Friday, July 24, 2020

Today's no walk report: 072420

A couple of posts back I complained about not seeing a normal frequency of swallowtail butterflies this year. Since then I seem to be getting daily visits but they generally disappear by the time I get outside with my camera. Of course they do. The attraction in the backyard is the Plumbago auriculata plants and unfortunately their flowers are rapidly dying back. Both the Papilio rutulus, aka, the western tiger swallowtail and the Papilio cresphontes or giant swallowtail, have a rather frenzied interest in the plumbago. This often makes picture taking somewhat challenging.

Plumbago flowers are loaded with very sticky trichomes so that may have something to do with the the butterflies agitated behavior. I got curious about the plant’s adaptation for this stickiness thinking, like many plants with sticky trichomes, that it must be a defense against insects and found some suggestions that plumbago may be protocarnivorous. However, most research seems to conclude that the actual purpose of the glandular trichomes is not clearly understood. One other note, larger insects like grasshoppers and katydids seem to love hanging out in plumbago.

This was the only decent shot I got this afternoon of a Papilio rutulus butterfly, thanks to the frenzy.

There’s one more reason for this post. It’s the first blog post I’ve done entirely on a mobile device (iPad). I found the process a bit cumbersome compared to working from a desktop computer but it wasn’t awful. 

I don’t typically do this but wtf. It’s August 2nd and I had afterthoughts about a couple of items. One was to add another shot of the Papilio rutulus butterfly just to show it with wings open. So here’s that...

I also thought I should better illustrate the Plumbago auriculata plant and highlight the glandular trichomes. Note the calyxes in the lower center of the image. These are extremely sticky resin-like exudates, the trichomes, that trap mostly small winged insects. 

Friday, July 10, 2020

Today's no walk report: 071020

Just because.

These are robber flies, quite obviously mating. They were going at it on the top of this 6' plant support, about a foot of which is in the ground. I don't believe I've ever seen robber flies here before. Best guess on these two is that they are Mallophora fautrix. They were close to .75" long, each, or about 2.5 cm. This is the only species in this genus in California. I got a little too close with the camera at one point and they flew off while remaining coupled together only to go back on the plant stake just a few inches lower. They remained in that spot for close to a half an hour, until I boinged the metal pole and they flew off, again without breaking their carnal embrace. Why did I do that? Well, I think that for the most part they are considered a beneficial insect but they do kill bees and also paper wasps. I didn't want any of that in my backyard.

This image is rotated. Be sure to click the images for a more majestic view.

That's all. Stay safe.
(psst, happy birthday!)