I spent a few brief hours at Meadowside Nature Center this week. Again I planned to search for late-season butterflies. I did find some, including my first-ever American Lady. Although not as well known for migrating as Monarchs, American Ladies also survive cold northern winters by fleeing south.
|This could have been a migrant from north of our area, or could have hatched locally. It's gorgeous either way!|
I also saw more Buckeyes and a Common Checkered-Skipper. Their summer ranges include my area, but I've only ever seen both species at the very end of the season. So for me they mean fall.
|Such an unblemished individual makes me think this Buckeye originated locally. But who knows, maybe it's just a very lucky traveler-- Buckeyes migrate too, like Monarchs and American Ladies.|
|The only other Common Checkered-Skippers I've seen were all nectaring on aster type flowers like this. I don't think they're migrants though.|
But the real drama at the pond wasn't the long journeys of the butterflies, but something much fiercer. I found several praying mantids hiding in the goldenrod all around the pond. Two females, one male, and a couple others of unidentified gender. The male even flew onto the grass in front of me for a moment. I shooed it to safety though as some kids on a field trip approached. Then on the other side of the pond, I spent about half an hour watching and photographing one large mantis as she caught and devoured bug after bug after bug. Yikes!
|When I started photographing, the mantis glared at me as if to say, "What are you lookin at?"|
|But then she spotted a small green bee that looked mighty tasty. She froze, waiting for the right moment...|
|...and bam! Almost too fast to see, she snatched the bee and sank her mandibles into the poor bug's abdomen.|
|She caught several more bugs as I watched. Even as the mantis devoured her prey, other bees continued to buzz nearby, including this hovering one with an apparent deathwish.|
It's a rough life, being a bug. They have to escape bonechilling temperatures, bloodthirsty predators, and even survive hundred-mile-long journeys. I'm glad I have the chance to observe it all though.
This entry's site: Meadowside Nature Center, Rockville, MD