Beautiful Bugs and Butterflies

milkweed bug
On my weekly walkabouts, I often snap a shot here and there of interesting creatures. I’ve had to buy new reference books to identify some of them, a moth book, a dragonfly book, help from the web. Some of them I don’t have a name for but they’re all cool!

I’ve noticed that milkweeds attract they’re own cadre of critters, besides the Monarch Butterfly. The bug to the right is a Milkweed Bug, identified by the “don’t eat me” orange X on it’s back.

milkweed catepillar

I came across this caterpillar, there were several, munching away on Whorled Milkweed. On one of the plants I also found this little pile of beetles covering the milkweed pod (below).
milkweed beetles

darner

Hanging around the pond also offers opportunity to photograph critters. Dragonflies are constantly patrolling the pond in search of food and protecting their little territories. The biggest and most common is the Common Green Darner (female, left). The Green Darner is a little easier than most to identify, especially when you see the little bull’s eye in front of their eyes.

widow skimmer

Another easy-to-identify dragonfly is the Widow Skimmer. He was very cooperative, returning to the same twig time and again, until I got a really good diagnostic picture. So far I’ve identified 7 species of dragonflies.

spreadwing

Not as easy to photograph and even harder to identify, are the damselflies. I think this is a Spreadwing, but I’m not positive. This little gem caught my eye because of it’s opalescent wings, which you can’t see in this picture, of course. I’ve attempted to photograph four or five species of damselflies, but they’re so tiny and skittish I just managed to capture two of them.

bluet?

The second damselfly I photographed is quite common. I suspect it’s the Familiar Bluet (the name sounds good for a common damselfly). These little gems would hold on to the top of a plant and as the breeze would blow their bodies would swing around the plant stem like a tiny wind vane. You can imagine how tough it is to snap a sharp photo of it.

moth

I haven’t managed to photograph many moths, but this little guy was very cooperative, hanging out on my glove while I went looking for my camera. It took me quite a long time to identify this one. I knew it was an Underwing (from the brightly colored hindwings), but there are so many different underwings that I had to get a moth book to pin it down. This one is the Sordid Underwing.

Gulf Fritillary top

Butterflies are so much easier. These two photos give you a topside view and an underside view of the Gulf Fritillary. This is a fairly big butterfly, 3 inches, and I think one of the most beautiful.

fritillary

buckeye

I’ve been trying for a long time to get a photo of the Common Buckeye. They’re very flighty. Wouldn’t you know that the best shot I get is a specimen that can’t fly very well because of a bite taken out of it’s left hindwing.

sulphur

This lovely yellow butterfly is an Orange Sulphur. I know you can’t see any orange, but trust me it’s there hidden by the hindwing.

sachem

I decided to buy this lantana plant on the spur of the moment. I was at a garden center to get pots and saw the lantana out front was just swarming with butterflies. Shortly after I brought it home and set it in the sun out front, this little Skipper showed up. This species is called Sachem. It didn’t take long before I had several other Skippers, Sphinx moths and Swallowtails all partaking of the nectar.

egg

Wandering around my garden, I found this tiny white egg on the tip of a fennel frond.

black swallowtail

Those tiny eggs eventually become the magnificently colored caterpillars of the Black Swallowtail, Oklahoma’s State Butterfly. I just checked my bronze fennel today and the plant is now hosting 30 small caterpillars. I’m not sure it can sustain that many, but I’d hate to remove butterfly caterpillars if I don’t have to.

If you’re squeamish about spiders, stop now. Otherwise, continue.

spider

These wolf spiders are all over the place in the grass out front. They’re BIG, two inches across.

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