Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Creatures of the Night: A Peeper on my Porch, and Assorted Bugs

I have recently discovered that my front porch, at night, is awesome. More specifically, the bright light on my porch draws in all sorts of amazing nocturnal creatures that I wouldn't normally get to see, and that makes it awesome.

Last night, I decided to take the camera out to the porch to see who was visiting -- it turned out to be a party out there, with so many cool attendees! Perhaps not surprisingly, moths were making the strongest presence, in all sorts of different shapes. Here's a pretty standard moth to start things off, probably a cutworm moth of the genus Euxoa (I had some help from people on BugGuide.net in identifying these first three creatures):

The Euxoa moth was not big, probably about an inch or so long, but the rest of the moths I saw were tiny by comparison. This next creature is some sort of Crambid Snout Moth (family Crambidae), and those big pointy structures at the front of its head are not legs, as I originally thought, but mouth-parts called labial palps:

Towards the non-moth-like end of the spectrum is this tiny Casebearer Moth (genus Coleophora), with its feathery wings and long antennae pointing straight ahead:

And this fancy creature is an Ailanthus Webworm Moth (Atteva aurea):

The Ailanthus Webworm Moth is a native species, but strangely enough, its main larval food plant is the so-called Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima), an invasive species introduced from Asia that now gives the moth its common name. I looked up pictures of this plant, and sure enough, there's one growing across the street from my apartment. How interesting that a native species would benefit so well from the introduction of a non-native plant -- if these moths were a little more voracious, would they be able to keep the invasive Ailanthus altissima under control?

In addition to the moths, several other flying insects were joining in on the party as well. This little treehopper was observing from a nearby vine, making excellent use of its camouflage:

(Update 8/11/11: Now that I actually took the time to look this bug up, it turns out it's a planthopper, not a treehopper. And I can actually give it a species ID: Acanalonia conica (note the cone-shaped nose).)

A Green Lacewing (family Chrysopidae) was lounging on the wall -- lacewing larvae eat other insects like aphids, so they're good creatures to have around:

An Ichneumon Wasp (family Ichneumonidae) was hanging around as well:

And several of these small, shiny, deep-maroon-colored beetles were climbing just about everywhere. I'm pretty sure this is an Asiatic Garden Beetle (Maladera castanea), a species introduced from Asia (as the name implies):

After looking at all these assorted bugs -- so much diversity in such a small space! -- I then noticed the best guest of all. I happened to look over at the porch railing, and who should be sitting there, happy as can be, but a Spring Peeper:

I've never seen Spring Peepers outside of their mating season before, when they converge on ponds and low-lying brush and loudly (deafeningly) announce their presence, so it was a real treat to see one just climbing around and doing its froggie thing. And what an honor that it chose my porch on which to do it! This frog was teeny tiny -- it couldn't have been more than an inch long, which is small even by peeper standards. The Spring Peeper is one of only two species of tree frog that we have in Connecticut, and I love love love these guys!

As soon as I took that first picture, my camera died. But even after half an hour of charging the battery, when I came outside again, the frog was still there. I suppose this must be an excellent place for the little guy -- a veritable froggie-buffet, with so many bugs drawn to the light. And yes, I admit it, I'm a horrible person and I used a flash to get this next picture.... I hope the little fellow can forgive me!

Feel free to stick around as long as you like, little peeper!

I had so much fun doing this, I will probably make it a habit of checking the porch from now on. I'm sure I'm not the first person to think of looking for animals under a light at night, but it sure was an exciting discovery for me. :)

(P.S. Paul says the peeper's name is Kristoff... which is oddly appropriate considering the frog gets its Latin name (Pseudacris crucifer) from the cross-like markings on its back. Thanks for visiting, Kristoff, and I'm sorry if you're actually a girl!)


  1. Once again, I am amazed by the variety of small creatures in Connecticut! I definitely haven't been paying enough attention... maybe I'll leave my porch-light on tonight here in NJ...

    On porchlight buffets: my grandmother (now deceased) grew up on a cattle ranch in remote Valentine, Nebraska. She had fond memories of a "porch toad" who lived under the back porch of the farmhouse there. She figured it was the same toad every summer, because it was such an enormous fellow from eating all the bugs attracted by the porch light! I hope your peeper is a long-term visitor, too.

  2. Aw, a porch toad! I'll definitely be leaving the porch light on for a little while each night, and hopefully the peeper will stick around for the yummy bugs. Maybe he/she will get fat like your grandmother's porch toad. :)

  3. I want a peeper! But, no tree frogs in the UK :-(
    Lovely blog - made me smile.

  4. The wasp is both beautiful and scary!

  5. Very cool! When I was living in Georgia I loved to check the walls under the lights outside at night - I found the same sorts of critters as you, moths and lacewings and treefrogs.

  6. Mel: I'm sorry there are no tree frogs for you over there. :( If I could will some your way, I would!

    Heather: It is scary-looking, isn't it? Fortunately, ichneumon wasps don't/can't sting people. At least, I THINK that's true for all ichneumons... I'm not about to go handle one to find out for sure, though!

    Rebecca: I imagine you must have seen a bunch of cool tree frogs in Georgia. Connecticut really never struck me as a tree-frogs-climbing-on-your-house place, but there you go!

  7. I love love taking pics of my outside critters .. May - July
    I see a new one at least once a week.
    I wanted to share just a few of 'em but can only do texts .. no pics ;'( tear drops.

    We have some of the same ones you posted. The moths (not 3rd) Planthoppers, Treehoppers, Grasshoppers,
    We have frogs .. just different from yours.
    I have a pic of a beautiful green Tree frog.
    There was a cute little frog visited last night. 6.5.2016

    I saw a baby praying mantis today in the peach state.

    Thx for sharing!
    Prayers do work!