Thursday, August 31, 2006

A lesson in sharpshooting

Bugs are peeing on me.

I have noticed that tiny droplets seem to be raining continuously from the crepe myrtle trees. I always assumed that somehow, moisture from the flowers was seeping and dripping in a shower that could be felt ever so gently, and seen only when the light hit it just right.

Well, this week I learned that the droplets are coming from glassy winged sharpshooters, a type of leafhopper.

My lesson began the other day, while looking at some harlequin bugs on my neighbor’s bushes. I noticed what looked like the flash of spider silk in the sun. Or maybe a really tiny stream of squirting liquid. On closer inspection, I observed the flashing stream as it was coming out of a sharpshooter nymph. Was it really squirting liquid? I noticed a nearby leaf which was right in the line of fire, and it was wet. I could see the liquid hitting it in tiny splashes.

The sharpshooter was peeing, a lot. It was like it was sucking the juices out of the plant and peeing it right out, simultaneously.

I quickly became suspicious of the delicate shower from my crepe myrtle trees, and soon confirmed, by following one of the tiny squirts back up to its source, that the sharpshooters were peeing there, too.

I found an article about them. It expains all about the prolific peeing, and even includes a video that shows a rainstorm of peeing sharpshooters for your viewing pleasure. I had trouble getting the video to play, so I hope you can see it.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

School starts tomorrow...

Never mind the apple. I'm giving the teacher some bugs.

I went to help Mrs. W. get her classroom ready today. I Xeroxed worksheets, laminated name tags, and loaded pencil boxes.

I also brought her a lovely bouquet of anise weeds.

Nothing like starting off the school year with a big fat caterpillar! (Anise swallowtail, that is.)

Happy munchy-face

A little something extra: Find one caterpillar, get another of equal or smaller size, free!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Hairstreak caterpillar

A new one for me. Actually, I'm pretty sure I must have seen one before, but I didn't know what it was. It's really small, barely bigger than a grain of rice.

This picture shows an ant that seemed interested in the caterpillar.

A repeat-offender meets his end

This spider was found guilty of assaulting Michael by constructing an "in your face" web between his car and the little tree out front. Last week, he walked right into it and came rushing back into the house, needing me to help him make sure the spider wasn't on him somewhere. He had the spider's last meal stuck in his hair, but we didn't find the spider. Then in the wee hours yesterday, the spider was back, with its web in the same spot as before. This time, Michael was ready, and walked around it. I was able to find it later, as it rested under a leaf.

With two arachnaphobes in this house, there are some instances when spiders must be euthanized. One is Black Widows, which Jerry will not tolerate on our property. Another is an oversized orb-weaver who continues to build its web across a vital human walkway. Like the fellow above. Don't worry, he never felt a thing.

From the porch light...

A katydid. This species is relatively new to my yard, within the last couple of years. It's smaller than the "regular" katydids I've been used to seeing for the past gazillion years, and it makes a very faint clicking sound.

One of the "regular" kind, for comparison

Monday, August 28, 2006

Mantis Monday for 8-28-06

This is one of my favorite pictures of Brice. He was only 7 years old in this picture, holding 2 mantids. (He's 16 now, and goes back to school this week.) The tan one was his that he raised over the summer. Her name was Tiger, and I think that was the last time a mantid had a name around here.

You can see a little family resemblance to Bug Girl in the sidebar photo. Of course, nowadays, he doesn't play with bugs anymore, but I can still show him some of the bugs I find, and he'll smile and say "That's cool", while Michael just rolls his eyes.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

My last Buckeye caterpillar

The little stowaway reached full size, just as his food supply ran out.

Yesterday, AM

Yesterday, PM

I hope to give this pupa to a neighbor, so she can enjoy the beauty of this butterfly first-hand, as I did with the others. I also want to go back to the park and try to find other pupas that I can collect, just to see the butterflies emerge again and send them on their way.

Monday, August 21, 2006

A walk through the park

What Jerry has to deal with every time he takes me for a walk.

Jerry walks for health. He has been walking every day, all summer. Sometimes twice a day. He has lost about 15 lbs. I go with him when I can, usually about 5 times a week. We have some nice parks nearby. He likes to walk through them instead of along the busy street. Who can blame him? I like walking through the park, too, but I get distracted along the way, and Jerry always has to stop while I'm checking out this critter or that.

These are some of the distractions from yesterday's walk.

This robber fly was sitting so still, and it was still there later on our way home. I wonder if it was dead?

I made a point of returning to the area where I had collected the Buckeye caterpillars a few weeks ago. All the weeds where I found the caterpillars had been mowed down!

