Here there be dragons

Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis) enjoying a repast of Blue Dasher (

Wow, a record for me. Three days in a row at the Yamato Scrub! My older son, Eric, surprised me midmorning on Labor Day by suggesting that we go to Yamato Scrub. I seized on the suggestion, and off we went. I brought snacks and a drink to keep him occupied, and it worked! I was able to install him on a bench with a good view of the pond while I wandered off to take a few more pictures of the insect life around the wetlands, and found some new (to me) creatures and behaviors. It wasn’t long before he grew hot and bored and “suggested” that we head home, but when a place is this teeming with life, it doesn’t take long to get some pictures of it, either.

One of the more common insects around the pond at this time of year is a tiger beetle; I’m not entirely sure which one it is, but I believe it to be the punctured tiger beetle, Cicindelidia punctulata. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of them flying around from spot to spot around the sandy margins of the wetlands, so if I get back there anytime soon I’ll be sure to take more photos to get the ID. Here’s the one shot from this trip that sort of turned out:

Tiger beetle, presumed Cicindelidia punctulata. Yamato Scrub, September 1, 2014

Tiger beetle, presumed Cicindelidia punctulata. Yamato Scrub, September 1, 2014

While not as showy as other tiger beetles (seriously, do an image search on tiger beetles and you’ll see some amazing walking jewelry), it has a certain charm in the metallic sheen from its hard wing covers (elytra). Tiger beetles, true to their name, are predaceous, using their impressive speed, large eyes, and hefty mandibles to attack and consume their prey. I haven’t seen them catching or eating anything, but by all accounts, it’s impressive.

However, and as sort of a follow-up to yesterday’s post that featured a damsels in distress (that is, a damselfly eating another damselfly), today’s post features a truly impressive feat of predation: a dragonfly, Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis) feasting on another dragonfly, Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis):

Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis) enjoying a repast of Blue Dasher (). Yamato Scrub, September 1, 2014.

Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis) enjoying a repast of Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis). Yamato Scrub, September 1, 2014.

It was a bit windy, and I couldn’t get as close to the subjects as I’d have liked, so the picture’s a bit blurry, but it’s pretty easy to see what’s going on here. Like any good predator, the pondhawk here is feasting on the tastiest bits of its captured prey first—in this case, the face and brains.

The dragonfly that’s being eaten is a bit blurry in the shot above, so here’s a shot of one of its brethren (who knows? maybe it’s the exact same animal, as I didn’t follow this one after I’d photographed it) displaying the same markings on its tail (what dragonfly people call its “abdomen”) and thorax (that part of the insect where the four wings and six legs attach):

Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis), Yamato Scrub, September 1, 2014.

Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis), Yamato Scrub, September 1, 2014.

Come on out to the Yamato Scrub if you want to see some amazing examples of nature, “red in tooth and claw.” Because, unlike on the maps of antiquity or the Renaissance, here indeed, there be dragons. (Well, dragonflies, at any rate.) And tigers. (Well, tiger beetles.)

Etymological note: the genus of the tiger beetle pictured at top (Cicindelidia) appear to be derive its name from the latin word for glow-worm, cicindela. (There are two North American genera with similar names, Cicindela and Cicindelidia; presumably they are named so similarly because they are suspected to be closely related.) Tiger beetles do have a bit of a metallic sheen to them, which might account for the genus name, but I really have no idea…

Monday afternoon at Yamato Scrub

We were pretty tired after our early morning walk on Monday. By early morning, I mean e-a-r-l-y m-o-r-n-i-n-g. We saw Venus blazing away low in the east, with Jupiter higher away in the southeast. We saw a couple of bats (I wonder what kind they could be? Have to check out our Marks & Marks to see what the candidates are). We heard at least one and probably two nighthawks, and we were back inside long before dawn.

But, as I said, we got tired early, and couldn’t muster up the energy to get to the Memorial Day observance around the corner from our house. To make up for it, though, in the afternoon we took a trip out to Yamato Scrub, just the boys, to see what we could see. Read more

Related Images:

What’s in a name?

Really, I’m asking. What is in a name? Tarflower is a beautiful plant of Florida’s scrub and pine flatland areas. It’s a large wildflower or good-sized shrub in the Ericaceae, or heath, family. The flower is distinctive, with its 7 pinkish white petals, completely free (i.e., not joined together), arrayed around those central pistils. The common name gives a good idea of its strategy to deter nectar snatchers (ants, houseflies, etc., who might be tempted to take its nectar without “paying” for it–that is, without performing the pollination services for which plants evolved their nectar-facilitated reproductive strategy): it traps freeloaders with a sticky secretion from the hairs on the stems.

Its scientific name, though, is a bit of a mystery. Several authorities (Taylor and Bell, Austin and Bass) call it Befaria racemosa, as does the University of Florida webpage that I link to at the beginning (the #1 Google hit for “Tarflower”). Austin and Bass go so far as to mention that the genus name is derived from the name of a Spanish officer named Bexar. Many authorities, among them the ISB website, simply correct the name to Bejaria without commentary. Other authorities, though, (e.g., W.K. Taylor) point out that Befaria is actually a mistake; the proper form of the name is Bejaria (which makes more sense if it truly is derived from Bexar).

Now why such learned writers as Austin and Bass would give the “incorrect” spelling to a name that they obviously know the derivation of, is beyond me. So far beyond me, that I went straight to the source: According to the USDA GRIN Taxonomy, Befaria is a “rejected original spelling that is unavailable for use.” Rejected by whom, I ask?

Bejaria, on the other hand, gets the comment “this spelling conserved (nom. cons.)(Vienna ICBN Art. 14.11 & App. III) against the original spelling ‘Befaria‘.” In other words, Etienne Pierre Ventenat named the plant according to Linnaeus’s misspelled Befaria, and later on, I suppose, someone named Mutis changed it to Bejaria? Or, is Mutis just the latin for changed, and everyone knows that the spelling of the genus name was changed?

To find out about the natural history of the genus, it would be hard to do better than this page from the New York Botanical Garden; if you’re too lazy to click the link, here are a couple of representative sentences:

It is characterized by 7-merous flowers, free petals, capsular fruits, non-appendaged anthers, and viscin threads intermixed with the pollen tetrads.  It is sometimes considered morphologically and anatomically isolated within the Rhododendroideae.

If you’re still with me, you deserve a treat, so here is a little gallery of Tarflower from the Yamato Scrub:

But the question remains: what’s in a name? More specifically, what’s in this (generic) name? (So should I have asked, “More generically,” what’s in this name?)

Scrubbing, part two

As the morning wore on, the work crew wore out. The sun rose higher, the temperature followed suit, and the little pick-me-up afforded by the popsicles and other treats wore off. Good thing for this tired man that his family was standing ready to pick him up. As he returned to the truck, he phoned home to set the wheels in motion. Read more


The summer sun in Florida is brutally hot. It’s almost directly overhead, and the protection supposedly afforded by Earth’s atmosphere seems marginal at best. Those who live only a short distance from the beach can look forward to the cooling effect of the sea breeze, but for those of us who are farther inland, Read more