Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Green Ladybugs - Spotted Cucumber Beetles




"Green Ladybugs" honey bees and butterflies feast on thistle nectar high in the Great Smoky Mountains. These pretty green ladybugs, are not really ladybugs at all, but Spotted Cucumber Beetles! They are native and non-invasive and normally live quiet lives in the forests and meadows doing little damage, but when they invade backyard gardens and farms they become a serious agricultural pest. There really are no greenish ladybugs - ladybugs are more "rounded" and have very short antennae compared to the cucumber beetles.

Those Aren’t Green Ladybugs!
If you find little chartreuse-colored beetles that look like ladybugs
scurrying around your vegetable garden or in among your roses, they’re
not your friends! Most likely they’re western spotted cucumber beetles,
Diabrotica undecimpunctata.
Cucumber beetles are very common pests in vegetable gardens and may
also attack ripening stone fruit. The western spotted cucumber beetle is
greenish-yellow and has twelve black spots on its back. Sometimes confused with predaceous lady
beetles, they can be distinguished by the antennae - lady beetle antennae are short and stubby; while those of cucumber beetles are long and threadlike. Adult beetles are shiny with black heads; larvae are whitish and slender with three pairs of short legs; the head and tip of the abdomen are darker.
Adults feed on the leaves of many vegetables as well as on soft fruit,
shoots and blossoms. They may also spread cucumber mosaic virus or
wilts in cucurbits. Larvae feed exclusively on roots, but do not generally
damage garden plants, although corn may occasionally be damaged.
Management of cucumber beetles is difficult. Most older plants can
support substantial numbers without serious damage. The best strategy
for most vegetable gardens may be to place protective cloth over
emerging plants and remove it when plants are old enough to tolerate damage. On stone-fruit trees, early harvest may be the only option. Various general predators are known to attack cucumber beetles. http://ucanr.edu/sites/MarinMG/files/147777.pdf

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Green Ladybugs - Spotted Cucumber Beetles



Aeroplankton - Plankton In The Sky!



Look Up! The air above us is alive with billions of tiny organisms called "aeroplankton" just like the plankton in the oceans.  Hundreds of feet above the forested valley floor the nearly horizontal rays of the setting sun briefly illuminate this amazing atmospheric soup for just a few minutes. Some of this soup consists of tiny insects and spiders that bats and birds eat. It is always there carried on the air currents, but is rarely seen except under unique circumstances such as this. 
Aeroplankton (or aerial plankton) are tiny lifeforms that float and drift in the air, carried by the current of the wind; they are the atmospheric analogue to oceanic plankton.

Most of the living things that make up aeroplankton are very small to microscopic in size, and many can be difficult to identify because of their tiny size. Scientists can collect them for study in traps and sweep nets from aircraft, kites or balloons.

The aeroplankton comprises numerous microbes, including viruses, about 1000 different species of bacteria, around 40,000 varieties of fungi, and hundreds of species of protists, algae, mosses and liverworts that live some part of their life cycle as aeroplankton, often as spores, pollen, and wind-scattered seeds.

A large number of small animals, mainly arthropods (such as insects and spiders), are also carried upwards into the atmosphere by air currents and may be found floating several thousand feet up. Aphids, for example, are frequently found at high altitudes.

Many species of spiders deliberately use the wind to propel themselves. The spider will find a vantage point (such as a branch, fence or surface) and, pointing its abdomen upward, eject fine threads of silk from its spinnerets. At some point, the force exerted by moving air upon the silk threads is great enough to launch the spider into the air. This is called ballooning. Such ballooning spiders (e.g. Linyphiidae) are capable of drifting many miles away from where they started. The flexibility of their silk draglines can aid the aerodynamics of their flight, causing the spiders to drift an unpredictable and sometimes long distance.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aeroplankton

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Aeroplankton -  Plankton In The Sky



House Wren Song



Male House Wren has claimed a nest box and has a mate and spends much of the day loudly singing his upbeat gibberish song for all Backyard birds to hear. These are delightful little birds to have around as they constantly scold anyone who enters "their territory" while mating and raising their young. Often producing two broods a season these little birds eat a prodigious amount of insects and spiders. 

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House Wren Song

Loudest Woodpecker Drumming - Mini Documentary



World's Loudest Woodpecker Drumming and Pecking! Northern Flickers use real man-made steel drums - metal chimney caps - that makes them intelligent "tool-users" and likely among the loudest woodpecker drummers in the world. But loud doesn't begin to describe what the 15-minute long drumming and calling sessions sound like  inside the house whose chimney top is used as a drum. Enjoy this short documentary and imagine what this sounds like at the break of dawn as a male Northern Flicker defends his territory, mate and nest box!