At the far end of the stream, there were still a lot of plants growing. I guess the lawnmower couldn't get down there. It's too rocky. The wall in the distance is the freeway.

Here, there were a few of those plants that the Buckeye caterpillars live on.

Lots of caterpillars here. (Few in focus, though. )

Here's a few more. This is about as close as I could get without getting in the water...

...and you don't want to get in this water!

On the way back, we passed a little hill that was covered with ice plant and heavily populated with funnel spiders. There were some pretty big ones. Or should I say big pretty ones? They can be hard for me to photograph because they are usually down in their funnels, but this one was posing nicely.

One last distraction near the path that leads back to the street. I saw this white thing in a bush and I knew it was a mantid exoskeleton. It was trapped in a little spider web, but I think it just floated down into it from a nearby tree. Just to be sure, I checked the in the bush around the shed skin, but I didn't see a mantid.

Tonight, I told Jerry if he wanted me to walk with him and not stop to look at bugs every 20 paces, we'd better stay out of the park!

Mantis Monday for 8-21/06

This is my Folkmanis praying mantis hand puppet. It's big, it's cool, but the head looks more like a turtle than a praying mantis to me.

Although this puppet is discontinued, you can still find them for sale if you do a Google search for praying mantis puppet. Also, Folkmanis has an extensive line of puppets of all sorts of animals.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Mantis Monday for 8-14-06

This is probably one of my "lamest" plastic mantis toys. I don't remember which well-intended person gave this to me. The wings and rear legs fit into slots on the main head/body/front legs unit. Except they won't stay in. If I try to pick it up, it immediately falls apart. Its only saving grace is that it glows in the dark.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

A butterfly's debut

I was surprised to see that the first of my buckeyes emerged this morning. It was less than 2 weeks ago that I found the caterpillars, and now I have this to show for it:

Click on the picture above to enlarge it, and you can see the small front legs folded up, almost mantid-like, under the butterfly's face.

Beauty and perfection: The virgin wings have not yet taken flight and so are flawless and brilliant.

Have a safe journey, little friend!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Buckeye and friends

I don't think I mentioned it in my previous Buckeye post, but I did bring home 2 caterpillars. I selected the largest ones I could find, so they would pupate soon. And they did. Here's one.

I was amazed that their host plant, (this "water weed", whatever it is), rooted incredibly fast. My caterpillars were done with it in just a couple of days, but by then the cuttings were sprouting out with roots.

I also discovered that it was full of tiny inchworm/looper-type caterpillars. So I kept the weed in its jar of water, and now, about a week later, some of the little inchworms are big enough for me to take pictures of:

Sometimes they hang straight down, like this one is doing.

And today, while looking at all the inchworms, I noticed a new little buckeye caterpillar. When I collected the original caterpillars and the plant, he was either still in his egg, or just a tiny hatchling that I hadn't seen.

Bird stuff...

Here is a baby house finch (I think), that I found in the back yard last week. He was nowhere near ready to fly yet, but I could not get him to stay in a place where he'd be safe and his mother could still feed him. After I took this picture, he disappeared into the ivy. I don't think my dogs found him, but I didn't see any mama bird coming to care for him either. I just hoped for the best this time.

Here are a couple of our suburban wild parrots. The one on the left was eyeing the fig tree below them, where two other parrots were already feeding.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Cute little bug collector

The theme for this week's Illustration Friday has been capture.
There have been a number of entries depicting bug catching. This was my favorite:
Like dat, like dat: Capture

Monday, August 07, 2006

Mantis Monday for 8-07-06

It's almost time for me to open up my stash of mantisobelia again and take some more pictures from my collection. But for now, here's one of my larger-than-life-size plastic bugs that sits on the top of my armoire. It's "guarding" a couple of more conventional heirlooms: our anniversary clock, and the wedding-cake topper that graced my parents' cake 52 years ago, and eventually my wedding cake and those of each of my sisters.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Buckeye caterpillars

I have only seen buckeye butterflies a couple of times. (That includes a dead one I found on the ground.) I was excited to find a bunch of buckeye caterpillars the other night at our local regional park. They were living on a certain "weed" (or whatever kind of plant it was) growing at the edge of the creek.

An orange grasshopper

Just another beautiful grasshopper to add to my photo collection. This one was a striking pumpkin-orange, sitting conspicuously in the middle of a bright green plant.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Bug Safari joins the circus

Circus of the Spineless , that is!

It's a Blog Carnival whos motto is: A monthly celebration of Insects, Arachnids, Molluscs, Crustaceans, Worms and most anything else that wiggles. Just my kind of carnival. Circus of the Spineless is hosted by a different site every month. This month, you will find it at Words and Pictures.
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