Monday, March 31, 2008

Porch moths

My porch moths often seem to all look the same at first glance: drab and brown with folded wings. On closer inspection, there is great variety in their patterns. I always check my archive of moth pictures before I post a new one, just to make sure I haven't posted the same kind already.

Mantis Monday for 3-31-08

Flickr is my favorite place to find images of just about anything, anywhere. I've found some incredible little mantid sculptures made with painstaking care by Geoffery Haberman.

These exquisitely deltailed bugs look like they're ready to scramble up the nearest plant (or up the drapes, if you're like me!) and catch a fly. You really should see his entire Metal Insects photoset on Flickr.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Crane flies

From my front porch the other day:

Hunchbacked profile

Sprinkled with something. Pollen, perhaps? Also, notice the halteres, the strange stalks with round tips, sticking out from below/behind the wings. All flies have these. They help with balancing and stability while flying.

At the arboretum

Resting on a nasturtium.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Something different

I always enjoy seeing something that I've never seen before. Even a seasoned bug-finder like me can make a discovery right on my own front porch.

I noticed something on the brick wall. At first I thought it was a cockroach (which, fortunately, I rarely see around here.) A closer look quickly revealed it was a beetle.

The cool thing is, it was a click beetle, a bigger species that I had never seen before. (at about 1¼ inches long.) I kept it in the net at first, because click beetles can fly, and I didn't want this one to get away before I had a chance to take a few pictures.

It didn't try to fly, but it sure was running all over the place. When I finished looking at it, I put it on the ground and it scuttled into the planter.

Goodbye, little prince

His life has come to a sudden end.

He had been doing very well. His coloring was a bright green. He had a great appetite, much better in fact than other adult male mantids I had kept.

In my experience, male mantids usually have only one thing on their mind, and I often had trouble getting them to eat in captivity. I had decided that I would keep feeding this male every day, as long as he was interested. It would build up his strength for mating with the female, who was also eating very well, and growing fat.

Then a few days ago, the female produced an egg case. It was unfertilized, of course. I was thinking I would try to put them together soon, before she layed eggs again.

Around the same time, the male's appetite started to drop off. And he was becoming less active. I guess I didn't realize it at the time, but it was the beginning of the end for him. Last night, I dropped 2 big moths in the female's container, and a small moth in the male's. This morning, I checked to see if he had eaten it, and I found him near death.

There will be no nursing back to health this time. He is already too far gone.

Monday, March 24, 2008

A jungle of weeds

These are the weeds in my side-yard. At least they were, until I cut them down the other week. My side yard is a no-man's land. Sometimes I like to let it go "natural" because it can attract lots of bugs, but it starts to get out of hand, and then it's a real pain in the wazoo to clean it up. So I cut the weeds down.

It's a jungle out there.

After I cut down the weeds in the side yard, I tackled the suckers of Chinese Elm sprouting on the hill in the back yard. On a stump where I had clipped off a bunch of suckers, there was this little snout beetle. A victim of deforestation.

Springtime in bugland

Mantis Monday for 3-24-08

Dream Mantis by M. C. Escher, 1935

When I was a kid, I had a black-light poster in my bedroom. I remember it had a mantis perched atop a grave, or a tomb, or something to do with death. I don't remember the exact details, except that it creeped me out just a little. Eventually, I actually threw it away. It was the only piece of mantis-obelia that I ever got rid of, and I've spent the last few years trying to find it again.

Recently, I came across the picture above by famous artist M. C. Escher. I think this may be my poster. A quick peek at eBay found the same image as a blacklight poster.

I'm not going to buy the poster. It's enough that I've been able to identify it after all these years.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The insect-finder's eye

Yesterday, Jerry and I were hanging out in our car, at the park, enjoying an afternoon of weird weather. We just sat there, waiting for the rain to stop. We watched the leafless trees blowing in the wind...

Wait a minute! What's that I see, right there, on that branch right over the handicapped parking sign? It looks like praying mantis eggs.

Jerry says, "How can you tell it's praying mantis eggs? How did you even notice them?" He should know better by now.

"It looks like praying mantis eggs," I insist. "I can just tell. I'm gonna go see."


I knew it!

They were too high up to reach, with just my arm, that is. A quick check in the car trunk revealed a long handled squeegee, perfect for hooking that branch and pulling it down to where I could just reach it....

Score! These guys are going to be living in my yard now.

Of course after that, and when the rain stopped, while Jerry was taking pictures of the view, I was checking out all the other trees in the park. Turns out there are bunches of praying mantis eggs up there. When they hatch out later this spring, many of them will no doubt drift down to the planter beds. I will try to keep an eye out for them.

Mantis Monday for 3-17-08

Mantids by Charley Parker

I had read about Charley Parker on other peoples' blogs here and here. I'm sure I'd seen his work before that, but I just didn't know who he was. He did so many images of animals, birds and bugs, I thought I would see if he ever did a mantis. Sure enough he did:

Sunday, March 16, 2008

A walk on the wild side

The other day, I took a walk down by the creek behind the hospital, to search again for tadpoles for Mrs. W's class. The trail actually has a name. It's the Lost Trail, and it merges into the Brea Dam Trail. It's bordered by major streets and housing tracts, but it feels remote and wild. On a weekday morning, except for an occasional mountain biker, it's just me and the coyotes.

Looking down at the creek.

A wild meadow of weeds.

Elegant, curly weeds.

With spirals.

The trail is lined in places with these fernlike plants.

This is a weed too. I have them in my lawn, only smaller.

This weed has interesting markings.

Here's one reason why I don't like to walk the trails by myself. Sometimes it's a little scary by myself. I think this is a dog skull. It was under a tree.

OK, how about some more nice flowers? These are white radish flowers.

This one looks like a butterfly.

Well, I didn't find any tadpoles this trip, but I found this really cool little skink.

And yes, of course I picked it up. It was very squirmy, but the scales were smooth and snake-like. If you've ever touched a snake, you know how neat that feels.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Mantis Monday for 3-10-08

Update: 3-24-08
Secretsnottysis has given me permission to post this picture of her 2 mantis tattoos.

They are real (the tattoos). Secretsnottysis asked me to please credit the tattoo artist who made the more colorful mantid on the right: Amy Justen at Sacred Rose Tattoo, in Berkeley.
Also on Flickr
of man and mantis is a contemplative drawing.
(so far, I have not been given permission to post the picture directly.)

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

More look-unders

I found these things and more while looking under stuff, searching for snails and slugs to remove from my garden.

Multi-critter dwelling. If I were those sowbugs, I'd beware of their spider neighbor.

We have lots of sowbugs. They're under just about everything.

I found this big salamander. It had to be about 6 inches, which is big for a California slender. Plump, too.

Here's the face.

Here's how it looks compared with my hand. This is the same kind of salamander that I took a picture of a baby one next to a dime. In fact I also found 3 more baby salamanders and one more big one this afternoon while I was looking for slugs.

Ahoy! It's the Cap'n!

I was doing a little work in my front planter area. I need to clean out the dead and dying plants, and get rid of a bunch of snails and slugs, which have been multiplying and eating a lot of my succulents.

I found him resting on a little flowerpot.

I would know this shell anywhere.

And look...he has a posse!

Since I was searching for snails and slugs to hand-pick and remove from my yard, I wanted to spare Cap'n Crunch's life. When Jerry went for his daily walk, I gave him the snail in a paper bag with instructions to release him in the park. So this will probably be the last we see of the Cap'n. (His little companions had come off the flowerpot, so they didn't accompany him on his final adventure.)
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