Rearing notes for our silver-spotted skipper (Epargyreus clarus) larvae. Originally found as larvae on black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) in Ithaca, New York.
Rearing Notes 8/31/17-9/??/17:
Rearing notes for our silver spotted skipper (Epargyreus clarus) larvae. Originally found as larvae on black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) in Ithaca, New York.
Rearing Notes 8/24/17-8/30/17:
After finding our first silver spotted skipper (Epargyreus clarus) larva yesterday, we went on another collecting trip and collected many more, among other lepidoptera.
Having figured out that the silver spotted sipper larvae can be found on the locust around here, we ventured out to Beebe Lake again today to find more. We made our way to the sunny part of the trail with locust that we were at yesterday and began searching for nests. At first we had trouble finding them, but eventually began finding a few. Soon after, we began to get good at spotting them and started finding them in large quantities - we had no idea they were so common!
Each plant had several larvae, usually of all different sizes, but mostly on the larger size (mostly fourth and fifth instars). The largest larvae we found we full grown fifth instars, which were absolutely enormous compared to other skipper larvae we have reared, weighing 1.3 g and over an inch long in length. The shelters of these giants were covered in silk, and practically looked like cocoons. We also found some quite small ones, one of which looked like a first instar with an empty egg shell nearby. The smaller larvae construct nests by cutting out a square of leaf (but not clipping it off completely) and folding it over themselves with a few thick strands of silk. We probably found about two dozen by the time we left the locust and moved on.
As we continued on the trail, we caught plenty of different interesting insects we had never seen at home (not that there really were any insects back there), mostly the common grasshoppers, some colorful beetles and true bugs, a few damselflies, and of course a storm of heminopterans at the flowers. As for lepidoptera, we mostly just saw cabbage whites and skippers (just like home), but as there was a lot of milkweed among the wildflowers, we did spot a full grown fifth instar. Unlike home where the only milkweed you ever see is the introduced tropical varieties (A. curassavica or tuberosa) in people's gardens, the milkweed here is native and common in natural areas. We've also noticed that monarchs here don't seem to be quite the same as the ones back home - there seems to be more variation in the size of the butterflies we've seen, and in general they seem smaller. The larva we found today looks a day or two from pupation and it is probably only two thirds the size of the ones back home (though if it is parasitized, that could explain it).
Near the end of the trail, we spotted a large Arctiid larva crawling rapidly across the gravel. It looked about and inch and a half long and was covered in long orange hairs. We didn't know what species it was at first, but after collecting it and taking a closer look, it appeared to be the larva of the slat marsh moth (Estigmene acrea), a species we had encountered back home as well. It was most likely crawling rapidly along the ground in search of food (they're extremely polyphagous).
After establishing the dominant local skippers (Hesperiidae) as the silver spotted skipper (Epargyreus clarus) and the least skipper (Ancyloxpha numitor), we stumbled across some of their immatures.
After just one week of arriving here in Ithaca, we've already seen so many silver spotted and least skippers along the trails of Beebe Lake and other natural areas. The silver spotted skipper feeds on locust (which is extremely abundant here) as a larva, so we figured that it'd be likely that we could find some on it. The least skipper, on the hand, is just another one of those countless grass skippers that feed on certain grasses. We see them flying around grass and we found a first instar on our first walk along Beebe. We never kept that one, but tried looking for them again.
The collection took place this afternoon along Beebe, and was actually part of our lab for our entomology class, but since this is a personal blog, we'll try to keep collections for course work to a minimum in these posts, and mainly focus on just the things we catch and raise for fun. While hiking along the trail, we made our way to the sunny area that starts midway down where there is grass for the least skippers and isolated black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) ideal for finding larvae. We first went and took a look at the grass as there were least skippers flying about them as always. After a brief search, we couldn't spot any nests with larvae inside, but we did find a bright yellow egg.
Next, as we past the locust while busy collecting other specimen, we just so happened to spot a gorgeous yellow-green silver spotted skipper resting in its silk nest in the locust leaves! The larva was quite large and was probably fourth instar, and had the characteristic skipper appearance, with a very narrow "neck" (prothorax), and a large, round head with orange spots. The abdomen was very plump and striped in green. The nest was built like other skippers we have seen, with thick strands of silk holding the leaves together into a loose cocoon like structure. It reminds us of quite a bit of the Erynnis tristis larvae we reared last summer at home, they are not closely related. We collected the larva and brought it home to rear rather than kill for our entom class. Hopefully we'll find more of them later on our own time, as they should be very common based on the abundance of the adult butterflies.
After locating rue (Ruta graveolens) at the Cornell Botanic Gardens, we were able to find eastern giant swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) larvae.
After our first trip to the Cornell Botanic Garden yesterday, we realized that many butterflies such as Papilio cresphontes and troilus are common and still in flight here. Thus, on our visit today, we tried to locate some of their hosts in order for to attempt getting eggs out of the females we caught yesterday, and also to find any larvae or eggs that might be on them.
At first, we spent a long time trying to find troilus hosts, spicebush (Lindera benzoin) and sassafras (Sassafras albidum), but we simply couldn't (makes us wonder why the butterfly was even here??). We later asked one of the workers there who told us there wasn't spicebush in this section of the garden, but there was some in the arboretum, but that was far from here and a storm was due in half an hour.
