Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Butterflies and Moths of North America

Here's a great website for butterfly and moth identification that I had never heard of until I saw it mentioned on MObugs. I'll get it up on my sidebar soon, for future reference.

Butterflies and Moths of North America

Passing Along a Holiday Present

This year, I have been reading the various blogs and tweets of Roger Ebert. He writes eloquently, and I like the way his mind works. He links to all kinds of interesting stuff. It tickles me that he finds animated bug videos to be worth sharing. It was his post last month that alerted me to The Mantis Parable being available on YouTube. Today, he had several little animated bug shorts from a French series called Minuscule. I had never heard of this before. The videos are great fun. I am posting the first one. You can see the rest on Roger Ebert's blog page.

Make sure to turn up your speakers. The sound effects are part of what makes them so funny.

Minuscule website.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Lovely jeweled bugs

A few days ago, Jerry and I spent the afternoon wandering through an antique mall. One of the booths had a whole bunch of beautiful rhinestone insect jewelry.

butterflies, dragonfly

beautiful pink dragonfly


I don't wear much jewelry, but if I did, I'd probably wear this kind of stuff. As it is, I had fun just looking at it.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


I have never really paid too much attention to who reads this blog. Way back when I first started, I put a blog counter on it, and quickly realized hardly anybody was reading it! Somehow, I think when Old Blogger changed to New Blogger a few years ago, I lost the counter. I figured I didn't really need it.

Recently, Blogger has put stats right into the workings of their blogs. So of course, I am sneaking a peek every so often just to see who else is looking. And I'm still not breaking any records. But I have noticed something interesting:

My Saturday Night Fever Bug post has been wildly popular (relatively speaking).

The next most popular post, which has been on the blog since July 2009, has half as many. The #3 post (not far behind #2, and is related to it) is almost 5 1/2 years old!

So what is it about the Saturday Night Fever Bug that makes it so popular? I'm guessing it has a lot less to do with my blog and a lot more to do with the movie. And Google. And people Googling the movie, who must be finding my bug by accident. And out of all those hundreds of chance encounters, only my loyal readers left any comments.

That's OK. Those are the important ones anyway. You guys know, this is an esoteric blog.

Cold weather setting in...

The bugs are still hanging on.

The hemizonia plants, on which I found so many bugs this past summer and fall, are all but dead. But there are still bugs to be found among its brown branches.

Late season gray bird nymph
A small brown gray bird nymph.

Late season gray bird nymph
And a green one.

Dead grasshopper in the hemizonia
This was an adult male gray bird.

leafless bladderpod plant
The bladderpod plant has lost all of its leaves and looks dead. I'm pretty sure it's just dormant.

Harlequin bugs on bladderpod
Harlequin bugs are clustered along the dry brown stems.

Buncha bugs
There were a great many red shouldered bugs on the woodland floor.

Similar, but different bugs
Here are a box elder bug, right, and a red shouldered bug for comparison. Even though there are more of the red shouldered bugs, I have been referring to them collectively as box elders. But I have been trying to be more accurate in my identification, if not at the arboretum (where most visitors would not know or care whether they're box elders or red shoulders) then, at least here on my blog.

In spite of the chilly day, this little caterpillar was busy eating this sunny orange flower. And there was a patch of milkweed down at the south end of the arboretum that had lots of monarch caterpillars, but when I ventured down there, I got busy showing them to a father and his two little girls, and I ended up forgetting to take pictures of the caterpillars.

You can see all my bug pictures from today, including more red shouldered bugs, on this Flickr set.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Mantis Parable

Several years ago, when I first heard about this little animated movie, I had to wait until it was available on DVD, and then I ordered one. I watched it a few times, enjoyed it, put the DVD away somewhere, and more or less forgot about it.

Now I see it's on YouTube. Time to watch it again, and share. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Rearing out another caterpillar

I am rearing a couple of these green caterpillars to see what they will turn into. I'm guessing they are geometer moths.


bush on which caterpillars were found
This is the plant I found them on at the arboretum.

purple flowers
It has pretty lavender flowers...

trumpet shaped flowers
...that hang down like trumpets.