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Video: Loudest Woodpecker Drumming



Black and White Warbler



The elusive Black and White Warbler -  a first time capture for me! Much like a nuthatch, the Black and White Warbler works rapidly up and down the bark of trees exclusively for its meals. Although the video is short and quality less than normal due to rapid motion of the warbler it does show its characteristic feeding behavior and its feet adapted just like a nuthatch for spending time on the trees. This is a bird in a hurry finding as many small bugs on the bark and branches of trees as it can in a short amount of time.

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Black and White Warbler



Large Carpenter Bee Sounds - Close Up



A Large loud female Carpenter Bee is looking for a place to start a nest in wood. They generally avoid treated deck lumber as in this case, but they spend considerable amount of time looking. She does a nice little dance in the process. Only the female can sting, but generally they are very "friendly" bees and tolerate me taking video just a few inches away and often hover near people with no ill will intended, just curious. The problem is they make nests by tunneling into wood, however I have never had them do any damage to houses etc. as their numbers appear small. Often people trap and kill them, but another option is to make or buy houses for them and see if they will adopt them, they are after all native bees and are by nature excellent pollinators.

In America north of Mexico, the subfamily Xylocopinae is composed of two genera, Ceratina (small carpenter bees) and Xylocopa (large carpenter bees). These bees get their common name from their nesting habits: small carpenter bees excavate tunnels in pithy stems of various bushes; large carpenter bees chew nesting galleries in solid wood or in stumps, logs, or dead branches of trees (Hurd and Moure 1963). The large carpenter bees may become economic pests if nesting takes place in structural timbers, fence posts, wooden water tanks, or the like.

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Large Carpenter Bee



Saturday, May 28, 2016

Tent Caterpillars On Apple Tree




Tent Caterpillars On Apple Tree

Eastern Tent Caterpillars invade an Apple Tree. This "tent" of caterpillars is easily spot treated with insecticide on this small tree limiting their damage to the foliage.
The eastern tent caterpillar (Malacosoma) is a species of moth in the family Lasiocampidae, the tent caterpillars or lappet moths. It is univoltine, producing one generation per year. It is a tent caterpillar, a social species that forms communal nests in the branches of trees. It is sometimes confused with the gypsy moth and the fall webworm, and may be erroneously referred to as a bagworm, which is the common name applied to unrelated caterpillars in the family Psychidae. The moths oviposit almost exclusively on trees in the plant family Rosaceae, particularly cherry (Prunus) and apple (Malus). The caterpillars are hairy with areas of blue, white, black and orange. The blue and white colors are structural colors created by the selective filtering of light by microtubules that arise on the cuticle.

Tent caterpillars are among the most social of larvae. The adult moth lays her eggs in a single batch in late spring or early summer. An egg mass contains about 200 to 300 eggs. Embryogenesis proceeds rapidly, and within three weeks, fully formed caterpillars can be found within the eggs. The small caterpillars lie quiescent until the following spring, they start to chew their way out of the eggs just as the buds of the host tree begin to develop.

The newly hatched caterpillars initiate the construction of a silk tent soon after emerging. They typically aggregate at the tent site throughout their larval stage, expanding the tent each day to accommodate their increasing size. Under field conditions, the caterpillars feed three times each day, just before dawn, at midafternoon, and in the evening after sunset. During each bout of feeding, the caterpillars emerge from the tent, add silk to the structure, move to distant feeding sites en masse, feed, and then return immediately to the tent where they rest until the next activity period. The exception to this feeding pattern occurs in the last instar, when the caterpillars feed only at night. The insect has six larval instars. At the last stage, the caterpillars disperse and each constructs a cocoon in a protected place. The adult moths, or imagoes, emerge about two weeks later. They are strictly nocturnal and start flying after nightfall, coming to rest within a few hours of dawn.[1] Mating and oviposition typically occur on the day the moths emerge from their cocoons; the females die soon thereafter.

Tent caterpillars, like many other species of social caterpillars, vigorously thrash the anterior part of their bodies when they detect predators and parasitoids. Such bouts of thrashing, which may be initiated by a single caterpillar, radiate rapidly through the colony and may result in group displays involving dozens of caterpillars. Such displays create a moving target for tachinid flies, wasps, and other small parasitoids that would lay eggs on or in the body of the caterpillar. They also clearly deter stink bugs and other timid predators. Groups of caterpillars resting on the surface of the tent constitute aposematic displays. Few birds other than cuckoos find the hairy caterpillars palatable. Cherry leaves are cyanogenic and the caterpillars regurgitate cyanide-laden juices when disturbed.
Tent caterpillars secrete silk from a spinneret wherever they go, and frequently-used pathways soon bear conspicuous silk trails. As the caterpillars move about the tree, they largely confine their movements to these trails. They lay down pheromones along the trails by dragging their abdomens. Caterpillars that find food may overmark the exploratory trails they follow back to the tent, creating recruitment trails. Recruitment trails are much more attractive to its brethren than exploratory trails, and serve to lead the group directly to the newest food source. A single successful forager can recruit the entire colony to its food find.

