Friday, February 20, 2015

A rove beetle visits for a photo shoot and lunch


While out running this morning, I noticed this cool bug on the sidewalk in the park. It's getting to the point where my fitness walk/runs are not compatible with bug-finding, but sometimes I see something that's just too irresistable to pass by. (like that horrible but cool, big squished spider last fall.)

Today it was a rove beetle. I haven't seen a lot of these critters, and never one this big. This first photo is just to show it next to my hand for size.


I could see that it had a good set of jaws on it, so I picked it up carefully in my sleeve-kleenex, (you can tell that I am a woman of a certain age, because I always seem to have kleenex in my pocket or tucked into a sleeve) and wrapped it gently so it couldn't get away. I continued my run, stopping at the next few park trashcans until I found a suitable styrofoam cup I could carry the beetle in for the rest of my run. When I got home, I put it in a larger plastic container and threw a little leaf litter and compost in there to make it feel at home, and so hopefully all the pictures would not just be on a white plastic background.


Rove beetles are characterized by their under-sized elytra (shell). So they definitely don't look like a typical beetle. They live and under rocks and debris, and eat other bugs, as well as decaying plant material.


While I was trying to take its picture, the beetle caught and ate a sowbug that happened to be in with the leaf litter that I put in the container.


It was hard to get a good shot of this black beetle, with its head down, chewing on the sowbug. I was hoping to get a shot of the jaws. This was about as close as I got this time around.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

More info on the monarch situation.

Here's a good article that a friend posted on Facebook.  Has some good information and answers some of the basic questions about the tropical milkweed that is central to this whole issue, and some good advice and resources for those who want to learn more:

http://monarchjointventure.org/news-events/news/qa-about-research-related-to-tropical-milkweed-and-monarch-parasites

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Tropical milkweed is weakening monarch butterfly populations.


A monarch caterpillar feeds on tropical milkweed, Asclepias curassavica.

As well-meaning gardeners have heeded the call and planted lots of milkweed plants to help the monarchs, it turns out that the species of milkweed we have been planting the most has been leading to the proliferation of a parasite that is infecting and weakening these beloved insect ambassadors, and further reducing their populations.



Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Big, squished spider

That's what this post is about.  Yes, it's gross, and yes, there will be pictures.  You have been warned. I am not offended if you prefer to navigate elsewhere.



Ok?


Still here?

All right, then...

Even though this mess is clearly on a paper towel, I did try to keep it in the same position as when I found it for this first shot.   So basically you see what I saw on the wet sidewalk that made me do a double take.  Big smooshed up spider?  Or a beetle, maybe?  Or maybe just a wad of wet black string.  I leaned down for a better look.  Not string.  And too many legs for a beetle.  That's why I brought it home.  I just had to see what it was!


























Sizing him up.

Counting his legs.  No, you don't see 9 legs.  You see 7 legs and 2 pedipalps.  The pedipalps are the 2 leggish looking appendages in the front, to either side of the fangs.  They have sensory function for smell and taste, and help with sperm transfer during mating.

With the spider's overall size, long pedipalps and small abdomen, I have tentatively identified it as a male California Trapdoor Spider, 

I found this amusing bit of Trapdoor Spider trivia on BugGuide:
According to Guinness World Records, as of 2009, this is the strongest spider. It has been able to resist a force 38 times its own weight when defending its trapdoor. This equates to a man trying to hold a door closed while it is being pulled on the other side by a small jet plane.(1) Unfortunately, the Guinness book doesn't mention if it's the strongest North American spider or if it's the strongest in the world. Also, one thing to think about is whether or not every spider's strength has been measured (no, they most definitely have not). The information is flawed in many respects, but it still asserts the fact that these spiders are pretty strong.


You can see some good photos of living spiders here. This, in all its dead gory glory, was my first Trapdoor. And I say it still counts.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A shy spider, jumping boldly

Brace yourself for more spider photos.  It is Arachtober, after all.

This is the same P. audax jumping spider from my last post.  Did I mention that I have given this spider a name?  Her name is Koko.  Like the gorilla who communicates in sign language.  Looks all big and hairy and scary, but she's really a big sweetie. Just like my spider.


It can be difficult to get her out of her container. She prefers the safety of her little silk sac.


Eventually, she crept toward the opening.


I was able to turn the jar over and tap gently to get her on the grass, where she continued to hide...


... in various positions..


Do you agree that she looks like a tiny gorilla? With extra legs, a few extra eyes, and big green fangs?


I had the brilliant idea to put Koko in a big plastic tub to make it easier for me to focus on her, and harder for her to hide.



But Koko was getting ideas of her own...


One second, she appeared to be reaching up...


And the next second...


And that was the end of our photo shoot for today!



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