Wednesday, August 5, 2015

lucky shot

Sometimes, you just get lucky.

I was photographing wildflowers at Indian Gap on the Smokies crest when I noticed a brightly colored beetle land on a flower very near me.

I stepped closer, began to frame the image and almost at the same instant that I squeezed the shutter, the beetle opened its elytra and unfurled its wings. Click! And the magnificent bug had flown. Had I gotten the shot? One nanosecond later, I would have not.

I had never seen the beetle before, but I soon found the cloaked knotty-horn, a.k.a. elder borer in an Audubon field guide. It’s a long-horned beetle noted for its bright orange cloak, metallic-blue back and the enlarged knot-like knees at the antennal segments. (For some reason, my knotty-horn only has one antenna.)

The knotty-horn lays its eggs in the ground near the base of an elderberry shrub. (And there were plenty of elderberries growing near where we were.) The larvae burrow into the stems of the plant (hence the second common name: elder borer). The small grubs then move down into the roots and pupate in the soil. The adults appear from June through September to start the process anew.

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