The leaves are fairly large, soft, sticky, and the whole plant kind of stinks. But the caterpillars sure like it.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A fleeting glimpse of a mystery moth

unknown moth(?)
Check out this porch moth. I thought it was a butterfly at first, because the wings were resting in the upright position, but the antennas were laying down, and there was a tiny bit of fringe visible on the edge of the wings. Plus, I couldn't find a butterfly that looks like this.

unknown moth(?)
This was the last shot I got before it flew away.

Stripe-eyed fly

Stripey fly eyes
Eristalinus taeniops
Another bee-mimic hover fly. Looks like I caught her in mid-salute. She was polishing those wild eyeballs!

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Porch spider as seen from below

front porch spider
The spiders usually make their home in and around the lamp. This one has moved right over the door itself.
over the doorway

spider as seen from below
Makes for a good opportunity to see undercarriage. It may look like he's ready to drop onto my camera (or my face) at any moment, but he's secure in a sheet of silk up there.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Giant swallowtail chrysalis

Giant Swallowtail caterpillar
Here's my full-size swallowtail caterpillar next to my hand for comparison. He had stopped eating, and was looking for a place to pupate.

getting ready...
Safely back in the enclosure, he chose a spot and anchored himself. Can you see his safety belt?

Giant Swallowtail chrysalis
And now, we wait. Will the butterfly emerge next week, or wait until spring? I have no idea.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Investigating a scale infestation

I got an email the other day from Don, one of the senior nature guides at the arboretum (and my nature guide mentor, actually), in which he had forwarded a photo of a bug for me to try to identify. It was from a lady in nearby Buena Park, who had a bunch of "white worms" on her mulberry tree.
Scale insects
This is the photo she sent. Looks yucky, huh? Also, doesn't look like worms. Well, actually, it sort of does, but what kind of worms could be all over the branches like that? I called the lady, and she couldn't really describe them any better than her photo, but she was happy to have me come out and look at them. Don agreed to go with me, and we were like real Bug Detectives out on a case!

Once we were able to see them in person, it was clear that they were scale insects, but we didn't know exactly what kind.
Scale insects
In this photo you can see the oval shaped scale insects. The white stuff, which in the first photo looked like the white worms, are egg cases. If you look carefully, you can see some baby scale insects, tiny ovals called "crawlers", so named because they are much more mobile than the adults. I'm actually not sure if the larger, smoother ovals are the same species as the ones with the egg cases. Even our curator, Chris, thought there might be 2 different kinds of scale when he looked at it.

Scale insects
In this photo, the scale insects are on the backside of a leaf, and there are fewer of them, so it's a little easier to make out the individuals. Also, there were lots of ants all over these guys, as they collect the honeydew that the scales secrete.

When I got home, I googled white/scale/mulberry/pest, and the closest match I can find is the cottony camellia scale, Pulvinaria floccifera . There are pages about it here and here. The timing seems off, because they make their egg cases in May, but we've had such weird weather this year, who knows?

Chris says that horticultural oil is the best treatment for these scale insects.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


I found this fly crawling on my patio yesterday. I thought at first it might be a drone bee, but the face looked too fly-ish. It didn't seem to be able to fly, but I couldn't get it to stop running around, so I picked it up and took pictures of it on my hand, where it couldn't go too far.

I have identified it as a drone fly, Drone fly, Eristalis tenax, an excellent bee mimic, wouldn't you say? This one is a female, I found out. You can tell by her eyes, which are rather far apart compared to the male, whose eyes are bigger and actually touch in the middle at the top of his head.

It looks like her wings are just a bit askew. Maybe that has something to do with why she can't fly.

The coloring and fuzziness look very much like a honeybee. But bees have longer antennas than this. They also have 4 wings, where a fly has just 2, and this fly has no "pollen baskets" on the back legs to carry home pollen. They can still transfer pollen as they pass from flower to flower, they just don't actively collect it.

I put her on my tomato plant, where she continued to crawl all over the place, but I was able to get a good shot of her face. You can see how fly-ish it looks.

And a big thank you to Candy, who explained to me how to post bigger pictures, like she does on her blog.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Geron bee-fly

geron fly
Just for the colors :)

All that's left is hope for the next generation.

