Daddy long-legs, aka harvestman (Leiobunum townsendii) 30-JUL-10
These arachnids huddle together beneath the overhangs of the limestone ledges in the south valley at Gault. If you blow on them, they pulse up and down together like waves. Note the chert nodule in the background (lower right).
Queen butterfly (Danaus gilippus) 5-AUG-10
These are often mistaken for monarch butterflies, but these have white spot patterns on the interior of the wings, which monarchs lack.
Robber fly (Laphria ephippium) 18-AUG-10
This rather large fly buzzed around the tent until we directed it out the door.
Wheel bug (Arilus cristatus) 11-OCT-10
Regulars at the picnic tables, these are fond of crawling on diners. We use caution when handling them, as they can bite (or rather pierce your skin with their beak), and they have the ability to emit a foul scented spray when agitated.
Red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii) 15-OCT-10
These 'crawdads' share Buttermilk Creek with frogs, fish and turtles, among other critters.
I try to convince people to gently evict these occasional visitors to the tent and fieldhouse. Some are not convinced, and use more corporal means of eradication.
Red admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta) 14-MAR-12
red admirals are fond of flying into the tent, but can't seem to find their way out. Anna and I released a dozen or more on this day.
Feral honey bees (Apis mellifera) 26-MAR-12
This large colony was exposed when their hollow tree split. They quickly went to work moving the larvae and honey to a new location, a process that has lasted nearly a week so far. I received a couple of warning taps shortly after snapping this shot.
Crane fly (Tipula sp.) 31-MAR-12
A wet spring has yielded atypically high numbers of crane flies. These harmless flies look like giant mosquitos. You can see one of its halteres (the little 'leg' with a 'ball' on the end) just below the upper wing. These appendages evolved from full wings (the ancestors to two winged flies had four wings, like a dragon fly), and help the crane fly maintain balance in flight.
Checkered skipper (Pyrgus communis) 31-MAR-12
One of the smaller varieties of butterfly commonly seen at Gault.
Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) 07-APR-12
Most late summers, dozens of these beautiful insects carpet the field at Gault. In 2011, however, there were far fewer. The drought can be blamed, since the grass these two lit upon last year didn't grow this year, nor did the nectar-producing plants on which they feed during their passing-through on to Mexico.
Clouded sulphur butterfly (Colias philodice) 07-APR-12
These green-eyed butterflies don't open their wings except in flight. They are one of the most comon species at Gault.
American lady butterfly (Vanessa virginiensis) 07-APR-12
Another common species at Gault, these look similar to several other species, but can be identified mainly by the spots beneath the wings (pictured below).
Common buckeye butterfly (Junonia coenia) 07-APR-12
The "eye" spots on the top surface of the wings are the key to identifying this butterfly.
Pipevine swallowtail butterfly (Battus philenor) 07-APR-12
An occasional visitor to the thistles at Gault, this showy butterfly always stands out.
Giant mayfly (Hexagenia limbata) 07-APR-12
This colorful insect was fond of a volunteer from Austin High School, though she didn't share the sentiment.
Question mark butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis) 07-APR-12
The summer form of this butterfly has this dark brown lower wing, while the winter version is more orange. Its name comes from a white marking on the underside of the lower wing (pictured below).
These tiny butterflies amused the Virginians at lunch with their decoy behavior. When lit upon a flower, they rub the back wings alternately to mimic an insect head, with the orange spots resembling eyes and the hair-like tails resembling antennae. This type of butterfly keeps its wings together when not in flight, but one decided to pose open-winged for the camera (below).
These emperors share their ruddy color patterns with the related tawny emperors (Asterocampa clyton) and many other butterflies (including some in this blog), but the eye spots on the upper wings are characteristic. Apparently fond of cheese sandwiches, a tawny emperor hung out with the Virginians for lunch one spring day.
Mourning cloak butterfly (Nymphalis antiopa) 28-APR-12
Mourning cloak have visited the tent at the end of the work day for the last few weeks. They usually find their own way out, but this one had to be captured and released.
Roseate skimmer (Orthemis discolor) 09-MAY-12
With the thistles waning, so too are the butterflies being trapped in the tent. Dragonflies, however are getting stuck more frequently.
Eastern pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis) 11-MAY-12
This is one of the more colorful, and one of the largest dragonflies at Gault.
Mormon cricket (Anabrus simplex) 18-MAY-12
Mormon crickets are one of several shield-backed katydids found in Central Texas. This one was chillin' outside the tent.
Carolina wolf spider (Hogna carolinensis) 24-MAY-12
More commonly seen at Gault are the Rabid Texas wolf spiders (Rabidosa rabida), pictured below, but that may be because the Carolina wolf spiders blend into the background better.
Rabid Texas wolf spider (Rabidosa rabida) 03-JUN-12
This one was climbing walls in the tent, even with one leg missing.
Common whitetail dragonfly (Libellula lydia) 03-JUN-12
This is one of the more common dragonflies at Gault, though they rarely sit still for the camera.
Giant walking stick (Megaphasma dentricus) 09-JUN-12
These insects are fond of grape vines, although they've been known to hang out in the tent. They are the largest walking sticks in North America.
Differential grasshopper (Melanoplus differentialis) 31-AUG-12
The grasshoppers have returned, taking over the valley once again. This is by far the most common species. This one in particular enjoys being in the tent.
Yellow garden spider (Argiope aurentia) 01-SEP-12
This female spun her large web with its zig-zagged stabilimentum just beneath the screens, and didn't seem to mind our intrusive activity. Shortly after this photo was taken, she captured an insect meal, amusing some volunteers (and me, too).
Carolina mantid (Stagmomantis carolina) 20-SEP-12
Several praying mantis species occur in Texas, and this is one of the more common species in central Texas. This guy was hanging out under one of the screens.
Giant swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) 29-SEP-12
By far the largest butterfly to visit the tent, this one couldn't find its way out, so we captured and released it shortly after this photo was taken.
Goatweed leafwing (Anaea andria) 09-OCT-12
There are far fewer butterflies at Gault in the fall than in the spring, but they can be every bit as colorful.
Salt marsh moth (Estigmene acrea) 25-JAN-13
Some moths are as stunning as butterflies. Salt marsh, or acrea moths are found all over the country, but can only be seen this time of year in Texas and southern Florida. In their caterpillar form, of course, they are considered pests.
Luna moth (Actias luna) 18-MAR-13
Speaking of stunning moths, we were lucky to see this beauty at lunch today... though they are the largest North American moth, they only live for about seven days. In Texas, there are up to three generations per year, this being the first.
Red paper wasp (Polistes carolina) 18-MAR-13
We take the bad with the good. While they generally go about their business, wasps in the tent can get into places where we need to be. Red wasps have a very painful sting. I was stung a few years back by one that had lit upon the zipper to a tent window... one that I had hastily grabbed to close up the tent late in the afternoon!
Mike found this 3 inch grub while cutting up the old fallen pecan trees south of the creek. The male adult beetle has three "horns" around its head.
Black and yellow mud dauber (Sceliphron caementarium) 10-JUN-13
We're getting some help cleaning off the bedrock. If I had antenae, I'd curl them when I dig.
Eight-spotted forester moth (Alypia octomaculata) 05-APR-14
This colorful little moth was hanging out in one of the buckets. The caterpillars are bright orange and white, with spots and stripes. Maybe we'll see one later in the year.