Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sulphur cats

These might have been cloudless sulphur caterpillars. Then again they might have been another sulphur. I'm not sure. They look different from previous cloudless sulphur cats that I posted here and here, but they tend to vary in their colors and spots as they grow, so I don't know. green caterpillar

caterpillar face

yellow caterpillar
 To further complicate matters, I wasn't able to get enough pictures of them. The first time I saw them (at the arboretum), there were several individuals, but I didn't have my camera with me. Then when I went back a day or two later with my camera, I couldn't find most of them any more.  I'll go back and check again in a couple of days.

Leaf footed bugs

hiding...sort of bashful: hiding behind a leaf, more or less

  mating on a pomegranate brazen: mating upon a pomegranate for all the world to see

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Hanging around, upside down

Just hangin' around I've been hanging around, taking a few pictures here and there, but not really feeling like blogging much. Things are happening beyond my little sphere of bug stuff. Nothing really bad, but enough that it distracts me from sitting down to go through my bug photos and post them. But hopefully I'll be getting back to it soon.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A walk in the park

under the sycamore trees. Summer was a long time coming this year.
  Fall Preview But fall is just around the corner.
  The creek today I went for a walk in the park this morning. The creek area that was so full of life earlier this summer has been partially mowed down. The cottonwood shoots are gone, along with about half of the other plants growing in and along the creek.
  froggie There are still frogs, although not as many as before. This was a "big" one at over an inch (from snout to vent.) Most were much smaller.
  mantis There were several good sized mantid nymphs hanging out on the remaining creek vegetation. They could easily grab the little frogs. I don't know if they have actually been eating them, and I don't want to know.
  she barely fit in the jar My prize for the day was this magnificent milk-chocolate S. limbata female. She barely fit into the little jar I brought along "just in case."

  pretty (I think she's pretty)
She was stuffed in the little jar for about half an hour, while I walked home from the park. When I let her out, she spent several minutes grooming herself, and then she gave me a little smile.

spider zen II

Spider Zen II
I had my first spider zen moment here, but while that one was so perfectly posed, this one to me seems more relaxed and at one with his universe.  OK, maybe he's just sleeping, but I think this male Araneus is enjoying what may be his last days of bachelorhood and, in fact, the last days of his life.

This is my favorite spider picture so far this week.

Breakfast of champions

Breakfast of champions

Under the rocks this morning

Here is my modest participation in International Rock Flipping Day. Nothing too exciting. Nothing I haven't seen before. beetle a little darkling beetle
  Sowbug skeletons fossil-like white exoskeletons of sow bugs
  Black widow and neighbor A black widow, with a small neighbor spider, perhaps another Theridion?

Honestly, this is not the best time of year for looking under rocks at my house. Early spring would be better.  But at least there's plenty to be found above and beyond the rocks.  More to come.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A brief break from all the spiders...

Queen, side 2

I'll be back soon with my favorite spider picture of the week. In the meantime, here's a queen caterpillar.

Spider photos: before and after

pregnant profile
The spider in these pictures is the same individual as the one on my blog header.  (For those of you that get Bug Safari in a reader, you may want to click over and see it.)  Anyhoo, in this shot, like the header photo, she was pretty fat. Green lynx with egg case This shot was from yesterday. She is skinny now, and guarding an egg case.


at work in the glow of evening This is the spider that has been making her web near my front porch for the past couple of weeks. The same spider whose web I rolled up into a tiny ball of silk as I pondered whether or not spiders really eat their own webs. at work in the glow of evening Every evening, I have tried to take a few moments and watch her at her meticulous work. These pictures are not the sharpest, being hand held, with my little camera, at dusk. But I think they still show the movement, the color and light, and yes, the beauty of nature doing its thing. spinning a web This one makes me a little dizzy, though. :P

Can you stand more spider posts?

This is the spideriest time of year, and the spiders are at their most hideous and magnificent. So I can't resist them. Yesterday morning, as I stepped out on my back porch my eye caught an insect flying across the yard, its wings illuminated against the sun. I couldn't tell what it was at that distance, but my gaze followed it as it landed...right into a spider web! Just caught her breakfast It was a bee, and it was immediately captured by a funnel web spider. And yes, I did step out the door with my camera in my pocket. Lucky me! Retreating with her breakfast The spider was not too interested in me hovering over her web with my camera, and she quickly turned around and hauled her prize down into her funnel-hole.

More from BugGuide:

The family of "funnel-web" spiders (family: Agelenidae) found in the United States are 99.9% harmless to people. However, there are a few genera of spiders (family: Hexathelidae) that are also called Funnel-web spiders (Genera: Atrax and Hadronyche). These spidersARE NOT related to the Agelenid spiders found in North America. Many of the hexathelid spiders are common favorites for the Discovery Channel-style "Deadliest Spider" documentaries; some the famous funnel-web spiders being the Sydney Funnelweb (Atrax robustus) and the Northern Tree Funnelweb (Hadronyche formidabilis). These funnel-web spiders are found in eastern Australia, including Tasmania, in coastal and highland forest regions - as far west as the Gulf Ranges area of South Australia. These spiders known be harmful to people, HOWEVER, as mentioned above, they are not found in the United States. For more information about Australian Funnel-Web (Hexathelidae) spiders: click here.

