Category Archives: Insects


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The cure for Pickleworm is apparently a whole lot of poison. You can use organic poison, but that’s still what you’re doing. Otherwise, cry a lot, use row covers, and cry some more.

I am hoping to grow Gem Squash next year, and have planned to grow nothing BUT so that I get seeds for saving, and I’m REALLY hoping they fruit before the pickleworms arrive.

Macro photos!

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So I have taken approximately eleventy million macro photos and have been mostly posting them on Livejournal, so here is a quick roundup so that you can see them too!


Gray Hairstreak on False Ox-Eye Daisy (and man, those things have been really popular with the bugs!)


Pure Green Sweat Bee


Little Glassywing Skipper (probably a male, I am told)


This spectacular Red Spotted Purple actually landed on my pants! (You should have seen me trying to photograph it. I was graceful. Like moose.)


A Halictus sweat bee!


This handsome devil is a Zabulon Skipper! (Zabulon is a town not that far away, actually.)

I am enjoying the macro lens enormously and have added half a dozen new species to the yard list just from submitting stuff to It is the best.


By | Insects, Stuff In My Yard | No Comments



Found this guy (and a bunch more like him) making leaf nests in the Amorpha fruticosa, aka Tall Indigo-Bush. He is either a Silver-Spotted Skipper, or a Hoary-Edge Skipper–they’re nearly identical and while Silver-spotted are common, there have been a crapload of Hoaries around the garden this spring, which is somewhat unusual. So I am leaning toward the Hoary-Edge Skipper, though in other years, I would’ve leaned t’other way.

Once I’d photographed him, I returned him to his bush, tucked in where the birds and wasps hopefully won’t get him. It was rude to clip his little nest open, but rude for science.

I am staring out the window now, willing it to rain. It is doing little noncommittal droplets and damnit, we need a good hard rain-barrel filling frog-strangler of a rain. If they find me with my brain popped and my tongue hanging out, that’s what I was trying to do at the time.

Fifty Species GOOOOOAL!

By | Insects, My Garden | One Comment

So a few days ago, at the end of April, I actually achieved my goal of finding fifty new species in the garden this year.

You can read all about it here, if you are so inclined.

The problem I find is that it’s hard to stop. I am still out taking photos of moths. I still want to know What Is That Thing There?

So my new goal is to hit 300 species this year. I was at 279 when I made 50 species, so that’s a perfectly doable goal (and should I attain it in a month or two, maybe I’ll aim at a hundred for the year or something…)

Since you probably don’t need every single species, I’ll limit myself to a few highlights…

#50 was Hypsoropha monilis Large Necklace Moth

(It has white spots!)

#52 Probole alienaria Alien Probole

They’re messing with us with these names.

#54 Dyspteris abortivaria   The Bad-wing

Apparently this little green moth got this name because it’s hard to spread the lower set of wings if you’re trying to put the sucker on a pin for ID purposes. I feel there is an element of victim blaming going on here, but it’s a great name.

#55 Zale horrida Horrid Zale

It’s a navy-blue moth with a wavy brown edge. I do not know what is so horrid about it.

#56 Leuconycta diphteroides Green Leuconycta

This one’s actually gorgeous.


Fifty Species Goal: #24-49

By | Insects, Stuff In My Yard | One Comment

Holy mackerel, we are blowin’ this thing out of the water! While I was off in Texas, two old sightings finally got an ID (and damnit, I’m counting them!) plus a whole bunch of new ones showed up.

In fact–a mere three months and some change after starting–we’ve nearly hit the 50 species goal! One species away!

Dude! Dude! I know I’m the one who’s really excited by this–I mean, it’s my garden and everybody else probably thinks I’m nuts–but how amazing is that!? We’re almost there already! Some of those months were mid-winter and nothing much was showing up!

I sorta feel like this proves–at least to me–that if you just LOOK, there’s an insane amount of biodiversity just lurking everywhere. Yes, my garden is particularly buggy, owing to my crazed planting and lack of pesticides, but it’s not anything that anybody else couldn’t do, given a patch of dirt and a cel phone camera and a really weird hobby.

