Archive for September, 2016

A Wheel Bug is a real bug

September 30, 2016

All bugs are insects; not all insects are bugs. True bugs are classified in the Order Hemiptera. A practical example may help to illustrate the distinction.

Dragonflies and damselflies — my first loves in the Class Insecta — are classified in the Order Odonata. They are insects but not true bugs. Make sense?

A Wheel Bug (Arilus cristatus) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

15 SEP 2016 | Huntley Meadows Park | Wheel Bug (Arilus cristatus)

Wheel Bug (Arilus cristatus) is a true bug in the Family Reduviidae (Assassin Bugs) that preys on pest insects. Notice the red proboscis below the head of the Wheel Bug — a non-retractable structure that is used to pierce and suck the life juices from prey.

A Wheel Bug (Arilus cristatus) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

15 SEP 2016 | Huntley Meadows Park | Wheel Bug (Arilus cristatus)

This is one crazy-looking bug — the “wheel” on its back reminds me of Stegosaurus!

A Wheel Bug (Arilus cristatus) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

15 SEP 2016 | Huntley Meadows Park | Wheel Bug (Arilus cristatus)

A Wheel Bug (Arilus cristatus) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

15 SEP 2016 | Huntley Meadows Park | Wheel Bug (Arilus cristatus)

A Wheel Bug (Arilus cristatus) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

15 SEP 2016 | Huntley Meadows Park | Wheel Bug (Arilus cristatus)

A Wheel Bug (Arilus cristatus) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

15 SEP 2016 | Huntley Meadows Park | Wheel Bug (Arilus cristatus)

Related Resource: All bugs are insects, but not all insects are bugs, a blog post by The DragonflyWoman.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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They’re back!

September 28, 2016

Great Spreadwing damselflies (Archilestes grandis), that is, and it’s good to see them! 22 September is believed to be a new early date for Great Spreadwing at Huntley Meadows Park; the previous early date was 06 October.

Two males were spotted at a vernal pool in a remote location in the park. More photos of both males will be featured in a follow-up post.

Male 1

Both individuals are males, as indicated by their coloration and terminal appendages.

Male 2

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonfly (male)

September 26, 2016

A Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonfly (Stylurus plagiatus) was spotted near Mulligan Pond during a photowalk at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge (JMAWR). Russet-tipped Clubtail is a new species on my life list of odonates. As far as I know, this is the first official record of Russet-tipped Clubtail at JMAWR.

Mulligan Pond is located along Dogue Creek, a tributary of the Potomac River. According to Chris Hill, current president of the Dragonfly Society of the AmericasStylurus plagiatus “is a species of bigger rivers.” Chris speculates this Russet-tipped Clubtail probably emerged from the Potomac River and flew upstream along Dogue Creek to JMAWR.

A Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonfly (Stylurus plagiatus) spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

22 SEP 2016 | JMAWR | Russet-tipped Clubtail (male)

This individual is a male, as indicated by the large russet-colored club at the end of his abdomen, and his terminal appendages.

A Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonfly (Stylurus plagiatus) spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

22 SEP 2016 | JMAWR | Russet-tipped Clubtail (male)

I turned my camera at an unusual angle (somewhere between landscape and portrait) in order to get a better view of the dragonfly’s face, shown below. “Hanging Clubtails” is the common name for the genus Stylurus. As the name suggests, hanging clubtails typically perch with their abdomen hanging down, in contrast with many genera of clubtails that perch horizontally on the ground.

A Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonfly (Stylurus plagiatus) spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

22 SEP 2016 | JMAWR | Russet-tipped Clubtail (male)

The last photo is my favorite of the set.

A Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonfly (Stylurus plagiatus) spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

22 SEP 2016 | JMAWR | Russet-tipped Clubtail (male)

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Unicorns in unexpected places (Part 2)

September 24, 2016

I visited Mason Neck West Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA for the first time on 02 July 2016. There is a small, shallow man-made water retention pond at the park that provides perfect habitat for Unicorn Clubtail dragonflies (Arigomphus villosipes), like the one featured in this photo gallery.

This individual is a male, as indicated by his unique terminal appendages.

Mud flats (shown above) and algal mats (shown in the first and last photos) — sounds like a haven Unicorn Clubtails!

Notice the gas bubbles in the preceding photo. Algal mats release oxygen gas. I wonder whether Unicorn Clubtails enjoy the oxygenated air directly above algal mats, much like football players are refreshed by breathing from an oxygen mask on the sidelines after a long run.

