Monthly Archives: January 2019

CENTRAL FLORIDA CRITTER OF THE DAY: Tachinid fly (Archytas sp.)

Beneficial: Parasitic Fly. control of pest caterpillar (think armyworm and cutworm!) which they use as food for their developing larva.

Performs some pollination as adults take nectar.

Tachinids are parasitoids of other insects, but the most common hosts are caterpillars.
Owlet Moths (Noctuidae) » Cutworm or Dart Moths (Noctuinae) and armyworms are known hosts per Taxonomic and Host Catalogue of the Tachinidae of America North of Mexico


Family Tachinidae – Parasitic Flies
Subfamily Tachininae
Tribe Tachinini

Shown on Florida Native Plant: Bidens alba

Tachinid Fly (Archytas sp.)


CENTRAL FLORIDA CRITTER OF THE DAY: Blue-gray Gnatcatcher Bird (Polioptila caerulea)

This one was dancing in a tangle of Bidens alba, Blackberry (Rubus sp.), Bushy Bluestem Grass (Andropogon sp). and Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) to gleen the insects held within.

Its primary diet is insects.

These birds don’t stand still for even a moment (thus the blur of a picture)



CENTRAL FLORIDA CRITTER OF THE DAY: Blackberry Looper Moth Caterpillar (Chlorochlamys chloroleucaria)

New to my buggy life list. My encounter was submitted and accepted to add this species to the Osceola county Florida checklist at

Family Geometridae – Geometrid Moths
Subfamily Geometrinae – Emeralds
Tribe Hemitheini


Larval host:  generalist feeder, there are 31 listed hosts in the The Natural History Museum (London) HOSTS a Database of the World’s Lepidopteran Hostplants

“…larvae typically fed on the flowers of the hosts, especially in the Asteraceae. Wagner et al. (2002) list a variety of common hosts and note
the larvae also feed on leaves and fleshy fruits.” source: Larval Hostplants of Geometridae (Lepidoptera) Collected by Dale H. Habeck in Florida,” 116(1)
Deborah L. Matthews, Charles V. Covell, Katrina M. Lane, Jacqueline Y. Miller  Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington (1 January 2014)  pg 58)

Photos of adults which are small green moths with tan markings:

Shown on Florida Native Plant:  TICKSEED (Coreopsis sp.)

Blackberry Looper Moth Caterpillarr (Chlorochlamys chloroleucaria)


CENTRAL FLORIDA CRITTER OF THE DAY: Cloudless Sulphur Butterfly (Phoebis sennae)


Here’s a video slideshow of a cloudless sulphur butterfly from caterpillar to freedom I did back in 2011.


Larval host: Partridge pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata), sensitive pea (C. nictitans), sicklepod senna (Senna obtusifolia), also non-native coffee senna (S. occidentalis), candle plant (S. alata)

Shown on Florida Native Plant: Bidens alba

My take:


CENTRAL FLORIDA CRITTER OF THE DAY: Potter/Mason Wasp (likely Euodynerus megaera)

New to my buggy life list.  The blue wings caught my attention though these photographs don’t reflect their true color.

Subfamily Eumeninae – Potter and Mason Wasps



“Biology. Nests in borings in wood and uses agglutinated sand or less commonly mud for closing plugs and cell partitions. Preys on caterpillars of Tortricidae, Crambidae (Pyraustinae), Pyralidae (Epipaschiinae, Phycitinae), Amphisbatidae, and Erebidae (Herminiinae, formerly in Noctuidae) (Krombein 1967, 1979).”

Shown on Florida Native Plant: BLUE MISTFLOWER (Conoclinium coelestinum)

Mason Wasp (likely Euodynerus megaera)

My take:



Winged Aphid (Family Aphididae)

There are new buds on the WILD LIME; (Zanthoxylum fagara) and I noticed some movement of ants and ladybugs so I took a few photos to see what the attraction was.

Aphids are much like butterflies in that they flock to particular host plants. Not sure of the genus or species on this one, but a database of potential hosts leads to possibly Aphis sp. or Myzus sp.

Too many people worry about aphids on their ornamental plants in the garden. My theory is that this comes, in part, because aphids on a houseplant can lead to the demise of the plant because there are no aphid predators flying around the inside of your house to control the problem. This is not the case of the outside, natural world of your garden.

Aphids serve as larval hosts for pollinators.  Kill an aphid, starve a bird.

Shown on Florida Native Plant: WILD LIME; LIME PRICKLYASH (Zanthoxylum fagara)

My take: Aphids are Good? Wait.WHAT???

Take II:

Winged Aphid


CENTRAL FLORIDA CRITTER OF THE DAY: Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos)

Beautiful song from this state bird of Florida who mimics others. Big on berries, especially holly and winged sumac.

They stir up insects to feed their young during nesting season and I’ve had them nest many times in the native groundsel tree and wax myrtle (bayberry) shrubs. Territorial, they will battle each other and other birds including those much larger than themselves.


babies in nest:


Shown on Florida Native Plant: LAUREL OAK; DIAMOND OAK (Quercus laurifolia)

My take: Mockingbird: Melodious but Mean


CENTRAL FLORIDA CRITTER OF THE DAY: Marsh Rabbit (Sylvilagus palustris)

Smaller than its more common cousin, the Eastern Cottontail, this bunny swims so will be found where there is water habitat. I have a healthy reproducing population of these cuties who apparently make use of the pond at night although I’ve yet to see them swim.

