06 June 2012

VNS May Field Trips: Insects, Part 1.

The insects station is, by far, the most active one in the spring. Sure, the hikes have lots of walking, but at the insect station, we wander around, run with nets, dump and scoop bugs with caution and speed, and work hard to draw and inspect. We don't really try to ID, but, as you will find, it is difficult not to know what to call a specimen we find. Naming something, however, is only part of the process, and  being able to describe it or draw it in detail is also important. Simply observing and marveling at something is worthwhile, too!

Christine W. helping with a multitude of bugs!
After the sometimes cold and often surprising weather of the first two weeks of field trips, things warmed up, the sun came out, and jackets were shed or tied around waists and we were able to focus on the bugs in the nets and crawling around on us. At least, in theory, we could focus. Sometimes we had insects in a bunch of places, which led to a multitude of things going on all the time.

This little guy is an Anthocharis stella, or a Stella orangetip, butterfly. Along the Pacific coast, the subspecies is a Sara orangetip, and the Stella was thought to be a subspecies; but recently, scientists discovered that the two (Sara and Stella) will cohabitate without hybridizing. You can tell the difference, I've learned, by the color of their marbeled underwing: Saras are darker grey-green, and Stellas are pale mossy-green.

In general, though, you can just call them all orangetip butterflies, if you'd like.

They are such beautiful little creatures! Variations of this species are found all over the world. In some, the females are white, like cabbage moths. In others, like these, both males and females have orange tips, but males have more pronounced dark borders on white wings, while females have a yellowish tint and lighter mottling on the underside of their wings.

Isn't that wing marbling neat?

Look at this grasshopper we found! He was bright green with brown legs, wings, and eyebrows. No really--he had eyebrows! It was very cool.

Now, there are at least 11,000 verified species of grasshoppers (Kevan 1982; G√ľnther, 1980, 1992; Otte 1994-1995; subsequent literature), but still, I'm going to go out on a limb and try to identify him. I think he's some sort of band-winged grasshopper. I didn't stretch out his wings, but if I had, I bet I would have found bands of color on them.

The kids absolutely had a blast! Look at these little naturalists!

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