License To Kill?

Fly on Jewelweed photographed by Jeff Zablow at Frick Park, Pittsburgh, PA

When we see them, don’t we stop and gaze? Robber flies look so confident, so fierce. I often puzzle over the competing thoughts upon seeing a robber fly. On the one hand we view them as formidable killers, and yet at the same time we don’t speed away from them, instead we approach them. Some of us have shared sidewalks with killers, and we knew to keep a good distance from them, as we heeded the warnings of our parents to stay away from New York City cops, then.

I’ve never seen a Robber Fly capture a butterfly, although I suppose they do. Have you ever seen a Robber fly with butterfly prey? The sight of a Robber Fly with a Monarch butterfly or a Zebra Heliconian butterfly would sadden us all, no?

The insects of our gardens, parks and wild habitat live as they do, with no obvious concern about the possible appearance of a Robber Fly. I think of that often, again reminiscing back to the streets of my childhood home, and the Connected guys who shared them with us.

This Robber Fly was dining on an insect, while comfortably perched on a large leaf in Frick Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Worried, it? No, no, no.

Jeff

There Go Those Dreams Of The Carefree Life Of A Butterfly

Praying Mantis photographed by Jeff Zablow in Traci Meadow, Fayette Township, PA

August each year brings on stage Argiope spider that build huge webs across meadow trails and Praying Mantises that wait, frozen in place, awaiting the arrival of a flying or crawling or jumping insect. Almost all of us think that butterflies live life of nectar, beautiful blooms and complete, utter freedom. No perils for them we think, they merely awake each summer morning, and spend the next hours floating from flower to flower, sipping sugar/protein-rich nectar. For those whose lives are  enough stressed, the life of a butterfly, caterpillar-chrysalis-adult? Ought to be so much better than work/family/shopping/bills/politics/not-so-nice-people.

This image of a Praying Mantis at Traci’s Kelso Swamp’s edge should end all of those ‘I wish I was a butterfly’ daydreams. Fly within reach of this Mantis, and a butterfly is doomed. I’ve watched praying mantises at work, and they are faster than the eye can follow and they don’t miss. Butterflies that fly in July to September face this threat, and if they swerve elegantly away from the Mantis attack, they risk flying, full speed into a nearby Argiope spider or Orb Weaver spider’s web.

These are natural checks and balances that control butterfly and moth population numbers, but finding a Monarch or a Tiger Swallowtail or an American Lady in the grasp of a Mantis is a real downer, for sure.

Traci’s Kelso Swamp, Fayette Township, southwestern Pennsylvania, USA.

Jeff

Dragonfly Tips? You’ve Got Dragonfly Tips?

Darner photographed by Jeff Zablow at Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, Florida

I have for these many decades admired Dragonflies. Never, in those 1,000,000 hours in the field, has a dragonfly ever bothered me. In an earlier post here, I retold the real life experience I had with one as a boy in Brooklyn. We lived on the edge of development in the 1950’s, and an undeveloped ‘lot’ was around the corner from my house. That’s where this Love of wildlife began, believe it or not.

One day, I, proud of my speed and street skills (I grew up on those streets, with very interesting friends, so to speak), decided to prove to myself that I was fast enough to catch a good-sized dragonfly in mid-air. Know what? I did, I caught a big one, that’s how fast I was. Arrrrrrrgh! The pain of it’s bite was unbelievable!! I respected my Connected friends and that morning, I came to respect dragonflies forever.

No dragonfly has ever bothered me since, despite the Disrespect that I showed to that East 57th Street dragonfly.

Now, 4 months in, at our home in North Macon, Georgia, the mosquitoes in our natives Georgia backyard are beyond nuisance. I want to put out a ‘Come On Down’ call to dragonflies to come and make this their home, come and daily devour your weight in mosquitoes. No chemicals Leslie, no chemicals. Dragonflies.

Please share what you know of how to attract dragonflies to our central Georgia yard. You’ve got dragonfly tips?

Oh, and this darner was seen at Big Bend Wildlife Management Area – Spring Unit, in Florida’s northern Panhandle.

Jeff

A Very Strange Insect from the HolyLand’s Mt. Hermon

Mantid photographed by Jeff Zablow at Mountain State Park, Georgia

I’d read of them before, but had only seen such once in the United States. A mantid that lacked wings, and moved about on the ground only. A mantid not capable of short flights.

Where did I see this? On the peak of Mt. Hermon. Too bad YOU were not with me. You too would have stared and stared at this insect, like me, wondering aloud, why hadn’t G-d finished H-s work on this critter? It just looks like there was more to be added, but just no time to do so.

This mountaintop at the northeastern corner of the HolyLand/Israel is mostly closed nowadays, kept closed by the IDF (Israel Army (Israel Defense Forces)). It’s those more than 50,000 Iranian soldiers, they masquerading as Syrian soldiers, down at the northern base of Hermon, that must be watched, carefully watched.

Today Yaron Mishan shared pics of his fieldwork there, on Facebook, on the top of the mountain. Mama Mia! how I wish I could have joined him and the several others, seeking among the rarest butterflies in the world.

Jeff

Warning: Not For The Faint Of Heart Series I Through IV

Black and Yellow Argiope photographed by Jeff Zablow at Powdermill Wildlife Refuge, Rector, PennsylvaniaBlack and Yellow Argiope 3 photographed by Jeff Zablow at Powdermill Wildlife Refuge, Rector, PennsylvaniaBlack and Yellow Argiope 5 photographed by Jeff Zablow at Powdermill Wildlife Refuge, Rector, PennsylvaniaBlack and Yellow Argiope 2 photographed by Jeff Zablow at Powdermill Wildlife Refuge, Rector, Pennsylvania

We show you now the full series of image captures of our Black and Yellow Argiope spider, after this grasshopper jumped into her web, and became entangled and stuck there. This female Black and Yellow had been stationed at the top of her web. I was right there, very close to the web, for more than 1/2 an hour. I was waiting to see what she would do when prey got caught in her web.

Once the grasshopper was trapped in the web, it’s struggling vibrated the entire web, and that’s when she rushed down to secure this hapless prey. She did not make contact with the grasshopper immediately. She did speedily wrap the grasshopper in new web silk, as you see in the top image.

In the second image, Mrs. Argiope now has the grasshopper fully wrapped with web, rendering it motionless.

In the 3rd image, Argiope now comes and makes contact with the traumatized prey, and in the last image, either injects venom in the prey or begin to consume the prey.

I was at the Powdermill Refuge Reserve in Rector, Pennsylvania. Owned and used for aviary research by the Pittsburgh Museum of Natural History, their several thousand acres in the lush Laurel Highlands of western Pennsylvania is an excellent refuge reserve.

Not for the faint of heart, yes, but I hope that the complexity of this series fascinates you as much as it does me. I’ve mistakenly walked into many Black and Yellow Argiope webs over these years, to my momentary Horror, but have never been mistreated by these ladies, though I destroyed their lengthy nighttime work!

I can also report that the webs of northern Black and Yellows taste no different from those of southern USA Black and Yellows, truth be told.

Jeff