Leucism in Lepidoptera

Albinism and leucism are rare in Lepidoptera. If you google “Albinism and Leucism in Lepidoptera” you’ll find thousands of photos of mammals, birds, and reptiles, but only a scattering of leps, some of which are white species, not leucistics. The obvious exception is a white luna moth, which is normally green. But the photo is labeled “Albino,” while the dark ocelli stand out on all four wings. It is a leucistic. Leucism is caused by recessive alleles that don’t produce the normal pigments. Albinism is an extreme case of this in which all of the alleles are dysfunctional.

I found a Vanessa cardui that is partially leucistic, feeding with hundreds of normal morphs on Chrysothamnus bushes. I show it here with a normal form below.

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Moths New to the Pikes Peak Region

This summer I was able to set blacklight traps in several localities. In addition, several other enthusiasts in the region posted photos of moths from bioblitzes or from National Moth Week blacklighting. This resulted in 34 species new to the Pikes Peak Region by my count. This brings my total reference collection to 2073 species. The projected total species is close to 3500, so it’s not surprising that we’d turn up quite a few new ones. Records new to this region are listed here, with Hodges numbers and sources, which, if not named, are my own records this summer.

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Siricids, Crab Spiders, Mimetics! Oh, my!

This morning in the flower garden I found a Siricid, a horntail wasp, a large male, crawling slowly up and down the raceme of a flowering mint. Soon I discovered, beneath him, a second male of the same species, and they seemed to be in some sort of competitive ritual. But, whoa! The surprise is that the smaller male hasn’t moved much because…DSC04521.jpg

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Did you see it? After watching them for about three hours, during which time the larger one continued wandering up and down the stalk, I noticed that the smaller one was moving only very slightly. I didn’t realize it until I enlarged a photo afterwards. Then I went back for a better look. Yikes! A crab spider!DSC04518.jpg

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Crab spiders are generalist predators that roughly match their substrate, so they qualify as “aggressive mimics.” The phenomenon is also known as “mimesis” when the model is inanimate, or at least not another similar species. Background mimics or cryptic species are mimetics.

 

Late Season, Pikes Peak

This late in the season (September 2) many animals have lived their lives and have left offspring to hibernate through the winter. In terms of insects, little is flying now compared with mid-July. But here are a mating pair of Mountain Blues (Agriades rustica) and a third, an onlooker. They should have gotten a room. Yarrow blossoms are pretty exposed.DSC04386.jpg

And the late-blooming Rudbeckia plays host to quite a few butterflies and even a wasp. I’ll put some determinations on these when I get them. The butterflies are, clockwise from top, the zephyr anglewing (Polygonia zephyrus), Milbert’s tortoiseshell (Nymphalis milberti), and again, the mountain blue (Agriades rustica). Tiger beetles are having a great time of it on the damp sand above Glen Cove.

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This, I think, is a Sphecid:DSC04403.jpg

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And in the rockslides I found four marmots, looking a lot like rocks, sunning themselves and barking at me.DSC04320.jpgDSC04340.jpgDSC04341.jpgDSC04343.jpg

Adelpha! My fourth sighting in thirty years of observation.

Adelpha bredowi, the Sisters butterfly, is a species of the southwestern U.S. and Mexico. By 1981, Ferris and Brown had recorded specimens from eight Colorado counties, mostly in the southwestern corner of the state, but including El Paso and Douglas.

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Although the foodplant is oak, which is abundant here, the species does not appear to thrive this far north. I never found it in my early years (1959-1983), but it has shown up four times since 2001. One of these records was a dead specimen on a street in Broadmoor (29 August 2003), where it was killed by a passing car. Two others are from Bear Creek Canyon (2 June 2001 and today, 25 August 2017), and the fourth is from an ephemeral pond immediately west of the large, disused landfill northwest of Bear Creek Road (26 June 2005). The June and August dates might suggest a double brooded species, or it might have a very long flight period. My suspicion is that as the autumns get longer and the springs get earlier, this species might be more often encountered here. I paid for this spectacular find, however, by stepping in a yellow jacket nest. They got me five times before I could escape. Here it is on my forearm, twenty-four hours later, even after aloe vera and benadryl cream. Geez.

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Baculite Mesa, Pueblo County, a great place for bugs and spiders.

Here’s a few photos and a short video of trying to coax a tarantula out of her burrow.

Baculites are fossil cephalopods that formed long rod-shaped “bones,” much like the inner shell of a modern squid. The largest ones may be several feet long, but here at Baculite Mesa they are mostly small specimens.DSC04123.jpg

Here is one of the several preying mantises we found, a male.DSC04128.jpg

And the group, working on the tarantula burrow. We found several at home, but not eager to step into the sunlight.DSC04105.jpg

Here is a mating pair of Phyciodes picta, a desert version of the foothill pulchella. It seems to be common in Pueblo County. We found scores of them.DSC04119.jpg

And a whiptail lizard, apparently sleeping through our disturbances.DSC04129.jpg

And even birds, although besides the pond-side doves and killdeer, there were few. Here’s a rock wren, the best photo I could get as it kept moving.DSC04121.jpg

Moth Traps and Fisher’s Alpha Index of Diversity

Here is a one-night collection of moths from Rock Creek, taken with a small blacklight trap late in June, 2008.

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It includes about 120 species. By contrast…

For those of you who were there, and curious, and for others who may find this of interest, my little moth trap in Rock Creek on the night of 12 August captured a measly 50 species and 169 individuals. This is a very poor night by any measure. But it all adds up. When I combine several nights (all better than this one) I find a current total of 260 species and 2494 individuals. This produces a Fisher’s Alpha score of 73, which can be used to further estimate the moth biodiversity of this site. Because each doubling of the sample size would theoretically increase the species numbers by (0.693)(alpha), doubling the sample size 50 times, which would mean an exhaustive study, estimates about 2789 species.

A similar study done at the Catamount Field Station south of Woodland Park produces a Fisher’s Alpha score of about 56. Doubling this sample 50 times produces an estimate of about 2227 species of moths. This is close to theoretical, as species diversity diminishes with altitude. Rock Creek is at about 6000 feet, while Catamount Field Station is close to 9000 feet.