Related Resource: Kevin Munroe, former manager at Huntley Meadows Park, provides good guidance regarding the right habitat for Unicorn Clubtails at his excellent Web site, Dragonflies of Northern Virginia.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Unicorns in unexpected places (Part 1)

September 22, 2016

I visited Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge (OBNWR), Prince William County, Virginia USA for the first time on 18 June 2016. I found the Calico Pennant dragonflies (Celithemis elisa) that I was looking for at Painted Turtle Pond; I was surprised when I spotted one or more Unicorn Clubtail dragonflies (Arigomphus villosipes) at the same pond!

A Unicorn Clubtail dragonfly (Arigomphus villosipes) spotted at Painted Turtle Pond, Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

18 JUN 2016 | OBNWR | Unicorn Clubtail (male)

All of the individuals in this gallery are males, as indicated by their unique terminal appendages: the epiproct is a large “plate” that spans both cerci.

A Unicorn Clubtail dragonfly (Arigomphus villosipes) spotted at Painted Turtle Pond, Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

18 JUN 2016 | OBNWR | Unicorn Clubtail (male)

A Unicorn Clubtail dragonfly (Arigomphus villosipes) spotted at Painted Turtle Pond, Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

18 JUN 2016 | OBNWR | Unicorn Clubtail (male)

Like all male clubtail dragonflies, the hind wings of male Unicorn Clubtails are “indented” near the body; this distinctive field marker isn’t shown well by any of the photos in this gallery except the following shot.

A Unicorn Clubtail dragonfly (Arigomphus villosipes) spotted at Painted Turtle Pond, Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

18 JUN 2016 | OBNWR | Unicorn Clubtail (male)

The juxtaposition of man-made and natural objects is visually appealing in the next photo.

A Unicorn Clubtail dragonfly (Arigomphus villosipes) spotted at Painted Turtle Pond, Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

18 JUN 2016 | OBNWR | Unicorn Clubtail (male)

A Unicorn Clubtail dragonfly (Arigomphus villosipes) spotted at Painted Turtle Pond, Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

18 JUN 2016 | OBNWR | Unicorn Clubtail (male)

A Unicorn Clubtail dragonfly (Arigomphus villosipes) spotted at Painted Turtle Pond, Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

18 JUN 2016 | OBNWR | Unicorn Clubtail (male)

Related Resources:

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Another new species discovered at JMAWR

September 20, 2016

A Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) was spotted near Mulligan Pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. As far as I know, this is the first official record of Blue-faced Meadowhawk at JMAWR.

This individual is a female andromorph, as indicated by her male-like coloration, lack of hamules, and terminal appendages.

A female Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) spotted at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is an andromorph.

15 SEP 2015 | JMAWR | Blue-faced Meadowhawk (female andromorph)

Unlike male Blue-faced Meadowhawks, most female faces are tan.

A female Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) spotted at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is an andromorph.

15 SEP 2015 | JMAWR | Blue-faced Meadowhawk (female andromorph)

This female is the only Blue-faced Meadowhawk I saw during a photowalk around Mulligan Pond — let’s hope she’s one of many more I didn’t see!

A female Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) spotted at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is an andromorph.

15 SEP 2015 | JMAWR | Blue-faced Meadowhawk (female andromorph)

Related Resource: Post update, published on 15 November 2016, documents another female Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly spotted at Mulligan Pond during Fall 2016.

Editor’s Notes: Swift Setwing dragonfly (Dythemis velox) was discovered on 24 June 2016 at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge — the first official record of Swift Setwing in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. For more information, see Swift Setwing dragonfly by Michael Powell and Making new friends by Walter Sanford.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Time to mate

September 18, 2016

A mating pair of Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum ambiguum) was spotted at a vernal pool in Huntley Meadows Park (HMP). The vernal pool, currently dry, is the same one where teneral Blue-faced Meadowhawks were observed during late-May and early-June 2016.

This mating pair is “in wheel.” All dragonflies and damselflies have a 10-segmented abdomen, numbered from front to back: male dragonfly secondary genitalia, called hamules, are located in segments two and three (S2 and S3); female genitalia in segment eight (S8). Dragonflies form the mating wheel in order for their genitalia to connect during copulation.

A mating pair of Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum ambiguum) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is "in wheel." The female is an andromorph.

