Assorted insects and arachnids

July 26th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

A roving spiderIf life was longer, I’d devote a few years to studying insects. I’m drawn to the their diversity and fascinated by them from a structural point of view. Now is the time when warm nights bring more of them out so I can photograph them. They are presented here with only limited descriptions because I don’t have time to specifically identify them. Maybe those with more knowledge than I have will leave a comment and help us all more about them.

Let’s start with a fine specimen of spider. The one above is known as a “Grass Spider” or “Funnel Weaver” (Agelenopsis spp.). I’ve known these since I was a wee lad. We had hoards of them in our old garage windows. They make thick webs with a funnel where the spider waits for his dinner to arrive. I believe this one is a male. They roam at night during summer looking for love.

A crane fly

A crane flyThere are a bazillion species of flies. They are classified into three major groups based upon the structure of their antennae. The ones that look like giant mosquitoes are Crane Flies (nematocera) that have multi-segmented antennae like this fellow. He’s about 5″ long from the tips of his outstretched legs, fore and aft. All flies only have one set of wings. The other set morphed into halteres over the eons. They are those nubs you see below the wings. They are like tiny gyroscopes that help stabilize the flies in flight.

Notice the crane fly's injuriesThis one has a few injuries that are noteworthy. It’s lost the tip of its left wing and one of its six legs which is apparently a common occurrence. Its back right leg appears to have a bend in it (right) and it’s right wing has a fold scare. It’s not easy being an insect as you can tell from these photos.

Another crane fly on glassThough they look like mosquitoes, none of the crane flies bite so there’s no need for you to fear them. The insect to the left is another species that seems to be wearing two-toned furry slippers. It’s much smaller than the other one, maybe two inches.

Below is a mug shot of a moth mimicking a dried leaf. You can see the length of its antennae in the top photo. Note how it wraps those long antennae under its wings when at rest to enhance the illusion it’s an unappetizing leaf instead of a juicy morsel for a bird.

A moth that looks like a leaf

There are two tiny dots on its thorax that look like eyes (below). I don’t think they are, but perhaps they scare away predators who don’t like to be stared at. As summer rolls on, I will probably post several more insects if they are willing to be photographed.

A moth that looks like a leaf

Murder on Main Street

October 28th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

House Centepede with their 30 legs aren't welcome guests inside homes, but they devour a lot of pests and ought to be sent on their way instead of killed

Grab your party hat. It’s time to celebrate! While most people are horrified when they see a 30-legged House Centepede scurry across their living room floor, they ought to cheer him on. They might want to move the creature outside, but the more house centipedes we have on the planet, the better.

Every species of plant loses its chlorophyll in its own patternThey eat roaches and other nasty insects nobody likes. Just be glad they don’t grow to the size of Pit Bulls. I wouldn’t want to meet one of those on a night walk.

Scutigera coleoptrata is harmless to humans most of the time. They are venomous but can’t usually puncture our human hides. They are voracious predators and seeing this one (above) take out a housefly on an ornamental shrub along Main Street was sweet. Hope he devours more before winter arrives.

A Yellow Jacket waits to be warmed in the morning to take flight againI was drawn to this particular shrub not for the bugs but for the combination of bright yellow foliage and red berries. In photographing them, I found the centipede and another ill-tempered thug spending the night on a leaf, a lethargic Yellow Jacket.

It wasn’t until I took the first shot (below) that I noticed this brightly striped demon sandwiched between leaves above the berries. I didn’t disturb his leaf but it was probably cold enough, he couldn’t fly. It pays to avoid running your hand through foliage at night. Many overnight guests hide there to avoid hungry night stalkers.

Red berries on a short shrub on Brighton's Main Street

Getting to know an earwig

October 19th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

An earwig was a wiling model for me as it walked along the fence at the Imagination Station

A very cooperative Earwig allowed me to take several photographs of him (or her) so I could get the proper lighting and focus, not an easy task with my camera. I’m not sure of the species. There are 2,000 of them but Wikipedia says only one, Doru aculeatum, is in the northern United States. I’ll take their word for it. I never realized they are as colorful as seen here. Its face is more ant-like than I realized, too. Only the top image is clickable. The one below is at my camera’s full resolution.

I never realized how colorful these insects are

Attracting autumn insects

October 5th, 2014     2 comments     permalink

Stink Bug

InsectFellow photographer, Don, and I staged an impromptu “mothing” with a couple of lights and a cloth on a warm evening this past week. Nothing larger than about an inch flew in to be photographed and our photography isn’t stellar. Here are the results.

They aren’t identified because neither of us know enough about insect species to do it confidently. If you’d like to do so, leave a comment by clicking the headline to get to the individual post page then scroll to the bottom.

Moth Crane Fly Fly
Moth Moth Moth

Green Lacewing

More moths and insects

August 22nd, 2014     0 comments     permalink

A crane fly measuring about 3" long joined our mothing adventureThe cold night we had for the official Moth Night event on August 15 wasn’t productive in bringing in night insects. I wanted to try again. Thursday night was warm and humid so Don and I set up a couple of sheets, spotlights and the black light in his yard in Genoa Township, an area with mature trees where a night chorus of insects and toads sing. The results were clearly better than Moth Night, but we didn’t lure any of the lunkers. The largest moth to arrive was no more than 1.5″.

