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Posts Tagged ‘thistle’

The thistle flowers at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge again turned out to be irresistible to insects. Previously I photographed several butterfly species gathering nectar from the thistle—see my recent posting Butterflies and Thistle). This past Friday, a Hummingbird Clearwing Moth (Hemaris thysbe) flew by me as I was approaching a thistle patch and I managed to snap off a few photos before it flew away.

I love how the first photo shows the transparency of the wings of this beautiful insect. My camera shutter speed for the shot was 1/2000 second, which was fast enough to freeze all of the wing motion as the moth hovered in the air. It is cool how clearly you can see the thistle through those clear wings.

The second image, which was actually taken before the first one, shows the moth as it was first approaching the thistle. I believe that it was just beginning to unfurl its long proboscis, which it extends to suck out the nectar and then curls up tightly when it is flying.

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The thistles  in bloom must have been absolutely irresistible to butterflies on Saturday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I was delighted to spot an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) and a Great Spangled Fritillary butterfly (Speyeria cybele) feeding almost side-by-side at a small patch of thistle plants.

I love the color combinations in these shots that contrast the warmer tones of the butterflies with the cooler colors of the flowers and the background. I also really like the texture of the thistles that appear to be hard and thorny, but are actually quite soft to the touch.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Great Spangled Fritillary

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Although I did a posting fairly recently featuring a Black Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio polyxenes), I like this image so much that I decided to give you another look at this striking species. I spotted this beautiful butterfly last Sunday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge as it was gather nectar from some kind of thistle flower. As I mentioned in the previous posting, you can distinguish this butterfly from similar species by the orange dot on the lower wing with a black dot inside of it.

Black Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I suspect that all of the Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) will soon be leaving our area for warmer places, so I am really trying to enjoy each and every encounter with one. I spotted this beauty feeding on some kind of thistle plant thispast weekend at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

monarch butterfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was thrilled this morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge to see that there are still quite a few Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) in our area, including this beauty that I was able to photograph as it was feeding on a thistle plant.

monarch butterfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Whenever I see bees buzzing around flowers, I keep an eye out for hummingbird moths. For some unknown reason, I have seen more of these colorful moths this summer than in past years.

Although you could argue about whether or not thistles are flowers, my vigilance was rewarded when I spotted this beautiful Hummingbird Clearwing Moth (Hemaris thysbe) feeding on this thistle bloom on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Chasing after beautiful butterflies on a sunny summer day—it doesn’t get much better than that. I don’t know plants very well, but this appears to be some kind of thistle. I photographed this Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) last Saturday at Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria, Virginia.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I came out of the woods into a meadow at my local marshland park, I caught sight of some bright orange butterflies, which I could immediately identify as Great Spangled Fritillary butterflies (Speyeria cybele). The butterflies were concentrating their attention on a small cluster of plants which looked to be some kind of thistle.

I moved closer to get some shots, wading through the vegetation, which by this time of the summer is chest-high. I’ve already learned the hard way about the “joys” of chiggers and ticks, but I tossed my concerns to the side and boldly stepped forward. Fortunately for me, the butterflies were distracted with their feeding activity and did not fly away at my approach.

The sunlight was pretty strong and the look of the photo changed a lot as I circled around the butterflies, as you can see from the images below. I took a lot of shots, some of which I have not yet processed, but I was so happy with the images that I captured that I figured I better post some while it is still summer. Don’t be surprised if you see a few more images like this in the near future.

Great Spangled Fritillary

Great Spangled FritillaryGreat Spangled Fritillary

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Globe Thistles (Echinops ritro) have an interesting geometric look when viewed from a distance, but they get even more magical up close, when the spiky parts of the flower seem to glow like little Christmas lights.

As I was admiring the thistles in my neighbors’ garden, I spotted this beetle, which I think might be a Banded Longhorn Beetle (Typocerus velutinus). The beetle was slowing searching for prey, weaving his way through the spiked protrusions of the plant. I decided to try to get at eye level with the beetle and to shoot through the thistle.

In most of the shots that I took, the beetle’s face was hidden, but I was happy to get this image in which the face and antennae are visible. Given that the beetle was moving, I am also content that this macro shot is pretty much in focus and the important elements are not blurred.

thistle_bug_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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One of my favorite plants in my neighbors’ garden is the Globe Thistle (Echinops ritro), a magical plant that has fantastic balls of tiny flowers tinged with blue, purple, and pink and has the additional benefit of attracting bees.

The plant’s spherical shape makes it a little tough to photograph and creates real issues with depth of field, but I managed to get a few shots that highlight both the shape and texture of the plants and the activity of the bees that were gathering pollen from them.

thistle2_blogthistle_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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