Last week on an evening drive we found the Southwest Research Station’s lepidoptera class. We were hoping for a jaguarundi or a black bear but these guys turned out to be friendly and interesting so we weren’t disappointed. So far every researcher we have crossed paths with in the wild has been hospitable and eager to share their knowledge with us.
These people were hoping to see a lot of moths. Moths and butterflies are in the lepidoptera family. While we hung around we saw several interesting things but not too many moths. It was early yet. They say the good moths come out very late. As usual we go to bed before things get interesting. We did see a weevil and this, of course, piqued my interest since I have been in close contact with acorn weevil larvae in my acorn eating binge. The weevil’s antennae were located on its proboscis. A very interesting arrangement. Then we also found a whispy, floating, diaphanous beauty. She floated by and landed on my arm. It was the adult morph of an antlion. Antlion larvae are the better known stage of this bug. Adults are rarely seen in nature or are frequently confused with damselflies. The larvae are famous for building conical traps in sand that ants can’t escape and making doodle like tracks when wandering around. Southerners call them doodlebugs. The antlion or doodlebug then captures the struggling ant in a quick and violent match of wits and eats it if it wins. The adult looks like Tinkerbell and sips on nectar. It might nibble a leaf. This particular antlion in the picture does not build traps when it is a larva. It lurks in cracks and leaps out to grab ants as they pass by.
The last picture is the only lepidoptera I paid attention to during our visit. It is the death head hawk moth. This type of moth was made famous in the movie Silence of the Lambs. It has a pattern that looks like a skull on its back. My picture is a little blurry but you can see the skull. Cool, huh? Burt and I left before they could charge us tuition and we hit the hay.