coworkers appreciate that I found them first. Hope whoever has been cleaning the office appreciates not having to try to get inexplicable icky spots (possibly with legs) off the bathroom walls...