Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Notarctia proxima

Here's an attractive tiger moth, Notarctia proxima - or less formally, the Mexican tiger moth. I found it this last spring along the Kings River a few miles east of Fresno. Actually, I should say that it found me, or rather, it found my light.

This second image is of the moth on my blacklighting sheet. It's a pale individual, making it a male. The female is darker, especially the hind wings, which also bear several dark areas. I've always loved seeing tiger moths ever since my high school biology teacher, Bob Mower, showed me his impressive collection. At the time tiger moths were considered a separate family (the Arctiidae). They are now considered a subfamily within the Noctudiae.  

The habitat shot is of Avocado Lake (just a stone's throw from the Kings River) at dusk.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Ellychnia californica

In February (this year) I posted a picture of Ellychnia megista that I found in the coastal redwoods of California. About a month ago, I came across another Ellychnia (E. californica) species in the Sierra Nevada above Bass Lake.

We were camping at about 5,000 feet near a small shaded stream with several broad-leaf annuals growing along the bank. I discovered it resting on a mossy stone. You can see that the black band on the pronotum is less parallel than in E. megista. It's a bit more triangular. A pretty beetle for sure.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Urocerus californicus

Last month while hiking through Sequoia National Forest at about 7,000 feet, I came across this impressive horntail (Urocerus californicus). There were large cut fir trees and pines about and I expect that it was attracted to these. Horntails are our largest insects in the suborder Symphyta (in the order Hymenoptera). Immature stages feed in rotting wood. This individual was over an inch and a half long (larger with legs and antennae extended).

Horntails are related to bees and wasps. They are not nearly as frequently seen as their more familiar relatives because they don’t visit picnic sites or pollinate flowers. That said, we have several species in the US. My compliments to Nathan Schiff et al. who just recently (last month in fact) published a beautifully illustrated guide to our fauna in the Canadian Journal of Arthropod Identification.