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Extension Entomology

Tag: larva

Look At All the Painted Ladies

–by Dr. Raymond Cloyd

This year, throughout Kansas, we have seen an abundance and wonderful display of painted lady (Vanessa cardui) butterflies. The painted lady butterfly is one of the most common and widely distributed butterflies worldwide. Adults are distinct [and very different looking than the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus)] having wings that are mottled brown-yellow, white, brown, and black. There is a row of “small” eyespots on the underside of the hindwings (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Painted Lady Butterfly Adult (Author–Raymond A. Cloyd)

In addition, there is a white crescent on the front edge of the forewing (Figure 2).

 

Figure 2. Painted Lady Butterfly Adult (Author–Raymond A. Cloyd)

 

 

Painted lady adults feed on the nectar of many different plants in flower including sage (Salvia spp.), stonecrop (Sedum spp.) (Figures 3 and 4), butterfly bush (Buddleia spp.), and coneflower (Echinacea spp.).

 

Figure 3. Painted Lady Butterfly Adults Feeding On Stonecrop (Sedum spp.) Flowers (Author–Raymond A. Cloyd)

Figure 4. Painted Lady Butterfly Adults Feeding On Flowers Of Stonecrop (Sedum spp.) (Author–Raymond A. Cloyd).

 

The larvae are spiny and feed on the leaves of various plants including sunflower (Helianthus spp.), hollyhock (Alcea rosea), burdock (Arctium spp.), and thistle (Cirsium or Carduus spp.). The painted lady overwinters as an adult; however, most die during the winter (if we have a so-called winter). The painted lady adults migrate northward from the southwest from March through November with two flight periods. In fact, painted lady adults can fly >600 miles. It is possible that the front associated with Hurricane Harvey this year may have “pushed” more adults northward into Kansas. However, this is not the first time Kansas has experienced a plethora of painted lady butterflies. For instance, a migration flight in 1983 was so extensive that butterflies hitting windshields were a hazard to motorists. In addition, a single northward migration contained approximately 3 billion painted lady butterflies. So, just enjoy a wonder of nature…lots of painted lady butterflies.

Green June Beetles: Out-and-About

— by Dr. Raymond Cloyd

Green June beetle (Cotinis nitida) adults are actively flying around and “bumping” into people and objects. Adults are 3/4 to 1.0 inches in length, and velvety-green, tinged with yellow-brown coloration (Figure 1).

IMG_6145
Fig 1: Close-up of adult green June beetle.

Green stripes with yellow-orange margins extend lengthwise on the front wings. The underside of the body is distinctly shiny and metallic green or gold. Adults fly like “dive bombers” over turfgrass for several weeks in mid-summer. The green June beetle has a one-year life cycle, and overwinters as a mature larva (grub). Adults emerge in late-June and are active during the day, resting at night on plants or in thatch. The adults produce a sound that resembles that of bumble bees.  Adults will feed on ripening fruits (Figure 2) and may occasionally feed on plant leaves.

Fig 2: Adult green June beetle feeding on fruit.
Fig 2: Adult green June beetle feeding on fruit.

The male beetles swarm in the morning, “dive bombing” to-and-fro above the turfgrass searching for females that are located in the turfgrass (they are desperately seeking a mate. Females emit a pheromone that attracts males. Eventually, clusters of beetles will be present on the surface of the soil or turfgrass with several males attempting to mate with a single female (I think this qualifies as an “insect orgy.” Mated females that have survived the experience lay a cluster of 10 to 30 eggs into moist soil that contains an abundance of organic matter. Eggs hatch in about 2 weeks in early August and the young larvae feed near the soil surface. The larvae feed primarily on organic matter including thatch and grass-clippings; preferring soils that are excessive moist. Larvae are 3/8 (early instars) to 1.5 (later instars) inches in length, and exhibit a strange behavioral trait—they crawl on their back (Figure 3) because that they have a constant itch.

Fig 3: Larva (grub) of green June beetle crawling on its back.
Fig 3: Larva (grub) of green June beetle crawling on its back.

 

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