Thursday, October 29, 2009

Green Lynx in repose


The Dombeya plant is in full bloom. The pink flowers attract lots of bees, and sometimes I will find spiders taking advantage of the ample food supply (the bees, that is.)

This was a rather skinny looking female. Ordinarily, at this time of year I would expect to see her guarding an egg sac, or perhaps a recently hatched brood of spiderlings. But it was just her by herself, and I liked the say she had her legs draped over the flower in a most casual way.

Beneath the towering Ombu tree

For the last couple of years, I have noticed that something eats the leaves on the fast-growing young branches of the Ombu tree at the arboretum. Last year, right after I noticed the chewed up leaves, the tree received its annual pruning. All the chewed up shoots ("suckers", really), were gone. For most of the last few months, I hadn't really ventured under there, but last week I returned because I needed to prepare for our school tours. I saw the chewed up leaves again, but couldn't find any bugs... till today.

During today's tour, I noticed a child was watching a small caterpillar on his finger. When I asked him where he found it, he said, "Right here", and pointed to the Ombu sprouts.



I told him to please put the caterpillar back, and he did, although he kept and eye on it for the remainder of his time under the tree. And so did I.



After the tour was over, I returned to the Ombu tree and searched until I found the caterpillar again. I broke off a little piece of branch, and carried him home on it. I also found 2 dessicated caterpillars on it, and a small spider who I suspect may have killed them. (I think the spider got lost somewhere in my car.) The caterpillar is currently on my kitchen table, his branch staying fresh in a container of water. Close inspection has revealed yet another, but slightly darker, live caterpillar that I had missed earlier. So I have 2 now.

They look to be some kind of geometer larvae. It would be nice to find out what kind. They are nice little moths.

Invasive Species website

Today I received an email from a guy who wanted to use some of my photos on his website. I'm always happy to oblige in such cases. It doesn't happen very often.

In this case, it's for UC Riverside. They have an impressive website about Invasive Species. Here's a little blurb about them:

The Center for Invasive Species Research based on the University of California Riverside Campus provides a forward-looking approach to managing invasions in California by exotic pests and diseases. It is well recognized that inadvertent introductions of exotic insect pests, plant diseases, weeds, and other noxious organisms (e.g., exotic crabs and mussels) provides a major and continuing threat to California's agricultural, urban, and natural environments as well as the State's precious supplies of fresh water.

California acquires one new exotic species, on average, every 60 days. At this rate, around six new species establish in California each year. Estimated losses arising from the uncontrolled population growth of these pests amounts to an estimated $3 billion per annum. The problems caused by invasive species in California are likely to worsen as population growth continues and imports from an ever increasing diversity of countries accelerates. Read more

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A vegetarian spider

Kat has alerted me to the existence of a (largely) vegetarian spider species. It's name is Bagheera Kiplingi, (a name that will ring a bell for anyone who ever read The Jungle Book, but I digress)

There are several articles about it on the web. I chose this one to link to, because it has a little video of the spider, too.

My interest is piqued about the spider's food, something called beltian bodies, which grow on the leaves of some acacia trees. Ants are the main consumer of these beltian bodies. Now I need to see if I can find them on any of the acacia trees at the arboretum. (the beltian bodies, not the spider. It's native to Mexico and Central America)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Pupation caught on video



Lucky me! I got to witness a Monarch caterpillar as it became a chrysalis, and I got it on video! Unfortunately, this was an impromptu thing, I had no tripod, so the focus kind of goes in and out, especially near the end when I got a little distracted because my son let the dog out and announced he was leaving for school. (I muted the video, so you don't hear my hollering!)

It's amazing when you think about this process of metamorphosis. Here is this creature (the caterpillar) who has been living in this body, and now after resting for about a day, the skin splits open and scrunches away, revealing the shell of its new body. And within that shell, the creature will liquify and re-form itself into the specifications that the new shell already suggests: wings, antennae, proboscis. A completely different creature than what it started out as. Yet, it's the same living being.

Amazing.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Baby lizard rescue (with update at end of post)


I found this tiny fence lizard on the retaining wall in our back yard this morning. He can't be more than a few weeks old. He was so cold and wet, he didn't even put up a struggle when I picked him up. I bet wherever he was sleeping last night got soaked in the rain, forcing him out onto the wall.

My original idea was just to keep him safe and warm till the rain cleared up. (It's supposed to be 80 again by tomorrow, up to 90 this weekend.) But what about the winter to come? He's so small and skinny. I worry he won't be able eat enough to build up a fat reserve to get him through the winter. I kind of want to keep him until spring.

Update, Friday, Oct. 16:
I guess he was in worse shape than I realized. The little guy died. I feel kinda sad, but I'm relieved I won't have to worry about him all winter now.

Small treasures after the rain


A tiny katydid nymph.


Shiny little flea beetle.

Rainy day spider

This afternoon when the rain had stopped, all the plants at school were covered with jewel-like droplets. I couldn't resist taking pictures of them. I wasn't expecting to find myself at eyeball level with a great big spider, but it was a great bonus! Now, just to provide a little buffer, I've posted a couple of the flower pictures first, so if you don't want to see a big spider up close (Julie?) you may want to skip the rest of this post.





And now, here's the spider....








Her web was strung with raindrop jewels.








Friday, October 02, 2009

Outtakes

These are nothing I haven't seen a bunch of times over, and I've probably posted better pictures, but, eh...


Monarch


Painted Lady


Green lynx eating a bee


King of the stem


Late season fruit beetles can still be found here and there.


Same spider, different day. Still there from last week to this. I guess she'll stay there as long as there are flowers to attract insects for her to eat.




Possible future blog headers

When I'm taking pictures of bugs, I'm always thinking about shots that might look good on my blog header. Nevermind that I can barely manage to update the actual content on a regular basis. I still want it to look good. And I get tired of even my favorite header pictures after a while. I have several potential shots in my file. Here are the 2 most recent:





You may or may not see these up on top at some point in the future.

Pomegranates


They're ripe and beautiful at the arboretum right now, hanging like luscious holiday ornaments from the trees.



Unfortunately, too many of these fruits are left on the trees to split open and rot, or be eaten by critters.


I noticed some tiny leaf-footed bug nymphs inside this one. I wonder if their mom laid their eggs in a cracked and broken fruit so the little ones could pierce the juicy seeds without having to through the tough, leathery skin.


You can see some bigger leaf footed bugs on my neighbor's pomegranates here.



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