More Local Wildlife

A Zebra Conchylodes moth (Conchylodes ovulalis) came to visit a couple of days ago.

Zebra Conchylodes Moth

Zebra Conchylodes Moth

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Fluffs in the Air

Fluff in the Air

Fluff in the Air

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.

Woolly Aphid on Sedge

Woolly Aphid on Sedge

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.

Woolly Aphid

Woolly Aphid

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.

Woolly Aphid

Woolly Aphid

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.

Fluff, left by Woolly Aphid?

Fluff, left by Woolly Aphid?

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.

The Monarch

Visited our yard this afternoon, stayed long enough for this portrait.

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

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.

Red Aphid Visiting Some Spittlebugs

A red aphid (Uroleucon sp) checking out a colony of spittlebug (Cercopoidea sp.) nymphs in our yard, 10 August 2017.

Red aphid with spittlebug nymphs

Red aphid with spittlebug nymphs

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.