Thursday, July 25, 2013

Walkabout Treasures: Beauty in the Beast(s) - Part 4

It's no wonder that I never get half the topics posted on my blog that I'd like to put up.  I've written 3 posts already, but I still haven't covered everything that I saw on ONE walkabout last Sunday morning!  Add to that the fact that I went on another walkabout this morning, and I'll never catch up!

Of course, if I don't get busy writing, I'll never catch up anyway....

For some reason, one particular species of dragonfly was out last Sunday morning.  I took photos of 4 different individual dragonflies:  I knew that two of them were the same, but the other two individuals looked different to me.  It turns out that all four of them were the same species, despite how dissimilar they were.

The species I was seeing is the widow skimmer, Libellula luctuosa.  The basic widow skimmer is typified by the female, with yellow "racing stripes" that join together on the thorax, and brown wing patches next to its body....

The young male looks much like her, with the addition of some bluish white clouding in the middle of its wings, like the individual below....

As the males age, their wings get more and more of the bluish white clouding in their clear areas, while their body starts getting whiter too.  This guy was definitely an oldster, in dragonfly terms.

Despite the lack of yellow stripes anywhere, this is the same species as the two individuals above.

I haven't blogged about it yet, but I've been seeing more injured or disabled insects this year than I normally do.  While I was walking through the draw, looking at the giant ragweed (which is simply alive with different insects), I came across this wheelbug.  I don't know if his wing abnormality is due to an injury or is due to something that went wrong as he matured and shed his exoskeleton.

Whatever has caused this abnormality, I can't imagine he is as capable of flying as normal wheelbugs.  Can he hunt well?  Who knows, but I doubt he hunts as well as he would if he wasn't dealing with his problematic wing.

Not far away from the distressed wheelbug, and looking just about as perfect as a grasshopper can look, this pretty green grasshopper was hanging onto a large sedge stem in the draw.  It looks a lot like the sunflower grasshopper I shared on my last blog post, but as I looked a little more carefully at it, I realized that it's not actually quite the same.  This green grasshopper has brown eyes, rather than black, and it has black and white markings on the side of its thorax - making it a snakeweed grasshopper, Hesperotettix viridis.

Reading about this species told me that it primarily feeds on broom snakeweed...which is fine, except that I don't recall identifying anything known as snakeweed on our property.

So I looked up broom snakeweed, Gutierrezia sarothrae.  It's known as an increaser in overgrazed pastures because it is unpalatable to livestock (and actually toxic to cattle and sheep).  I still don't recognize it from our property, but it's entirely possible that there is some in the area somewhere.

Oh, rather humorously, the snakeweed grasshopper is actually considered beneficial because of its preference for eating this "weedy" plant!

Just as I thought I'd seen about all the interesting insects I was going to see along the path in the draw, I came across this preying mantis nymph.

Last fall I found an egg laden female mantis not too far from where I found this little guy on Sunday - I wonder if this is her offspring!

As I came back out of the draw, I found another grasshopper that caught my eye because it was so dark.  In fact, I caught myself wondering if it was dying of some sort of infection - except that it acted perfectly healthy.  So I took a photo and looked it up.

I probably wouldn't have shared this grasshopper with you, except that I love its name!  Meet the prairie boopie grasshopper, Boopedon gracile....

"Boopie" is evidently a simple shortening of its genus, but I love the name anyway!  This is the male - the female is larger and colored green and brown; based on photos, she's nowhere near as exotic looking as the male.

Although I took several dozen more photos after I came out of the draw, I'm only going to share one more of them here.  I haven't tried to identify this little cutie, although I think it's a very young katydid (longhorned grasshopper) nymph of some sort.  The dried bud it's sitting on is lanceleaf coreopsis bud, to give you a sense of scale.

I love the exotic appearance of this tiny baby; it seems way too fragile to survive on its own, but survive it apparently does.

I have at least one more thing to share with you from last Sunday's walkabout, but it deserves it's own post, so that will be next on my agenda...assuming no intervening rant swells up that I just have to get off my chest!  While you are anxiously awaiting (LOL!), enjoy your garden - and happy insect hunting!

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