Currently viewing the category: "Gossamer Wings"
What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject:  Beautiful biting fly (with bonus Karner Blue)
Geographic location of the bug:  Albany Pine Bush, Albany, NY
Date: 07/07/2020
Time: 12:33 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Dear Bugman,
Susan B. here with another dispatch from the Albany Pine Bush! I was having a nice raspberry-picking expedition along the trail when a rather beautiful fly came along and landed on my finger. I was so enchanted by its incredible eyes that I failed to notice it had stabbed its proboscis right into my flesh! I shooed it away, and I still have a sore spot where it bit me. Any idea who this rude little creature was?
Astute viewers will notice that while I was dealing with the fly situation, I was also providing transport to another, equally beautiful but much more polite hitchhiker: a Karner Blue that had come along and landed on my finger a few minutes earlier. I’m pleased to say I managed to both photograph and shoo the fly without disturbing my other passenger, who stuck around, lapping up my sweat, for a good quarter mile of trail.
How you want your letter signed:  Susan B.

Deer Fly

Dear Susan,
Thanks for your highly entertaining query.  You have been bitten by a Deer Fly.  According to BugGuide:  “Adults feed on plant nectar; females on vertebrate blood; larvae carnivorous and detritus feeders.”  You described their “incredible eyes”, and this BugGuide image beautifully captures the details of the eyes of a Deer Fly. Blues are one of the groups of butterflies that frequently have “puddle parties” on damp earth, a behavior beautifully described by Vladimir Nabakov in his fiction, and scientists believe they derive important minerals from this behavior.  We suspect your salty perspiration fulfilled your Karner Blue‘s need for moisture and minerals.

Karner Blue

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject:  Karner blue butterfly
Geographic location of the bug:  Albany Pine Bush, Albany, NY
Date: 05/27/2020
Time: 05:43 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hi What’s that Bug!
Here’s a mystery for you. I’m quite certain this is a Karner blue butterfly, Plebejus melissa samuelis. You may be aware that our Albany Pine Bush in upstate New York is one of the few habitats this endangered subspecies can thrive, since its larvae feed only on the wild blue lupine that grows here. I saw quite a few Karner blues out among the lupines on this visit! None of our other local blues have that much orange along the wing, so it has to be a Karner.
The mystery: what the heck is going on with its abdomen? What is that orange stuff at the end? I thought it might be laying an egg, but as far as I can tell their eggs are light gray or white, not orange. And anyway it’s not on a lupine–I think the plant is a raspberry or blackberry. It stayed in this position for a couple of minutes before fluttering off, and I didn’t realize there was anything weird until I looked at the photos.
I’ll also include a better image of a different individual for your enjoyment. This little guy seemed to be more interested in lapping up my sweat than anything else–I tried to coax it onto a lupine, but it wouldn’t leave!
How you want your letter signed:  Susan B.

Male Karner Blue exposing his genitalia

Dear Susan,
Though we are quite excited to post your Karner Blue images, we will start with the mystery.  We don’t know what that is, but we suspect it is not a good thing.  We suspect this might be evidence of parasitism, possibly Dipteran, meaning a type of fly.  Though we don’t often site Wikipedia, it does provide this information “A tachinid fly,
Aplomya theclarum, has also been listed as a Karner blue butterfly parasite.”*  We will attempt to get a second opinion on this matter.  Meanwhile, we really are thrilled with your images of Karner Blues.  Not only was it described by one of Daniel’s favorite writers, Vladimir Nabokov, it is a new species for our site that currently contains over postings. 

Karner Blue

*Haack, Robert A. (1993). “The endangered Karner blue butterfly (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae): biology, management considerations, and data gaps”. In Gillespie, Andrew R.; Parker, George R.; Pope, Phillip E. (eds.). Proceedings, 9th central hardwood forest conference; 1993 March 8–10; West Lafayette, IN. Gen. Tech. Rep. NC-161. St. Paul, MN: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, North Central Forest Experiment Station. pp. 83–100.

Thank you so much for your reply! I was pretty excited to spot so many Karner blues that day—usually I don’t get out to the Pine Bush until later in the year, when they are scarcer. I’ll be going back early in the morning to see if I can catch them basking with their wings open.
That’s a good thought that the orange mass may be parasites. I hadn’t even considered that it could be somebody else’s eggs. I’ve sent the image along to the staff at the Albany Pine Bush to see if they can identify it for sure, and also so that they can document it, since they monitor all the happenings with the wildlife there.
Susan B.
Karner blue update—I heard back from the entomologist at the Albany Pine Bush regarding the weird orange mass on my Karner blue butterfly. Here’s her response (with her permission to share):
“Hi Susan,
Thanks for sending along the images! I have to tell you, what you are seeing there at the end of the abdomen is rated PG-13. What you captured is the genitalia of a male karner. They don’t usually flash them like that, it is unusual to see as they are usually kept internally until mating. An interesting thing to document, for sure! Thanks again for sharing.
Best,
Dillon”
What a relief to hear that I was only witnessing a bit of lepidopteran exhibitionism, and not a parasite infestation (fascinating though that would be)!
-Susan B.

