Many of these articles are on Terry's web page at http://home.teleport.com/~tmorse but other articles in the Sandpiper (a publication of Yaquina Birders & Naturalists) since September 1994 are only given on this page. Terry also had articles in the Sandpiper prior to September 1994 that are not yet in computer files.
Terry's articles are indexed below by animal group.
Butterflies, Moths, and Skippers: Lepidoptera
Dragonflies and Damselflies
Other Terrestrial Invertebrates
Birds and Mammals
You've probably heard that the way to tell damselflies from dragonflies is that dragonflies hold their wings out to the side when resting, while damselflies hold their wings up over their backs. There are a few exceptions to this rule:
1) newly emerged dragonflies hold their wings above their backs while emerging from their larval skin
2) when damselflies land on a perch, they hold their wings out to the side until fully settled, then fold them up over the back
3) spreadwing damselflies (Family Lestidae).
In general, damselflies appear more delicate than dragonflies because of their slender build. The two suborders overlap in length; however, with dragonflies ranging from 3/4" to 5" and damselflies generally 1" to 2" long.
The spreadwing damselfly I have identified locally is Archilestes californica, the California Spreadwing. At 2" long, it is larger than many of the dragonflies you might see. If you look carefully, though, you can tell it is a damselfly by the very slender abdomen, the eyes widely separated on the top of the head, and the "stalked" wings, which start out slender near the body, then expand; the wings of dragonflies are quite broad where they join the body.
Archilestes californica, though not flashy like many other dragonflies and damselflies, is subtly attractive. It is brown with black stripes on the top and side of the thorax ("chest"). The dark abdomen has fine pale rings between segments. The eyes, in contrast, are strikingly blue.
Archilestes californica is found in autumn near still water. I have seen them most often at Big Creek Reservoir in Newport, around Blattner Creek about 1.1 miles along the reservoir road on the left, and at Merganser Pond (my own name for it), which is about 0.4 mi further on the left. Watch for them perched on trees and shrubs, from which they fly short distances after prey. On 10/28/1995, the best place to find them is in a large patch of blackberries on the north side of the road just before Merganser Pond.
If you are lucky, you may see a male and female in the "wheel" mating position, or ovipositing in tandem, the male grasping the female behind her head with his abdominal claspers as she lays eggs in the stems of willows and alders above the water.
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-Never base your identification on a photo alone; always read the text.
-Consult more than one source to confirm the information in your field guide.
-Remember that sight identifications of insects should be considered tentative, unless the insect is very distinctive. For every species illustrated in a field guide, there may be dozens of lookalikes not illustrated.
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I am frequently asked "Which insect field guide should I buy?" or, "How do I choose an insect guide?" With over 88,000 species of insects in 659 Families described for North America alone, the simple truth is that no one field guide (or combination of several field guides) will be comprehensive, and you should buy as many as you can find and afford, within the limits of your budget and level of interest.
Having said that, I will make some suggestions about how to choose from among the available field guides, and how to use the ones you have to identify insects you see, photograph, or whose dead bodies you find. In part II, I will illustrate by example how I use the guides to identify insects, in the process showing why no one or two of them are sufficient.
There are three main field guides to North American insects available in 1996: A Field Guide to Insects: America north of Mexico, by Donald Borror and Richard White (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1970; Peterson's Field Guide Series #19); the National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Insects and Spiders, by Lorus and Marjorie Milne (NY: Knopf, 1980); and Simon & Schuster's Guide to Insects, by Ross Arnett and Richard Jacques, Jr. (NY: Simon & Schuster, 1981).
In terms of quality and amount of information, the Peterson's field guide (Borror and White) is the best of the three guides, but it is rarely the first guide I turn to when trying to identify an insect. This is because it includes relatively few color illustrations compared to the other two guides. Most are black and white line drawings interspersed throughout the book. A very small number of examples from each order of insects is included in the colorplates. If your unidentified insect doesn't resemble any of the illustrated species, you may have trouble even placing it into the correct Order, much less deciding what Family it belongs to. There is a visual key on the endpapers and keys to Families within some of the orders in the text which can help, but these are most useful when you have an insect in hand (or in jar), and not so useful when the insect is free.
This is why I usually turn first to the Audubon Society field guide. Professional entomologists often denigrate this guide, complaining that it contains inaccurate information (some of this is just a matter of taxonomic changes and disagreements between authorities) and that the photos are often not very good. That notwithstanding, the color photos generally include more representatives of each order covered than the Peterson's does, so you have a better chance of finding an insect which resembles yours, hence suggesting the order and family to which it may belong. (Because insects are too diverse to cover in a reasonably sized field guide, you must frequently be content with identification to Order and Family; identification to species usually requires catching and killing a specimen to key it out.)
