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The Cross Orbweaver (Araneus diadematus) derives its colloquial name based on the lines of light spots that meet perpendicularly and form a cross shape. That pattern is somewhat weak on this one, but I’m fairly sure on the identification.

Each day, this type of spider spins a complete new web in order to maximize its chance of catching prey. But first, the spider eats its old web, thereby conserving and recycling silk proteins from it.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a measurement of this spider, but they range in size from 5.5 – 13 mm (~.22-.51 inches) for males and 6.5 – 20mm (~.26 - .79 inches) for females.

This photo is from deep in the archives, taken with my very first digital camera, a Canon G2, just a couple days more than 15 years ago! More specifically, this spider was observed on September 21, 2002, at night, in Connecticut.


#arachnid #naturephotography #macrophotography #cross #orbweaver #araneus #diadematus #spider #SpiderSunday
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Jumping Spiders (Family Salticidae) don’t spin webs, but rather hunt their prey from a distance. Tracking their targets using their excellent visual acuity, they aim and then pounce, grabbing their victims with their impressive jaws. Like other spiders, however, they do produce silk. Before a jump they release a safety-line of silk that attaches at their current position, allowing them to return to that position if needed. This is especially helpful when jumping off of vertical surfaces, like walls, where this line of silk also stops them from falling all the way to the ground.

Other photos I took of this spider, from different angles, captured white markings and green-hued iridescent colors not seen in this view. Those markings were a bit duller than one might expect, but based on their pattern and color, I believe this Jumping Spider is, more specifically, a male Paraphidippus aurantius, which I’ve seen referred to colloquially as both the Emerald Jumper and the Golden Jumping Spider.

Although this photo was taken over four years ago, I vividly remember this little fellow. I approached it very closely to get a macro shot, and it appeared to be none too pleased, continually raising its front legs in a threatening/defensive manner. I didn’t get a chance to measure the spider, but if I have the identification correct, than it should be about 8mm (~ 0.3 inches) in size.

This fine spider was observed on August 18, 2013 in Connecticut. Although I’m posting this on a Friday, the photo was actually taken on a Sunday, and so while it’s perhaps a stretch for the use of the tag, I’m posting with #SpiderSunday.


#arachnid #naturephotography #macrophotography #salticidae #paraphidippus #aurantius #emerald #jumper #golden #jumping #spider
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This Tiger Moth (Grammia sp.) is, more specifically I think, the Parthenice Tiger Moth (Grammia parthenice), but possibly might be a Virgin Tiger Moth (Grammia virgo); it is hard to distinguish between the two without seeing the hindwing pattern. Aside from helping with the identification, I wish this moth had separated its forewings to expose its hindwings so we could see their stunning bright-orange color.

Whatever the species may be, however, this moth constitutes my 100th post to this collection!

If you’ve been following the Interesting Insects and Amazing Arachnids collection for a while, you may have noticed the long (one year) gap in posting between the start of last summer and this one. As I wrote a couple months ago, I became inspired to post again by the diversity of new visitors I encountered at the start of the 2017 Summer Solstice. This moth is one of the visitors who arrived on that occasion, in the early morning hours of June 21, 2017 in Connecticut.

If you’ve been interested enough to read this far, and while I have your attention, you may also be interested in checking my collections of underwater photography that you can find under my other Google+ “persona” +scubabacus. There you’ll find photos and facts about all sorts of fascinating creatures (not just fish), from the Red Sea, Monterey Bay, Turks and Caicos, and other locations.

And finally, if you’ve read this far, then I’ll do one more plug, unrelated to photography or nature, but still great: Check out +Talya's Music for some fantastic, new original tunes.

Thanks for following Interesting Insects and Amazing Arachnids. As the weather is becoming cooler and we are approaching the Fall, I am seeing fewer new visitors. I expect many of my near-future posts will be from my (at this point) extensive backlog of critters that I’ve photographed but haven’t yet positively identified. Once I figure them out, they’ll be appearing here. Stay tuned!
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It is with much surprise and delight that I report that my adult Eastern Cicada Killer Wasps (Sphecius speciosus) seem to have returned. Only 3 days ago, I reported (https://plus.google.com/+arachphotobia/posts/QWzv3n1PCMJ) that all their lairs had been likely destroyed by skunks, and I didn't see any adults after that. Yesterday, however, I saw more adults quite nearby, although not in the exact same locations. Were these adults the same as before, having somehow survived the skunk carnage? Or are they new adults that have moved in to take advantage of the uninhabited territory?

