The Bugs Are Busy

Butterfly weed, Schenley, 9 August 2023 (photo by Kate St. John)

13 August 2023

The birds are quiet now but the bugs are busy.

After I photographed this butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) I zoomed in to look at the yellow spec on the back edge of the flower cluster and found a tiny yellow crab spider clinging to the flowers. My guess is that he’s a member of the Thomisidae family, lying in wait for something. But what?

Tiny yellow crab spider on butterfly weed, Schenley, 9 August 2023 (photo by Kate St. John)

On Monday, while walking the Three Rivers Heritage Trail River opposite Herr’s Island, I noticed a caterpillar on the wide aluminum railing. It reminded me of the hickory tussock moth except that this one was blonde.

Sycamore tussock moth caterpillar near Herr’s Island, 7 Aug 2023 (photo by Kate St. John)

iNaturalist identified it as a sycamore tussock moth (Halysidota harrisii). The railing was directly beneath his host plant, a sycamore tree (Platanus occidentalis).

Sycamore leaves and stems, Aug 2023 (photo by Kate St. John)

The caterpillar walked rapidly down the railing in a straight line until Whoa! a spotted lanternfly red nymph walked rapidly toward him. The caterpillar made a detour.

Sycamore tussock moth detours to avoid a spotted lanternfly, 7 Aug 2023 (photo by Kate St. John)

At Frick Park on 6 August we found a lot of millipedes on the paved Nine Mile Run Trail. iNaturalist says they are greenhouse millipedes (Oxidus gracilis), thought to be native to Japan but introduced around the world. They get their name from being a pest in greenhouses.

Greenhouse millipede, Frick Park, 6 Aug 2023 (photo by Kate St. John)

And finally I was fooled yesterday by these mating orange and black bugs, as fooled as they intended me to be. They looked like milkweed bugs, but why were they on a false sunflower?

False milkweed bugs mating on a false sunflower, 11 Aug 2023 (photo by Kate St. John)

I should have known! These are false milkweed bugs (Lygaeus turcicus) who masquerade as a poisonous species and whose host plant is the false sunflower. Read more about them and the bugs they imitate here.

(photos by Kate St. John)

One thought on “The Bugs Are Busy

  1. Hi Kate,
    I’ve been thinking that katydids are late this year. They are my favorite night sound and haven’t heard any yet in central PA. I saw a reddit post from NJ discussing same. Thoughts?

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