Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Buggy cuteness for summer

A few of the leaders of our summer camp decided it would be fun to hand out little prizes to the kids, and they stocked up on all kinds of cheap doodads from the dollar store. Of course this one immediately caught my attention.
How cute is this? It's a mini bug-house you wear on a wristband. I wonder if it would fit on my wrist?

Love the silly artwork on the package.

IMG_0815  It has no actual watch parts, unless you consider that you will be watching the bug you put in there, but it might tell time in one sense: when the bug escapes and the toy falls apart, that's how you know it's time to go in for supper.

Rough stinkbug

rough stinkbug
The kids found this bug at camp the other day, and it was a new one for me. It's a rough stinkbug, genus Brochymena.  I brought it home to ID and take pictures of it.

Rough stinkbug
You can see its mouth, a long piercing-sucking "needle".  Like all true bugs, it pokes its mouth into the food and sucks the juices out.  It was very unhappy in the little container that I brought it home in, and had no food.  I stuck a grape in there, thinking it could suck the juice for moisture, but it wasn't interested.

glassy winged sharpshooter
I have this bug, the glassy winged sharpshooter, to thank for food plant recommendation.   Unsure what to feed the stinkbug, (the kids found him on the patio floor) I remembered that these sap-sucking bug cousins love this succulent plant in my front yard.  In a pinch, it the stinkbug sucked on it too.  Enough to get by until I released it the next morning.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Pretty porch moth

Southern Purple Mint Moth

Southern Purple Mint Moth

It didn't take me long to identify this as a Southern Purple Mint Moth, Pyrausta laticlavia.   Hmmm... We're not in a southern state, I think it looks more pink than purple, and it's probably feeding on something other than mint, so what's in a name?

Tomato Hornworm

Tomato Hornworm
Two weeks old, and he's already getting big and fat. Don't worry, he'll get even bigger and fatter before he's done.

Hello out there!

I see you
I've been pretty busy the past couple of weeks. I'm right in the middle of summer camp at the arboretum. The few bug pictures I've managed to take have just been sitting on my computer. Hopefully, I'll have more posts soon! Hope everyone's summer is off to a great start. Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Any day now

any time now
They are three weeks old. I think they must almost be ready to fly.

Here's a brief video from the other day, when the mama was feeding them. They're as big as she is now. I can't imagine what a hard job that must be for a little bird.

Baby hornworm is growing

tomato worm
He's about 3 days old now.

Monday, June 13, 2011

One miss and another chance

I have been waiting since Novemberber for my giant swallowtail chrysalis to hatch. I got to the point that I felt it might happen at any time, and I began to leave the net butterfly cage open, so that if it did come out some time when I was not there, it could be free to fly away. And that's what it did over the weekend.
empty chrysalis
Hard to tell, but this is just the empty shell.  Here's what it looked like last fall. I raised it from an egg, so yeah, I'm a little bummed that I missed it.

But...there's always something new to look forward to.

Sphinx moth egg
Last Monday, I found eggs on my tomato plant. Hornworm eggs, most likely. I picked off most of them, but saved this one in a jar.

baby hornworm
It hatched over the weekend. Started out kind of creamy white like this, but quickly turned green once it started eating the leaf.

baby hornworm
It doubled in size by the end of the day.  Two days later, it's bigger still, but it has a long way to go.  There will be more photos to come.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


More from my arboretum pre-hunt. Larval lepidoptera of one sort or another.

No name for the caterpillar or the flower bud, but they are a perfect match.

caterpillar on tarweed
The hemizonia plants have sprouted, and the caterpillars have returned to eat them.

Monarch caterpillar
There are still a few monarch caterpillars to be found.

Inchworm. (Maybe half-inch. He was pretty tiny)

Fat green looper.

June Gloom bugs

We are having what we call "June Gloom" here in SoCal. Cool overcast days. Maybe some drizzle. The sun breaks through, oh, maybe 2PM or so. Not the best bug-finding weather. The butterflies are all sleeping somewhere. Even the bees are less abundant. But there are still insects to be found. Yesterday, I did a little advance scouting for today's bug safari tour at the arboretum. Here's some of what I found.

Harlequin family
Harlequin bug congregation.

harlequin nymph
and one spectacularly situated harlequin nymph.

The only butterfly I found was this resting skipper.

beetle larvae on datura
On the datura: some fascinating but disgusting larvae of the three-lined potato beetle, Lema daturaphila.

asleep in a flower
OK, for those of you who were grossed out by the last photo (sorry), here's a lovely and graceful sleeping bee, also in a datura flower.

plant bug
A little mirid bug feeding on a green seed head of a euphorbia(?)

katydid nymph
Mediterranean katydid nymph.