Thursday, September 08, 2011


This Sunday, Sept. 11 will be the 5th annual International Rock Flipping Day. So after you have had time to reflect on the solemn anniversary of a terrible day 10 years ago, why not change things up by going out in your back yard and turning over a rock or two, to see what's under there? More information here.

Furcula cinerea

Remember my fork-tailed Furcula caterpillar? Gray Furcula moth
Well here he is, all grown up after 21 days in the cocoon. And easily identified to species. So now that I know him on a first and last name basis, it's time to say goodbye.
  Furcula face I got this rather owlish-looking shot of the face when the moth spread its antennas and the wings started fluttering. Moments later, it flew away.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Tiny spider mom and babies

Theridion sp.
I have these tiny spiders living on the brickwork of my front porch.  They build their tiny webs in the recesses of the mortar between the bricks.  They have very round abdomens with a white "moustache" on top of a mottled pattern.

Baby spiders feeding with Mom
Yesterday, I noticed that one tiny spider mama had a new bunch of super-teeny tiny pink babies.  And what was even more interesting was that they seemed to be feeding communally on some kind of dead bug.
This sent me to the internet, where after some searching, I learned that there is a genus Theridion that does this.
spider with egg case
Here is another mama-to-be.  Her egg case is bigger than she is!

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Small and kind of leafy looking

torpedo bug Commomly called the torpedo bug.

  torpedo bug Finding out the scientific name, Siphanta acuta, somehow had the side effect of getting the Lion King song "Hakuna Matata" stuck in my head.  But it doesn't take much to get a song stuck in my head.

Green beetles in late summer

old beetle, old flower These shiny green beetles, Cotinis mutabilis, seem to be everywhere lately. In fruit trees, to be sure, but they are also flying everywhere else, and they are low and slow. Their choice of resting spot seems to change as they age, from up in the trees near their food, to pretty much wherever they land. Often they end up shrubs very close to the ground. Resting beetle Makes it easy to see them up close and get some good shots.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Do spiders really eat their own webs?

I've heard that they do.  And I've seen spiders appearing to be eating their webs. So last week, when I was at the arboretum, pointing out to visitors a huge and beautiful garden spider spinning her web between two trees, I didn't hesitate to say yes when a lady asked, "Is it true that they sometimes eat their webs?"

Now, I'm not so sure.

Spider in web
I have been doing a fair amount of spider-watching lately.  And watching out, because they have been building webs right in front of my porch, and in other places that might get me a face full of spider if I'm not careful.  And the other night, with nothing better to do, I watched as one spider made a huge web.  It was literally an orb and a half, with an extra section tacked on to one side.  Clearly, she was hoping to snag every flying insect that was headed for my porch light.

There was another spider building a web off my back porch.  But for some reason, part way through, she aborted the mission.  Without warning, she ran up one of the side support lines and detatched it from the patio roof.  Then she ran across the collapsing structure to the opposite end, seemingly gathering up the slack as she went.  In a few seconds, the web was completely gone, and so was she.  But, did she eat it?

web line

Back out front to the huge web on my porch:  How could a spider eat something that big?  The next morning, the spider and her web were still there.  Usually these spiders will retreat to a safe place during the day and rebuild a new web in the evening, so I didn't feel too bad about giving her a little start and sending her up under the eaves.  Now her web was mine to play with.

I recalled how the spider on my back patio undid her web and gathered it up so quickly, so I decided to try to do the same with this one.  I grabbed it from one end and gently pulled and twisted so that it stayed in one piece even as I rolled it between my fingers.  Amazing how strong the supporting lines were.  And not sticky.  The main part of the web was very sticky, though.  Anyway, I rolled the whole thing up with my thumb and forefinger, and found that the original web, which must have been 18 inches across, and all the support lines, that extended for several feet, ended up rolling into a little tiny ball of silk about the size of a poppy-seed!

Ok, so size-wise, I guess a spider would have no problems eating that.  But wait a minute....spiders don't really eat.  I mean, they don't chew their food.  Their venom pre-digests and liquifies the insides of their prey, and they drink the resulting liquid, leaving the exoskeleton like a discarded husk.  So would they even have a way to eat that dense little poppy-seed of silk?  Maybe swallow it like a pill?  Maybe somehow, they re-liquify it, so they can drink it?  Or do they just discard it?

I have tried to find out more information online.  Wikipedia says they do eat their webs, but it's Wikipedia:  unverified and possibly inaccurate.  I found another website called Spiderz Rule! which also says they eat their web, but they still don't explain how it happens, just that they do.

Orb Weaver

If anyone has any information about whether or how spiders eat their own webs, please do tell!

Soapberry Bugs

Multi tasking bug
It sounds like some kind of cute bath product for kids, but soapberry bugs are another name for the seed-eating hemipterans (true bugs) like the boxelder and red-shouldered bugs that we often see in large numbers at the arboretum. Soapberry bugs even have their own website with lots of pictures and information about them.

And the soapberry bug people have deemed one of my photos of a red-shouldered bug worthy of their Image of the Month.

Thanks for noticing, Crystal!

Failure to launch

Failure to launch
This would have been an anise swallowtail butterfly. For some reason, it was unable to fully emerge from the chrysalis.

Nature can be tough sometimes.

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