We then quickly moved on to searching hosts of the Rutaceaea feeding cresphontes. We knew there was some lemon trees (Citrus limon) there, but they were small and not very good, so there wasn't much hope of finding eggs or larvae on it. Instead, we tried looking for hop (Ptelea trifoliata), prickly ash (Zanthoxylum americanum), or rue (Ruta graveolens). Based on the Botanic Garden plant database, there was no prickly ash and the few hop trees they were supposed to have were apparently in a different section quite far from where we were looking. We thus forgot about the hop and prickly ash and tried to find some rue, which they supposedly had three patches of in the herb section.
After searching for probably much longer than we should've (half an hour at least?), we located two of the three patches, which in retrospect were actually just in plain sight. We quickly scanned the first patch, but surprisingly found no eggs or larvae, despite that the butterflies (both sexes) were always flying around the garden (while we were searching, we actually caught a male cresphontes drinking nectar, though we have little use of him). When we got to the second patch, we were delighted to see that there was a second instar sitting right in front of us on the upper side of a leaf. We eagerly searched the pants for more, but all we could find was a dead second instar on a leaf (no idea what the case of mortality was). The single live larva was good enough for us though - we had never seen the larvae of this or related Heraclides group species in real life until now. The larva is a perfect dropping mimic (much more convincing than other Papilio larvae we have seen), being shiny with blotches of white on the dorsum of the abdomen and rear. The thorax is also extremely enlarged and shaped like a snake head. We collected the larva in a dish and started heading back as the storm was beginning.
While looking for the cresphontes and troilus hosts, we spotted a bunch of the common stuff again, like melanoplus and band-winged grasshoppers, monarchs, skippers, red-spotted purples, etc. There were also a terrifying amount of Heminoptera and Diptera here compared to at home, with probably hundreds (thousands?) swarming the flower bushes in the garden.
We also took a few shots of the garden right before we left if you were wondering how it looked.
We went hiking at Beebe Lake in Ithaca, New York for the first time and found a handful of species we had never encountered before.
It's been a few days since we posted anything because we have been so busy moving in to our new home in Ithaca, New York. And because we haven't had any insects on us.
Today we finally got the chance to go out and get our feet wet again. Cornell University is a huge place known for its natural beauty; there are plenty of natural areas to explore. The first place we went was Beebe Lake, which is the closest place to our dorm. There is a trail that circles the lake covered in trees and wild flower nectar plants.
The first things that we photographed were least skippers (Ancyloxypha numitor) which is eerily similar yet completely different that any of the grass skippers we had back in California. The least skippers are very small with long and skinny bodies, which is the complete opposite of the extremely heavyset Californian skippers. This seems to be a common trend when comparing the butterflies of the two regions. We saw at least three of the least skippers circling a patch of wild grass that were most likely females or males looking to court females. We expected there to be eggs, but did not find any; instead, we discovered a first instar larva rolled up in a nest. The way that the nest was fashioned (a few separate white strands going from one side of the blade to the other) and the appearance of the larva is all very similar to the umber skippers (Poanes melane) that we have reared in the past.
Although less common than the skippers, we did come across a few hairstreaks, including this eastern-tailed blue (Cupido comyntas). At least that's what we think it is.
Another common skipper we found was the silver-spotted (Epargyreus clarus). These things are huge--much larger than any skipper we have ever seen—and quite attractive. The larvae also look amazing and feed on locusts, such as the black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) that is everywhere on campus. We hope to find some one day.
Right next to the skipper above, we found a duo of mating hoppers. We believe they are red-legged grasshoppers (Melanoplus femurrubrum), which makes them in the same (huge orthopteran) genus as the devastators (Melanoplus devastator) that we had back in California. The trail actually seems to be thoroughly invested with these grasshoppers and other orthoperans (we hear a ton of chirping in the night and throughout the day). There are some large grey ones that are extremely strong flyers. Their wings are black with white margins when spread. They should be the Carolina grasshopper (Dissosteira carolina).
When we made it half way through the trail and decided to head backwards, we found a young tussock moth larva that must of had fallen from a nearby tree. We took a guess and put it on a black walnut (Juglans nigra). We believe the larva could be the white-marked tussock (Orgyia leucostigma), also placing it in the same genus to the species we had in California (western tussock [Orgyia vetusta]).
Ithaca, New York
This timeline is a series of daily posts recording our observations and experiences with various insects around the Cornell University campus in Ithaca, New York, starting from the time we moved here in 2017. As this this a personal blog, we try to keep collections for our entomology course work to a minimum, and mainly focus on just the species we catch and raise for our own fun and interest. Posts prior to this time can be viewed at Timeline 2012-2017: Albany, California.
Full Species List
(Alphabetical by scientific name)
* New York nonnative/resident
** New York nonnative/nonresident
Full Species List
(Alphabetical by scientific name)
* New York nonnative/resident
** New York nonnative/nonresident
Butterflies & Moths
Great spangled fritillary
Virginia creeper sphinx
White-marked tussock moth
Grasshoppers, Katydids, & Crickets
Carolina band-winged grasshopper
Cornell Botanic Gardens
Mundy Wildflower Garden