Jack Schmidling Productions, Inc.
18016 Church Road ~ Marengo IL 60152
Phone:815 923 0031 ~ Email:




Polygonia interrogationis

There are two nearly identical butterflies with the curious names of Question Mark and Comma. Even the scientific names reflect this curiosity. One being P. interrogationis and the other P. comma.

For some strange reason, the Comma is also known as the "Hop Merchant" in spite of the fact that they both lay eggs on and the larvae thrive on hops, nettle and elm leaves.

The only visible difference between the two is the shape of very small silver marking on the underside of the hind wing. In one case it looks like a comma and the other has a small dot below it making it look sort of like a question mark.

This is very difficult to see and even more difficult to photograph on a live butterfly. As we are not inclined to kill butterflies, we are making this one of our photo projects for the coming Summer.

It is interesting to ponder that, being two different species, (which by definition means they can not interbreed), we have to assume that they can read, at least punctuation marks.


Butterfly Look-alikes

Everybody immediately recognizes the Monarch which is the most famous butterfly in the world. Right? Guess again.

This nearly identical look-alike is the much less common Viceroy. They tend to be a bit smaller than the Monarch but the only sure difference between the two is the semi-circular vein on the underside of the hind wing. Note that the Monarch in the inset, resting on Marilyn's finger has no such vein.

The Monarch caterpiller thrives on the Milkweed which makes it and the adult Monarch very distasteful to birds. Once a bird tries to eat one, it avoids them and anything that looks like a Monarch in the future.

Through natural selection, the Viceroy has evolved to look enough like a Monarch to be nearly immune to attacks by birds.


This striking butterfly is a regular visitor here although we rarely see more than one or two each year. It is much more common in the Southern parts of it's range.

The major food sources for it's larvae are Toadflax and Plantain.

In size, it is somewhat smaller than a Monarch.

The "eyespots" are supposed to make it scary to predators but one can take that with a grain of salt.


Probably the most striking looking insect in the world is the Praying Mantis. There are several species native to North America but they are mostly tropical with a few species in the Southeastern US. The most common being the Carolina Mantis.

Chineese Mantis

This image is of the Chineese Mantis which was brought into this country in the early 1900's. In addition to it's unusual praying posture, the mantis is the only insect capable of looking over it's shoulder. It's head is articulated to the body much like people so it can swivel it around to get a better view.

It is most disconcerting to walk down the path and see one looking at me, head following as I walk past. This one is clearly looking at the camera.

Mantids are voracious preditors, primarily of insects and insect larvae. I saw one once with a little toad in its grasp which I of course rescued.

Egg Case

In Fall, the female builds cocoon out of something like paper mache and lays her eggs inside.

The cocoon over-winters and the eggs hatch out in spring. The frayed material dribbling out of the left side of this cocoon indicates a successful hatchout.


We brought an egg case in and put it into the bughouse for the Winter and in June, there were tiny mantids all over the screen sides.


Enodia anthedon

The Pearly Eyes belong to a group of butterflies known as Satyrs which are medium sized and characterized by a bouncy flight.

This butterfly often rests with its head pointed down.

The major food sources for its larvae are grasses.

They are not very common here and we only see one or two a year and sometimes, none at all.

Hemaris thysbe

One has to look again when seeing this moth in flight because of it's uncanny resemblance to a humming bird.

When at rest, one is reminded more of it's other common name, Clearwing Moth.

Popilla japonica

In 1916, a shipment of iris roots from Japan included some stowaways that have become serious pests to hundreds of plants from flowers to vegetables.

This picture gives some idea of the destructiveness of the Japanese Beetle. This is what grapevine leaves look like after a few days under attack. Several of our vines were nearly destroyed before I decided to do something about it.

I sprayed the vines with Sevin and Malathion alternately for a few days and they completely vanished. In fact when I decided to photograph them, I could find none. Until I looked at the pole beans in the garden, that is.

So much for the wonders of our "global economy".

They were not only on the beans but everywhere. This is not so simple because we can not spray veggies that we intend to eat anytime soon. We won't be harvesting grapes for weeks but we pick veggies every day so I guess we will just have to share them with the beetles.


Pelecinus polyturator

This interesting wasp ranges throughout North America feeding on flower nectar. The male is hardly ever seen and quite inconspicuous by comparison. It's abdomen is short and blunt.

The female's much elongated abdomen serves a dual purpose. It is poked into the soil "looking" for June Bug larvae. When one is found, an egg is deposited on the grub and left to parasitize it. The grub dies and the larval wasp survives to start the process over in the Spring.


Pachydiplax longipennis

The Blue Dasher is one of the most common dragon flies in the Midwest.

They migrate south for Winter and are the first to show up in Spring; mature and ready to breed and lay eggs in ponds and lakes.

The larvae spends most of the summer (which is most of its life) in the water as a voracious predator known to fisherman as a helgramite.

In Fall, they metamorphose into the adult dragon fly and head south to start all over again.

Diapheromera femorata

Known in some regions as Stick Insects, the Walking Sticks are truly amazing examples of natural camoflage

They are nocturnal insects, spending the day just hanging around looking like sticks and the night eating foliage, their favorite seems to be oak leaves.

This picture caught a pair "doing it" right on our screen door. The larger one being the female, will drop her eggs in the leaf litter where they will overwinter and hatch out into nymphs in Spring.




We have found several of these over the years caught up in spider webs but as they were in pretty bad condition by the time we found them, we were never able to identify them.

A friend and guest at our Oktoberfest identified this one as an Ant Lion. He is rarely wrong on these sorts of things but never having seen one of their ant traps around here, we were surprised to learn they lived this far north.

Well, last year we found a group of these in the sandy soil at the base of a Spruce tree in the back yard. This is the classic ant trap of the Ant Lion.

The adult lays it's eggs on the ground which hatch into a larva known as a "Doodlebug" which builds the trap in sandy soil and waits for an ant to try to cross it. The ant usually slips a little and a few grains of sand roll into the hole. At this signal, the larva kicks up a storm of sand which knocks the ant over, tumbling it into the hole where it is eaten by the doodle bug.

Without digging up the trap one never sees the doodlebug but it is great fun to push a few grains of sand into the hole with a blade of grass and watch the trap erupt like a volcano.


While shoveling out manure in the sheep shed, I found these larvae that resemble June Beetle grubs but differ in several ways. They are larger, much softer, gray rather than white and with red markings. The posterior end is a soft jelly like bag.

I posted a picture to the Yahoo Bug Group and Matt Smith suggested that they might be Oryctes nasicornis.

That would be the European Rhinoceros Beetle. Don't know if their range includes N. America but it no doubt is a species of Scarab Beetle.