So, without further ado, the new bugs!

As usual, this is mostly Lepidoptera, thanks to the nice people at BAMONA, but we did add a couple new insects of other varieties! (Some of you on Twitter saw some of these names already, incidentally.)

#24 — Hydrochara sp. Water Scavenger Beetle

This is a big glossy black beetle that looks like every other big glossy black beetle. I’m tentatively thinking H. lotor, but frankly, there’s no way to make a really good idea. I am comfortable with the genus level on this one.

#25 — Euparius marmoreus  Marbled Fungus Weevil


I have a snout!

How freaky cute is this thing? It reminds me of the keyboardist from the Star Wars cantina scene.

#26 — Harmonia axyridis  Harlequin Ladybird

An invasive ladybug. These are the little bastards who try to get into your house in droves in winter. I am not fond of them, despite my general positive disposition toward ladybugs.

And now, the moths, with their awesomely weird names!

#27 — Galgula partita  The Wedgling

This sounds like some kind of fairy, probably not terribly well-inclined towards humanity.

#28 — Hydriomena transfigurata   The Transfigured Hydriomena

Have I mentioned that I love it when “The” is part of the name of these moths? (I have no idea what makes this one “transfigured.” It’s a pretty bland moth.)

#29 — Hypena baltimoralis    Baltimore Bomolocha Moth

This has got to be a dance.

#30 — Lithophane innominata   Nameless Pinion

The entomologist was feeling lazy that day.

#31 — Lithophane petulca    Wanton Pinion


I…wait, what?

I am forced to assume that the entomologist had been in the field much too long for this one, if he has taken to slut-shaming Lepidoptera.

#32 — Arogalea cristifasciella   Stripe-backed Moth

The entomologist, having recovered from his weird bout of projection, went back to purely descriptive names.

#33 — Eupsilia vinulenta   Straight-toothed Sallow

Much like the Curved-Toothed Geometer, I find myself really not wanting to look at this moth’s mouth, for fear of never sleeping again.

#34 — Chaetaglaea sericea   Silky Sallow

This moth uses a very good shampoo.

#35 — Himella intractata    Intractable Quaker

EEEEEE! OH MY GOD, I GOT AN INTRACTABLE QUAKER MOTH! I saw the name and I wanted to see one, but I figured they probably lived somewhere else!

Mind you, I am not sure what’s so intractable about them…


Sure, he looks innocent, but he refuses to ask for directions or change plans once he’s made them.

#36 — Condica vecors   Dusky Groundling

This sounds like a fantasy race of goblins or something.

#37 — Elaphria grata   Grateful Midget



*backs away from entomologist*

#38 — Ectropis crepuscularia   The Small Engrailed

This sounds vaguely Arthurian.

#39 — Argyrotaenia velutinana   Red Banded Leafroller Moth

This is an extremely uninteresting (and very small) moth with no apparent red bands. Fortunately I have a 7x zoom lens for my iPhone…

#40 — Nedra ramosula   Gray Half-Spot

This is actually a pretty handsome fellow. He looks like he’s got a fur collar and iridescent cloak.


Take me to the Ren Faire!

#41 — Nemapogon auropulvella   European Grain Moth

This is one teeny tiny little moth, and what little information I can find says that it’s native to the US, despite the name. I don’t even know.

#42 — Phalaenophana pyramusalis   Dark-banded Owlet Moth

The Owlet Moth Tribe returns!

#43 — Pero ancetaria  Hübner’s Pero

Holy crap, there’s an umlaut in my garden!

#44 — Paectes abrostoloides   Large Paectes

Also known as the “Sweetgum Defoliator,” which is like the most obscure serial killer ever.

#45 — Ilexia intractata   Black-dotted Ruddy Moth

Another small brown not-all-that-exciting moth.

#46 — Lascoria ambigualis  Ambiguous Moth

Having exhausted his powers with the Grateful Midget, our entomologist slumps back into despair.

#47 — Poanes zabulon  Zabulon Skipper

A butterfly this time!

#48 — Ancyloxypha numitor  Least Skipper

Another butterfly. A very small brownish one.