Diet: They enjoy Florida Native Plants including, but not limited to: cranesbill, plantain or bidens alba, hawkweed leaves, gallberry leaves and elephant foot leaves.

Learn more:

My take:
Hippity Hoppity


CENTRAL FLORIDA CRITTER OF THE DAY: Short-horned Grasshopper possibly Atlantic Grasshopper (Paroxya atlantica)

Having a hard time narrowing down a firm identification for this one.  This may be Melanoplus sp. which is in the same tribe and according to my “Grasshoppers of Florida” book the two are easily confused with one another.

A check of  the usual resources leads me to believe that many of the identifications at Bugguide and INaturalist may be wrong.
Comments/Corrections/Confirmation always appreciated..

Suborder Caelifera – Grasshoppers
Family Acrididae – Short-horned Grasshoppers
Subfamily Melanoplinae – Spur-throated Grasshoppers
Tribe Melanoplini

DONT THINK PEST, THINK BIRD FOOD! Nymphs of grasshoppers are an important food source for birds especially fledglings who cannot eat seed.

If you maintain a balanced garden and dont use pesticides which can kill the beneficial insects, damage should be minimal to ornamentals.

Tachinid flies (Tachinidae family) are parasites of grasshoppers

Predators: Birds, lizards,mantids, spiders, and rodents eat grasshoppers. (source:

Positive Impact on the Ecosystem:
As herbivores, grasshoppers link plants to the rest of the ecosystem. Frass (droppings) contribute to nutrient turnover by returning nutrients as fertilizer for the plants. They provide food for birds and other arthropods. (ibid.)

Learn more about grasshoppers in Florida:


CENTRAL FLORIDA CRITTER OF THE DAY:  Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius)

The snowbirds are back!


Shown on Florida Native Plant: LAUREL OAK; DIAMOND OAK (Quercus laurifolia)

My take: Solving Garden Mysteries

From May 2014, a tell tale sign of a Sapsucker visit:

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker wells in a Live Oak tree.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker wells in a Live Oak tree.


CENTRAL FLORIDA CRITTER OF THE DAY: Crambid Snout Moth (Salbia sp. likely haemorrhoidalis)

There are three species of this genus documented for Florida (source:

New to my life list.  Came to kitchen light. Very tiny.

Family Crambidae – Crambid Snout Moths
Subfamily Spilomelinae

Larval Host: Lantana

Sighting submitted for identification:


CENTRAL FLORIDA CRITTER OF THE DAY: Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

I was out trying to capture a photo of an elusive Painted Bunting in the brush when out of the corner of my eye I saw this beauty fly in for a landing..

This raptor has been the national emblem of the United States since 1782.


Shown on Florida Native Plant: LONGLEAF PINE TREE (Pinus palustris)

My take:


CENTRAL FLORIDA CRITTER OF THE DAY:  Sandhill Crane (Antigone canadensis)

A Pair was visiting down the block from me.  They fly overhead every day sounding their LOUD trumpet call.

diet:  omnivorous “Its diet is heavy in seeds and cultivated grains, but may also include berries, tubers, small vertebrates, and invertebrates. Nonmigratory populations eat adult and larval insects, snails, reptiles, amphibians, nestling birds, small mammals, seeds, and berries. “


In 2002, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission made it illegal to intentionally feed sandhill cranes (Florida Administrative Code 68A-4.001(6)). (source:

Sandhill Crane (Antigone canadensis) female


CENTRAL FLORIDA CRITTER OF THE DAY: Groundselbush Beetle Larvae (caterpillar) (Trirhabda bacharidis)

Larval host: Saltbush (Baccharis halimifolia).  Helps keep the somewhat aggressive native shrub in check.

Not the most attractive as adult beetles, but this larvae certainly is eyecatching. I have watched wasps zero in on this important resource to gather as a host for their eggs and to provide food for their own larvae.


Imported to Australia where Baccharis sp. is invasive.

Shown on Florida Native Plant GROUNDSEL TREE; SEA MYRTLE (Baccharis halimifolia), a.k.a. Saltbush


CENTRAL FLORIDA CRITTER OF THE DAY:  Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)

Large scavenger. Part of nature’s cleanup crew.

Diet: mainly carrion

Shown soaring over Florida native plant: LONGLEAF PINE TREE (Pinus palustris)


Learn to avoid conflict with vultures:

My take:  Nature’s Cleanup Crew


CENTRAL FLORIDA CRITTER OF THE DAY: Florida Cottonmouth, Water Moccasin Snake (Agkistrodon piscivorus conanti)

VENOMOUS!! If bitten seek immediate medical care from a physician or hospital experienced in treating snakebite.

This guy (or gal) was wiggling along side the road when I drove down to the mailbox.

Learn to identify the 6 species of venomous snakes in Florida. If you see one, don’t panic, just quietly move away from the area and whatever you do, DON’t try to kill it. You stand a better chance of avoiding a bite if you just move along and don’t interact with it.

Diet: fish, frogs, salamander, lizards, small turtles, baby alligators, birds, small mammals, and other snakes


My take: