I can’t believe November is already here, but our prairies are certainly transitioning from fall colors to winter dormancy. There are still a few hearty insects hanging around, but it’s getting much harder to find them. Wildflower seeds are also disappearing – being blown off seed heads or consumed by birds, mice, or other animals. Here are four photos from the last week. No particular theme, just images that struck my fancy during a few quick prairie walks.
What are wooly bear caterpillars? I see them all over the West on highways and around our local river in the Sierra Nevada. Are they all the same species or just a common, similar looking form?
Great question. Woolly bear caterpillars are the larval form of tiger moths, and there are lots of different species.
Every photo is a miniature vacation to my heart. I enjoy them so much. Many Thanks!
The large milkweed bug – Oncopeltus fasciatus (last photo shows an immature one) is reputedly a migratory species, of which adults fly south in fall and re-colonize the colder parts of its breeding range each spring. I say reputedly because even as a quite interested insect watcher, I have never seen them in anything that looked like long-range, directed flight, but maybe they fly at night. I also am repeatedly surprised at how many immature ones remain to die in the cold each fall. It seems like a good opportunity for selection for cold tolerance, or (as in monarch butterflies) to enter reproductive diapause (gonads become inactive as the days shorten in fall, neither of which strategies has been realized in this bug species.
James, that’s fascinating – thanks for the info. I hadn’t heard that they might be migratory, and as you say, the number that stay behind doesn’t fit well with that strategy.