One characteristic of the Audubon society guide, both a blessing and a curse, is that, while the photos are generally arranged by Order, photos of insects which resemble members of a different Order are grouped with the Order they resemble rather than the one they actually belong in. For example, many flies and some moths and beetles mimic bees or wasps. Their photos would be included in the section on bees and wasps, rather than with the flies, moths or beetles. This is very convenient when you are trying to identify, say, a wasp-like fly and don't initially realize that it is a fly. You go to the wasp section, find a lookalike, and discover that it is actually a fly. Suppose, though, you know from the insects short, knob- tipped antennae that it is actually a fly. If you look for it in the fly section of the photo guide, you won't find it; you have to recognize that it is a wasp mimic and hunt through the wasp section to find it (I include an example of this in part II). To some extent then, having some knowledge of insects makes the Audubon society guide harder to use, but this is what makes it good as a first field guide when you are just starting insect study.
Having found a photo of an insect which resembles yours, read the text associated with the photo to see how well the written description fits the insect (the importance of this will be emphasized in part II). The closer the fit, the more likely the identification is correct.
If the match is good in general, but not in detail, you might guess that you have the right Order and Family, but a different species than is illustrated. Turn to the Family description at the start of the section to see how well the Family description fits. Alternatively, go straight to the Peterson's guide, because it covers the Families more completely than the Audubon guide. Peterson's describes 579 of the 659 Families in North America; Audubon's covers 550 species but, because it includes multiple examples for a number of Families, many fewer Families are represented. If you have gotten the right Order but the wrong Family from the Audubon guide, you are more likely to find the correct Family by consulting the Peterson's guide.
The Simon and Schuster guide covers 350 species, and fewer Families. The photos are generally superior to those in the Audubon guide; the information on each species is (as far as I know) accurate, but not as detailed as that given in the Audubon guide. The organization and indexing are poor, making it difficult to find your way quickly around the guide (for example, species are indexed by the first word of the common name; if you don't know the precise common name the authors use, you can't look up the insect; Families and Orders are not listed in the index, so you can't quickly find your way to the beetle section if you know your insect is a beetle). Simon and Schuster's main value is as a supplement to the other two guides (buy it used if you can). Coverage of western insects is better in this guide than in the other two, though, which are biased towards eastern species.
My general recommendation then is this: If you only buy one guide and are interested in sight identification rather than collecting specimens, then you are probably best off with the Audubon Society guide. Realize, though, that your identifications to family may be close but not exact, and acknowledge the uncertainty in your notes and conversations. If you are interested enough and can afford to buy a second guide, add the Peterson's to your collection. By consulting both books, you are much more likely to come up with a correct identification to family than from either alone. If you are passionately interested in insects, then get the Simon and Schuster guide as well. Though the poor indexing makes it annoying to use, you can't have too many field guides when dealing with a group as diverse as the insects.
a) always read the text;
b) sometimes you just have to consult an expert.
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EXAMPLE 2.--During my 6 April 1996 visit to Big Creek Park and Big Creek (Newport) Reservoir, , I found an attractive long, narrow- bodied yellow insect with long narrow wings folded roof-like over its back, black eyes, long antennae, and two moderately long cerci ("tails" ) on the rear of its abdomen. I found what appeared to be an excellent match in the Audubon Society guide, a Green-winged Stonefly (Family Perlodidae). Looking up the family in the Peterson's guide, I found that perlodid stoneflies are brown, not green or yellow, and that green-winged stoneflies are in the family Isoperlidae. [This is a not-very-important disagreement about taxonomy; most specialized sources I've checked support the Audubon guide's classification.] Text on the same page and facing illustrations in the Peterson's guide suggested another possible family, the Green Stoneflies (Family Chloroperlidae). I had to catch one to determine which family it belonged to, but decided it was a chloroperlid. This was confirmed when I checked it in a book on Northwestern stoneflies. I would not have known about this other family had I only checked the Audubon guide; the Simon & Schuster's guide illustrates only one stonefly and was no help at all.
a) the information in the Audubon guide was not detailed enough to assign the stonefly to the correct family; however, it did get me in the right ballpark faster than starting with the Peterson's guide would have;
b) sometimes you have to catch the insect to get a good identification.
