Sunday, June 12, 2011

Interesting Illinois Insects (and other stuff)

Summer Tanager
Last weekend I took a road trip to Shawnee National Forest in Illinois. My friend, Jim McCormac, was working on his upcoming warbler book and asked if I would like to come along. Jim is one of my favorite people to join on a foray. He is extremely knowledgeable, well versed in almost everything out there, and gifted with incredible sight and hearing. Very little misses his radar and many cool things are always encountered.  And, I also enjoyed getting a sneak peak into his book writing process. Jim is visiting all these sites so he can experience them first hand.

Summer Tanager
We checked out the LaRue Pine Hills area. There we encountered lots of warblers, which was what the trip was all about. Worm-eating Warblers were thick and there were also lots of Hooded Warblers, Kentucky Warblers, Louisiana Waterthrushes, Northern Parula and Prothonotary Warblers. I did not get any photos of those. But, there were also lots of Summer Tanagers around. We had great views of quite a few of these gorgeous scarlet birds that flew very close, chattering and whistling  all the while.

Orb Weaver Spider
Besides the birds we found lots of interesting insects and other creepy crawlies. Jim spotted this Orb Weaver which was hiding within this leaf curl. She was guarding an egg sac, the fuzzy white blob to the right of her.

Jumping Spider with prey
I spotted this tiny jumping spider. It was completely fixated on its prize, so I was able to get a few shots off without disturbing it too much. Like all the pics, you can click on the photo to enlarge it and see its cute little face.

Flea Beetle, Lupraea picta
While Jim was photographing a dragonfly, I found this tiny Flea Beetle to photograph. I think this is Lupraea picta. Thanks to Ted MacRae from Beetles in the Bush for letting me know it was a type of flea beetle. They are called flea beetles because most in this tribe are good jumpers, like a flea.

Jim spotted a few of these tiny beautiful red and black beetles. These are Eastern Babia, Babia quadriguttata, making more little Babias.  

We were watching a dragonfly cruising the area when I spotted this beetle on a leaf. This is a Dark Flower Scarab Beetle, Euphoria sepulcralis. The adults nectar on flowers and overwinter in the ground. The young larvae of this beetle feeds on decaying organic matter.

I think, but am not positive, that this is a Dance Fly from the genus Rhamphomyia. Dance Flies are fascinating creatures. Their common name comes from the males flying up and down in a sort of dance. They carry with them "nuptial balloons", which are silk wrapped prey that they offer to a potential mate. But there are some shysters in the midst that will offer empty balls of silk to the ladies. The ladies will select the mate with the best gift.

Lots of interesting insects in Illinois, plus gorgeous scenery, to boot. With Shawnee National Forest only about 3 hours away from Indianapolis, I would suggest it as a great weekend or day trip!


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