May 2006


Atkinsonia ignipictaAtkinsonia ignipicta

Lepidoptera: Stathmopodidae
Atkinsonia ignipicta = seguro-beni-togeashi-ga
(literal translation = red-backed hairy-legged moth)

Location = kurate tsurugidake shizen kouen (Mt. Tsurugi Nature Park in Kurate)
Google map = here

Wow, this dead worm must have been really delicious!! It was being fed upon by a whole nest of ants, some flies, and no less than eight black carrion beetles (oohirata shidemushi). The beetles seemed to be in almost a feeding frenzy (and mating). Although I’ve often seen these beetles in twos or threes, this was the first time I’d seen so many.

While I was watching, the eighth beetle arrived on the scene with a fly hitching a ride on its back. It was comical to see the two arrive: the fly jumped straight off into the middle of the pack of beetles, while the late arrival went in a wide circle and finally joined the gang.

Eusilpha japonicaEusilpha japonicaEusilpha japonicaEusilpha japonicaEusilpha japonicaEusilpha japonica

Coleoptera: Silphidae
Eusilpha japonica = black carrion beetle (oohirata shidemushi)

Walking along a path in Tsurugidake Nature Park (in Kurate, Fukuoka), I was stopped in my tracks by this big male carpenter bee (kumabachi = “bear bee” in Japanese) which kept flying straight towards me and hovering in front of my face. He was being very territorial and was chasing away anything that he spotted (other bees, butterflies). I’ve read that this species will even chase away birds! Apparently the male does not have a sting (although the female does) so the bee is perfectly harmless, but its aggressive behaviour and size (2cm or so) more than make up for the lack of sting! They are called carpenter bees because they make nest holes in wood (usually trees but sometimes in buildings).

I took about 50 or 60 photos of the bee hovering, but it was quite early in the morning so the light wasn’t good enough to get clear shots. Then I caught it in my hat (very easy to do) and managed to get hold of its thorax so I could take a close-up photo.

Xylocopa appendiculataXylocopa appendiculataXylocopa appendiculataXylocopa appendiculata

Hymenoptera: Apocrita: Anthophoridae
Xylocopa appendiculata circumvolans = carpenter bee (kumabachi )

It was a beautiful morning, so I decided to visit Mt. Tsurugi Nature Park (tsurugidake shizenkouen), which is located in Kurate, Fukuoka Prefecture. I drive within about a kilometer of the park every morning on my way to work, but this was only my second visit. After finding the place so full of flowers and insects, I’ll certainly be calling in again (maybe even tomorrow!!).

This small hill is only 125m high but was the site of a castle in the 15th century. The lane that leads to the park is well sign-posted (in English too) and there’s a parking area very near the top of the hill, so it’s a pretty convenient place to visit. It’s just off the main road between Munakata (Fukuoka University of Education) and Kurate, near the point where the road goes under the expressway and shinkansen line. Here’s a map link (yahoo maps).

Mt. Tsurugi car parkMt. Tsurugi path
Parking area and path up to the summit of the hill

Mt. Tsurugi picnic areaMt. Tsurugi flower field
Picnic area and flower field

Mt. Tsurugi flower fieldMt. Tsurugi flower field
Flower field

Mt. Tsurugi castle informationMt. Tsurugi summit shrine
Castle information board and summit shrine

This beautiful ratsnake was just coming down a concrete embankment when I saw it. I’m not sure, but it seemed like it had just shed it’s skin because it was so bright and soft. I held it for quite a while and it calmed down enough to sit quite still while I took photos. Then, when I brought the camera too close, it attacked the lens. I switched the camera to video mode to capture one of these strikes (VIDEO HERE). The snake was also “rattling” it’s tail. Obviously trying to appear more dangerous than it really was!

Reptilia: Ophidia: Colubridae: Elaphe quadrivirgata
Japanese four-lined ratsnake = shimahebi

Elaphe quadrivirgataElaphe quadrivirgataElaphe quadrivirgataElaphe quadrivirgata

If anyone had seen me stalking this green pheasant (kiji) they’d have had a good laugh! I followed him, crouching or crawling (me not the bird), for about a kilometer through the fields, snapping a few far-off shots, before finally managing to get some pretty decent photos when he reached a deadend (and just before he blasted off across the fields).
The green pheasant is common in Japan and is the national bird. It appears on the back of our highest denomination paper currency, the ten thousand yen note/bill (link to picture here).

Green PheasantGreen PheasantGreen PheasantGreen PheasantGreen PheasantGreen Pheasant

Order: Galliformes
Family: Phasianidae
Phasianus versicolor
Green Pheasant = kiji

This longhorn was a little tough to identify because the pictures in my beetle books show much more patterning on the elytra (hence the name 8-spotted). However, I eventually found out that this species shows enormous variation in patterning and one form is quite plain like this specimen. Anyway, I’m pleased with my photos because they show the beetle on a flower and it belongs to the group of flower longhorns – so it must be in its natural habitat!!

Leptura arcuata mimicaLeptura arcuata mimicaLeptura arcuata mimica

Coleoptera: Cerambycidae: Lepturinae
Leptura arcuata = yatsuboshi-hana-kamikiri
(literal translation = 8-spotted flower longhorn)

Location: Park near Nogata (= mizumachi-iseki-koen)
Google map: here

As I was walking past a farmer’s house, I saw this crow snake (karasu-hebi) lying in the grass at the side of the driveway. At first I thought it was probably dead because it wasn’t moving and the farmer was talking to some other people nearby, so I assumed they’d killed it. Anyway, I took a photo of the snake in the grass and it suddenly shot off, so I rushed onto the driveway and grabbed its tail. Then I carried it out into the lane and took a few photos. The people in the farm were watching me with looks of horror on their faces. I called out that it was a non-venomous karasu-hebi, but the farmer shouted that it was venomous! Obviously they have a false impression of these harmless snakes – and they presumably kill the ones they see. What a pity they wouldn’t come near me while I was holding the snake. I wanted to show them what a beautiful creature it was. I was afraid that they would kill it if I released it near the house, so I carried it up the road and released it into the forest.

Elaphe quadrivirgataElaphe quadrivirgataElaphe quadrivirgataElaphe quadrivirgata

Reptilia: Ophidia: Colubridae: Elaphe quadrivirgata
Japanese four-lined ratsnake = Crow snake (black): shimahebi = karasuhebi (black form)

I caught two of these winged queen ants today. At 15mm long, this is the biggest species of ant I’ve ever found. It’s called kuro-oo-ari (black-big-ant) and is common throughout Japan.

Japanese ant database: http://ant.edb.miyakyo-u.ac.jp/E/Taxo/F80902.html

Camponotus japonicusCamponotus japonicusCamponotus japonicus

Hymenoptera: Formicidae (ants)
Camponotus japonicus (kuro-ooari)

This is a really beautiful little beetle with metallic red/green wing cases (elytra). The species occurs throughout Japan and is also found in Siberia. Apparently it’s a pest of grapes, so it appears on the “regulated” lists in the USA and New Zealand (and other places too I expect). I saw this specimen and immediately crouched down to get a photo, but I moved too quickly and it dropped from the leaf. I thought I’d lost it and was feeling disappointed when it reappeared. But it kept falling from leaves when I was trying to get close enough for a decent shot – very frustrating!

Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae:
Acrothinium gaschkevitschii (akaganesaruhamushi)

Acrothinium gaschkevitschiiAcrothinium gaschkevitschii

Next Page »