The Bugs of Summer
Header Image: Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis)
Excitement is hoping aloud a diminutive damselfly will arise from its blade of grass and land on your windowsill. It happened last year about this time and at this spot. Alas, not today. Gini’s disappointment was short-lived as we reminded ourselves this was only the fourth time a Seepage Dancer (Argia bipunctulata) has been observed in our county.
We had little time to think about it. The weeds and grass and tree branches were alive with all manner of life! Although we kept an eye out for unusual bird activity, insects were the stars of the day. We tried to keep an informal count of some species but gave up. During the morning, we found over two dozen Gulf Fritillaries, twice as many Eastern Pondhawks, over 50 Four-spotted Pennants and became deliriously dizzy trying to keep up with them all!
Breakfast was a tangerine and a banana, consumed from one hand while the other hand held the bins or camera. Later, at home, citrus juice had to be cleaned from all the optical gear. The heavy dew kept a few insects grounded for a bit, but once the sun was up for an hour, the sky filled with buzzing and whirring all around us.
I was disappointed I couldn’t manage a single decent shot of any of the big dragons we encountered. Common Green Darner, Swamp Darner, Two-striped Forceptail – all had a bad case of camera shyness. Next time.
At least a young hawk posed with her brunch but glared as if we were going to try and steal it. It did look appetizing.
Our wet season is living up to its name. The rains happen mostly late in the day, so we get an early start. Heavy dew and high humidity result in soaking wet clothing and shoes before half an hour passes. By 10:00 or 11:00 the heat becomes oppressive, and we head for the house.
Before we head home, come along and see for yourself.
Last year, a male Seepage Dancer (Argia bipunctulata) flew in Gini’s car window and posed all over the place. Today, at the same spot, a female lounged on a grass blade but couldn’t be coaxed into going for a ride.
Many of the duskywings are named for Roman poets. Such as this one, Horace’s Duskywing (Erynnis horatius). Quite attractive for such an overall dark butterfly.
Although not as brightly colored as its Gulf cousin, the Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia) has a muted beauty all its own.
A common species in our area, a White Peacock (Anartia jatrophae) typically flies low to the ground.
The circle of life can get messy. An Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis) with a Fiery Skipper (Hylephila phyleus).
Immature male Eastern Pondhawks (Erythemis simplicicollis) initially look like females before achieving the overall pruinose blue of an adult male. This one is in transition.
Florida chose well in naming the Zebra Longwing (Heliconius charithonia) our state butterfly.
Compare the more intense orange of the Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae) to the duller tones of the Variegated above.
As summer progresses, the female Great Southern White (Ascia monuste) can become quite a bit darker than the male. A quick identification of this species can be made by observing the turquoise antennal clubs.
Not a very clear photograph, but I seldom get two different species in one frame, much less with one in flight. Great Southern White (Ascia monuste) and Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia).
If they hold still, it’s pretty easy to overlook a small damselfly, even with that blue tail. Rambur’s Forktail (Ischnura ramburii).
Often called “Sand-loving Wasps” the uniquely colored eyes help identify this large predator as being in the Genus Tachytes. This one has captured a grasshopper.
In a week or so, this immature male Roseate Skimmer (Orthemis ferruginea) will have turned into the bright purple hue of the adult.
By far, the most numerous dragonfly of the day was the Four-spotted Pennant (Brachymesia gravida).
Female Bar-winged Skimmers (Libellula axilena) appear much different than the dark males.
The young Red-shouldered Hawk was upset we were within her sight, and we soon saw why. She had no intention of leaving her fresh catch and likewise was not about to offer us a bite of turtle.
We say, “let’s go birding“. If we meet someone who asks, “are you birders?”, we answer “yes“. We DO go birding and we ARE birders. But we certainly do enjoy a day filled with nature’s creatures, even if they all don’t have feathers.
Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit.