It finally feels like Spring time in Ithaca, New York!
For a few weeks now, we have been noticing the plants around here starting to make a move, such as the lengthening of the branch tips on trees. The weather, however, has only just made a permanent break. Now it seems like almost everything is fluorescing!
Around our dorm:
Grassy area behind our dorm:
Beebe Lake and Mundy Wildflower Garden trail:
Unfortunately, we don't actually have much to rear at this time when the leaf quality of the plants are at their peak;the nitrogen to carbon ratio and nutrients of the new growth is unmatched and, depending on the plant, contains less or more toxins. We only took our pupae out of cold storage recently since it is best, of course, to only take pupae out when one is sure that the temperature is favorable and there will be leaves to feed. Presumably, this is how pupae would operate under natural conditions as well.
Brian Liang is a student at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York pursuing an undergraduate degree in entomology. He is co-owner and a main contributor of the Liang Insects blog, insects articles, and site design.
The falls in Ithaca are very colorful.
It's mid October and the leaves here in Ithaca have been starting to change color and drop. As California natives, we had never known that fall could be so attractive and colorful, since back home, most trees were either evergreen or semi-evergreen, and any trees that did drop their leaves weren't very colorful. Here in Ithaca, however, virtually all the trees here are deciduous besides the conifers, creating a beautiful display of colorful leaves. Walking down the Cornell campus, there was a huge spectrum of colors from green, yellow, orange, to red. The reflection of the trees in the water of Beebe Lake was spectacular. The crabapple trees also have a very ornamental appearance now that their leaves have fallen but their fruit have not.
At this time of year, there doesn't seem to be many insects around anymore. All the more common ones (hymenopterans, dipterans, etc.) are still fairly common, but collecting has definitely become much harder even when the weather in warm and sunny. As far as leps, there aren't really any flying except cabbage whites, clouded and orange sulfurs, monarchs, and recently, painted ladies. There are still some small moths left as well.
Rearing notes for our spicebush swallowtail (Papilio troilus) larvae originally found as larvae on spicebush (Lindera benzoin) at Mundy Wildflower Garden in Ithaca, New York.
Rearing notes 8/27/17-9/7/17:
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 salt 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.
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]).
We took many photos of Beebe Lake on our first hike around it.
The first two shots were taken near our townhouses, but the rest are of Beebe Lake and the trail around it. The plants and wildlife truly are completely different then from back home in California, and in general, we get the sense that their much more diverse here. For some of the insects we saw, see Insect Sightings on Our First Hike at Beebe Lake and for the plants, see A First Look at the Plants on Cornell University Campus.
The lake is incredibly beautiful and clear, and the trail is full of life (nothing like the half dried lakes and dead grass trails typical of natural areas back in Albany California). It's just incomparable to the places back home. There is just so much more wildlife, especially insects - butterflies, grasshoppers, bees, etc.; we see them everywhere and they are far more diverse here than at home, where you're lucky to even encounter some of these insects at all. The plants here are just amazing as well - everything here is so green and vigorous, rather than scraggly and dried out. Starting to think we really missed out back in California (all that dry weather and urbanization is probably to blame...).
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 is 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.
June 2018 (2)
May 2018 (17)
April 2018 (2)
January 2018 (2)
December 2017 (8)
November 2017 (1)
October 2017 (5)
September 2017 (25)
August 2017 (18)
Full Species List
(Alphabetical by scientific name)
Papilio polyxenes asterius × Papilio zelicaon
Full Species List
(Alphabetical by scientific name)
Butterflies & Moths
Common checkerspot skipper
Great spangled fritillary
Milkweed tussock moth
Salt marsh moth
Virginia creeper sphinx
Western tiger swallowtail
White-marked tussock moth
Butterfly & Moth Hybrids
Black swallowtail × anise swallowtail
Grasshoppers, Katydids, & Crickets
Carolina band-winged grasshopper
Lesser meadow katydid
Sword-bearing conehead katydid
Two-spotted tree cricket
Cornell Botanic Gardens
Mundy Wildflower Garden
Albany, California Updates