July 28, 2016
Insects are one of the most diverse groups of creatures on the planet. Just think: Humans have identified over a million insect species, which make up more than half of all known living organisms!
Here in CVNP, insects play a vital role to the health of the Cuyahoga River watershed. For instance, bees and wasps help pollinate flowers, while ladybugs feed on plant pests like aphids. Here are four of our favorite CVNP insects:
Big Dipper Firefly
There are about two dozen species of fireflies in Ohio, but the big dipper firefly is one of the most common. Three chemicals— luciferase, luciferin, and ATP—work together to produce the firefly’s characteristic glow.
Each species has a unique flashing pattern, which the males use to advertise their availability to nearby females. Big dipper fireflies are named for their tendency to fly in a J-shaped pattern. When a female sees a mate she likes, she’ll flash in response, steadily guiding the male to her location.
Look for big groups of fireflies in bottomland woods near the Cuyahoga River, such as along the Towpath Trail near Stumpy Basin.
The praying mantis is typically green or brown, with its forelegs folded in the characteristic “prayer” position. These insects are fantastic at blending in with their surroundings and imitating leaves, stems, and sticks.
The praying mantis is a formidable predator, with powerful front legs and a triangular head that can swivel 180 degrees. They typically eat crickets, moths, grasshoppers, flies, and other insects, but they’ve been known to prey upon small lizards, frogs, birds, rodents, and even members of their same species.
You can find praying mantises in open, vegetated areas like meadows and grasslands, such as Indigo Lake or just south of Boston Store Visitor Center.
Great Spangled Fritillary
The great spangled fritillary is a butterfly commonly found in CVNP. With a wingspan ranging from 2.5 to 3.5 inches, it’s a burnished orange with five black dashes near the forewing base, as well as several other irregular black dashes at the base of the hindwing.
Males of this species “patrol” their habitat to find mates, sometimes even following set routes around fields as they flutter within a couple meters of the ground.
Great spangled fritillaries are common in open woodlands and moist meadows, such as near Kendall Lake, Indigo Lake, and Howe Meadow.
Carpenter bees are large, shiny, and predominantly black with yellow markings on their heads. Although they do sting if provoked, they are typically fairly docile.
These bees construct their nests by tunneling into wood. They do not eat the wood, but instead discard it or re-use it to build partitions between “rooms” in the maze of the nest’s wooden tunnels. During the cold winter months, carpenter bees hole up inside these cozy nests to stay warm.
You’ll see these bees near manmade wood shelters, such as the Ledges and Octagon Shelters.
Do you have a favorite insect that we missed? Did you snap a great photo of an insect in the park? Let us know by sending us an email or sharing via Facebook,Twitter, or Instagram with the hashtag #forcvnp!