EXAMPLE 3.--A few years ago, I first noticed an attractive dragonfly at the Marine Science Center with a powder blue body and striking light and dark spots on its wings. From the Audubon Society Guide, I got the tentative identification "Twelve-spot Skimmer," Libellula pulchella (Family Libellulidae). I found nothing in the Peterson's guide to contradict this, and the family identification was correct. Flipping through the Simon and Schuster guide at a later date I discovered a similar species, the Western Widow (aka Eight-spot Skimmer), Libellula forensis, which has a different pattern of spots on its wings. The text specifically mentioned L. pulchella as a lookalike, and discussed how to tell them apart. Comparing my photos of the dragonfly to the illustrations in the two field guides, I determined that it was actually an Eight-spot Skimmer, not a Twelve-spot as I had originally decided from the Audubon Society guide.
a) consult more than one field guide;
b) even a mediocre guide can come in useful at times;
c) unless you have captured and keyed out a specimen, always consider identifications based on a field guide as tentative.
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SUMMARY.--These examples should give you an idea of how to approach visual identification of insects using field guides. It is a challenge, and you must frequently be satisfied with less-than-certain identifications to order or family only. If you need a more definite identification, you either need to learn how to collect and key them out, or you should cultivate acquaintances with professional entomologists. Many are happy to help out enthusiastic amateurs with their identifications. Some university entomology departments and extension offices offer insect identification services.
1) Aeshna californica - California Darner
2) A. multicolor - Blue-eyed Darner
A. multicolor and A. californica are look-a-likes. They are smaller than the other two look-a-likes A. palmata and A. umbrosa, and have blue faces and thoracic markings. The abdominal claspers of male multicolor resemble a Klingon battle cruiser (you have to catch one to understand this).
3) A. palmata - Paddle-tailed Darner
4) A. umbrosa occidentalis - Shadow Darner (eastern subspecies)
On 19 August 1995, I caught an A. umbrosa occidentalis at Big Creek [Newport] Reservoir. It is a look-a-like for A. palmata. In fact, I discovered that one of my palmata specimens from 1994 was an umbrosa. These are large dragonflies (but smaller than Anax junius), with green face and thoracic markings. "umbrosa" has fewer and smaller blue spots on the abdomen, giving it a somewhat darker appearance than palmata. This is less pronounced in the western subspecies, A. umbrosa occidentalis, than the eastern subspecies, A. umbrosa umbrosa.
By and large, it is necessary to catch the Aeshna to distinguish each from its "twin," though I am always looking for ways to differentiate them in flight or while perched.
5) Anax junius - Common Green Darner - (very large dragonfly; resembles the green-featured Aeshna, but the abdomen is solid green, not striped)
I saw a mystery species flying in the deflation plain habitat in South Beach on 25 June 1995, photographed a male at Big Creek [Newport] Reservoir on 15 July 95, and finally caught a female on the Siletz River (it is a stream/river species) on 8 September 1995. It is a medium-sized dragonfly with green face, olive green thorax, and a dark brown abdomen with pale middorsal spots. The last three segments of the abdomen are moderately swollen (Gomphidae is the "Clubtail" family).
Mature males have broad, powder blue abdomen, and black and white markings on the wings; females and immature males have black abdomen with orange-yellow spots on the side, black spots on wings (white markings appear in males as they mature); common at Big Creek Reservoir in spring and early summer.
8) L. lydia - Common Whitetail
Mature males have broad, bright white abdomen, and a broad black band across the wings just short of the wingtip; females and immature males resemble female/immature L. forensis; less common than L. forensis.
9) Pantala hymenea - Spot-winged Glider *
In 1995, I have only seen this species at the Hatfield Marine Science Center on four occasions in August: the 22nd, 26th, 28th, and 31st. It is also medium-sized (larger than a Sympetrum, smaller than an Aeshna). In flight, it appeared to me to be a dark dragonfly with large red eyes. A photo I took on 22 August shows it to be a pale dragonfly with dark markings, large red eyes, and a dark spot on the enlarged anal area of each hind wing, so the impression of it in flight is quite different from its actual appearance.
As the name Spot-winged Glider implies, it is a strong flier. Although I have been unable to catch one, the appearance of the dragonfly is distinctive enough to ID from a photo, and my photo was sufficiently detailed that I could actually key it out from the photo.
10) Sympetrum corruptum - Variegated Meadowhawk
Males red; females and immature males yellow; look for two white stripes with a yellow spot at the base of each stripe on each side of the thorax and a line of semicircular blue spots on the side of the abdomen; front edge of each wing has red veins; the wings shine like jewels in the sunlight.
