Friday, 26 September 2014

Nova Scotia Coppers...Part 2 

In Part 1 (see Nova Scotia Coppers...Part 1), I illustrated the adults of the Bronze (Lycaena hyllus) and Salt Marsh (Lycaena dospassosi) Coppers, two of the five species of Coppers that occur in Nova Scotia. I had planned on following up that post relatively quickly but, much to my surprise, I have not encountered the American Copper, Lycaena phlaeas, this year in any of the four locations where I found them last year. This photo, taken August 25, 2013, north of Debert, shows the ventral or underside of the wings. Males and females are identical.

This photo, taken on September 10, 2013, at the same location as the photo above, shows the dorsal or upperside of the wings. Note the tiny nub-like "tails" in this fresh specimen; older, faded specimens have usually lost their tails. American Coppers look very similar to female Bronze Coppers, except that they're quite a bit smaller and, when fresh, have those distinctive little tails.

The fourth species of Copper in Nova Scotia is the smallest one, the Bog Copper, Lycaena epixanthe. A dime would completely cover the butterfly shown here. As the colloquial name suggests, this Copper is found in bogs where its caterpillar hostplant, Cranberry (Vaccinium sp.), grows. This photo, taken July 7th this year south of Dollar Lake, shows the ventral or underside of the wings.

Male Bog Coppers have a purple wash to the dorsal (upperside) of the wings and have reduced dorsal spotting compared to the female (see photo below). Photo taken south of Dollar Lake on July 16th.

Female Bog Coppers have more spotting than their males and largely lack the purple wash to the dorsal (upperside) of the wings. This female was photographed northeast of Truro on July 23rd. Note that both sexes have some light orange spotting visible on the upperside of the hindwings near the tip of the abdomen which the similar but larger Salt Marsh Copper (Lycaena dospassosi) lacks. The fifth Copper species, which I have yet to encounter in Nova Scotia, the Dorcas Copper (Lycaena dorcas), is a relatively recent discovery and is only known from Inverness County on Cape Breton Island. Maybe next year...!

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Autumn Odonates: Not Just Hanging Around... 

I've found a few mating pairs of dragonflies and damselflies (Odonata) over the past week or so. Some, like this mating pair of Canada Darners, Aeshna canadensis, male above and female below, photographed in wheel on September 17 at Roaches Pond in Spryfield, are simply more common in the fall because they're multi-brooded. Populations generally get larger through the season in species that have more than one generation per year.

Other species, like this mating pair of Spotted Spreadwing Damselflies, Lestes congener, also in wheel, again male above and female below, and also photographed at Roaches Pond on September 17, are "autumn specialists" that only have a single generation per year and do not emerge until this time of year. Despite that it means that the season is winding down, it's always nice to see these rather plain damsels.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

"It's Mine and You Can't Have It!" 

Another of my favorite Salticids, the jumping spiders group of the Arachnids, this Bronze Jumper, Eris militaris, photographed September 4th at the Pockwock Watershed Lands, stared me down and refused to yield its wasp prey to the intrusive giant with the big camera lens. Those eyes get me every time!

A Rare and Unusual Spider for Nova Scotia? 

This is a spider that I never, in my wildest imagination, expected to encounter in Nova Scotia. The Orchard Orbweaver, Leucauge venusta, is a long-bodied, long-jawed orb weaving spider that I found relatively frequently in Texas but never suspected could be found this far north. This is the first one, photographed September 4th in the Pockwock Watershed Lands, that I've seen in 8 years of nature-watching and photography in Nova Scotia. Is it rare here, or just seldom encountered?


Added note: I may have at least partially answered my own question. I found and photographed another individual of this species at Roaches Pond in Spryfield on September 17th. Maybe I'm just paying more attention to spiders this year?

Better Late Than Never... 

Migratory Vanessids, like this Red Admiral, Vanessa atalanta (photographed south of Dollar Lake on September 5th), have been scarce in central Nova Scotia for the past two years. After the amazing migrant year of 2012—when all three of the Nova Scotia Vanessa species were numerous and everywhere—it was a noticeable loss. I never encountered Red Admirals at all last year and hadn't seen one this year until late August. Even breeding residents like the American Lady, V. virginiensis, have been rare. While I did see a couple of those last year, they were absent from my usual haunts this year until the beginning of August. I'm happy to say, however, that both species seem to be everywhere I've gone in the past two weeks...better late than never! I've not seen a migrant Painted Lady, V. cardui, since 2012 (though I know of one that was reported in southeast Nova Scotia early this spring). I've missed them all.

Monday, 1 September 2014

An Unpleasant Discovery... 

I was disheartened to find a "scourge" species of beetle, the Japanese Beetle (Popillia japonica), on my rounds of Roaches Pond in Spryfield on the last day of August. These fairly large scarab beetles are instantly recognizable because no other beetle in North America has those five tufts of white hairs on the sides of the abdomen. The root-boring larvae and the leaf-eating adult beetles are known to eat more than 300 species of plants, many of them crops or garden ornamentals, and I became very familiar with the devastation that these beetles can inflict after visiting a colleague in Kentucky and witnessing the hordes of beetles on his large population of Maypops, Passiflora incarnata. A scourge indeed.

Worried that I was about to report this nasty intruder in Nova Scotia for the first time, I contacted Andrew Hebda, Curator of Zoology at the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History, and he set my mind at un-ease: turns out this beetle has been known in Nova Scotia since the mid-1930s (and has been pronounced extirpated numerous times since then!). It wouldn't be so bad if this Japanese Beetle only ate Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia (Polygonum) japonica) but, sadly, this is not the case. Is it just me, or does the beetle in the above photo seem to be saying, "I'm baa-ack!"?