Saturday, May 29, 2010


I've got these looper caterpillars in my onions.

Don't mind the dog hair in this picture. It's just a fact that dog hair pervades virtually every aspect of my life, and it's in our food chain from the garden to the table.

Anyway, when I see these caterpillars, I pluck them off the onions and toss them to one of the numerous fence lizards that live around the yard. And I have to wonder, does this juicy morsel taste onion-y? Maybe a little more savory than the same little green caterpillars that I pulled off my snow peas earlier this spring? Maybe, indeed, but I don't think I'll ever find out first hand.

Plume moth

This plume moth on the gate had a wingspan of about an inch, which is about as big as I've ever seen around here.

When I was a kid, I used to call them "airplane moths", because that's what they reminded me of.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Eight thumbs up for Bug Safari for grown-ups!

Now that I look at the title of this post, it sounds like a review given by a spider. But actually, seven people (3 couples and a single older lady) and myself all had a very enjoyable time this morning. Each of the younger women said it was their husband/boyfriend's interest in bugs that brought them in, but they appreciated the chance to see and learn about this little world of nature that often goes unnoticed. Their menfolk took the opportunity to to revert to their childhood and swung their nets at any insects that came within range. One guy proudly caught a butterfly (which we released, of course). The older lady seemed somewhat uncertain how she felt about bugs, but seemed interested in learning about them nonetheless, because "God made them," or words to that effect.

Everyone filled out a little post-tour survey form with positive remarks, including "We need more classes like this for adults!" Our next Bug Safari for grown-ups is in July. I'm looking forward to it!

Friday, May 07, 2010

Bugs for the Big Kids

Tomorrow I will lead a bug safari just for adults. This will be a first for me, as my bug hunts have always been for children and families. With all the positive feedback I get from participating parents, I have been wondering for a while if there might be enough interest in having a bug hunt just for grown ups (well, ages 16 and up). Seven people have signed up. We may get a few walk-ins as well.

I took my customary pre-bug hunt, to see what was out there. Lots of bees and butterflies. Lots of small stuff: ladybugs, other small beetles and bugs. Small spiders. A few adult gray bird grasshoppers, but no nymphs yet. I did find this almost microscopic katydid nymph which I think is Phaneroptera nana, a the small sized Mediterranean species that has been increasing in numbers around here in recent years. I don't think I ever posted about how I searched and searched to find the name of these guys, and when I did, I posted it to BugGuide. That was almost 2 years ago, but I digress.

So the bugs will be mostly small, but at least there are plenty of them.

I don't know if my "customers" tomorrow will be parents from previous bug safaris coming back to have a nice little bug hunt without the whining, squabbling young'uns, or maybe older people who want to find out a little bit more about what they're seeing in their own gardens. Maybe I'll even get somebody who's really into bugs, but hasn't been to the arboretum in a while (or at all) and just wants to see what we have here. Either way, it should be fun!

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Baby Mantid comparisons

The baby S. limbatas from last week are already turning green, although they haven't had their first shed yet.

And they already have "that look". Like they're looking right at me.

This week, I found S. californica babies as well, so this is a good time to post pictures so you can see the difference in these two mantids as hatchlings. They are a little smaller, with shorter abdomens, and of course, the are always dark brown. It will take a couple of moults before they start to green up, or take on the prevailing color of their surroundings. Until then, their coloring makes them look a little bit like ants, which may deter predators from trying to eat them.

A different kind of "look" through some wild little eyes.

No sightings of Iris oratoria yet.

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