Monday, March 28, 2011

Carpenter bee photo shoot

This morning at school, I was given an insect in a baggie to ID. It was a beautiful golden male carpenter bee that the kids had found. It seemed half dead. After passing it around the classroom (still in its baggie) for everyone to have a good look, I took it home to take pictures of it. I set it on one of the many dandelion flowers in my back yard, and it immediately perked up and starting poking its tongue all around the flower. After a moment, I got the idea to give it a drop of honey as well, which I applied with a toothpick right to the flower. The bee seemed to really go for it. Male carpenter bee

Male carpenter bee

Male carpenter bee After feeding and resting for about a half hour, the bee groomed itself a bit, then flew a few feet to another dandelion. More feeding, more resting, more grooming, and it took off again. It seemed strong enough, and flew vigorously in a big circle around the patio area. It swooped past me pretty closely, then made one more big circle and landed on another dandelion very close to where it started from. I imagine it must be very disoriented after its morning of captivity. I hope soon it can leave my yard and go to wherever else its supposed to be.

* * *

Ok, I went back out there, and the bee was still there. I coaxed it onto a stick and held it up, where I had one more chance to get a good look at it. (but I didn't take my camera out with me this time). It took flight again, and it made a big circle around the yard again, and buzzed right by me again. Then it made one more circle, so wide this time it ended up going over the fence. So that's that.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

A tiny jewel

tiny beetle
This little iridescent beetle was easy to spot in the center of this dead flower. I was amazed that I got it in focus even in the desert wind.

Find the grasshopper

find the grasshopper
He's in there somewhere.

There he is
There he is!
I would never have noticed him if I hadn't startled him and made him jump as I walked along the desert trail of sand and decomposing granite.

At long last, the desert, and bugs

It's been a tough month. My beloved doggie, Boomer, died a couple of weeks ago. But now that his long hospice is finally over, Jerry and I took a long overdue trip to the desert. It was very windy, and the spring flowers haven't arrived yet, but it was good just to get away. We stayed at a private residence in Joshua Tree and the owner was nice enough to let me hang up my white sheet and black light to see what bugs would come to it. Luckily, our first evening was not too windy, and a number of moths came to the sheet.
wings closed

wings open

moth face



This one was especially pretty:
pretty moth

I chased this one from the wall, down to the ground, trying to get a picture, by flashlight, of the lovely pink underwings.
pretty underwings
I have identified this moth as genus Drasteria.

Also 2 different kinds of ichneumon wasps:
ichneumon wasp

ichneumon wasp

Along the bottom of the stucco wall, I found this little long horned grasshopper.
long horn grasshopper

There were several small arachnids.

crabby spider


tiny skinny spider

The next morning, we braved the winds and set out for some sightseeing. It's not easy to take pictures of small insects in 40mph+ wind gusts. So the picture quality is not as good as I would prefer, but that's OK. I still had fun.

This beetle was foraging in the driveway.

feeding the local wildlife
I gave him something he wasn't expecting: a piece of apple.

feeding the local wildlife
I think he liked it! He ate it, or perhaps mostly sucked the juice out of it, for about 10 minutes.

It was only a couple of years ago that I saw Western tent caterpillars for the first time. This time, they were very small instars, but many clutches of them, mostly on plants that appeared to be virtually leafless.
tent caterpillar habitat

Excuse the fat finger

tiny tenters

western tent caterpillars

I kinda went nuts trying to get pictures of the tiny tent caterpillars, just because there were so many of them. It was hard, because they were so tiny, and the wind was blowing so hard. But as we were leaving the park through the south end, we passed some plants at lower elevations that had more leaves, and older instar caterpillars. You can see my tent caterpillar pictures from my last visit to Joshua Tree in 2009, (as well as a bunch more JT bugs) here.
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