Sunday, August 19, 2012

Creatures of the Night: Moths, Leafhoppers, and More

There seems to be an endless parade of creatures who come to my porch light at night, and whenever I step outside and look around, there's pretty much always something new and interesting to see. Here's a selection of some of the awesome creatures (mostly insects) I've met on my porch over the past several days.

I think of leafhoppers and their relatives as primarily daytime creatures, so I'm still always a little surprised when I see these guys under the lights. This Speckled Sharpshooter (Paraulacizes irrorata) is pretty weirdly shaped compared to other leafhoppers I see more commonly around here, but it's also very cool looking -- its bulky head reminds me of a snake:


Two very pretty species of planthoppers have made several appearances as well -- Acanalonia conica:


And its paler, almost ghostly cousin, the Northern Flatid Planthopper (Anormenis chloris):


Every once in a while, I get another glimpse of a Green Stink Bug nymph (Chinavia hilaris), which I first noticed on my porch a couple weeks ago. This one has its sucking mouth part stuck right in the stem of this bean plant -- mmm, plant juices!


Another stink bug, though, I definitely wasn't happy to see:


This guy is a Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (Halyomorpha halys), an invasive species introduced from Asia only in the last dozen or so years -- according to the internet, those white bands on its antennae are a good way to distinguish it from similar-looking native species. This is the first time I've seen one of these bugs in Connecticut, but they've been a horrible nuisance for my family in Maryland in the past couple of summers -- they get so numerous that my dad has taken to vacuuming them off the back porch, and they get pretty much everywhere (in windows, in the dog's long fur...). Not to mention the agricultural damage they cause. So yeah, it's not a great situation, and I'm not at all pleased to see them in my yard.

But there have been plenty of other, happier bugs around, too, including several very pretty moths. I'm always amazed at how even all-brown moths can have just the coolest, most intricate patterns. This Adjutant Wainscot (Leucania adjuta) has some pretty awesome stripes when you get up close to it:


Even bolder was this carpet moth (I'm not sure the exact species):

 
(Update: A kind person on Bugguide.net helped identify the above moth as a Toothed Brown Carpet (Xanthorhoe lacustrata).)
 
And two American Idias (Idia americalis), a darker and a lighter individual, showed off some interesting variations on a striking design:




Finally, I'm not the only one benefiting from the bug-attracting qualities of the light. A few medium-sized spiders have set up webs in the corners around the door, and they seem to pretty much always have something on hand to eat:


I love expanding my knowledge of the huge variety of creatures who pass through our yard, and a porch light is a great way to get some of those creatures to come to me!

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