late summer insect activity

a pair of Ambush Bugs (Phymata) in deep gold coloration of late summer

If it seems that I’ve been a little quiet lately, it’s true. As mentioned a few days back, after a hot, humid summer, I’ve been taking advantage of the cooler weather to do some house repairs and garden work. I’m just about finished the front porch rejuvenation project and about to begin replacing the fascia boards on the studio building. My walks in the fields and woods seem to be pushed back until early evening lately — not quite the best time to shoot insect photos. However, I did catch a few before sundown a couple of nights ago.

We haven’t yet had our first autumn frost. In fact, the forecast is for unusually warm weather for the next few days (25 to 27C, or 77 to 81F). Consequently, we’re still seeing many insects that will vanish after the first hard frost. Most conspicuous — at least to me — are the many pairs of Ambush Bugs (Phymata) that continue to be found clinging to the goldenrod or last of the the Queen Anne’s Lace flowers. At this point in the summer, they are now a very deep gold, with the males and females being easy to distinguish. The females are much larger and mostly gold, while the males have a dark marking like a hood over their front end (see above – click on all photos for larger view).

Milkweed Longhorn Beetle (Tetraopes tetraophthalmus)

Age and weeks of sparse rain has caused the milkweed leaves to turn yellow and leathery. The few remaining green leaves continue to attract insects to feed upon them. I’m still finding the odd Milkweed Longhorn beetle (Tetraopes tetraophthalmus) wandering around on the tops of the plants. They are difficult to photograph as they’re so very shy and will flip backwards and drop to the ground at the slightest hint of danger.

False Silver-Y Moth (Autographa pseudogamma)

I’m still finding some moths on the window screens at night, and also resting on plants in the field. I almost missed this moth — what I’m quite sure is a False Silver-Y Moth (Autographa pseudogamma) — as it looked so much like a dead, dried out leaf caught among the fluffy seeds of a goldenrod plant. I’ve photographed these before around the porch lights, but they look quite different when seen with wings folded during daylight.

Striped Garden Caterpillar (Trichordestra legitima)

Caterpillars may still be found feeding on tree and plant leaves, flowers and seeds. I discovered the above caterpillar — what I take to be a Striped Garden Caterpillar (Trichordestra legitima) feeding on a Curled Dock (Rumex crispus) plant. As in the above example, many of late season caterpillars are pigmented with autumn colours of yellow, brown, and deep maroon. By the way, if you’d like to see a cool caterpillar, do check out this post at the Dharma Bums.

Sabrina waiting patiently while photograph the pair of Ambush Bugs

Of course, what is a good insect walk without the company of my patient assistant? I believe she’s getting a little annoyed with me for spending so much time on house repairs instead of wandering around with her on the trails. This is really the best time of the year for hiking here in eastern Ontario. No mud, no deerflies or mosquitoes, and the temperature is just about perfect, especially for a Collie with a long, thick coat.

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10 Responses to “late summer insect activity”

  1. robin andrea Says:

    Your weather is so much warmer than ours. We’re having temps that are 10 degrees below average, and lots of rain. Still seeing some butterflies, moths, and caterpillars (thank you so much for that link, bev). You’re Milkweed Leghorn is quite a beauty, and I love that False Silver-Y moth. Isn’t it great to see such perfect camouflage?

  2. David Says:

    How is it that we can live a few hundred miles south of you and have already experienced 5 consecutive morning frosts?
    We are in Western Mass down here in the states.
    We are up a bit in those there Berkshire Taconics, with the land rising fairly steeply to our north and a small river across the street to our south.
    So all big leaf thinks (squash, pumpkins and the like) are dead. Tomatoes got thrown into every available container and now occupy most every surface in the kitchen. They are being reduced to sauce on the woodstove as we type (or live and breathe).
    Anyhow, I think of Canadian high as a pile of cold air.
    Are you protected by lakes to your west or what?

  3. bev Says:

    robin – I’ve been keeping an eye on the weather in the PNW and it’s definitely been cooler out there! I do enjoy seeing insects that are well camouflaged. If not for shape recognition, I think that many would go unnoticed.

    David – We’re having a warm September, but not greatly so for this time of the year. We can have fairly warm weather up until our Canadian thanksgiving weekend. Our farm is in eastern Ontario and is bordered by low mountains to the north of the city of Ottawa, and we have a couple of large rivers flowing through the region. We don’t really get that much of the “lake effect” from Lake Ontario up in our area, but if we were down more to the southwest (Kingston area), we would get some of that. It used to be that we would have a hard frost by mid-September, but last year, I don’t think we had one until sometime in October. Heavy frost doesn’t look likely in the next few days. The tomato plants in the garden are still okay and I haven’t covered them as yet. The only thing that is happening is that everything is getting dried out and I haven’t been watering the garden, so some of the plants have stopped growing.

  4. Ontario Wanderer Says:

    Interesting that frost has not hit you yet. We had our first light frost last Sunday here near Brantford, Ontario. It made for excellent running weather for the Terry Fox run.

  5. DougT Says:

    I’m surprised to see the longhorn beetle. We’re not that far away from you, and I haven’t seen one in weeks. They typically vanish by the last week in August down here- and stop being abundant by mid August. I was happy to see (but, alas, not photograph. Same problem you described) Tetraopes melanurus on butterflyweed in Michigan earlier this summer.

  6. threecollie Says:

    Great photos, glad you had a minute to get them….we have an odd situation here, in that creatures like box elder bugs are still not finished developing, rather than the adult form trying to stuff themselves into every nook and cranny of the house at this time of the season. We had a very late spring, which may be the cause.

  7. bev Says:

    OW – Actually, after I wrote this, Don mentioned that there was a very light film of frost on the windshield of his car earlier in the week. However, it didn’t seem to be enough to damage the tomato plants as they’re still looking fine. I haven’t bothered to cover them at all so far this year. I don’t see much chance for frost in the next few days as the weather is very warm here now.

    Doug – I was also a little surprised to see Milkweed Longhorns still out and about this late in the year, but there are still a few. They really are difficult to photograph. I believe I’ve got more shots of them lying upside down, legs folded up, playing dead, than I do of them walking around on leaves. (-:

    threecollie – Thanks! That’s very interesting about the box elder bugs not having matured just yet. That’s always interesting data to try to keep track of from year to year for the sake of comparison.

  8. Phantom Midge Says:

    Hey, that moth in the photo is the same kind that I found in the ladies’ room here at work the other day (someone had left the window open). After I carefully put the moth outside, I was going to try to ID it at home but forgot….so I’m so glad you had this post!

    I was very intrigued by its “hump”—which makes sense when you think about it looking like a curled up, dead leaf but when you see it on a white restroom wall not so much;-)

  9. bev Says:

    Phantom Midge – Getting an ID from another blog that’s writing about the same insect is always a neat thing. I’ve had the same thing happen on occasion too. I think the odd shapes of moths are mainly part of their camouflage, but I suppose they could have other purposes as well.

  10. david and jake Says:

    i like bugs too

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