The last time I checked on them, last night, they were still mating. This morning, the male was gone. Only a bit of wing and part of a leg were left in the bottom of the cage.

This might seem like a bad end for the two "husbands", but the alternative would have been for them to decline and die anyway in the weeks to come. Instead both males gave not only their DNA, but their very flesh and blood, which, as it nourishes the now very fat female mantis, will hopefully result in a nice healthy egg case.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Finally, he gets what he's been waiting for.

After literally hanging on for the better part of two days, #2 has made his move.

Giant swallowtail caterpillar

After a slow start, my swallowtail caterpillar has been growing! He is almost too big to look like a bird poop any more.

He is kind of ugly and yet beautiful at the same time. I like the mottled, marbled coloring, and the tiny circles and flecks of purple on his skin. This is the first time I have observed this kind of caterpillar as it grows.

The mantids this morning

I continued to check on the mating mantids throughout the day yesterday, and by the time I went to bed, they still all looked to be in the same position as they had been all day. All
of them.

First thing this morning, when I checked them, the ½ male, my formerly one-eyed little friend was gone. Nothing remained but a few bits of wing on the cage floor. The other male is still intact. Still clinging to the female, but not actually mating.

This new guy seems to be content in his bachelorhood. I found him on my porch yesterday.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Just a fly...

... in a beautiful setting, on a bed of shimmering droplets from yesterday's drizzle.
But it's still just an icky fly.

Variegated Meadowhawk

Sympetrum corruptum male
I don't often get good photos of dragonflies. And, somehow, even though they're often very big and awesome-looking, I haven't really gotten into them so much. But I decided to look this little guy up to identify him. (and he is a guy. The females are more grayish.)

Porch spider

Ménage à 2½

Last week, I found another big green female S. limbata. I was able to release the one I was keeping previously, and decided to keep this new one to bring for display at my final bug safari at the arboretum.

Yesterday I noticed that she had attracted the attention of a male who was perched on the outside of her cage. I put him in there with her. I also put in some flies to keep her occupied, and as an afterthought, I also put my one-eyed male in there, with the reasoning that one of them might get lucky, and he deserved a chance after being injured and then living in captivity for a number of weeks. His natural lifespan was almost over anyway, and wouldn't it be better to die while mating than to wither away with the coming winter?

(OK, Julie. Brace yourself.)

Here's what I woke up to this morning:

Look carefully, and you'll see that it is a headless male that is doing the actual mating. And, it is the one-eyed male. Only now he's no-eyed. No-headed. No arms, either.

The other one is apparently waiting his turn. Whether that will include losing his head as well remains to be seen.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Bird Poop Caterpillar

This is the caterpillar of the giant swallowtail butterfly. A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to see a butterfly laying an egg on the Australian willow tree at the arboretum. I saved the leaf, and have been rearing the caterpillar. It was eating only sparingly from the leaves of the tree that its mother had chosen. It seemed to be taking forever to grow. I decided to try giving it the tender leaves of an orange tree, and it likes that much better.

These caterpillars hide in plain sight by mimicking bird droppings.

A new crop of caterpillars, an early harvest

This is the same little milkweed plant that had all the monarch caterpillars on it this past summer. After the caterpillars grew up, I trimmed the plant back. The new growth that followed was taken over by mites. I sprayed with insecticidal soap, which worked a little, but not too well. But the mites were soon replaced by the yellow aphids. I left well-enough alone, and today, I realized that my little milkweed plant was now covered with baby monarch caterpillars once again. And waaaay to many for such a small plant.

I thought some of them looked extra yellow-y, perhaps from eating the flowers and/or pollen.

Aww, look at the cute little stubby antennas on this one. ♥

Anyway, I knew there were waaay too many caterpillars for one little plant to support, so I picked off as many as I could find, and took them to the arboretum, where I spread them among the many available milkweed plants. There are 32 visible in this photo, but after I returned from releasing them, I found 5 more still on the plant that I had missed. I will leave them there. But can you imagine over 3 dozen caterpillars on a single milkweed plant!

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