A Zebra Conchylodes moth (Conchylodes ovulalis) came to visit a couple of days ago.
It’s not unusual to see bits of white fluff floating in the air. I usually assume that the fluff is carrying seeds — dandelions or milkweed or cottonwood or whatever — and maybe the seed has fallen off leaving just the fluff floating on its own. At some point, though, I began to realize that some of those bits of fluff show volition. They weren’t just floating on the breeze, they were flying in the air, choosing the direction they fly. I tried to get close enough to see what they really were.
The blighters are pretty evasive, but eventually I managed to get close enough to see more clearly. Instead of just bits of fluff I found rather pretty little white, winged insects encased in blueish white “fur”. They’re tiny, hard to see clearly even up close. And they tend to fly off suddenly. But I did manage to get a couple of clear pictures.
A search on the Internet revealed that these are Woolly Aphids (Eriosomatinae), members of a tribe of insects whose nymphs live, like normal aphids, by sucking the juices of host plants, but who, unlike normal aphids, adorn themselves with a waxy, whitish secretion that makes them appear to have fur. The adults, the ones I’ve seen flying about, are migrating from where they were born and grew to a new host plant to continue their life cycle, lay eggs, and create the next generation.
There are a number of different species of this beast, apparently named according to their primary host. I don’t know which ones we have — I’d probably have to get an entomologist to tell me. And I haven’t noticed much sign of fluffy colonies on any of our plants. But I think this stem might show evidence of a woolly aphid colony rather than a crowd of spittlebugs.
After reading a number of articles about Woolly Aphids and fruit trees, I think I should pay closer attention to our fruit trees from now on.
Visited our yard this afternoon, stayed long enough for this portrait.
Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus). I think it’s a male.
They’ve been flitting about the yard for a while, but never staying in one spot long enough for me to look closely, much less take a picture. This one just sat down on a defunct purple coneflower blossom and waited while I got a camera. As soon as I had taken this picture it flew away.
Today I noticed that our Trumpet vine (Campsis radicans) had begun producing seed pods.
I never expected Trumpet vine seed pods to look like beans.
Otherwise, they don’t look much like legumes.
A red aphid (Uroleucon sp) checking out a colony of spittlebug (Cercopoidea sp.) nymphs in our yard, 10 August 2017.
The nymphs of the froghoppers, insects similar to leafhoppers, protect themselves by secreting a froth that looks a lot like spittle, thus earning the name “spittlebugs”. I don’t know what that red aphid was doing there. Maybe it was comparing sap-sucking techniques.