#49 — Knulliana cincta  Longhorn Hickory Borer

This is a beetle. And by “This is a beetle” I mean “FOR THE LOVE OF GOD IF GIANT BUGS FREAK YOU OUT, DO NOT GOOGLE THIS THING.” It’s…large. And bitey. And apparently attracted to porch lights.

So that’s 49. We’re one ID away from hitting the fifty species goal! How cool is that?!



Fifty Species Goal: #15-23

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And to think I was worried about getting fifty species in a year! Now I’m starting to think I underestimated the case! I may have a shot at 300 total this year! (I currently am in the mid-200s somewhere–thought I was over 300 already, but going back and tallying the spreadsheet shows I am lower than I thought.)

A sentiment I’ve heard occasionally–generally cheerfully uttered!–is that the extraordinary diversity in my garden is a result of either extreme good fortune, obsessive targeted gardening, or great location in the unspoiled woods. Or because it’s huge.

Well…not exactly.

There was a study done in England a decade or so ago that looked at biodiversity of insect species in gardens, and what they found is that a bigger garden does have more species than a smaller garden, but not by as much as you’d think. If my garden is twice as big as yours, I will probably not have twice as many species, unless other factors are in play. Even quite a small patch of garden, and a water feature literally the size of a plastic window box, will bring in a vast array of species. (An older garden does have more species, interestingly, probably because trees and shrubs are a huge draw.)

As for location–well, species found on the edges of woodlands are different from those found in cities and suburbs, but not that much more numerous–and not, it should be said, noticeably more rare.  Being totally crazy on the native plant front, and having a lot of trees around helps, but the tree thing happens in a lot of cities too. (Hell, I got more bird species in the city than I ever do here, simply because I was an oasis there–the Central Park Effect writ very small.)

The only species that are probably going to be more numerous for me than someone in a suburb are the various amphibians and reptiles, which are plentiful locally and have a harder times in cities. But that’s a very small percentage of my species list.

The primary reason I’m sitting here cruising towards 300 resident species is because I’m the sort of obsessive individual who looks. That’s all. I am willing to go out at 10 at night and photograph the moths buzzing around the porch light (and then I go back in and turn the porch light off, so that they don’t get too fried.) All I’ve got that’s specialized is a pretty good cell-phone camera and a willingness to join ID sites like and BAMONA.

(And a willingness to look like an idiot chasing bugs around. That last is pretty important. And yes, I still scream and duck when the moths fly for my face. I’m not actually that fond of bugs, I just think it’s important to know what they are.)

So if you’re wondering if your postage stamp sized yard is enough to make any kind of difference and feeling discouraged–believe me, it can and you will. You may have to be cleverer about it than I am–I have the luxury of space–but that’s honestly not hard. I am enthusiastic, but often not bright.

Okay! Enough pep talk! To the critters!

#15 — Pseudacris crucifer Spring Peeper

A frog! Woo! This is actually a pretty common species, and we’ve probably had them for ages, but this is the first year they’ve been calling separate from the chorus frogs and I’ve felt confident in the call ID, so I’m counting it here.

#16 — Nemoria saturiba  Red-Splotched Emerald


Originally thought this was a Red-Bordered Emerald, but the red spots on the body are apparently the tell. This makes him a lot more obscure. (And by obscure I mean “There are two sightings on the BAMONA website, and I’m one of them.) He feeds on sweetgum leaves.

#17 — Acleris nigrolinea Black Lined Leafroller

Another obscure one, and also a pretty uninteresting little insect, I must say.

#18 — Melanolophia canadaria   Canadian melanolophia

These are swarming my porchlight in vast numbers at the moment. They’re a weirdly tall moth–they stand up away from the wall instead of lying flat.

#19 — Iridopsis humaria   Small Purplish Gray

One gets the impression that they ran out of clever names at this point.

#20 — Egira alternans   Alternate Woodling

I was saying on Twitter that this one sounds like a folk-electronica band.

#21 — Copivaleria grotei    Grote’s Sallow

This one looks a lot like a bird dropping. It feeds on ash leaves.

