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.

Great Southern White (Ascia monuste) – Female
Great Southern White (Ascia monuste) – Male

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.

23 Comments on “The Bugs of Summer

    • Thank you very much, Peter!

      I am physically exhausted after a virtual hike to Shangra La! A little 12-hour hike. Over marbles. Even when I was a much younger whipper-snapper that would have done me in. Terrific rewards, though, I must admit.

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  1. This is a lovely gallery of “bugs.” I don’t know my insects as well as I should, but I think paying attention to birds has made me also pay attention to other animals, as well as to plants. It’s one of the beneficial “side effects” of our ornithomania.

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  2. Great collection of “bugs”, Wally. Those darn damselflies are so unwilling to do our bidding. There is no reason to pigeonhole ourselves into a narrow interest when nature has so much to offer. I just describe myself as a nature photographer with a few interests but I’ll shoot anything. Glad that you do the same.

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    • Thank you, Steve.

      You are so right about being able to observe and enjoy all that nature has to offer. So hard to believe I used to speed past it all in search of an elusive bird species.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve always been open to all but admit that when I did go out with tunnel vision I missed a lot. An open mind leads to more interesting experiences.

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  3. Hello Wally and Gini. Please repost your last comment that I accidentally deleted. Perhaps it was the third glass of Pinot that did for me in that I usually manage a few more than three.

    My heart goes out to you poor people having to suffer the hardships of “Summer” Are you absolutely sure that is the problem because I am reliably informed that it is something more sinister and potentially catastrophic that will actually end life on Earth as we know it.

    After our two week summer we are now in the throes of flash floods and, wait for it, “thunder and lightning” that is entirely the fault of mainly North Americans who drive around in huge 4x4s and eat steaks rather than locusts, beans and grass. Naturally after your latest confession I will have to report to your President as a heretic. No doubt he will call to see you if he remembers.

    I must take issue with the latest insect you claim to recognise. What sort of name is “Seepage Dancer”? If this is for real then the authorities need to urgently find an incontinence device to fit the poor creature.

    And that Red-shouldered Hawk is eating meat! Disgraceful. How dare it.

    If you read my latest post you will see that I too have forsaken the environment damaging food that is meat and instead eaten a fish that feeds on the tiny seeds of shellfish and shrimps, themselves quite meaty as they grow in size and stature. But the end result is delightful. Is there no end to my barbarity?

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    • Thank you for commiserating with us regarding our “summer of suffering”. For some of us, life as we knew it ended when television was colorized.

      Hang on. I’m putting on my ancient vinyl (!) recording of “Night on Bald Mountain” while I read about your current probably man-made climate which is changing before your very eyes.

      Your stereotype of us Yankees and our slightly larger than life vehicles is almost offensive. Why, just yesterday I spotted a chap in a Prius, just before he was crushed by a pickup truck with tires larger than his car.

      Our consumption of steak will soon no longer be an issue as we understand Mr. Gates has purchased all land formerly devoted to raising livestock and is converting it to cricket cultivation. As to reporting us to our current Fearless Leader, I feel certain we are already on a list.

      One must smile at the taxonomist who came up with that moniker for the Seepage Dancer. Either a young graduate student or the opposite, a senior citizen who was familiar with that dance.

      As for the turtle eating raptor, she only did so for the shell of it.

      Face it, we are all barbarians with an insecurity complex which manifests in a “look at me syndrome”.

      Gotta go gas up Gini’s 4×4.

      Cheers.

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  4. People ask us all the time if we are taking photos of birds. We always say, we take nature photos of whatever we see. We are so fortunate here in Florida to have birds, critters and wildflowers galore! And I sure do love that you ID these dragonflies. Enjoy your weekend! Is it just a little ‘less hot’? I hope so!

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  5. Your header is striking– nature can be so stylistic. You captured dramatic episodes of predation by the dragonfly and wasp. I so miss seeing butterflies. They have been practically absent here in our new Connecticut home. Saw my first Monarch of the year this week and only a few Tiger Swallowtails. Putting up with a very dry spell with temperatures above 85F for 45 days in a row.

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    • I really appreciate your comments, Ken.

      It’s been a challenge for me to slow down and appreciate nature’s details.

      What you lack in butterflies you make up in warblers dressed in breeding plumage!

      Here’s hoping we all have a cooler weekend!

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  6. As soon as I read your title, I started laughing — and fighting an impulse to head to the beach. With some revised lyrics and your images, The Bugs of Summer would make a great video.

    The details here are wonderful: the turquoise clubs on the Great Southern White, the color-coordinated background for the White Peacock, a new word (‘pruinose’). I certainly identified with your description of early morning heat and humidity, too. I will say that food + camera is a combination I’d never attempt. I have a hard enough time controlling juices and crumbs as it is. My biggest issue involves reminding myself not to sweat into the optical viewfinder. I much prefer that to the LCD screen, but it’s made a trip to yon camera repair shop in Houston in the past. That’s when I learned some cameras are waterproof, and some aren’t.

    This morning? Rain, lovely rain. It won’t last, but it’s been falling overnight, and steadily since 7 a.m. — real rain, with no wind. Work’s delayed for a bit!

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    • I was wondering if anyone would pick up on the title. Not surprised it was you! I was also interested to see if there would be a nod toward Henley or Kahn. Music usually beats out sports.

      Yeah, I also try not to mix food and drink with cameras. But sometimes, you’re in mid-bite of a tangerine and a hawk lands in a field with a turtle in her mouth so you grab the camera, try to swallow the rest of the fruit whole, raise the hundred pound lens to your eye while adjusting your settings and discover you forgot (again) to return the exposure compensation to zero and just as you focus on that feathered beauty the first sting of the fire ants reaches your brain and you realize you just destroyed their home and they are not amused — and that’s how my camera gets dirty.

      Hope you get enough rain to soak in a little bit.

      Have a wonderful weekend, Linda.

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  7. Your header image immediately grabbed my attention, Wally, and what followed was just as exciting. I find that, given that most of your Odonata are so fabulously different to ours, I am surprised when you feature a species that is so similar to one of ours, such as, for example, that Rambur’s Forktail which, at a glance, could be mistaken for our Blue-tailed Damselfly.

    We’re back to very high temperatures, but without any your rain. The drought situation in UK is starting to look a bit desperate.

    Best wishes to you and Gini – – – Richard

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    • Thank you, Richard.

      Like you, I’m surprised at times to find a European species name which looks familiar only to discover it looks nothing like our variety. Diversity keeps us heading afield to see what else is out there!

      Gini and I shall perform an ancient rain dance in the hope it will bring you some relief. Well, any dancing we do at our age WOULD be ancient! But, hey, it’s dancing, so who cares?

      All the best.

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    • You’re very welcome, EC.

      We hope you are storing up some “coolness credits” during winter so you can cash them in when summer arrives!

      Like

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