Festive, blowout, dispirited, punctured, sexguttata. Tiger beetles can have crazy names as I learned when Ted Floyd tweeted his daughter’s photo of a blowout beetle. Who knew!? Here’s what five of these crazy beetles look like.
Blowout tiger beetles (Cicindela lengi) occur in the West, including Colorado. See Ted Floyd’s tweet.
Tiger beetles have cool names. For example, the Festive Tiger Beetle and the Beautiful Tiger Beetle. But this one takes the cake. It is the BLOWOUT Tiger Beetle. Could this be the coolest standard English name of all time?
And finally, a very common tiger beetle whose species name is “sexguttata”. In Latin that means “six drop.” The six-spotted tiger beetle (Cicindela sexguttata) is found eastward from Minnesota and south to Kentucky. They occur in Pennsylvania.
There are over 850 species of tiger beetles so I’m sure I’ve missed a lot of crazy names. Leave a comment to tell me about another one.
(photos from Wikimedia Commons and Ken-ichi Ueda on Flickr; click on the captions to see the originals. Tweet embedded from Ted Floyd, ABA)
Seven years ago I wrote an article that’s rediscovered every summer when people find unusual “pine cones” hanging from their trees.
Though the structures are coated in plant material they aren’t part of the tree. They’re the cocoons of evergreen bagworm moths (Thyridopteryx ephemeraeformis) whose larvae are disguised by vegetation while they eat the tree. Here’s one that’s sticking its head out.
One of the biggest challenges facing the U.S. during the coronavirus pandemic is our poor ability to quarantine to stop the spread. This summer’s COVID-19 surge in Pittsburgh was sparked by travelers who returned from vacation (Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head, Florida, Raleigh, Nashville) but did not quarantine for 14 days.
Perhaps we could learn from ants. An April article in Treehugger described how social species avoid each other to stop the spread of disease. This includes black garden ants.
Ants are very social creatures, always working together to feed and protect the colony. Nurse ants stay inside the nest and tend the larvae; workers forage outside for food. A study of black garden ants found that when workers contract a fungal infection they know to stay outside the nest and avoid contact with other ants. Meanwhile nurse ants move the larvae deeper inside the nest to avoid infection. Ants basically quarantine themselves.
At dusk in July scissor-grinder cicadas (Neotibicen winnemanna) sing from the trees in Pittsburgh. Like birds the male cicadas sing to attract females. Their pulsating drone rises to a crescendo, then drops to a buzz and falls silent. Are they singing in unison? How many are there?
Male scissor-grinders pulse their abdomens as they sing. At close range a single cicada makes a zipper sound. Click here to see another example.
When I’m able to follow the sound I’m often surprised that it’s coming from just one bug who fooled me into thinking a multitude was singing in unison.
Loudness matters. Female scissor-grinder cicadas apparently choose the loudest males.
A single cicada makes a lot of noise.
p.s. Have you heard a different cicada sound in the Pittsburgh area? This article can help you figure out which one: What’s That Sound? Cicadas.
(photo by Kate St. John, embedded videos from YouTube)
This week brought lavender flowers, green fruit and an overabundance of frogs.
I found American bellflower (Campanula americana) blooming along the Duck Hollow trail with some plants reaching six feet tall. My close-up, above, shows how the pistils avoid being fertilized by their own pollen.
Wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) always has a bad hair day. At Schenley Park a long-legged insect stopped by for a sip (top right of flower).
In July the unripe fruits of white fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus) are green. This fall they’ll turn dark blue.
At Panther Hollow Lake, which is actually the size of a pond, pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata) is blooming …
… and there’s a serious overabundance of bullfrogs. Here are just a few examples.
Herons don’t nest at Schenley Park but may visit for some easy prey. Where’s a great blue heron when you need one?
With COVID-19 raging around the world, we humans feel a little less invincible that we did a few months ago. Despite our own fragility there’s a tiny creature, less than 1mm long, that has survived all five mass extinctions. The tardigrade or water bear is practically indestructible.
Tardigrades have a second nickname — moss piglets — because moss and lichen are their favored habitat. Tardigrades don’t care how cold it is. They live in glacier mice and …
… a lot of harsh locations as shown in the video below.
Spotted joe pye weed (Eupatorium maculatum), above, has buds in the leaf axils but when it blooms the showy flowers at the top attract all our attention. This year I’ll have to watch for the side flowers as well.
Enchanters nightshade (Circaea canadensis), below, blooms from the bottom up and has plenty of buds yet to open. The lower buds in the photo are on a different branch.
Bugs are quite evident now but they are difficult to photograph because they move(!). Below, this silver-spotted skipper (Epargyreus clarus) appeared to be rubbing its abdomen on the bird dropping. Was it ovipositing?
Aphids are not plentiful this year — yet — but it’s only a matter of time. There’s only one winged adult in this photo but the juveniles will grow up, sprout wings, and fly to other Helianthus plants to reproduce. It won’t be long before I think there are too many.
And finally, some bugs are never seen but we know they were there … as this leaf attests.
There are white foam patches on plant stems now in western Pennsylvania that indicate it’s spittlebug season.
Spittlebugs are nymphal froghoppers that suck the juice out of plants and excrete it as a sticky foam to protect themselves from temperature extremes, dessication and predators.
I’ve never seen a spittlebug but I haven’t looked closely. Fortunately Rod Innes’ 2011 video shows what these insects are up to. Way cool!
There are also some coming attractions outdoors.
Mulberries are bearing fruit in western Pennsylvania, attracting birds and smashing on the sidewalk. Read more about them in this vintage article: Mulberries Underfoot.
Schenley Park’s bottlebrush buckeyes are almost ready to bloom as shown below on 11 June. Stop by the park in early July to see the flowers in full glory at two locations: South side of Panther Hollow Lake (left side of lake as seen from Panther Hollow Bridge) and across West Circuit Road from the Westinghouse Fountain.
When bottlebrush buckeyes bloom they look like this.