11) S. illotum - Cardinal Meadowhawk
A deep red Sympetrum with broad, Libellula-like abdomen; two white, tear-drop shaped spots on each side of thorax; wing membranes yellow-orange at base, the color extending beyond halfway along the leading edge of wing.
12) S. madidum - Red-veined Meadowhawk
Early summer species; thorax with white stripes; wings heavily yellow-orange stained; differs from S. illotum in that the abdomen is slender, like a typical Sympetrum.
13) S. pallipes - Striped Meadowhawk
14) S. vicinum - Yellow-legged Meadowhawk
Late summer and fall species, just appearing now in September; an all-red dragonfly with no markings on thorax or abdomen; "immature" females brown (I've seen brown females laying eggs, though); "The species is peculiar among our species of the genus in that it not only oviposits in tandem (male grasping the female behind the head) but the female strikes the surface of the water alternately with another object projecting from the water, usually a wet part of the stream bank." (Walker and Corbet, Odonata of Canada and Alaska, vol. 3, page 215). I saw this behavior last fall at Big Creek [Newport] Reservoir.
15) Tramea lacerata - Black Saddlebags
Uncommon in Newport area, though they may be more common elsewhere in Lincoln County.
2) Archilestes californica - California Spreadwing
3) Lestes dryas - Emerald Spreadwing
4) Enallagma carunculatum - Tule Bluet
5) Enallagma cyathigerum - Northern Bluet
6) Ischnura cervula - Pacific Forktail
7) Ischnura erratica - Swift Forktail
In November 1996, I located the chrysalis (the resting stage where the caterpillar changes into an adult butterfly) of (I think) a brush- footed butterfly (Family Nymphalidae) on a window at the OSU Hatfield Marine Science Center (HMSC). John Curtin noticed a small (ca. 1/5") wasp near the chrysalis, which we thought might be parasitic, possibly preparing to lay eggs on or in the chrysalis. We speculated that, rather than a butterfly emerging in the spring, we might get wasps.
I have been monitoring the chrysalis since then. On January 20, I noticed a large (2-3 mm) purple discoloration on the tan chrysalis, which I thought might indicate where the newly matured wasp(s) would emerge. On January 24, five small (ca. 1/5") metallic green wasps with gorgeous red eyes were wandering over the chrysalis. Three clustered about the purple discoloration, 1 waving its antennae above the splotch, the other two side by side next to the splotch, their antennae quivering. I guessed that the five were males, waiting for a female to emerge, a common pattern in parasitic wasps (and other hymenopterans), where the males emerge earlier than the females.
On January 28, only one male(?) remained, and a female(?) had its head and the front of its thorax projecting from a hole where the purple splotch had been. The male(?) walked around agitatedly, frequently returning to wave his antennae above the female(?), occasionally touching her head with the antennae. I checked the chrysalis periodically through the morning, and the female(?) seemed not to emerge any further. In the afternoon, the female(?) was not to be found, but a single wasp, possibly the male(?), stood immobile on the side of the chrysalis. It is possible that the female emerged and flew away, but I am guessing that she decided it was too cool to emerge that day and retreated back into the chrysalis. A single wasp remained at the chrysalis at 8 AM on January 29, orienting toward the emergence hole, antennae pointed directly down at the hole. I'm hoping this is the male(?), waiting for the female(?) to emerge again so he may mate with her. I will continue to monitor the situation and hope to have photographs to show at a future YB&N meeting.
I have tentatively identified the wasps as pteromalids (Family Pteromalidae), which are fairly common parasitic wasps, but this needs to be confirmed by an expert.
When winged ant or termite reproductives emerge to mate in late summer, we are frequently confused as to which they are, ants or termites (I know I was, until last year). People tend to call them all ants because the winged termites are usually dark-colored like ants, not pale like the worker termites, which eat our houses and help decompose dead wood in the forests.
It's actually very easy to tell winged ants and termites apart. Ants are advanced social hymenopterans, closely related to wasps. They share many characteristics with wasps. Ants' wings are not much longer than the body when folded, forewings are larger than hindwings, and there are relatively few veins in the wings. Ants have a thin "wasp" waist. Their antennae have a bend near the base ("elbowed" or "geniculate" antennae), which is typical of ants and some (but not most) families of wasps.
Termites are relatively primitive insects, most closely related to cockroaches. Their wings are generally much longer than the body, and the fore- and hindwings are about the same size, with a fine lacework of numerous longitudinal and cross veins. The wings look very different from wasp, bee, or ant wings. Termites' antennae are straight, lacking a bend near the base. The "waist" is broad, not thin and wasp-like.