Ladybug on purple flower. Red Hat Society, anyone?

cactus fly
Oh, sorry. Grossness again. A nice big cactus fly.

cactus fly

Our bug hunt today went very well. In spite of considerable heavy drizzle, we had enough participants for 2 groups, and found lots of little things.

Land planarian

land planarian
Ever see one of these? The first time I saw one was when we first moved to Fullerton. I thought it was some kind of slug. In fact, I called it a "mystery slug". It wasn't until years later that I found it online and learned it's a flatworm. A land planarian, Bipalium kewense. They live in dark, moist places in the garden, under rocks and such. And they eat earthworms. You can find more information when you click here and scroll to the bottom of the page.

Anyway, I haven't seen one in a long time, and the other day this one was on my patio.  He seemed to have gotten himself stranded and was starting to dry out, much as an earthworm or a slug might when exposed for too long.  I spritzed him with water and he was able to move freely again.
Land planarian AKA hammerhead worm
The puddle I made for him caused a bit of glare that made him hard to photograph, so I moved him to the top of the trash can lid.  You can see why they are sometimes called "hammer head worms".

I also took a brief video which I'll try to get on here tomorrow.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Baby hummingbirds, 2 weeks old

eyes open
Their eyes are open now.

Feed us!  Feed us!
And their beaks are getting longer.  It's hard to say exactly how big these babies are, but their little bodies are packed tightly into the nest with their heads poking out.  They're probably at least half or two-thirds the size of their mama now.

evening feeding
I'm afraid to get close up to the nest anymore. I don't want to scare them. So I'm taking most of the pictures through my bathroom window screen, which causes this gauzy effect.

upside down and backwards


Sunday, June 05, 2011

Bug Bingo

Thanks to Bug Girl for alerting me to these free downloadable Bug Bingo cards.   I'm passing it along because it looks like a fun activity for kids, and could be the beginning of  many backyard bug safaris to come!

Friday, June 03, 2011

Hummingbird update

Photos taken yesterday, babies were 11 days old, (I think):
baby hummer

beaks up
This is kind of a weird angle, huh?  They're too big to fit those beaks in the nest anymore, so they keep them pointing up now.

And, as you will see, Mama hummer is still ramming the food down into their little gullets. But the babies are a lot bigger than they were in my first video.

Oh, and in answer to LyndsayB, the nest is in a camellia bush.  The whole bush is maybe 7 feet high or so.

Here is the bush. The nest is in the little red circle.

These little pine-coney looking things are what's left over from the camellia flowers, which bloomed several months ago.

Rotten log beetle

There were a number of these beetles in the rotten logs. Maybe half an inch long, and faster than the centipede. This one only stopped when he thought I couldn't see him against the inside of the container lid.

Rotten log centipede

He did everything he could to hide from me.

The only way I could get a picture of his whole self was to put him in a container where he had no place to hide, and hope he would hold still for a few seconds.

I'd say he was about 1¾ inches long and very fast moving. I have not had good luck with little centipedes. They seem to die very quickly when removed from their dark, damp hiding place. So when I finished taking pictures of this one, I released him under a partly-rotten log in my yard.

When rotten luck is good luck

I needed some well decomposed logs to prepare for a hands-on activity during our upcoming summer camp at the arboretum.  My own personal little stash is just about gone, used up over the years in my demonstration of "how the rainforest recycles itself".

So some of my arboretum friends have provided some old rotten logs for me, and in one box-full yesterday I was lucky to find some buggy stow-aways in with the wood.  Of course I was secretly (or maybe not so secretly) hoping this would happen, so I went through the box slowly and carefully, with my camera at the ready, and a couple of containers nearby.

arboreal camel cricket
I found 3 arboreal camel crickets.  I think they are genus Gammarotettix.
They are small, kind of plump looking, and they have no wings at all, so not only can they not fly, but they can't chirp like other crickets. (You know, don't you, that crickets make their chirping sounds by rubbing their wings together in a process called stridulation?)

arboreal camel cricket

arboreal camel cricket
Look how smooth this one's back looks.

arboreal camel cricket
The long appendage sticking out in back is the ovipositor. That's the egg-laying aparatus. This is a female.

arboreal camel cricket
This guy doesn't have an ovipositor, so I know he's a "guy!"

Not sure what I'm going to do with these guys (and girls). They came from the mountains, a couple of hours' drive from here. For now, I have them in a container with some of their rotten wood, and some old vegetable peelings, which they found tasty enough.
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