late autumn insect activity

On Saturday, in addition to measuring our first big tree, we hiked about 5 or 6 kilometers through Murphy’s Point Provincial Park. We found the Sylvan Trail sign-in box occupied by a mass of Harmonia axyridis lady beetles (click on above photo for larger view). For the past few weeks, we’ve been finding aggregations of this non-native species around our house, often packed into small spaces around door and window sashes.

Also found in the sign-in box were a couple of Pityohyphantes costatus spiders (click on image for larger view). One of them was found in a little web with a couple of dried out fly bodies. We have noted this species of spider in the trail sign-in boxes on other visits to Murphy’s Point, so it seems the wooden boxes may provide an ideal place for these spiders to hang their hats, so to speak.

Later in our walk, we discovered about a dozen of these unidentified rusty red moths on the countertop by the sink in one of the washroom areas. I haven’t gotten around to IDing them yet, but they would be some species of Noctuidae. If anyone reading this happens to know the species, please post a comment or email me.

Of the non-insect sightings along the way, clusters of these Zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha) shells were seen on some concrete block anchor weights that had been pulled out of the lake for the winter (see below). Zebra mussels are a particularly nasty invasive species now found in many watersheds in eastern North America. It’s not usual to find masses of these small, sharp-shelled little mussels encrusted over any submerged surface including rocks, anchors, dock structures, and even on other creatures such as this native freshwater mussel. I’ve even found them clinging to dragonfly exuviae. When numerous, they can impair other creatures to the point of making them immobile and/or unable to feed.

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6 Responses to “late autumn insect activity”

  1. Mark Says:

    Are all the ladybugs the same? I note some differences in color.

    I used to find huge clumps of ladybugs in my attic. One clump made a heaping double handfull.

  2. burning silo Says:

    Mark – Yes, those would all be Harmonia axyridis. There’s a terrific amount of variation in that species – colour ranging from a pallid pinkish-orange through to bright orange-red, and they can have few or many spots, and sometimes no spots. The pronotum tends to be quite distinctive though — usually white with a black “M” shape on it, although there’s even some variation there as well. Most of the time, when you see huge aggregations of lady beetles, they’re usually of this species, although I have seen aggregations of Coleomegilla maculata (a native species), but never in a building .. only in some grass on the lawn.

  3. Peter Says:

    I was surprised to find as many spiders (and traces of webs) as I did this mornings hike at a nearby trail. I know very little about what I should expect to find at this time of year though.

    I fractured a couple bones in my foot about 8 weeks ago, and haven’t been out hiking until today, it’s quite the contrast in insect life since the last hike.

  4. burning silo Says:

    Peter – Sorry to hear about your foot but good to hear that you’re able to get out hiking again! I’m still finding some spiders around too. Last winter, I found spiders on the snow (mostly species of ground and wolf spiders). I suspect that there are actually a number of species that remain active, especially when the weather is somewhat mild.

  5. Cathy Says:

    A very sweet elderly lady recently recounted an experience on the top of one of Hawaii’s mountains. An elderly gentleman was covered by a swarm of lady beetles and was so traumatized they had to seek medical help. Weird.

    Our country home sits atop a hill in central Ohio and the lady beetle problem is unending. If you vacuum them they stink – I’ve resorted to using a feather duster to knock them into sudsy water. This gets a little tiring as they congregate high up in the corners, so I’m standing on a foot stool – duster in one hand – splashing water in the other. There must be a simpler solution.

  6. burning silo Says:

    Cathy – I find it surprising to see how afraid some people are of insects, spiders, and other small creatures.
    The Harmonia axyridis lady beetles are considered to be quite a nuisance. I haven’t really heard of any good way to keep them from aggregating indoors. Your method of dealing with them is probably as effective as any I’ve read about.