In my experience, the easiest way to distinguish winged ants from winged termites is to look at the wings. Long, fore- and hindwings of equal length, with lots of veins = termite. Relatively short, forewings larger than hind, with relatively few veins = ant.
You might still find the remains of ants or termites which were flying last month [August 1997] caught in spider webs (I've seen some around Hatfield Marine Science Center). If you do, look at them closely and see if you can decide whether they were termites or ants.
While tidepooling, you might see little blue-black "bugs" swimming in the pools. These are Seashore Springtails (Anurida maritima), a species of collembolan. Once labeled primitive wingless insects, collembolans are now considered to be close relatives of the true insects.
Seashore Springtails, 1/8 inch (3 mm) long, may be found on beach litter between high and low tide levels, under rocks, or moving about the surface layer in tidepools, where they suck the juices of decaying plants, and perhaps also animals. When the tide is in, Seashore Springtails shelter in air pockets in rock crevices. While swimming, they are surrounded by a bubble of air held in place by cuticular hairs, which allows them to breathe.
Another collembolan you may be familiar with is the "snow flea," tiny dark-bodied springtails that speckle snowy surfaces on warm winter days, leaping about like animated pepper. Snow fleas eat algae and fungus spores on the snow. Seashore Springtails and snow fleas are not closely related to true fleas, which are insects, and they don't bite like fleas.
Neither are Seashore Springtails closely related to the beach fleas" or "beach hoppers," scavengers which you see jumping around on seaweeds washed up on beaches. These are shrimp-like amphipod crustaceans.
Springtails have a forked appendage, the furcula, on the underside of the fourth segment of the abdomen, which is held cocked by a clasp on the underside of the third segment. Springtails leap by suddenly extending the furcula, which strikes the ground propelling the springtail into the air. Beach fleas leap by suddenly straightening the bent rear of the abdomen. The furcula is reduced or absent in Seashore Springtails (sources disagree on this).
For a color photo of a congregation of Seashore Springtails, see plate 79 in the National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Insects and Spiders, by Milne and Milne.
Berrill, N.J., and Jacquelyn Berrill. 1957. 1001 Questions Answered About the Seashore. NY: Dover.
Borror, Donald J., Charles A. Triplehorn, and Norman F. Johnson.1989. An Introduction to the Study of Insects, 6th ed. Philadelphia:Saunders.
Gullan, P.J., and P.S. Cranston. 1994. The Insects: An Outline of Entomology. NY: Chapman & Hall.
Milne, L. and M. Milne. 1980. Nat. Aud. Soc. Field Guide to No. American Insects and Spiders. NY: Knopf.
Ricketts, Edward F., Jack Calvin, and Joel W. Hedgpeth. 1985. Between Pacific Tides, 5th ed. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
The insect season is heating up rapidly at Yaquina Head. I saw my first Anise Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio zelicaon) at the Head on April 9, near the entrance booth. Margined White butterflies (Pieris napi marginalis) can also be seen over grassy open areas. On April 20, I began noticing Western Pine Elfin butterflies (Callophrys eryphon) chasing each other in courtship above the grassy field by the entrance booth. These are small (wing span ca. 1"), dark butterflies, brown to orange-brown above with a wavy pattern on the underside of the wings. They can often be seen perched on blackberries and other plants as well.
The morning of April 21, I saw several Mylitta Crescents (Phyciodes mylitta), another of our early season butterflies, in the field by the Yaquina Head entrance booth. They are small (wing span 1 to 1-1/2"); the upperside of the wings orange, strongly patterned with heavy black lines, crescents, and spots; the underside of the hindwings is brown-orange with white markings, and of the forewings is plain orange with few markings. They should be visible along roadsides and in vacant lots elsewhere in our area.
A variety of beetles may be seen at Yaquina Head on warm days, including tiger and ground beetles scurrying across roads and trails; and Spotted Cucumber Beetles (Diabrotica undecimpunctata), which look like yellow ladybugs with black spots but with a body less rounded than a ladybug's, on the English Daisies (Bellis perennis). On April 20, I saw my first burying beetle (Nicrophorus sp.), about 1/2" long, black with bright orange markings.
Yellow-spotted Millipedes (Harpaphe haydeniana), are on the move in large numbers all around Yaquina Head, and are particularly noticeable on roads and trails (please try not to run over them). You've probably seen these large (up to about 1-1/2" long) black millipedes with bright yellow spots along the side. I don't know where they are going. If I can find time, I will follow some and try to find out.
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