I'll never know for sure, but whatever the case, this gave me to opportunity to witness the process of a Wasp stocking a lair with new Cicadas! Check out this video to see it for yourself!

By the way, I'm trying to figure out if I should stick to photos or also include the occasional video. Videos don't seem to get much reaction, but I don't know if that's because they are viewed full screen which then makes it inconvenient to leave a reaction.

If you actually like this video, please +1 this post (or comment). If you aren't that keen on videos, then you can comment on that as well (but skip the +1). Thanks!

#insect #naturephotography #insectphotography #eastern #cicada #killer #lyric #neotibicen #lyricen #Sphecius #speciosus #murder #skunk

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As well expected in our locale today, we only experienced a partial solar eclipse. But while outside for that, I saw this fully spectacular Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus). I went a little overboard taking photos and had a very hard time deciding which one to post.

Had I posted a view from the back, with the wings fully open, you would have able to see two dark patches on the hind wings. Those areas are the scent-scale patches that release pheromones to attract females, proving this butterfly to be a male.

However, from that vantage point, you would not have been able to fully appreciate the black and white spotted body which is so impressive. And, the subtle yellow and orange color variation of the underwing is, I think, even more interesting than the primarily orange and black upperwing pattern. Also, in this view, you can see the proboscis gently arcing up and across to the flowers in order to sip nectar.

Feel free to zoom in, as there is quite a bit more resolution in this photo than in the default view. This fine fellow was observed just after the meh peak of the partial solar eclipse in Connecticut on August 21, 2017.

#insect #naturephotography #macrophotography #insectphotography #monarch #butterfly #Danaus #plexippus #solar #eclipse
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If Agatha Christie wrote about this tragic mystery, it would appropriately be entitled “And Then There Were None,” but the more straightforward title might be “Who Killed My Eastern Cicada Killer Wasps?” But first some backstory…

For many nights this summer I’ve been leaving on the front lights to see what visitors might be attracted to them. I’ve posted some of those nighttime pictures here.

Of course, during the day, the natural surroundings attract some Interest Insects and Amazing Arachnids as well, and I’ve been posting those too. One of my favorite daytime insects is a solitary wasp, the Eastern Cicada Killer (Sphecius speciosus), which you can learn more about from my earlier post https://plus.google.com/+arachphotobia/posts/SNLsQv2wUFr

In brief, though, this huge wasp catches cicadas and buries them in the ground as food for their future larvae (which develop from eggs that are laid on them). Small mounds of dirt, outside their burrows, are telltale signs of the presence of these wasps.

A couple weeks ago I didn’t take nighttime pictures because the faint odor of skunks came wafting into the house and, figuring they must be nearby, I didn’t want to go out and possibly get sprayed. When I went out the next day, I witnessed huge mounds of dirt where previously there had only been small piles from the wasps. Unless the Cicada Killers went on a nighttime murder spree, this wasn’t due to their activity. Upon closer inspection (see the photo inset) I could see a Cicada carcass, quite possibly from a Lyric Cicada (Neotibicen lyricen), see: https://plus.google.com/+arachphotobia/posts/93s1q9KBthA. Lots of other Cicada parts were found strewn about in the dirt.

Although it is circumstantial, I believe that the skunks dug out the lairs of my Cicada Killers and ate the contents. The skunks had killed my Cicada Killers. (allegedly... I don't need any defamation lawsuits from any skunks that are reading this)

Before then, I had seen several adult Cicada Killers hovering nearby during the day. That day I only saw one (and actually got some pretty good macro shots of it that I perhaps should post), and after that day they none were to be found.

This sad scene of devastation (or joyous scene of gustatory delights, I suppose, if you are a skunk) was witnessed in the morning hours of August 11, 2017 in Connecticut.

