Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Holding his own

Today for the first time since I found him, over 3 weeks ago, my little dark boy ate 2 whole flies, albeit small ones, and practically on his own. All I did was spear them on a grass stem and hold them in front of him. He grabbed them, held them, and ate them by himself.

Meanwhile, his sister (and/or potential mate) is ready to make her final shed. She made a half-
hearted attempt at eating a moth last night, but now she won't be able to eat anything until after she sheds.

You can see her wings have developed. They are all puffy and scrunched up beneath the covering of skin. Even so, her adult wings will be short, vestigal. You'll see in a day or so.

Monday, January 28, 2008

How to make a dime look big:

Put it next to a teeny,



Don't ask me how I managed to spot him in my driveway this morning, in between the two Hondas. Don't ask me how I managed not to run him over a few minutes earlier, when I drove Brice to school, or step on him as I dragged four trashcans down to the curb. It had to be luck, on both our parts.
He's a California Slender Salamander, and I am lucky enough to have a small population of them living right in my yard. They are most active at this time of year, when the ground is wet and soggy. I have posted pictures of them previously here and here.
After taking his picture (and again, I use the male pronoun by default) I released him in the planter to what can only be an uncertain fate.

Mantis Monday for 1-28-08

Here's a dollar put to creative use.

One Dollar Praying Mantis by *orudorumagi11 on deviantART

Friday, January 25, 2008

Another monarch caterpillar standoff

I wandered through the arboretum for a bit this afternoon, between rainstorms. Some of the milkweed plants have been stripped bare by the caterpillars. There is a little patch of milkweed in the avocado grove that still has leaves, but they won't last long at the rate they're going.

I caught these two caterpillars having a serious discussion about who should eat the leaf they were both on.

Stuck in the middle, a silent third party: an egg that appeared ready to hatch. I didn't even see this until after I downloaded the picture from my camera. I just hope the tiny caterpillar had time to hatch and crawl away before one of those big guys ate that leaf. It surely would eat the egg right along with it.

Sunday, January 20, 2008


I found this fuzzy caterpillar at the arboretum a couple weeks ago. I think it's an acrea moth caterpillar, Estigmene acrea, also called a salt marsh moth. In spite of its bristly appearance in the photos, the fuzz is actually very soft.

I don't see these very often here, although they were common where I lived when I was a kid. So I brought it home to watch it grow.

This is the same caterpillar, after shedding its skin recently.

A good day today

I parked my little dark boy on the fence for a picture. He seemed a little less "damaged" today.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The dark one

Still alive. Still dark. Still not eating on his own. He ate 2 fly thoraxes thoraces today (...and I learned a new word, but I digress...) He is slowly improving, at least in regard to what and how much he will eat. He still can't grab the prey insect on his own, but is starting to make attempts to hold onto it with while he's eating. (I feed him by using a slender grass stem as a skewer and holding the food right up to his mouth.)

He also doesn't seem to be cleaning himself. Mantids are normally very fastidious about keeping themselves clean and will usually groom their claws, feet and antennae several times a day, especially after eating. Below is an example of an arboretum mantid cleaning himself, from a couple summers ago.

Anyway, he's still alive, and that's good news.

This year's David Kirk cute bug stuff at Target

A sample of this year's offerings:

I almost bought this. It's so sweet.

Funny, this Backyard Buddies Bag of Bugs looks identical to the Happy Giddy Bag of Bugs they sold last year. I know that for a fact because they were in this post from last year.

Maybe next year, he'll come out with a praying mantis character.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Mantis Monday for 1-14-2008

I usually avoid going to the mall, but last week my neighbor took me out to lunch there, and we detoured into a little store I had never heard of before, called Hand and Mind. Apparently it's a chain of "upscale decorative arts and crafts boutiques".

Anyway, I spotted this colorful little metal mantis, uh, thing. It's so cutesy and cartoony as to not be very mantis-like, yet still recognizable. Too pricey to actually buy, but worth a stealthy snapshot or two.

For a mantis, (and yes it's labeled as such,) it's got a froggy little face.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Dark days for the little prince

His new skin has turned dark

...especially from the back view.

He lost a foot in the shed somehow. This by itself is not really too serious. In fact, it's possible that he could at least grow a partial foot with his next and final shed. But at this point, I'm not even sure if he will make it that far. He is still very weak and not eating on his own. He has taken a couple of tiny bites of fly innards, and a droplet or two of honey. I don't know if I can feed him enough this way to get him back to strength. Maybe his "lost time" has damaged him beyond recovery. But I'll keep trying.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Abe Simpson and ET

Look at those pointy heads. Why, they're practically twins!


This is Mrs. W's ET stickbug. Hers was one of the first that hatched this summer, and matured several weeks before mine did. And look, she's smiling!

She hasn't laid any eggs yet, but her abdomen is huge, so I'm sure there are some in there.
(Yes, that's my hand. Looks gross, huh?)

Arrested Development *UPDATED*

The last 3 months have been hard on the little wide-arm man. He does not seem to have grown or shed his skin in all that time, and I can only guess that he's had very little to eat. His coloring is similar what it was in the summer, but duller somehow.
He is alert, but a little weak. I'm concerned because he doesn't want to eat. I was hoping a little time indoors in a slightly humid container would perk up his appetite, but he's just not interested. He has taken a couple of tiny droplets of honey, and minute globules of squished fly, that I literally dabbed onto his "lips" with a toothpick, but that's it. We'll just have to wait and see what happens now.
*UPDATE* 1-11-08
He shed his skin early this evening, leaving behind part of one of his legs in the shed. He is still weak, but that's pretty normal for after shedding. Fortunately, we're expecting warm weather this weekend. I will give him some time out in the sun (in a screen enclosure!) and maybe he will eat for me.

Skin for Breakfast

Yesterday morning I discovered that my ET stickbug had made its final shed during the night. I caught her in the act of eating the exoskeleton.

Mmm...yummy skin!

Monday, January 07, 2008

Mantis Monday for 1-7-08

My Mantis Monday posts kind of fizzled last year, but New Year's is the time for fresh starts. I can't promise to have something every Monday, but I'll try to do better than last year.

A surprise addition to my collection of praying mantis-obelia is this cute story of Manuelo the Playing Mantis. He wants to be a musician.

Thanks, Mrs. W.

Saturday, January 05, 2008


My little male wide-arm mantid! I can hardly believe it! Over 3 months ago, I lost him in my front yard. I searched for days, but couldn't find him. Now this afternoon, he was right before my eyes, at the end of a bare branch on the little crepe myrtle tree, just a few paces from where I last saw him in September.

Since that day, the poor little fellow has endured hot, dry weather, smoke-filled Santa Ana winds, chilly nights (some dipping into the upper 30's) and last night we had the biggest rainstorm of the season so far. And then I found him! He's in a jar on my kitchen windowsill right now. I'll post pictures soon.
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