Currently viewing the category: "Nabokov"

Locals say a bite from this can change your gender!
May 7, 2010
Hi! I live in a rural, arid farm area in northern Ghana. In just the last few days, a friend who lives down the path from me has been visited at night by several of these arachnids in her home, a simple cement structure which is not very well sealed. They have ranged from 2-4 inches long, and I have seen them brown, reddish-brown, and black. They tend to run very quickly around the perimeter of the room, during which time they wave around their long, fat feelers that look like ‘fake legs’ when they are stationary. We showed this picture to some of the local people and got a range of responses, including the idea that if it bites a person, their gender will be changed! One suggested that it will come up to you while you are eating, and when you run away in fear, it will eat your food. More believable, though, is the idea that if it bites you, you can become sick, so if you see one, you just have to… well, get rid of it somehow:) We’d love to know what it REALLY is and if we really are in danger from it. Thanks for your input!
North-eastern corner of Ghana, West Africa

Solpugid from Ghana

Dear Valerie,
Your letter gave us quite a chuckle.  This is a Solpugid, a type of Arachnid in the order Solifugae which is profiled on BugGuide.  They are commonly called Sun Spiders or Wind Scorpions, though they are neither spiders nor scorpions, nor do they have venom like spiders and scorpions do.  In the Middle East, American soldiers refer to them as Camel Spiders, and the crazy stories about them have returned stateside.  One of our most popular letters is accompanied by an awesome photograph that went viral about four years ago.  [IDEA FOR FICTION:  Titled The Gadfly:  Bugman channels famous entomologists, theorists and authors including Kinsey, Darwin and Nabokov.  This is the first piece of fiction written by Daniel Marlos with the exception of a short story with a biblical theme in The Curious World of Bugs.]  We are highly amused by the sex change rumor, though we suppose it is a good excuse for anyone desiring corrective surgery for gender reassignment.  We would not want to be bitten by a large Solpugid as we are certain the bite will draw blood, but since there is no venom, the only lasting harm is the pain.

Attention … Great Spangled Fritillaries mating
Hi Bugman:
Here are a few photos of mating Great Spangled Fritillaries (Speyeria cybele) for your collection. They were taken on a perfect sunny afternoon last weekend in southwest Manitoba, along a forest trail in mature aspen parkland. The key identifying features of this species are the reddish background color on the underside of the wing, except for the relatively wide and clear yellow/cream band between the last two rows of silver spots on the underside, and the lack of any black spots or dashes on the base (inside of the long squiggly black line) on the upper side of the forewing. Apart from these features most Greater Fritillaries (genus Speyeria) are very similar and difficult to tell apart. I believe the curious intruder was another female (males are generally paler than the females). Keep up the great work! Regards.

Hi again Karl,
Thank you for your gorgeous photos and the concise species identification information for the Great Spangled Fritillary.

Update: (07/30/2008) Speyeria cybele pictures
I noticed the Speyeria Cybele pictures on your front page, I think the identity of the male and female is mixed up. Speyeria cybele females are generally paler than males, especially westward and the color of the disc is a little richer brown. More generally in the genus Speyeria males of most species including cybele have darker scaling along the forewing veins, so I think in the top picture the female is on top while the male is on bottom and in the second picture both of the butterflies showing their topsides are males.

Response: (07/31/2008)
Thanks Mike.
You were quite correct and I did have the sexes reversed. I should have checked again. To add to your comments, many references do say that the female of the species is darker topside, but this is an overall visual effect caused by the heavier black (or dark brown) markings on females relative to males. The orange background color is always more vivid in the male. This difference is only slight in Manitoba, but increases as you go west, as you suggest (in Alberta the females can be almost black and white). Good call, and thanks again.

