Sunday, April 26, 2009

04-25-09 Girdled Road Butterflies

Today Lin of the Ohio Lepidopterists joined the Future Scientists in surveying for the increasingly rare West Virginia White butterfly at Girdled Road Reservation. Throughout the day, the group viewed five mourning cloak butterflies and one West Virginia White. Many good wildlflowers were seen, including the native mustards cut-leaf toothwort, two-leaved toothwort, and spring cress. Of course, other bits and pieces of weirdness were also observed along the way, some of which are pictured below. (Views of the butterflies were too fleeting for photo ops!)
The above photo is of a short-winged blister beetle. This beetle can secrete goo from the legs of its joints as self defense against pugnatious pests like ants...and people. The insect's common name is apt for its ability to cause blisters in people when enough concentration of goo is released. When disturbed, this insect is also known to play dead by lying on its side, as pictured in the second photo. These blister beetles do not bite people, but they do have a weird life cycle where they do parasitize bees. When the mobile larvae hatch, they climb plants seeking to catch a ride on bee passers-by back to their nests. There, the larvae transform into grody grubs and feast on their bee hosts before turning into vegetarian adults.
The red-bellied snake is also a critter that may play dead for safety, exposing its bright underside which can also be quite startling. Sadly however, this snake was not playing, as our friend the blister beetle was. Red-bellied snakes have many enemies in the wild, including birds, ground squirrels, raccoons, cats, shrews and other snakes. However, this one probably succumbed to an animal with more bone-crunching power: horse. Watch yourself on the bridle trail.

While not uncommon, the red-snake is not often seen, so this was a cool find! Check this page to see its range in Ohio.
We cannot end the blog with morbidity/mortality, so here's a picture full of hope and promise! The Future Scientists also stumbled across a goose nest. A quick photo was taken before leaving the nest as it was found. The young gosling-to-be just might be a lepidopterist some day...

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