Late last summer I had the great pleasure of attending my first couple of field trips with the St. Louis chapter of the North American Butterfly Association. Both of these walks were led by my friend, Yvonne Homeyer, the St. Louis chapter President. Yvonne is not only skilled and knowledgeable with butterflies but is an expert birder as well. These walks were held at Marais Temps Clair Conservation Area in St. Charles County, MO. I was thrilled to be able to get a number of first photographs of some fantastic species and was happy to do so while on a walk in good weather among friends. Thanks to all the participants who patiently helped me locate these insects and get the photos!
The common checkered skipper ( Burnsius communis), a simply dazzling member of the Hesperiidae family. These guys seem to love the white clover growing in the turf along the trails.
The southern dogface ( Zerene cesonia) in the sulfur family (Pieridae). This isn’t the greatest butterfly photo but I was happy to catch this with nice backlighting to showcase its namesake in the forewing. That bright face is said to look like that of a dog’s, specifically a poodle, as Yvonne informed me. Personally, I think it’s a dead ringer for Fred Flinstone!
Arguably the most striking butterfly in the state, we found a few bronze coppers ( Lycaena hyllus) F. Lycaenidae at Marais Temps Clair C.A. during these walks. I was very excited to find these and even more excited when we found a few cooperative enough to pose for some photos!
The dorsal view of the striking bronze copper ( Lycaena hyllus) F. Lycaenidae.
Another skipper for my collection! The least skipper ( Ancyloxypha numitor) F. Hesperidae, seemed to be relatively abundant during our walks but rarely stood still while I was around. With the help from the others on the walk, I finally found one that stayed still.
We found more than just butterflies on these walks. I love the blister beetles (Meloidae family) and I seem compelled to take their photos whenever I come across them even though I have shot these species time and again. Here is a pair of striped blister beetles ( Epicauta vittata) we found clinging to the vegetation.
I should have mentioned earlier that Yvonne is an expert on the dragonflies of Missouri as well. Here is a male blue-faced meadowhawk ( Sympetrum ambiguum) in the family Libellulidae.
This has to be one of my favorite finds on these walks, simply because it’s such a fantastic caterpillar and something that was completely unexpected. This is the smartweed caterpillar ( Acronicta oblinita), named for its preferred host plant on which we found a couple. This species will also use other plants as hosts. The adult moth that his guy transforms into is given the name of smeared dagger and is in the family Noctuidae. It became obvious to me that this species must have had a lot of selective pressure from parasitic wasps and tachinid flies. See those urticating protective hairs? The pale oblong ovals in the trough of the yellow on each segment? These are both adaptations to protect themselves from having eggs of these parasitoids laid on them as well as to deter predators like birds from having an easy meal. However, these protective adaptations don’t always work. If you look closely, you can see two real tachinid fly eggs on the second segment just behind its head. This looked to me to be a final instar of this caterpillar. Depending on whether or not the fly larvae had emerged, this cat may not be doomed.
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