Thursday, February 25, 2010

Arkansas Moth: Horrid Zale (Zale horrida)

Horrid Zale Moth (Zale horrida)
(Photo:  Marvin Smith on 5/6/09)

Horrid Zale Moth
(Zale horrida)

Hodges: 8717

Range: Eastern North America

Habitat: Deciduous forests.

Season: May - July

Host Plant: Larvae feed on Nanyberry--Viburnum lentago, and other (?) Viburnums. (Note: According to most sources -- like the USDA -- we live south of the native range of Nannyberry. However, we have other Viburnum species -- at least one, maybe more. Jo and I have never been able to pin down a species ID.)

Remarks: "Horrid" seem an inappropriate name for this beautiful moth. However, in Latin "horridus" (adjectival horrida) means "standing on end, sticking out, rough shaggy, bristly, prickly". Bristling or rough is also given as an archaic meaning for horrid in English.

If you check John Himmelman's lateral view of a Horrid Zale, you will see it has a patch of bristling chocolate colored scales right behind its head and elsewhere on its body. These are probably the bristles that lead to German entomologist Jacob Hubner naming this moth Zale horrida.

Species information from BugGuide.


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Arkansas Moth: Baltimore Bomolocha (Hypena baltimoralis)

 Baltimore Bomolocha (Hypena baltimoralis)
(Photo:  Marvin Smith on 5/15/09)

Baltimore Bomolocha
(Hypena baltimoralis)


From BugGuide species page:

Identification: Adult: forewing grayish-brown, with whitish tint in female; tint often absent in male. Note blackish-brown apical dash, and large dark patch from base through median area which does not touch inner margin. Dark patch usually has white outer edging. Hindwing dark grayish-brown.

Range: Eastern North America: Nova Scotia to Florida, west to Arkansas, north to Wisconsin and Ontario.

Habitat: Deciduous forests or edges; adults are nocturnal and come to light.

Season: Adults fly from March to October in the south; May to September in the north. Caterpillar seen June to November.

Food: Larvae feed on maples, especially red maple (Acer rubrum).

Life cycle: Two generations per year in the north; two or more in the south.

Other sources and links:
Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center (caterpillar photo)
Lynn Scott's Lepidoptera Images
Bob Patterson's Images on MPG


Friday, February 19, 2010

Witch Hazel (Hamamelis vernalis)

Witch-Hazel (Hamamelis vernalis)
(Photo:  Jo Smith on 2/18/10)

Jo, I and the dogs took time out from our busy schedules for a long walk in the woods Thursday afternoon. Mainly, we just wanted to enjoy being outdoors in the sunshine, but we also wanted to see if the Witch Hazel down in the creek was still blooming. Our wildflower bloom hunger was satisfied, and despite the muddy sections, we enjoyed our time in the woods.

The text below originally appeared in a post published on January 24, 2008

The more common species of witch-hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) grows throughout eastern North America. It blooms in the late fall. Hamamelis vernalis is native to the Ozarks region. It blooms during the late winter and continues until early spring and is usually found in gravel or rocky stream beds or at the base of rocky slopes along streams. The flowers tend to be more reddish and have a spicy aroma.

Witch-hazel has many traditional uses. It was the wood of choice for "dowsing" -- finding underground water (or sometimes other valuable objects) using a Y-shaped branch. Extracts from the leaves, twigs, and bark were used to reduce inflammation, stop bleeding, and check secretions of the mucous membranes. Astringent skin care products made from American witch-hazel are still available from Dickinson's.

Although I will probably never be at the right place at the right time, I'd really like to witness witch-hazel seed dispersal. Over the next year after blooming, two shiny black seeds develop in a woody capsule. The capsules mature at about the time the following year's flowers open. Then, the capsules split so explosively that they eject the seeds up to twenty-five feet away from the mother plant.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Arkansas Moth: Fluid Arches Moth (Morrisonia latex)

Fluid Arches Moth (Morrisonia latex)
(Photo:  Marvin Smith on 05/14/09)

From BugGuide Species Page:

Identification: Forewing gray with dark patches along costa on either side of orbicular spot, black anal dash, and double black dash along outer margin below reniform spot; orbicular spot large, pale whitish, oblong, and extending obliquely to costa; reniform spot large, kidney-shaped, yellowish with and a dark central arc and blackish shading on lower (inner) side. Hindwing dirty grayish-yellow with darker veins and black-dashed terminal line

Range: Nova Scotia to South Carolina, west to Arkansas, north to Manitoba.

Season: Adults fly from May to July.

Food: Larvae feed on leaves of a variety of deciduous trees: alder, beech, birch, black cherry, elm, hop-hornbeam, maple, oak, willow.

More photos are also available at Moth Photographers Group.


Monday, February 15, 2010

Eyed Click Beetle (Alaus oculatus)

OTHER COMMON NAMES:  Eyed Elater, Eastern Eyed Click Beetle.

SIZE:  Around 1 1/2 inches (40mm).

FOOD:  BugGuide says adult beetles may take some nectar and plant juices.  Larvae are predatory.

The larvae of most click beetles are called wireworms.  Several feed on plant roots and can be serious agricultural pests.  However, the Eyed Elater larva is a meat-eater that feeds on many other noxious larvae, including those of wood-boring beetles, flies, and other undesirables. The large larva (up to two inches) has two powerful jaws to aid in disabling and dismembering prey.

LIFE CYCLE:  Eggs are laid in soil.  Larvae are usually found in decaying wood, under logs and other dark, damp places.  The Eyed Elater spends most of its life in the larval form, perhaps as long as 2-5 years.

RANGE:  Widespread in eastern and central North America.  Usually found in deciduous and mixed forest and woodlands.  Adults are attracted to light.

CLICK BEETLE MECHANICS (from the University of Maryland):  "Click beetles have a remarkable spine on the undersurface of the first segment of the thorax. This spine fits into a notch on the second thoracic body segment just between the legs. The spine and notch are part of the engineering that give this beetle its click. The beetle flexes its body in such a way that the spine quickly releases or snaps with a click. When placed on its back, this snap can catapult the beetle in the air. The beetle often lands right side up. If the beetle lands on its back again, the process is quickly repeated until the beetle gets it right."  (Please see the University of Maryland site for photos of the click beetle's spine and notch.)

THE "EYES":  The large "eyes" on the beetle's pronotum are, of course, only eyespots.  They and the other spots on the beetles mottled body are made up of tiny, light-colored scales similar to scales that make up the patterns on a butterfly's wings.  The eyespots are presumed to distract and confuse would be predators.  The Eyed Elator's true eyes are on its head near the base of the antennae. 

Other Sources and Links:
University of Florida 
Texas A and M University

This post is one of many submitted for the debut issue of a new blog carnival dedicated to "the celebration of beetles—of their indescribable beauty, amazing forms, and astonishing diversity."  The name is taken from a quote by British geneticist and noted evolutionary biologist J.B.S. Haldane. When asked by an English cleric what his studies of nature’s diversity had taught him about the Creator, Haldane reportedly quipped, "He has an inordinate fondness for beetles." An Inordinate Fondness was originated by and is hosted this month by Ted MacRae of Beetles in the Bush.  Thank you, Ted!