#insect #naturephotography #macrophotography #insectphotography #eastern #cicada #killer #lyric #neotibicen #lyricen #Sphecius #speciosus #murder #skunk
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I was out inspecting a scene of tragedy for my resident Cicada Killer Wasps, when this Common Buckeye Butterfly (Junonia coenia) flew nearby with its decidedly uncommon beauty. What happened to the Cicada Killers is the subject for another, future, post (lest this collection become overly focused on them, but stay tuned!).

As for the Common Buckeye, it was a rather skittish creature and I only got two photos of it before it flew away, this being the better composed of the two. It departed before I could get a measurement, but according to http://bugguide.net/node/view/516, they range in size from 39-68mm (~ 1.5–2.7 inches). This delicate visitor was seen in the late afternoon of August 11, 2017 in Connecticut.

#insect #naturephotography #macrophotography #insectphotography #common #buckeye #butterfly #Junonia #coenia
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Have you ever seen a beetle breakdancing?

Yesterday I posted a macro shot of a Grapevine Beetle (Pelidnota punctate) but taking that photo wasn’t my first encounter with that very beetle. A bit earlier in the evening I was out with the dog and decided to wander over to the front steps to see who had been attracted to the lights. This beetle was one of that evening’s visitors.

A very sloppy and awkward flier, it collided with the front door and fell on the top step, landing flat on its back. All I had on me was my cellphone. I held the phone, a bit shakily, with one hand (the other hand holding the leash) to take this video.

The beetle spun around seemingly helpless, like a turtle flipped on its shell. But, unlike a turtle, it had more than its legs to help it recover: it managed to resolve the situation and hung around for a while after that, maybe exhausted, which gave me time to go inside, get my real camera, and come back out to take the photo I posted yesterday (https://plus.google.com/+arachphotobia/posts/d8M5qUUDMic)

In retrospect, it was never helpless at all, and may have actually just been showing off its breakdancing moves. This exciting scene was witnessed on the evening of July 18, 2017 in Connecticut.

#insect #naturephotography #macrophotography #insectphotography #grapevine #beetle #pelidnota #punctate #scarab #scarabaeidae #break #breakdance #breakdancing

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This Grapevine Beetle (Pelidnota punctate) was delightfully huge, being 25 mm (~ 1 inch) long. Like other Scarab Beetles (Family Scarabaeidae) the Grapevine Beetle has clubbed antennae that separate into three parts when extended. Once I started taking pictures, however, this one hunkered down and retracted its antennae from view.

Combined with several sightings of “Grapevine” Moths (see, for example, https://plus.google.com/u/1/+arachphotobia/posts/Mt7DZzfeDe2), I’m beginning to wonder if there are some wild grapevines growing somewhere near our house. This fine beetle was attracted to the house lights on the evening of July 18, 2017 in Connecticut.

#insect #naturephotography #macrophotography #insectphotography #grapevine #beetle #pelidnota #punctate #scarab #scarabaeidae
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For a few years, I’ve been trying to get a decent photo of the Eastern Cicada Killer (Sphecius speciosus). I’m still not quite satisfied, as I had to capture this image as a telephoto (missing the fine detail of the usual macro shot). Using telephoto was necessary because they are nimble, fast flyers, and very skittish when you approach their position.

These large, solitary wasps dig burrows in the ground in which they lay their eggs. Along with the eggs, they bury Cicadas, that they capture, to provide sustenance for their developing larvae. Telltale piles of loose earth, from their excavations to accommodate the Cicadas, appear just outside their burrows.

As one of the largest wasps in the Eastern United States, they are quite intimidating looking. Extrapolating from a measurement I made of the flower’s button (after taking the photo), I estimate this Eastern Cicada Killer to be roughly 4cm (~1.6 inches) long. From what I’ve read, they can be as large as 5cm (~2 inches) long.

Of the two sexes, the males appear more aggressive in their behavior, but they also lack the ability to sting. The females can deliver a sting, injecting the venom they use to paralyze Cicadas, but they generally pay no mind to humans. So despite their looks, you are generally safe around them unless, of course, you are a Cicada!

This one was seen flying near to its burrow on August 4, 2017 on a warm summer day in Connecticut.

#insect #naturephotography #insectphotography #Sphecius #speciosus #Eastern #Cicada #Killer #wasp #solitary
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