What an amazing weekend! I had the opportunity to visit the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve and it was great! The weather was absolutely beautiful, got to see the bison (from a nice safe distance of course!), and the insects out there…. a plethora of entomological awesomeness.
The monarchs were definitely flying yesterday and there were some big individuals. Someone told me once that males are territorial, but I haven’t been able to find anything to back that up. Needless to say, there were some great aerial maneuvers going on. Monarchs are cool (really, who doesn’t like the big pretty fluttery things?) but I thought some of the smaller species were so much more intriguing. I saw a number of the tiny little hairstreaks (Theclinae) that I wish I could have gotten pictures of. The little buggers are too fast though! Towards the end of the hike, there were a number of pearl crescent butterflies (Phyciodes tharos) that were puddling on the trail. Thank you wild animals for pooping on the trail so I can see cool insects!
Speaking of poop, also caught sight of a dung beetle (still trying to narrow this one down to species). This little monarch of manure was just chilling on the side of the path, probably waiting for just the right pile o’ crap to plop down. Nature’s little decomposers are such marvels.
One thing that amazed me was the number of dragonflies patrolling around. There are a few scattered ponds in the park and a decent stream that goes through, but these were fairly far from the water source. I need to brush up on my Odonata identification so I can try to tell what species they were next time.
My favorite find from this trip was this tiny little scarab beetle (maybe Ceratocanthinae?). I had packed a picnic lunch and about halfway through sat down to eat by the creek. I picked it up and it did the “you can’t see me because I am playing dead” thing for about five minutes before it unrolled a bit and started
walking around. Can’t believe I was able to get a decent picture of it since it was so small!
Other entomological awesomness: lightning bugs , jumping spiders, water striders, robber flies, crickets, bees, tiger beetles, and so much more! The park really was beautiful and it is part of the only remaining tallgrass prairie left in the country. I hope I get to go back and visit again!