Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Anatis lecontei

We have a handful of giant lady bird beetles in the US. Most of them (four) belong to the genus Anatis. And what's really nice about them is that they're native. Somewhere around half of our lady beetle fauna is introduced - having come aboard on (mostly) misguided efforts to control plant pests (such as aphids and scales). Many of them are competing (sometimes out-competing) our native species.

This species, Anatis lecontei, is fairly common in the certain places of the Rocky Mountains. I found this one up American Fork Canyon (Utah) a couple of weeks ago. It's hard to to get a good sense of scale but it is about 4 to 5 times bigger than your common lady bug. The shadow also obscures a black band that encircles the elytra. It's a handsome creature. The habitat shot is up Tibble Fork Canyon.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Twelve-Spotted Skimmer

Here is a picture of a beautiful dragonfly - literally and taxonomically. It's common name is the twelve-spotted skimmer. It's scientific name is Libellula pulchella - or the beautiful little dragonfly. It isn't uncommon but it does catch the eye wherever it occurs - which is throughout most of the continental United States. It is only absent from much of Nevada and smaller areas of the SW.

I found this one a couple of weeks ago protecting its territory which consisted of an area on a large pond located near the border of Wasatch County and Utah County a few mile up Utah Canyon. I'm not sure the pond even has a name.

It is pretty much an extension of the Provo River and can be reached by crossing the bridge at Wildwood. But be careful, The famous Heber Creeper (train) is often chugging along the tracks (q.v.). You don't want to be on the bridge when it is passing. Jon and I had a close call.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Black Petaltail

The black petaltail dragonfly (Tanypteryx hageni) is one of only a handful of species in the family Petaluridae. This is an ancient group of dragonflies which makes them truly ancient since dragonflies themselves have a long history in the fossil record. There are only two species of this family in North America. One is eastern the other is western.

I saw this individual a couple of weeks ago just above Wishon Reservoir in eastern Fresno County (California) at an elevation of about 6,700 feet. This is near the highest point known for the species (as recorded in Sidney Dunkle's useful book Dragonflies through Binoculars). It is also further south than the known range which is the general area of the northwest.

We (Spencer, Michael and his friend Zack, and I) were camping along Little Rancheria Creek when we saw it. It was a very scenic spot surrounded by 100 foot (and higher) red firs. The place just felt primeval and was a perfect spot for such an antediluvian creature.