# 22 — Eupithecia matheri

There is no common name for this species and not many sighting reports. The Eupithecia clan all look alike, and trying to tell them apart is tricky. A good many of my sightings get rejected as “Eupithecia, but can’t tell which one from photo.”

#23 — Achatia distincta    Distinct Quaker


So it turns out that there are a kajillion different Quaker moths. Highlights include “Ruby” “Rustic” “Subdued” “Cynical” and “Intractable.” I love those last couple so very, very much.

Next week I am off to Texas and the 50 species goal will be on hold–but hey, at least this is getting me taking photos, even if I fell off the wagon on the Photo A Week thing!

Fifty Species Goal: #10 – 14

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A very exciting few days here! (Well, for me. I don’t know about the rest of you. Those of you who aren’t excited about bugs, probably not.)

More moths!

#10 — Melanolophia signataria  Signate Melanolophia

#11 — Zale lunata   Lunate Zale


This is a rather large, very handsome moth, a member (if the internet is correct) of the Owlet Moth Tribe. I love that there is an Owlet Moth Tribe and wish to write stories about them.

#12 — Protoboarmia porcelaria  Porcelain Gray

#13 — Acleris maculidorsana  Stained-back Leafroller

And #14 isn’t a moth at all, but the awesome little native plant Chimaphila maculata, or “Spotted Wintergreen.” My photos don’t look like much, but it’s a dark, waxy green leaf with a thick white midrib and red stems. I found it on a dry embankment by the driveway, where it passes through pine trees. Unfortunately for my ambitions, it transplants very poorly–it’s a symbiote with soil fungus, and if the fungus isn’t present or is disrupted too badly, it won’t take. It’s as common as it gets in the Piedmont in the Carolinas, but rare and occasionally endangered everywhere else. I am enormously honored to have some in the yard.

Meanwhile, in the garden things are coming up, usually several feet from where I thought they were planted, and the goldfinches have turned that mangy yellow color that they get before they manage to molt all the way to gold.

Fifty Species Goal: #4-9

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Wow! An awesome run of species ID, here in the House ‘o Squash.

I’ll spare you the photos of all of them, since they’re six moth species, ID’d by the nice people at ( If you’re bug sensitive, sit this one out–these are moths, not too scary, more like bits of fuzzy origami, but still.)

#4: Eutrapela clemataria Curved-Toothed Geometer

#5: Phoberia atomaris  Common Oak Moth

#6: Acleris flavivittana  Masked Leafroller

#7: Pyreferra hesperidago   Mustard Sallow


Check out his awesome lines!


#8: Iridopsis larvaria  Bent-Lined Gray (Is Iridopsis not a lovely word?)

#9: Cladara limitaria  Mottled Gray Carpet


I’m a wedge!


All these moths were attracted to the porch light over the last few warm nights. I am getting in the habit of going out and taking photos (then turning off the porch light, so they can get on with their lives.)

Kevin will occasionally take the dogs out and then inform me there’s a moth I might be interested in. He is a good husband.

If you have the option, I cannot stress highly enough the awesomeness of taking moth photos–it’s super easy, the bugs come to you, you submit them to, they ID them and it helps build a map of what species are found where. I am often appalled by how little information we have–I’ve literally been the person to submit every moth sighting (except one Luna month) listed for my county. Some of the things that have shown up in my garden are the only one that have ever been listed in the state. It’s not that I’m in the middle of a wildlife haven (although I try) it’s that there’s just no information. And some of this stuff could be really important! If a warm-weather pest extends its range northward because nights are getting warmer earlier, we need to know that stuff!

I’m using an iPhone 5 camera, no specialized equipment.

This Is Only A Test

By | Insects | 4 Comments

Look who came to my porchlight!

This snouty little fellow is a Green Cloverworm Moth! He’s a new one for the yardlist, but I’m posting this primarily to test out the new Squash’s Garden blog function.

He feeds on clover, vetch, beans, and a number of other nitrogen fixers, but it’s generally recommended that people leave him alone, as he’s a very minor pest and will keep beneficial predators fed until the real baddies show up.