Ed. Note: (08/01/2008)
Choosing our Bug of the Month each month is sometimes a difficult decision, but we try to use a very recently submitted photo. The photos that Karl sent of the mating Great Spangled Fritillaries are positively gorgeous, and they brought back fond memories of the Dog Days of Summer in Ohio, and the numerous Fritillaries that would visit roadside wild flowers like milkweed and Joe Pye weed among others. These beautiful and noble butterflies were also among the favorites of Vladimir Nabokov, one of our favorite authors.

need Identifacation of Butterfly
Hi, I live in South Florida and found this beauty getting a little sweet drink from my hummingbird feeder. I have never seen this one and was unable to find the name. Thanks for any help.

Hi Dave,
In our opinion, the Red Admiral is the most fearless of butterflies. We also love that noted author and amateur lepidopterist Vladimir Nabokov liked to call this lovely butterfly the Red Admirable.

What kind of butterfly?
Your site is awesome! After reading all the different kinds, I thought maybe this was a skipper. This butterfly let me take many pictures, even landing on my leg for a few shots! I really enjoy this picture on the pine leaves. (It looks better upside down!) We live in Elk River, MN, about 36 miles NW of the Minneapolis. Seems we had a lot of butterflies this July, 2007!

Hi Joyce,
This fearless butterfly is a Red Admiral, though we are quite fond of author Vladimir Nabokov’s name of Red Admirable.

Hi Bugman,
Your help in identifying these two flutterbys would be much appreciated. The golden one is a puzzle. The color looks drab but the wings, when open in the sunlight, are a brilliant gold. At first, I assumed that the black beauty was a black swallowtail. Now, I’m not so certain. Could it be a pipevine or spicebush swallowtail? I’d like to label my pictures correctly. Several of these have been swooping about in our garden this year. I’ve noticed that they tend to chase, or harass, the tiger swallowtails. Friendly or hostile behaviour . . . . would love to know. So glad I discovered your helpful site . . . I hope my pictures will help others “put a name to the face!” Thanks!
Susan B. Naumann

Greater Fritillary Spicebush Swallowtail

Hi Susan,
We must begin by chastising you for not providing us with a location. We do not even want to attempt to identify your Greater Fritillary to the species level without that, and even with a location, that is difficult. One of our favorite writers and amateur lepidopterists, Vladimir Nabokov, has written extensively on this genus in his awesome novel Ada. Suffice to say your Greater Fritillary is in the genus Speyeria. The swallowtail is, we believe, a Spicebush Swallowtail based on the spot patterns. Your photos are quite lovely and a welcome addition.

Hi again, Bugman!
Thanks for the quick response! I apologize for omitting such important information. My Greater Fritillary and Spicebrush Swallowtail pictures were taken in Connecticut. Glad to have the name/spelling correction, too (Spicebrush).

Hi Susan,
Based on your follow-up, we have changed the spelling to Spicebush Swallowtail, though we have seen both spellings in use. This is probably a carryover from our youth, when we referred to this as a Spicebrush Swallowtail. Spicebush Swallowtail seems to make much more sense.

Eastern Tailed Blue
Good evening Mr. Bugman,
I just discovered your site today, and as an inveterate 1. namer, 2. shutterbug (didn’t find that one on your site) and especially 3. macro fiend I was more than delighted! I’ve already ID’d several ‘bugs’ that had been bugging me. Thank you so much. I’ve attached 5 photos – 4 I know, and one I’d like to confirm. I live in Orange County, VIRGINIA – the north central piedmont of the state. All photos have been taken within a 4 mile radius of Orange, VA (county seat). If you don’t object, I’ll send others of insects you don’t appear to have – and maybe a few that I need help with. I just don’t want to overdo it in my enthusiasm for your site. What a great service, and I’ll add that no insects are harmed in the photographic process. They are either in the wild or occasionally found deceased, although no deceased ones in this group. Eastern tailed blue (Everes comyntas) – sitting on a blade of grass (June 2005) Thanks again for the wonderful site!
Best regards,
Orange, VA

Hi Lynne,
We are overwhelmed by all the images you sent in. In the future, please send only one image or one species per letter. It makes our lives so much easier. Thanks so much for expressing your enthusiasm. The Lycaean Blues, like this Eastern Tailed Blue, were among the butterflies written about by our favorite novelist, Vladimir Nabokov.