Thanks for the fascinating update Susan.  It is interesting that Nabokov classified many of the Blues using a theoretical taxonomy that he devised after dissecting the genitalia of museum specimens.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject:  Butterfly vs. Moth?
Geographic location of the bug:  Big Sur, California
Date: 02/21/2020
Time: 10:17 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Dearest Bugman,
While on holiday in Big Sur I saw one majestic monarch and many lightly colored winged animals. I’m wondering if they are butterflies vs. moths, I seem to be thinking that moths are nocturnal, but these lovelies were sun worshipping yesterday near a waterfall not too far from the beach.
How you want your letter signed:  Melanie on the Irish Chain

Pacific Azures Puddling, we believe

Dear Melanie on the Irish Chain,
Your image is lovely.  Your sun worshiping Gossamer Winged butterflies are actually enjoying a mud puddle party, a common activity where certain butterflies gather at mud puddles, damp ground or occasionally fresh animal feces to obtain both moisture and minerals.  Your butterflies are Blues in the subfamily Polyommatinae, a group of that especially fascinated Vladimir Nabokov whose speculative taxonomy was proven in the fascinating book Nabokov’s Blues.  We hesitate to provide a species name since we just encountered conflicting information between BugGuide which only lists the Spring Azure as an eastern species and the Jeffrey Glassberg book Butterflies Through Binoculars, the West which does list the range of the Spring Azure,
Celastrina ladon, in western states and which states:  “One of the first nonhibernating butterflies to fly in the spring. Beginning February in Southern California.”  Here is a BugGuide image of puddling Pacific Azures, Celastrina echo.  

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject:  insect ID
Geographic location of the bug:  south central Virginia
Date: 07/31/2019
Time: 09:04 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Please help me identify this bug.  Thanks.
How you want your letter signed:  Marc

Atala Hairstreak

Dear Marc,
This is such an unusual sighting, that we are quite excited to post it.  A black butterfly with a red abdomen is quite distinctive, and we quickly identified at the Atala Butterfly on the Blue Butterflies page of the University of Florida Gardening Solutions site where it states:  “
The Atala butterfly (Eumaeus atala Poey) is a rare butterfly with a limited distribution in South Florida. The outside of the butterflies’ wings (when folded together) are deep black, with curved rows of iridescent blue spots. They have a bright red-orange abdomen. The open wings of the male butterflies feature an iridescent, bright blue, while the females have only small streaks of blue on the wings. Newly hatched caterpillars are very tiny and pale yellow. Over a day or two they develop into bright red caterpillars with yellow spots.  Atala butterflies suffered massive population declines in the early 1900s; early settlers nearly wiped out the Atala’s preferred host plant, coontie, for its starch. Today, Atala butterflies are considered rare, but the planting of coontie in butterfly gardens and as an ornamental landscape plant has helped the butterfly populations rebound a bit.”  According to Featured Creatures:  ” the Atala butterfly was thought to be extinct from 1937 until 1959 (Klots 1951; Rawson 1961). Although still considered rare with limited distribution, it is now found in local colonies where its host plant, coontie (Zamia integrifolia Linnaeus. f.), is used in butterfly gardens or as an ornamental plant in landscapes. ”  According to BugGuide where it is called the Atala Hairstreak:  “considered by FL to be a ‘Species of Greatest Conservation Need’ (SGCN).”  We are excited not only because of the rarity of the Atala Hairstreak, but also because though it is found in the Caribbean, North American sightings seem to be limited to southern Florida.  We cannot imagine how this gorgeous Atala Hairstreak found its way to central Virginia.  You might want to contact the Prince William Conservation Alliance and the Butterfly Society of Virginia to report your significant sighting.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject:  Marine Blue Laying an Egg
Geographic location of the bug:  West Los Angeles
Date: 07/23/2019
Time: 04:23 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hi Bugman,
It may be silly, but I can’t tell you how excited I am to get a picture of a Marine Blue laying eggs.  I’ve been watching them for years in my back yard and rarely ever see them sitting still.
How you want your letter signed:  Jeff Bremer

Marine Blue lays Egg

Dear Jeff,
Your image is great, and there is nothing silly about getting excited about getting an image of a Marine Blue laying an egg.  Was the chosen plant plumbago?  According to BugGuide:  “Caterpillar hosts: Leadwort (
Plumbago) and many legumes including alfalfa (Medicago sativa), milkvetch (Astragalus), and mesquite (Prosopis).”

Hi Daniel,
Yes, the plant is a Cape Plumbago. By the way, if you acquire a Cape Plumbago, I suggest it be kept in a pot.  I planted one in my back yard and it rapidly showed it’s intent on world domination.
I also tried to get a picture of the eggs, but they are so small, I cannot see them.
Jeff
Thanks for the gardening advice Jeff.  We have no plans to plant Plumbago, but it is flourishing in our neighbor’s yard. 
What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination
Subject:  mating Eastern Tailed-Blue Butterflies
Geographic location of the bug:  Occoquan NWR (Woodbridge, Va.)
Date: 09/07/2018
Time: 08:22 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hi Daniel,
I recently was lucky enough to see Eastern Tailed-Blue Butterflies and a pair of Thread-waisted Wasps mating, at Occoquan NWR (Woodbridge, Va.) on September 7th and Huntley Meadows Park (Fairfax, Va) yesterday, respectively, and I thought you might enjoy seeing the images. You are welcome to post these if you like, of course.
Best Wishes,
Seth.

Mating Eastern Tailed Blues

Seth,
Your images are lovely.  Please resubmit using our standard submission form at the Ask WTB? link on our site:  ask-whats-that-bug/
Please limit submissions to a single species per form unless there is a good reason, like a predator/prey relationship.
Thanks

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination