Nina M. Zitani, 14 February 2013 Photo: black swallowtail butterfly, Papilio polyxenes, June 2011, London, ON
When was the last time you saw a black swallowtail butterfly in your garden? (When was the last time you saw a black swallowtail butterfly anywhere?). The new banner art features this stunning native butterfly from our biodiversity garden in late spring 2011. In the lower right corner of the image you can see one of the distinct black-centered, orange eye-spots that are characteristic of the hind wings of black swallowtails. This species is considered common, yet we have seen only two or three in the four years we have been growing our biodiversity garden. Their caterpillars feed mainly on the leaves of species in the carrot, or parsley family (family Apiaceae). They are one of the few native North American butterflies whose caterpillars successfully feed on non-native plant species, such as the invasive and noxious Queen Anne's lace (Daucus carota). As development of our lands increases, habitat for butterflies and other wildlife decreases. Can we depend on our governments to protect enough land to provide sufficient habitat for our native wildlife? Think about the idea of providing butterfly habitat in your own back yard. This spring, plant Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea), a species in the carrot family that is native to southern Ontario, and a food source for the black swallowtail caterpillar. You could have this gorgeous butterfly in your garden this year!
Moths of an Andean Cloud Forest
Nina M. Zitani, 14 February 2013 Photos: 2010 - 2012, Yanayacu Biological Station & Center for Creative Studies, Ecuador
One moth mimics a bumble bee, another mimics a leaf. In the slide show below I share some of my personal observations of tropical biodiversity, and attempt to qualitatively portray one aspect of biodiversity -- species richness, or the total number of species in a given area. Tropical forests have the greatest species richness of all ecosystems on Earth. For example, one hectare of tropical forest supports many more species of fungi, bacteria, mammals, plants, insects, etc. as compared to a hectare of temperate forest, or a hectare of any other ecosystem on Earth.
For the past three years I was one of the instructors of a field course, Tropical Cloud Forest Ecology, given by the University of Wyoming, USA. The course took place at Yanayacu Biological Station & Center for Creative Studies, near Cosanga in the north-eastern Andes of Ecuador (elevation ~ 2100 m). (You can read more about the course on Jennifer Donovan-Stump's website). The photographs were taken over a ten-day period in May or June of each of three consecutive years (2010, '11, '12). Photographing insects was not part of my job, so I did it when I had a spare moment, which was not often. The slide show depicts about 50 species in the insect order Lepidoptera, commonly called moths. Numerous lepidopteran families are represented, including Arctiidae, Saturniidae, Geometridae, Nymphalidae, and others. The photographs are just a glimpse of the incredible diversity that occurs in a relatively small patch of Andean cloud forest.
Most of the images were taken at a light trap. Each night we set up a standard light trap for collecting insects (a white sheet with lights in front of it, which you can see in two of the images). Many types of nocturnal insects, especially moths, eventually make their way to artificial lights at night. It is hypothesized that they intend to navigate by moonlight, but cannot tell the difference between the moon and our electric lights. When they attempt to navigate using our nearby artificial lights they end up spiraling inward toward the source, thus appearing to be "attracted" to the light. In reality, our artificial lights confuse them, and interrupt their ability to navigate the night sky. Once they arrive at the light, they are again confused or "tricked" into daytime behavior, and the white sheet provides a convenient place for them to roost. For humans, it facilitates observation and collection. Most mornings and some nights I quickly snapped some pics of the many animals on or near the sheet. I present only the best of my images here; there were many more species that I was not able to photograph well due to wind, humidity, the insect's position on the sheet, etc. And I simply didn't have time to photograph the hundreds of species on the sheet each day.
Also included are several images of butterflies from the forest. (Butterflies are moths, just fancy, day-flying moths with clubbed antennae). In two shots a butterfly was taking nutrients from a dead toad (look for the proboscis - the butterflies' mouthpart that is a sucking tube for obtaining liquid food - touching the carcass of the toad). Finally, I include a few nice shots of caterpillars, the immature forms of moths. In two of the caterpillar shots you will notice white cocoons stuck to the outside of the larvae. These cocoons contained pupating parasitoid wasps in the family Braconidae, subfamily Microgastrinae (that fed internally as larvae, then chewed their way out of the caterpillar's body prior to spinning their cocoons). The caterpillars were still alive and could move around, but were slowly dying. They remained alive until the wasps completed their development and emerged from their cocoons, then promptly died.
Take a moment from your busy day and gaze upon these wondrous creatures of an Andean cloud forest. A picture says a thousand words. Looking at a simple visual representation of a small part of the lepidopteran fauna of Yanayacu gives an appreciation of Earth’s greatest treasure -- Biodiversity.
Spectacular fall color of flowering dogwood, Cornus florida
Flowering dogwood, "Cornus florida", in our biodiversity garden in London, Ontario, 7 October (photo: N. Zitani)
American Snout Butterfly, Libytheana carinenta
American snout butterfly (Family Nymphalidae) in our biodiversity garden, London, Ontario, 4 August 2012 (photo Greg Thorn and Nina Zitani)
Carolina grasshopper, Dissosteira carolina
Carolina grasshoppers mating, 15 July 2012 (photo Nina Zitani)
Swamp Rose Mallow, Hibiscus moscheutos
(All photos N. Zitani, 27 July 2012, London, Ontario)
The honey bee (Apis mellifera), or European honey bee, is a common sight these days in our biodiversity garden in London, Ontario. Pictured above, it is covered in pollen and rests on swamp rose mallow, our native Hibiscus (see more images below). Although it is an important pollinator, the honey bee is not native to North America, but to Europe, Asia and Africa. Our native insect pollinators include hundreds of species of native bees, wasps, flies, butterflies, beetles and other insects. Native insect pollinators are in decline in North America due to habitat loss and other factors, and they need our help. A biodiversity garden provides critical habitat for our native pollinators, and a healthy ecosystem for humans as well. Start your biodiversity garden by planting just ONE native plant species in your garden today!
Last updated 26 April 2013
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