Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘insect

Damselfly on western ironweed

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I’ve always found western ironweed (Vernonia baldwinii) hard to photograph. Not so this dameslfly on the buds thereof along Bull Creek on July 1st. In looking at John Abbott’s book Damselflies of Texas, I figured this damselfly was in the genus Hetaerina but I wasn’t sure about the species. Yesterday on bugguide.net entomologist T. Hedlund identified the species as Hetaerina americana, known as the American rubyspot. The one I photographed seems to have been a female.

UPDATE: from a different frame I’ve added a closeup showing the details in one segment of the abdomen and a part of the wing. Till now I hadn’t paid attention to the transverse black markings on the iridescent blue.

American Rubyspot Damselfly on Western Ironweed Buds by Buttonbush Flower Globe 1831 Detail

Unrelated thought for today: “Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” — George Santayana in The Life of Reason: The Phases of Human Progress. The last sentence is famous but often gets misquoted. Much worse, many people refuse to learn that lesson.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 28, 2020 at 4:40 AM

Two riders on velvetleaf mallow

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On July 5th west of Morado Circle I photographed some velvetleaf mallow plants (Allowisadula holosericea) that were beginning to flower, as you see in the first picture. I didn’t notice the little dark insect until I looked at the picture on my computer screen days later. In contrast, I couldn’t help but notice the colorful critter that the second picture shows you on the underside of one of the mallow’s leaves. Don’t you think parts of its body look like they’re riveted together? Val Bugh tells me it’s an immature Niesthrea louisianica. That species is in the family Rhopalidae, whose members are known collectively as scentless plant bugs, though this one apparently lacks a common name (like the Calocoris barberi that you saw here not long ago).

An unrelated saying for today: “Worry is interest paid on trouble before it falls due.”
That thought appeared in William Meade Pegram’s 1909 book Past-Times,
which included a section that offered up various proverbs.
Where the quoted one originated isn’t clear, but I won’t worry about it.
Here’s another along similar lines:
“Anxiety and Ennui are the pencils that Time uses to draw wrinkles.”

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 23, 2020 at 4:42 AM

Taking the long view

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2020 has been a good year for Mexican hats (Ratibida columnifera) and an even better one for my portraits of them, of which there have been more than in any previous year. As is true for every physical feature of an organism, the length of the column of disk flowers in Mexican hats varies, and in today’s picture I’ve focused on one that’s in the running for the longest I’ve ever come across. Notice the two pale green insect eggs, each attached on a thread-like stalk to the column; I presume they came from green lacewings. The rich purple beyond the Mexican hat is due to horsemints (Monarda citriodora), while the shades of blue come from patches of sky that I was able to squeeze in by getting close to the ground and aiming slightly upward. I made this portrait along Bluffstone Drive in front of the Junior League of Austin on May 29th.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 15, 2020 at 4:39 AM


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I’ve had trouble remembering which of two similar common names is which: planthopper and leafhopper. A glance at an article about leafhoppers convinced me that’s the kind of insect in today’s picture. This one sure is colorful, don’t you think? And what big bulgy eyes for such a small (maybe a third of an inch long) critter. I found it on the stalk of a sunflower (Helianthus annuus) a couple of miles from home on June 17th. If you’d like to zoom in for a more detailed look, all you have to do is click the excerpt below.

Thanks to the diligent folks at BugGuide, I declare this leafhopper to be Oncometopia orbona, known as a broad-headed sharpshooter (hey, that could just as well apply to photographer me). To see and learn about some other leafhoppers in Austin, you can visit Val Bugh’s Austin Bug Collection.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 8, 2020 at 4:38 AM

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More views of Texas bindweed

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You recently saw a Texas bindweed flower (Convolvulus equitans) with a basket-flower serving as a complementary concentric halo. On June 2nd I was working near a different entrance to Great Hills Park and found that another purple flower, the horsemint (Monarda citriodora), provided an out-of-focus backdrop for a softly questing Texas bindweed tendril. (Google turns up no hits for the phrase softly questing tendril, so today is my latest turn as a neologist.)

Jumping ahead to June 15th, I noticed that a Texas bindweed vine had twined itself around a Mexican hat (Ratibida columnifera). Riding the flower head was a bug that entomologists call Calocoris barberi, which I’ve learned is most often found on Mexican hats. As far as I can tell, this bug has no common name, so maybe the Entomological Society of America should hold a contest to come up with one.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 30, 2020 at 4:44 AM

Beetle on a buffalo gourd flower

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Somehow I haven’t shown a picture of a buffalo gourd flower here since 2011, so it’s high time to make up for the oversight. That making up is made easy by the fact that on May 15th off Lost Horizon Dr. I found a group of flowering Cucurbita foetidissima vines. The species name indicates that this plant has quite an unpleasant smell—at least to people. The odor seems to have had the opposite effect on the little pollen-bedecked beetle shown here that had come from the flower’s interior out onto its rim.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 14, 2020 at 4:37 AM

Fiery skipper on Texas thistle

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You’re looking at a fiery skipper (Hylephila phyleus) on a Texas thistle (Cirsium texanum). Square-bud primroses (Oenothera capillifolia) in the background lit up the Blackland Prairie in Pflugerville on May 11th.

By the way, Texas thistle flowers have a pleasant scent for people as well as butterflies and other insects. If you’re in an area where these grow and haven’t ever sniffed one, give it a shot while some are still around.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 3, 2020 at 4:04 AM

A closer look at a clasping-leaf coneflower

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The inflorescence of a clasping-leaf coneflower (Dracopis amplexicaulis) superficially resembles those of a black-eyed susan (Rudbeckia hirta) and a Mexican hat (Ratibida columnifera). In fact all three are in the sunflower family’s Heliantheae tribe. One easy way to distinguish the species is to look at the plants’ leaves. Of the three wildflowers, only the clasping-leaf coneflower has leaves that clasp the stem, as the common name indicates. You can see that below—or at least you can imagine how the leaf clasps the stem beneath the mass of spittlebug froth. Actually you can see a bit of the clasping below the bubbles.

These pictures come from the Blackland Prairie in Pflugerville on May 7th. You’ve already seen what a whole colony of clasping-leaf coneflowers looked like there on that date.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 25, 2020 at 4:33 AM

A new take on spittlebug froth

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On April 5th at the Riata Trace Pond I noticed various plants with spittlebug froth on them,
including this pink evening primrose, Oenothera speciosa.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 25, 2020 at 4:59 PM

An unusual pink evening primrose bud

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I’ve long been intrigued by the buds of pink evening primrose, Oenothera speciosa, especially as they open. Usually they’re pretty straight, but this one at the Riata Trace Pond on April 5th attracted me all the more because of its curved tip. People have told me that the little green insect, which I’m not sure I even noticed at the time, is an aphid nymph.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 23, 2020 at 4:38 PM

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