If the spider was there, you’d see that it’s only 9-22 mm (.3 to .8 inches) long. Males are the typical spider shape but the females have large, round, marbled abdomens ranging in color from orange to yellow with purple markings and pale spots.
“Marbled orb weaver” describes them perfectly. They’re also called “pumpkin spiders” for obvious reasons.
I’ve rarely seen the marbled female and here’s why: After she spins her web she attaches a signal thread to the center and retreats to a hiding place where she holds the thread while she waits. The signal lets her know when something hits the web and out she comes.
Where does the spider hide? The Capital Naturalist tells us in this video.
(photos from Wikimedia Commons; click on the captions to see the originals. video by the Capital Naturalist)
My toe isn’t beautiful but the moth is. His name is Pale Beauty (Campaea perlata).
When I tried to take his picture in Schenley Park on August 29, the moth landed on my sandal and touched my toe with his foot. Since butterflies and moths taste with their feet he (or she) must have been tasting my toe. Oh!
Pale beauty moths are generalists whose larvae feed on a wide variety of trees including ash, (black)cherry, maple, beech and oak.
Schenley Park is full of these trees. Pale beauty is right at home.
Dana Nesiti captured a super-closeup of this cicada and described where its eyes are.
The three orange eyes in the center of the forehead are simple (like ours) with only one lens. The big eyes on each side of the head are compound with multiple lenses.
Why do cicadas have all this equipment?
“The better to see you with, my dear.”
p.s. What species of cicada is this? I don’t know but it’s probably one of western Pennsylvania’s common annual cicadas. Here’s a list of four common ones with links to the sounds they make: What’s That Sound? Cicadas
Two years ago I saw very few monarch butterflies in the southwestern Pennsylvania. Last year I saw more. This year has been spectacular!
Marcy Cunkelman, of Indiana County, PA, has been raising monarch butterflies indoors for at least a decade. On August 19, she showed us how she collects monarch eggs in her garden, raises the caterpillars, and releases the butterflies.
To prepare for the event she kept one or two days’ worth of newly emerged butterflies in this enclosure. In such a short time she had two dozen monarchs ready to go — the most I’ve ever seen at once! (Half are out of view, hanging from the ceiling of the enclosure.)
Before releasing the butterflies Marcy showed us the difference between males and females (at top). Males have a black dot on each hindwing. Females do not.
Monarchs migrate to Mexico for the winter so a butterfly from Marcy’s garden may show up anywhere on a 2,400 mile route. To find out where her monarchs go Marcy applies monarchwatch.org tags, similar to bird bands, to her butterflies before she releases them. Monarch Watch lets her know where her butterflies are found.
Since she didn’t want to run out of tags, Marcy tagged just four of the two dozen butterflies. Two are shown below.
Each of us released a butterfly but that still left a dozen waiting to go, so Marcy collected the rest in her hands and …
… released them all at once. Fly away! (My camera captured the last one leaving at top right.)
If you find a tagged monarch, contact monarchwatch.org to find out where it came from. Over the years, some of Marcy’s butterflies have been found at the wintering grounds in Michoacán, Mexico.
This scary looking caterpillar is actually harmless — unless you’re a hickory leaf. What a face! What horns! Such an enormous size!
Last weekend Marcy Cunkelman showed us this fifth and final instar of the hickory horned devil.
In his earlier instars he was smaller and brown and hid in the trees while feasting on hickory, white walnut, sweetgum, persimmon and sumac leaves.
In this last phase he started off green and ate voraciously. Now he’s almost ready to pupate so he’s turning turquoise and will stop eating. Then he’ll expel his gut(!), walk down the host plant, burrow 5-6 inches into the soil, and form a chrysalis.
Seven years ago Marcy documented the transformation of a similar hickory horned devil. On Throw Back Thursday, watch a slideshow of the ‘devil’ turning into a moth in this vintage article: Metamorphosis
Spotted lanternflies would be OK if they only ate Ailanthus, but they don’t. Their sharp mouth parts pierce the stems and suck the sap of grapevines, hops, apple trees, peaches and hardwoods including oaks and cherries. The bugs then excrete a sticky “honeydew” that coats everything below their infestation.
First discovered in North America in Berks County, PA in August 2014, the spotted lanternfly has now spread to 13 counties in southeastern PA, three in New Jersey, and one in Virginia. Quarantine and eradication programs are underway in many of these locations.
From July through November look for inch-long spotted adults, shown above and below.
The adults are boring when perched but flash red when they open their wings.
In spring and early summer you’ll see more nymphs than adults. The younger ones are black with white spots. The oldest — the last instar — is red with white spots. The group below was photographed in Berks County last month.
In autumn the females lay egg masses on trees trunks, rocks and outdoor structures then cover the eggs with a mudlike substance. The photos below show egg masses at various sites.
A few egg masses on a tree (PA Dept of Agriculture, Bugwood.org)
Adult near egg masses: New = mud in foreground, Exposed = lumpy in background (photo by Lawrence Barringer, PA Dept of Agriculture, Bugwood.org)
Egg masses on the back of a bench (Emelie Swackhamer, Penn State University, Bugwood.org)
Egg masses on a rusty barrel (photo by Lawrence Barringer, PA Dept of Agriculture, Bugwood.org)
Egg masses on a birch in winter (Emelie Swackhamer, Penn State University, Bugwood.org)
Final instar under a car (Lawrence Barringer, PA Dept of Agriculture, Bugwood.org)