The exact identity of the trail pheromone of the eastern tent caterpillar has not yet been determined, but the chemical 5β-cholestane-3-one has been shown to be fully competitive with it. Caterpillars readily follow trails of this chemical, even abandoning their own trails in favor of artificial trails prepared with the compound.
source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_tent_caterpillar

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Northern Flicker Woodpecker Calling and Drumming



Male Northern Flicker woodpecker calls and drums to attract a female to the Screech Owl nest box he has claimed as a nest site. He is a gorgeous yellow-shafted variety common to eastern North America with a call similar to a Pileated Woodpecker, but weaker and higher pitched.  The call ringing through the forest almost brings to mind the sounds of a tropical jungle.
This brown woodpecker flashes bright colors under the wings and tail when it flies. Its ringing calls and short bursts of drumming can be heard in spring almost throughout North America. Two very different-looking forms -- Yellow-shafted Flicker in the east and north, and Red-shafted Flicker in the west -- were once considered separate species. 
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Northern Flicker Woodpecker Calling and Drumming

Graveyard Falls North Carolina 4K Video UHD Motorola Droid Turbo 2


Graveyard Falls North Carolina

Graveyard Fields is a very popular hiking spot on the Blue Ridge Parkway (Milepost 418.8). The Yellowstone Prong is the watersource for two waterfalls in a mile-high valley filled with wildflowers and surrounded by Blue Ridge mountains with 6,000-foot peaks. The area got it's name years ago from the tree stumps and surrounding trees that looked like grave stones in a graveyard setting. The trees were toppled by a huge wind several hundred years ago. Then in 1925, an intense fire burned the recently logged area, and the forest has been slow in recovering since. This provides a stark contrast to most hiking in the Asheville area.
- See more at: http://www.romanticasheville.com/graveyard.htm#sthash.3o7zoxpL.dpuf

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Rose Breasted Grosbeak



Rose Breasted Grosbeak

Close-up of beautiful male Rose-Breasted Grosbeak stopping by in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. This is the extreme southern end of their breeding range.

The rose-breasted grosbeak's breeding habitat is open deciduous woods across most of Canada and the northeastern USA. In particular the northern birds migrate south through the United States east of the Rocky Mountains, to winter from central-southern Mexico through Central America and the Caribbean to Peru and Venezuela. The southern limit of its wintering range is not well known; it was for example only recorded in the Serranía de las Quinchas (Colombia) in the 1990s. In winter, they prefer more open woodland, or similar habitat with a loose growth of trees, such as forest edges, parks, gardens and plantations, ranging from sea level into the hills, e.g. up to 5,000 ft (1,500 m) ASL in Costa Rica.

The first birds leave the breeding grounds as early as August, while the last ones do not return until mid-late May. In general, however, they migrate south in late September or in October, and return in late April or early May. It appears as if they remain on their breeding grounds longer today than they did in the early 20th century, when migrants were more commonly seen in May and August than in April or September. The rose-breasted grosbeak occurs as a very rare vagrant in western Europe. [14] During breeding it is fairly territorial; in winter, it roams the lands in groups of about a handful of birds, and sometimes in larger flocks of a dozen or more.

The rose-breasted grosbeak forages in shrubs or trees for insects, seeds and berries, also catching insects in flight and occasionally eating nectar. It usually keeps to the treetops, and only rarely can be seen on the ground. In the winter quarters, they can be attracted into parks, gardens, and possibly even to bird feeders by fruit like Trophis racemosa. Other notable winter food includes Jacaranda seeds and the fruits of the introduced busy Lizzy (Impatiens walleriana).[15] In grosbeaks from the north-central United States and southern Canada, it was found 52% of the stomach contents were comprised by invertebrates, predominantly beetles; 19.3% was made up of wild fruits; 15.7% by weed seeds; 6.5% by cultivated fruits and plants, including peas, corn (Zea mays), oats (Avena sativa) and wheat (Triticum vulgare); and the remaining 6.5% by other plant material, including tree buds and flowers.[16]


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