What was more impressive than the moths was the sheer variety of insects drawn to the lights. There were lots of wee critters less than a quarter inch long, too small for my cameras to photograph, and I don’t have the foggiest idea what most of them were. Then there were many varieties of small beetles, flies, and two species of crane flies (pictured, right). While the images aren’t spectacular, I’ve posted more than 20 you can see here:

I’ll probably spend some more time attempting to attract moths before the first frost rolls in. I don’t enjoy photographing them as much as other wildlife because it requires special camera equipment, precise fiddling with dials, and a whole lotta patience, but I am curious about insects of all shapes and sizes so the photography becomes secondary.

June Bug marketing tips

July 2nd, 2014     0 comments     permalink

A Michigan June Bug

As a guy who’s spent decades in marketing, I’m alerting the June Bugs of Michigan that they have made serious errors in their branding strategies.

First, they aren’t bugs (Hemiptera) in the scientific sense. They are beetles. The term, “bug,” has become generic so it’s technically not a major faux pas, but brands need to differentiate themselves from competitors. June bugs should take this into consideration in all of their future endeavors.

Secondly, we have a delay-to-market problem. A brand that doesn’t get a jump on its competitors can lanquish on shelves. June bugs market themselves here as June bugs, but the first time I saw them in Michigan was July 1st. Hoards of them flooded the millpond area on that day. How can the marketplace take them seriously if their name defies their delivery date?

Beyond those complaints, these guys deliver. They are built to last, compact in design, are comfortable in the spotlight, and have a nice, coppery finish with tasteful, understated iridescent highlights (above). They are like these other insects that don’t have any brand recognition (below). They might be one of the 16 species of mosquitoes that are driving Michigan residents inside this summer, but I have a hunch they are another species because they are bigger than any mosquito I’ve ever seen, about an inch long. I found these two beauties a mile apart, one at the millpond and the other near home, on the same night. If anyone knows their brand name, please post it in a comment.

An inch long insect of undetermined species This looks like an over-sized mosquito

The lily pad motel at the millpond

June 24th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

A lily pad has overnight guests at the Brighton millpond

Nothing much was happening at the Brighton millpond after all of the ducks were tucked in for the night so I did some test shots to explore my camera’s abilities in the dark. I focused on a lone lily pad 8′ below my perch on the Tridge.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but on my big screen back home, I realized the pad had overnight guests. At the 8 and 10 o’clock positions, two Water Striders had pondside accommodations. The one at 8 o’clock shared his berth with a Whirligig Beetle in a suite needing renovation. The pad had evidence of a fungal infestation along its edge. At the 2 o’clock position a damselfly was either shedding its ektoskeleton or mating. I didn’t ask.

On the cement piling directly below me, an American Toad had less natural accommodations. It was decorated in a Post-Modern / Urban Decay motif popular with the younger set but difficult to find in our upscale town. Instead of getting some shut eye, he was actively searching for nearby movement. Seems he was more interested in filling his belly than calling it a day.

An American Toad stayed up late to catch its dinner

Attracted to light … and each other

June 21st, 2013     1 comment     permalink

Hoards on the doorwall

Note the acrobat on the big guy

My dad used to say, “You and I could debate this for hours because neither one of us know what we’re talking about.” I’ll temper my words for these insects because I don’t have a clue what they are. They covered a dirty glass doorwall and numbered in the high hundreds.

Bet a fly fishermen knows. Those guys can probably predict the exact dates of the annual hatches of the multitudes of bugs that attract trout. The ducks at the pond find lots of the flying insects delicious and snap their bills in the air trying to catch them. All I know is the antennae on these guys is twice the length of their bodies, and one has a tinier insect hanging sloth-like from one of his (left).

Test your observation skills: click the top image to see it larger. Find the mosquito. Its location is posted in a comment.

Their antennae are twice the length of their bodies!

A crane fly rests

June 7th, 2013     2 comments     permalink

A close up of a crane fly shows its halteres

This crane fly is about 4" in diameter including its legsThere are more than 4,000 species of Crane Flies (Family: Tipulidae) in the United States and I don’t have the energy to identify the species of this one, but it’s a beauty. From toe tip to toe tip, it’s about 4″ in diameter.

I found it resting on a wall for the night. Its colors range from gold to cinnamon. The close up, above, clearly shows its halteres, modified back wings that act like gyroscopes to help the insect balance in flight.

Crane flies don’t bite humans but many think they are giant mosquitoes. In some areas of the country, they are considered pests, but they aren’t plentiful here except some species along the Great Lakes. When certain species of Mayflies hatch, swarms can be so thick it’s like a blizzard, thousands fly around street lights, and it’s difficult to breathe without inhaling them.

Even aliens like the millpond

April 21st, 2012     2 comments     permalink

The Brighton millpond has lots of critters and many are aliens. Do you see one in the top picture? It’s an Asian ladybug (Harmonia axyridis). These bettles (they aren’t true “bugs”) arrived in the USA about 25 years although the US Department of Agriculture attempted to introduce them as early as 1916 to help control aphids on crops.

