Friday, April 29, 2011

My souvenir book already put to use

In the gift shop at the visitor center at Anza Borrego, I found this book and couldn't resist buying it. It's very thorough, and has loads of photographs, including many of caterpillars. It even has a checklist, so I can keep track of everything I find. I was able to use it to identify this butterfly that I photographed on our way out of the desert.
desert metalmark butterfly
Desert Metalmark, genus Apodemia

More bugs from the desert (and a lizard)


paper wasp

small milkweed bug
small milkweed bug

tiny crab spider
Spiders in the desert must have a hard life. I often see them with missing legs.

Still need to ID this one.  I think it is a blister beetle of the genus Nemognatha.   According to BugGuide, the adults feed on the nectar and pollen of various flowers, and, get this:  The female beetles lay their eggs on the flowers.  After they hatch, the beetle larvae attach themselves to bees when they visit the flowers, and are  carried to bee nests where they eat bee eggs and stored food.   Fascinating.  And kind of yucky.

not quite hidden
Desert long horned grasshopper,Tanaocerus koebelei

handsome lizard
A beautiful desert iguana

See the resemblance?

gravel hopper
I saw a few of these guys in the desert. Cream grasshopper, Cibolacris parviceps. I like to call them "gravel hoppers", because that's where I find them, and that's what they blend in to.

I am also amused that they look so much like a chicken when viewed from above.

A precarious life for a toad

It was probably already in the 80's when Jerry found this little toad in the middle of the parking lot area of our Borrego Springs complex. It had come a long way from the pond at the nearby golf course. I imagine the journey took several days, with stops to shelter himself from the heat of the day. Luckily, many of the common areas are watered in the evenings with sprinklers and drip irrigation.

We set him under one such plant, with its own little drip hose. The sand was still damp from the night before, and the toad, obviously in need of moisture, flattened his body against the ground to absorb as much as he could.

I worried a little about all the pesticide that I think they use around the development, and hoped he wouldn't be affected, either through direct contact, or be eating poisoned bugs, but I had no way of knowing what or where they had actually sprayed, so we left him alone and wished him well.

A night with the light

the light
There was one night during our stay in the desert that there wasn't wind. I set up my black light on the patio.




desert roach
Desert Roach, genus Arenivaga.

tiny snout beetle
Coniatus splendidulus

As you can see, most of the moths ended up all around the sheet, on the patio walls and floor. Most of what stayed on the sheet were tiny flies and beetles, like the beautiful (and teeny-tiny) little snout beetle above, which, it turns out, was recently introduced in Arizona as a possible biological control for the invasive tamarisk trees.  Apparently it may have been released without official authorization, and scientists are now tracking its distibution.  You can read more about that here. (Thanks, Margarethe!)

I also noticed that many of the bugs in the patio area started dying within minutes of landing. I suspect that the homeowner's association at the complex where we stayed uses pesticide to keep all the desert bugs from bothering people.  That bummed me out a little, and I didn't leave my light on too long because I didn't want to feel bad about luring these innocent creatures to their death.

A slow nature walk

On Tuesday, we drove up into the mountains of Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, less than an hour from the desert.  I had never been there before, but back in 2003 a huge fire burned through the forest there.
So we were driving through miles and miles of burned trees.
burned trees and regrowth

There was lots of new growth, in the form of shrubs that had grown up around the trees.  We ate lunch at a picnic area, and went for a nature walk.  I took it slow because I was looking for bugs in the shrubs and on the ground, under the many fallen bits of bark and wood.

woodland trail

Spider in her nest
One of the first things I found was this spider in a little nest of grass. I was careful to replace the piece of bark that was protecting her.

Many of the logs and bark pieces had beetles under them. This is a "stink beetle", genus Eleodes. They would point their rear ends up, the better to spray me, I suppose, if worse came to worse, but it never came to that.

Caterpillar host plant
It was after I found the beetles that I noticed the tall shrubs along the trail had clusters of caterpillars on their branches.
a family of caterpillars
Close up of caterpillars. They were each about an inch long.

detail of buds on plant
Close up of caterpillar host plant. I still need to identify both the plant and the caterpillars.

Another caterpillar on the same plant.

Some eggs I found on the same plant. They looked too big to be what the caterpillars would have come from. Maybe true bug eggs?

Meanwhile, I was still looking on the ground, and I found a little centipede.

A little later, we stopped nearby at the ruins of the Stonewall Mine. There, behind a fence, was a bunch of rusted gold-mining equipment from the 1800's. As Jerry peered through the chain link, contemplating the equipment and what a gold-miner's life might be like, I noticed a big rattlesnake curled up next to a long water trough.  As I kept looking, I noticed 2 other snakes around the same trough, and I imagine there could have been more underneath it that I couldn't see.

This made Jerry a little nervous, and he decided he was done looking at those ruins. I wasn't worried because the snakes didn't seem to be bothered or even aware of our presence. But the experience made me think twice about looking under logs and walking on trails so close to rocks and boulders. For the rest of the trip, I would ask, "You think there's a rattlesnake under there?"