15 SEP 2016 | HMP | Blue-faced Meadowhawks (mating pair, “in wheel“)

Some species of dragonflies display sexual dimorphism; females are polymorphic for a smaller subset of those species. Andromorph females are male-like in color; heteromorph females are duller in color than males.

Notice the female in this mating pair is an andromorph. Female andromorphs are less common than heteromorphs.

A mating pair of Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum ambiguum) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is "in wheel." The female is an andromorph.

15 SEP 2016 | HMP | Blue-faced Meadowhawks (mating pair, “in wheel“)

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Return to terra firma

September 16, 2016

Several Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum ambiguum) were spotted near two vernal pools at a remote location in Huntley Meadows Park. All of these individuals are males, as indicated by their coloration and terminal appendages.

A Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

12 SEP 2016 | HMP | Blue-faced Meadowhawk (male)

The next photo shows one of the males perching in the obelisk position.

Many dragonflies [perch in the] obelisk position to limit the amount of sunlight hitting their body and use their wings to shade their overheated thoracic flight muscles. Why not just find a shady spot? If he did he would relinquish his territory and that would reduce his chances for mating. Source Credit: Richard Orr, renowned expert on odonates of the mid-Atlantic region of the United States.

A Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

12 SEP 2016 | HMP | Blue-faced Meadowhawk (male)

Regular readers of my photoblog know I’m fond of head-tilts in which the dragonfly seems to display some of its personality, especially when the individual is looking at me. I nicknamed this guy “Paleface” because his face is a lighter shade of turquoise than most male Blue-faced Meadowhawks.

A Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

12 SEP 2016 | HMP | Blue-faced Meadowhawk (male)

The last three photographs were taken in a dry drainage ditch located near one of the vernal pools. According to the most recent U.S. Drought Monitor update, parts of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan region are “abnormally dry” — one classification category from “drought.”

A Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

12 SEP 2016 | HMP | Blue-faced Meadowhawk (male)

A Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

12 SEP 2016 | HMP | Blue-faced Meadowhawk (male)

A Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

12 SEP 2016 | HMP | Blue-faced Meadowhawk (male)

The Backstory: Teneral Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies were observed at Huntley Meadows Park during late-May and early-June 2016, documented in Previews of coming attractions by Walter Sanford. (Hey, that’s me!) A pull quote from that blog post explains the title of this one.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies are classified as a fall species of odonate. In the mid-Atlantic United States, meadowhawks seem to disappear for several months after they emerge during early summer and reappear during fall. Where do they go? No one knows for sure. I speculate Blue-faced Meadowhawks are an arboreal species of dragonfly that returns to the ground/water when it’s time to mate.

It must be time for Blue-faced Meadowhawks to mate, because they’ve returned to terra firma!

Related Resources:

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Bad day to be a bee!

September 14, 2016

A Red-footed Cannibalfly (Promachus rufipes), a species of robber fly (Family Asilidae), was spotted during a recent photowalk at Huntley Meadows Park. This individual is a female.

Look closely at the full-size version of the following photo.

Did you notice the robber fly is preying upon a bee?

Robber flies feed mainly on other insects. (Whew, that’s a relief!)

The fly attacks its prey by stabbing it with its short, strong proboscis injecting the victim with saliva containing neurotoxic and proteolytic enzymes which very rapidly paralyze the victim and soon digest the insides; the fly then sucks the liquefied material through the proboscis. Source Credit: Asilidae, from Wikipedia.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Dusky Dancer damselflies (mating pair)

September 12, 2016

A mating pair of Dusky Dancer damselflies (Argia translata) was spotted along Pope’s Head Creek at Chapel Road Park. Dusky Dancer is a new species on my life list of odonates.

This pair is “in tandem“: the male is on the upper-right; the female is on the lower-left.

A mating pair of Dusky Dancer damselflies (Argia translata) spotted along Pope's Head Creek at Chapel Road Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is "in tandem."

29 AUG 2016 | Chapel Road Park | Dusky Dancer (mating pair)

The male is on the upper-left in the following photo; the female is on the lower-right. The male is engaged in “contact guarding,” in which the male and female fly “in tandem” to egg-laying sites. The female is ovipositing in a partially submerged leaf.

A mating pair of Dusky Dancer damselflies (Argia translata) spotted along Pope's Head Creek at Chapel Road Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is "in tandem."

29 AUG 2016 | Chapel Road Park | Dusky Dancer (mating pair)

Related Resource: A. translata male (Dusky Dancer) [JPG] [digital scan].

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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