25 June 2011

Naming names

I went up to the hayfield today, to see whether any Monarch caterpillars had hatched out on the common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) plants which grow around the edges of the field.

The milkweeds are popular with many creatures and the first one I saw today was very strange: a sort of wasp/praying mantis hybrid.

It took a bit of digging around, but eventually I ID'd it as a Wasp Mantidfly, Climaciella brunnea (yes, it's obvious, once you know...).

There weren't any caterpillars to be seen. I noticed some attractive white flowers on my walk. These ones are (I think) field chickweed (Cerastium arvense):

And this small shrub is gray dogwood (Cornus racemosa). Later in the year, the flowers are replaced by pale green berries, popular with the birds. I'd noticed the berries before, but not the flowers.

There are two small swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) plants near the pond. As I passed them, on my walk back home, I noticed that there was a Monarch caterpillar on one of them. Actually, there were two - the camera picked up a second one (on the top right of this shot) which I didn't notice at the time.

I don't know why it's so important to me to know the names of all these things. They're just as attractive or interesting without a label, but there's something very satisfying in tracking down their identities...


Diana Studer said...

Your wasp/mantid looks like something invented for an April Fool joke. Entirely unlikely, and yet it does exist!

Esther Montgomery said...

Really pleased to see your characterful and science-fiction style wasp mantidfly.


Lisa said...

That wasp is fascinating! We planted milkweed for butterflies, but they haven't found it yet. However, we've successfully raise quite a few Anise Swallowtail butterflies, from caterpillars we found on our garden fennel. Last year, we left them unprotected and the birds ate them all. This year, we kept them in a reptile tank.