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Borrego bugs

Our first stop on Monday morning was the visitor center at Anza Borrego Desert State Park.
Of course, they have a lovely desert garden display, and I found a few things.

brittle bush leaf beetle, Trirhabda geminata

assassin bug with prey
This tricky little assassin bug nymph did his darnedest to try to hide from me while I was trying to take his picture. Maybe he was afraid I was trying to steal his breakfast (that tiny red bug).

toad tadpoles

Also at the visitor center was a little shallow pool that had lots of toad tadpoles.

toad tadpoles

desert milkweed
I was happy to see this plant growing wild in one area we visited. It's a desert milkweed, Asclepias subulata, and I know from the specimens we have at the arboretum, lots of bugs visit it.

milkweed bug
What would milkweed be without a milkweed bug?

danger lurks
I was trying to take a picture of this bee, and I didn't realize until later that there was also a spider lurking nearby, waiting for a hapless bee to fly too close. (It didn't catch this one while I was looking.)

I saw only one blister beetle (Lytta magister) chowing down on a flower. Perhaps their season is largely over by now.

blister beetle

I will try to get more pictures posted later today.  For now, I need to do some laundry, go to the market, and do some cleaning around here.

A beautiful morning in the desert!

I'm back, all too soon, from my little getaway to the desert.  It was windy for much of the time we were there, but the mornings were calm, and the little mesquite tree just off our patio was alive with bees!  Turn up your speakers to hear their busy humming, and also the birdies singing.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

So many bugs, so little time!

I have been spending the last couple of days wandering in the desert and the mountains, scanning the plants for any interesting bugs.   I have lots of pictures to show for it, but not much energy by the end of the day to go through them and figure out what to put up here.  This plump hemipteran (true bug) will have to do for now. 

Monday, April 25, 2011

An impromptu bug jar

We are in the desert for a few days.  I didn't bring any containers, because I wasn't planning on collecting any bugs on this trip, but I did put out my black light and sheet last night, even though it was really windy.  I ended up attracting a single moth!   I decided to bring it in for a better look. This wine glass, paired with a small plastic lid, did the trick in a pinch. 

 I released the moth back into the windy night after I took this picture.  I've decided it's too windy for the blacklight tonight.  More desert bug photos to come...

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Letting frogs go free

For years now, I have been collecting frog eggs to bring to some of the teachers, so their kids can watch tadpoles grow into frogs. This year, as every year, I told myself this will be the last year that I do this. I have long been torn between wanting to share this wonder of nature with children, and feeling remorse for removing these frogs from their natural home. Not to mention the sense of obligation I feel to check on the tadpoles/frogs in each classroom. Do they need food? Is their water OK?

I do try to release the frogs back where I collected them as eggs.

Baby frog

These are Pacific Tree Frogs, a very common species in the West, but I feel that all frogs are in danger from pollution, climate change, and habitat loss. I get the impression, from the way they regularly mow down all the plants along the creek at my local park, that the park management holds no special feelings for the frogs or other aquatic life. But yesterday, when I released my last few frogs for this spring, I was heartened to see that for whatever reason be it budget cuts or scheduling issues, the plant life is abundant in the creek, and it looks like Froggie Paradise.

A good place to release a frog

Checking out the new home
There he goes, seeming to contemplate his future.  Good luck, little guy ♥

You can look back here at a "tadpole diary" I posted several years ago.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A gift of butterflies for Earth Day

Special delivery
Actually, it was a butterfly kit. My cousin sent it to me. (Thanks, Suzie!)

caterpillars in a cup
It came with painted lady caterpillars in this little jar. Their food is the yellowish stuff in there with them. They just stay in the jar and eat and grow until they pupate. The kit also came with a butterfly cage to put the chrysalids in.

I re-gifted the kit to one of the teachers at school who hasn't had a chance to have caterpillars growing in her classroom yet this year. Her kids were really excited.

By the way, the Butterfly Kit came from here, if anyone wants to know.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A note of thanks

I would like to thank everyone for visiting/commenting/following Bug Safari this week. I also especially want to thank my small but loyal band of long-time friends and followers who have welcomed my bugs onto their computer screens all these years.
Monarch Caterpillar

Porch moth

porch moth
This lovely little owlet moth was on my porch yesterday. I like the bits of mossy green in the pattern.

Over time, I have found quite a variety of moths on and around my porch and they're a recurring feature on Bug Safari.  If you type "porch moth" into the blog search field in the upper left corner, you'll see some of my older porch moth posts.

Ready for take-off

awaiting release
After spending most of their metamorphosis at home, the Mourning Cloaks emerged today at school, right on schedule. Here they are in the classroom.

And outside.

mourning cloak butterfly debut

A hairy face
Look at this hairy face. Considering how beautiful a butterfly is under most circumstances, this is not very attractive, is it?

When a butterfly emerges from its chrysalis, it excretes a waste product called meconium. And Mourning Cloaks excrete quite a bit. It looks like blood, which makes it a little creepy, but it's really harmless.

4 of the 9 butterflies flew away while we watched. We left the others on the table outside. I'm sure they're gone by now.
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