Archive for the ‘butterflies and moths’ Category

Pandora Sphinx moth

September 24, 2018

A Pandora Sphinx moth (Eumorpha pandorus) was spotted in the parking garage at The Beacon of Groveton, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

20 SEP 2018 | Fairfax County, VA | Pandora Sphinx moth

The BugGuide Info page for Pandora Sphinx remarks that it is “An extra-spectacular sphinx moth.” I agree. One look at the full-size version of the preceding photo and I think you will too.

The Backstory

I noticed the moth when I entered the parking garage for the building where I live. The moth was perched on a cinder block wall, near a large security light. I was completely exhausted after a long day of photowalking at Huntley Meadows Park — my camera and external flash unit were in a backpack for camera gear and I was reluctant to unpack and set up to shoot photos of the moth. I took a second, longer look at the moth and knew it would be worth the effort. As it turns out, I was right — this is the best photo I shot all day, and one of my Top 10 Photos for 2018.

Editor’s Notes

Eumorpha pandorus is a new species for my life list of butterflies and moths. Sincere thanks to Sue and John Gregoire, Kestrel Haven Migration Observatory, for help in identifying this spectacular beauty.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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Black Swallowtail butterfly

September 8, 2018

A Black Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio polyxenes) was spotted during a photowalk along Deephole Point Road at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Zebra Swallowtail butterfly

September 4, 2018

A Zebra Swallowtail butterfly (Eurytides marcellus) was spotted during a photowalk along Deephole Point Road at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

Notice the Zebra Swallowtail lost both tails, possibly the result of close encounters with predators.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Camouflage

June 8, 2018

A Gray Petaltail dragonfly (Tachopteryx thoreyi) was spotted during a photowalk at Occoquan Regional Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, as indicated by his “indented” hind wings and terminal appendages.

04 JUN 2018 | Occoquan Regional Park | Gray Petaltail (male)

Look closely at the full-size version of all three images. Notice the dragonfly is eating a large, cream-colored winged insect, probably either a butterfly or moth.

04 JUN 2018 | Occoquan Regional Park | Gray Petaltail (male)

Many photographers “chimp” after every photo they take, that is, look at the image on the camera LCD. I chimp rarely — you can’t be sure an image is tack-sharp until you look at it on a large-screen display. In this case, it was so difficult to see the dragonfly perched on similarly colored tree bark that I chimped to be sure I’d actually nailed the shot. Don’t be fooled by the images in this post — significantly enhanced by post-processing — it was nearly impossible to see the subject!

04 JUN 2018 | Occoquan Regional Park | Gray Petaltail (male)

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

American Lady butterfly

February 20, 2018

An American Lady butterfly (Vanessa virginiensis) was spotted during a photowalk at Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

This butterfly looks similar to several species with which I’m familiar but isn’t a perfect match, so I consulted the experts on the BugGuide Facebook group. Sincere thanks to Matt Pelikan, Jack Blackford, and Ken Childs for help in identifying the butterfly.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Legend of the Woolly Bear caterpillar

January 29, 2018

A “Woolly Bear caterpillar” was spotted during a photowalk at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

Wooly Bear caterpillar is the larval form of the Isabella Tiger Moth (Pyrrharctia isabella).

According to legend, …

The Woolly Bear caterpillar has 13 distinct segments of either rusty brown or black. The wider the rusty brown sections (or the more brown segments there are), the milder the coming winter will be. The more black there is, the more severe the winter. Source Credit: WOOLLY BEAR CATERPILLARS AND WEATHER PREDICTION – USING WOOLLY WORMS FOR A WINTER FORECAST, The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

Is the legend scientifically valid?

…this myth has been around since, you know, the colonial times. But in 1948, this curator of entomology from the American Museum of Natural History, Dr. Howard Curran, he did a little study. He went out to Bear Mountain, New York, and he counted the woolly bears, the bands – the brown bands of the woolly bear there. And he counted about 15 different specimens, and he made a prediction. Source Credit: The Myth of the Woolly Bear, National Public Radio.

Problem is, a sample size of 15 is insufficient for making meaningful conclusions. So looking at one caterpillar, as I did, is completely meaningless. Nonetheless, I always think of the legend whenever I see a Woolly Bear and wonder what it tells me about the upcoming winter.

Related Rescources

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Red-spotted Purple butterflies

January 25, 2018

A Red-spotted Purple butterfly (Limenitis arthemis astyanax) was spotted during a photowalk along Deephole Point Road at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

About a week later, another Red-spotted Purple was spotted during a walk around Mulligan Pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

The appearance of Red-spotted Purple seems to be somewhat variable.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Question Mark

January 23, 2018

A Question Mark butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis) was spotted during a photowalk at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

Two field marks can be used to identify this butterfly. First, notice the row of four dark spots on the dorsal side of its forewings (highlighted in an animated GIF by Deb Platt).

Second, notice the silver-white question mark shape on the ventral side of its hind wings (highlighted in an animated GIF by Deb Platt).

Related Resources

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Lunch time

January 21, 2018

A Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) was spotted at ~12:13 p.m. near a vernal pool at a remote location in Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, eating an unknown species of winged insect.

25 OCT 2017 | HMP | Blue-faced Meadowhawk (male, eating)

The first photo is the scene-setter.

25 OCT 2017 | HMP | Blue-faced Meadowhawk (male, eating)

The last two photos are cropped so that the predator and prey are more prominent. The dragonfly barely moved from the first-to-last photos; the position of the butterfly/moth moved slightly as it was eaten.

25 OCT 2017 | HMP | Blue-faced Meadowhawk (male, eating)

Did you notice there are three insects shown in each photo? Perhaps the fly is an opportunist, waiting to clean-up the leftovers from the dragonfly’s lunch.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Top 10 Photos of 2017

January 1, 2018

The following gallery shows 32 finalists for my “Top 10 Photos of 2017.” The photos are presented in reverse-chronological order beginning in November 2017 and ending in April 2017.

The Top 10 photos will be selected using reader feedback. Please enter a comment at the end of this post listing the number for each of your 10 favorite photos. If listing 10 photos is asking too much, then please list at least five photos, e.g., No. 5, 8, 14, 17, 21, etc. Thanks for sharing your selections, and thanks for following my photoblog!

No. 1

No. 2

No. 3

27 OCT 2017 | MRA | Autumn Meadowhawk (mating pair, “in tandem“)

No. 4

No. 5

No. 6

No. 7

No. 8

No. 9

No. 10

No. 11

No. 12

No. 13

No. 14

No. 15

No. 16

No. 17

No. 18

No. 19

No. 20

No. 21

20 JUN 2017 | OBNWR | Calico Pennant (immature male)

No. 22

No. 23

10 MAY 2017 | HORP | crayfish (underwater)

No. 24

No. 25

No. 26

No. 27

No. 28

No. 29

No. 30

No. 31

No. 32

Editor’s Note: The following location codes are used in some photo captions, shown above.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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