They arrived in Michigan by the mid-1990s and are now well established. Native Michigan ladybugs (Coccinelliadae) have fewer spots and black heads while the Asians usually have lots of spots and light colored heads. This one doesn’t have the characteristic “W” marking on the head (close up at right) but you can see it at Wikipedia. More than 450 species of ladybugs are in North America. Their color and spots vary. Michigan residents have discovered our new aliens sometimes bite! Native Michigan ones have better manners.

Hairy Bee’s Knees, Shiny Bumblebutts

August 30th, 2010     1 comment     permalink

Bumblebee on Unidentified Flower

While I’ll run from a yellow jacket, bumblebees are so unaggressive that I don’t feel the least bit uncomfortable hanging around them. Several were spending time on this unidentified wildflower which looks like a sweet pea of some sort on the banks of the Brighton millpond. I’ll post more pictures of the flower on another day.

Note there is no pollen sacs on these fellows. I think they come to this particular flower for the nectar but it must not produce much pollen. What I found most interesting is the way its large eyes look in the upper photo. At first, I thought the pattern in them were just reflections, but then I realized the coloration is coming from within them. Bees have compound eyes. I guess the color is from reflective surfaces within the eyes themselves.

In the lower image, I like the way the blue sky and buildings behind me are reflected in the shiny black chitin (the material of its exoskeleton) of the bee’s rear section (the abdomen). I think my reflection is there, too, but I can discern it. Click either image to download the larger version. Both have lots of detail.

The World Reflected in the Butt of a Bumblebee

May Flies While June Bugs

June 20th, 2010     0 comments     permalink


There are 2,500 species of mayflies and I have no idea what this one is, but I can tell you it was photographed in May. Imagine that. It was the only one I saw at the time. We have what is called “The Hatch” here in Michigan around the Great Lakes in mid-summer. I swam through it once while driving my car one evening. I mean it. Swam! It was like driving through a blizzard. When I stopped to fill my tank, the lights near the pumps had attracted a bazillion of them. They live from 30 minutes to just a day in their adult form after spending at least a year as naiads in lakes and streams. Carcasses sometimes accumulate like snowdrifts.

The June bug was photographed in June although several species answering to the same name and can be seen in other months. They aren’t “bugs,” they’re beetles. This one was staggering around on the millpond walkway. The large forewings, called elytra, aren’t used for flight. They are hard shields protecting the body and foldable hindwings. This beetle appears to have a damaged right hindwing.

Click either image to see larger versions for more detail. The cement walk under the June bug is fun to look at, too. It’s loaded with pebbles of all colors.

June Bug

Pop Quiz 2: Where’s the bug?

May 4th, 2010     0 comments     permalink


This isn’t a particularly difficult quiz because the critter isn’t camoflaged. He’s just small in a visually complex pattern. I didn’t see it when I took the photo. When I get home and project the images on my large monitor, I like finding unexpected things. Look at the larger image, if you can’t spot him here. And, if you are really stumped, I’ve posted the answer.

Monster on a Coneflower

February 22nd, 2010     0 comments     permalink

Monster on a Coneflower

I like to look at insects, but I don’t know what the hell I’m seeing most of the time. I’d rather spend my time looking at them than fiddling with guide books to identify them precisely. Consequently I have no idea what this is, but I can tell you it’s a miniature predator (about 1/16″) by its praying mantis-like forefeet with tiny hooks at the end. The spiny perch is the center of a purple coneflower about 1″ in diameter.

Wounds of Summer

February 21st, 2010     0 comments     permalink

Eastern Comma Butterfly

Eastern Comma ButterflyWe think of butterflies as fragile but they endure and often have the scars to prove it. This one is an Eastern Comma, I think. Seventy-six of the 500+ North American butterfly species are in the “True Brushfoots” category. There are several Commas varieties. They are named for a comma shaped mark on the underside of their back wings, not seen in this photograph. It bathed in the sun on my balcony one July afternoon. There is also a Question Mark brushfoot named for the same reason.

While Monarchs have up to four life cycles a year, Commas apparently have only two with the winter “form” seeking a comfy place to over-winter so they can breed in the spring. I believe this one is part of the summer “form” nearing the end of its life because its wings are scarred. Note the wide range of colors of the scales and hairs from purplish browns to green-tinged yellows. This butterfly identification site helped me create this post:

Cicada: Decked out on the deck

December 16th, 2009     6 comments     permalink

Cicada dressed in crystal raindrops

I rarely see cicadas. During the heat of the day in late August, I hear choirs of them buzz in the trees, but they stay hidden to avoid becoming lunch for the birds. I found this one resting on the decking of the Brighton Tridge. It was the only one I saw this year. A thunderstorm had drenched it earlier in the evening. Even though it was well after dark, the camera’s flash lit the droplets and infused them with midday sky blues. The long transparent wings look like delicate lace beaded with crystals, but they’re sturdy enough to easily transport the insect’s stout body. View the larger version to see the details.

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