Monday, April 21, 2008


February saw the usual spike in crane flies (and the not so big but still lovely "spike" in red admirals). This was followed, by the third weekend in March, with what was, for me, the first sightings this calendar year of several of the more noticeable butterfly species (cloudless sulphur, giant swallowtail, others I already have forgotten). And now...the buck moth caterpillars are upon us, and in some areas they are difficult to avoid; unfortunately, one such place is the zoo!

I got to observe some of another common early spring caterpillar, those of the white-marked tussock moth. I like those a lot. And the big "wow" for me thus far in our still-young '08 bug season came Sunday morning. I saw a caterpillar hanging by silk from a river birch and went over to it. It appears to be the larva of the curve-lined owlet, Phyprosopus callitrichoides. Quite spectacular, and already pupated. (Too bad, the larva is much neater than the adult.)

An Insectarium foray in March to the Pearl River WMA yielded a single small species of velvet ant. This was a pleasant surprise for me. In addition to that individual, I have one of similar size collected last summer in Broussard near the home of one James Beck, and I have a pair of Dasymutilla occidentalis from LA and a pair of D. magnifica from AZ, also from last Aug./Sept.

My adult milkweed leaf beetles, about 75 total, spent about 3-4 months eating and laying not one egg. Then something turned on the proverbial faucet, and things are going great guns.

Finally, Audubon Insectarium staff is heading to Houma and Des Allemends this Fri./Sat. for a collecting trip (along with a presentation during Sat. morning and early afternoon). Hoping for all manner of aquatics plus velvet ants (if they are out) and fiery searchers. The stuff in the lab is doing well. There is a lot there, including a bunch of Malaysian beetles that just arrived. These are cool, to be sure, but getting out in the field right here in Louisiana is also great!

- Zack