Friday, November 27, 2009

Bottoms up!

White collar grasshopper

In keeping with my traditional avoidance of Black Friday sales, I took a stroll through the arboretum. I was delighted to find a color scheme of the Gray Bird grasshopper that I hadn't seen before.

Can you see him in there? How did I manage to find him in that tangled little plant? It's a disease. I can't help myself. My eyes just go there. Obssessive-compulsive bug finding. That's what it is.

Look at that white thorax-collar he has on!

And here he is from another angle.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Pupating in micro gravity earlier today

The middle pupa didn't attach and is free floating. The other 2 look dubious, but I think they're ok. I'll be able to tell better tomorrow. Of course there won't be much to look at for the next several days, but I'm wondering what will happen next. Can they morph successfully if there is no up or down, especially if they (or at least one) are drifting and shifting the developing parts inside? And what happens when they eclose? Here on earth, no butterfly would ever emerge from its chrysalis amid a flurry of floating frass. What's to stop all that poop from sticking to the wet new wings and messing them up? Assuming the butterflies do emerge OK, then what? Are they still going to live in that box, or will they be transferred to another enclosure? I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Note: Try as I might, I can't make the whole picture show up in my post. Only 2 pupae are visible. But you can click the picture and see the whole thing.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thankful for a lovely day

We have had such nice weather lately. It's so nice to just get out and walk around the arboretum without having to do a tour or something.
This spider was pretty tiny.

I like these wild-eyed flies.

Halictid bee

Honeybees on iceplant flower

Hairstreak butterfly

Ichneumon compsocryptus. A new one for me!

space station monarch cats looking good

Click here to get to a still-photo update page. It seems to be snapping pictures of the caterpillars automatically every so often.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Stick insect leg progress

My poor little rescued stick insect is now bigger and richer, by one leg. She shed her skin last night and now she has a right front leg.

The other two legs are developing just as I expected they would. They are now in the tiny, curly phase, and after the next shed they will be much larger and fully functional.

ready to eat a leaf now!

You can see her before pictures here.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Spiders in space, too! (but this is old news)

I was looking for updates on the caterpillars in space, and I found out that last year at this time, there were spiders in space.

I also found a video of painted lady caterpillars that went up in space last year as well, with the same apparent experiment: to see if they could go through a normal metamorphosis in micro gravity. I haven't found out the outcome of last year's experiment yet, but I wonder why they are repeating it this year. Surely there must be lots of other simple experiments that students and scientists would like to try. Considering how rare and costly these space missions are, they should be doing as many as they can before the shuttles are grounded permanently.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Video of caterpillars in space

This first video is of the monarch caterpillars in their little space container. 2 of the caterpillars are supposedly getting ready to shed, so they're not moving around much.

The second video is of painted lady caterpillars that are also on this space mission. I didn't realize there were other caterpillars going up besides the monarchs. This video was kind of sad for me to watch, because the squirmy caterpillar in the middle is actually trying to shed its skin, and it can't seem to manage it in micro gravity. We'll find out tomorrow if it survived.

Update: 11/23

I guess they shed their skins OK. I found this brief video update on YouTube that points out the molts.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

We have liftoff

So the space shuttle launched on schedule (for once!) yesterday, with monarch caterpillars on board. I am still waiting to see actual footage of the caterpillars, but there is more info coming in to Monarch Watch and their Monarchs in Space page, including links to schools and their Monarch projects, and this companion guide for those participating.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Who wants to see Monarchs in Space?

It sounds like a grade-B sci-fi movie. But Monarchs in Space is a real project, where live caterpillars will be going up in the next space shuttle (scheduled for launch Nov. 16) and taken to the International Space Station (ISS) where they will be reared to adulthood.

I only found out about this last week, on Bug Girl's Blog. The program is geared toward schools, and requires registration and a fee, and the raising of monarch caterpillars in containers, with artificial food.

I don't want all that. I don't need to raise a caterpillar in a container. I have them in my yard, for goodness sake! I just want to follow the monarch caterpillars on their journey into space! I want to see what happens to them. Is there a way I can do that? I looked on the Nasa Space Shuttle webpage, and couldn't find anything about Monarchs in Space. I emailed Monarch Watch, who are involved with this project, to ask how I can follow it as an individual, and was sent a useless form letter reply.

Then, I saw there is a Monarch Watch message board, so I registered and sent them this message. Let's see what happens....

Monday, November 09, 2009

Lizard in my doorway

3 legged stick insect

The other day, I was cleaning the stick insect tank in Mrs. W's class, and I came across this little (maybe L3) nymph with only 3 legs. I should have just euthanized her on the spot, but I took pity on her and brought her home.

You can see where one leg has already started to regrow. Assuming she can shed successfully with only 3 legs to support herself, that curly little leg will unwind and be considerably larger after she sheds, and the totally missing ones will start to regrow with little curly legs. I previously documented this limb regeneration process here.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Great information page with my beetle pictures!

CISR has put up their information page about the Eucalyptus Leaf Beetle with a bunch of my photos. You can see it here.

Yeah, shameless brag and self-promotion. :P

You can read about my original observations of these beetles here.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

I missed it.

The butterfly emerged from this chrysalis sometime over the last couple days. I was not there to see it.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

An oldie but a goodie

One day last week, as Michael was walking home from school, he suddenly noticed a great big female S. Limbata female on his shirt. She must have fallen out of a tree or something. She worked her way to his backpack, and there she clung for about another mile, until he got home and set his backpack down next to my big, overgrown basil plant, and she (almost) disappeared into its branches.

She is clearly in the twilight of her life. Her gait is just a bit unsteady, and she has several black spots on her face and body that are a further sign of old age. But she is still has a good appetite, and she has been spending her days in the sun, picking bees off the basil flowers.

Here, she's giving herself a little clean-up after eating.

I like the brightly colored blue and orange on her mouth.

Geometer caterpillar goes underground

I had researched the other day to see how these caterpillars pupate, because I really had no idea. All I could find out was that some species go into the soil, and others roll themselves up in the leaves . I didn't know which way mine would go. This morning, I noticed one of them was resting on the floor of the large net enclosure. I kept checking on him, and by this afternoon, he was looking kind of puffy and scrunched-up. Clearly something was happening.

Working on the assumption that he didn't seem to be the leaf-rolling kind or he would have been doing it in an Ombu leaf by now, I set him in a small container with slightly moist, freshly composted soil. Sure enough, he dug down. I put the small container inside the large net enclosure.
Now, we wait.
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