Monday, December 03, 2012

A fitting (and spitting) farewell

A spitting farewell
This is the same sweet Iris oratoria that I blogged about here. A couple of weeks ago, I returned her to the same plant at the arboretum where I had found her. I tried to get one farewell shot of her, and as I was (and still am) getting used to using my new iPhone camera, it was kind of tricky.

I tried poking and prodding her to get her into a better position. She got tired of that pretty quick, and opened her wings in a threat display. Of course, I consider her open wings to be more beautiful than threatening, and as I fiddled with my camera, she relaxed a little and started to close her wings.

"No, no, wait!" I said, and goosed her again. The wings shot back up, but she added a yucky black spit bubble for good measure. I had forgotten that these mantids will do that sometimes. Yuck. Well, this is probably my last mantid photo of the season.

Here's to next year!

Mantis Monday, Morphin' Mandala

Mantis Mandala

I have been having too much fun with the Keleidacam app on my iPhone.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Mantids in November

I have returned to my Arboretum duties, and I accepted a late-season bug safari the week before Halloween, knowing with the continued warm weather, there would still be plenty of bugs to find.  I knew it would be pushing it with the mantids, so I decided to collect one in advance, so I'd have one to show the kids.  I set out to collect the big female that I had seen in the middle of a milkweed patch, eating a monarch butterfly.


Unfortunately, I was not able to find her again.  My only other choice was a wild and wily little female Iris oratoria that I had found in the desert garden.  She had resisted my attempts to pick her up, or even take pictures of her, yet she stayed on the same little scrubby desert plant.




































Mantis
But I persisted, and eventually I extracted her from the plant. She has adjusted well to captivity. She performed admirably for her audience of Brownie Scouts, grabbing a fly and eating it while they watched. She also laid eggs in her container.

Mantis egg case

Death comes in autumn...
I had intended to release her after the bug safari, but she seemed content, and was still looking bright and healthy, so I held onto her. Then one day last week, Michael brought me a mantis he had found on the ground on campus. She was huge and beautiful, and almost dead. My first thought was to feed her. Maybe a drop of honey, or at least some water. But it was too late, even for water. I wrapped her in a tissue and put her in the freezer to sleep. I would have left her outside for a bird to find, but I was afraid the ants would find her first, and I didn't want her to be eaten by ants. So I froze her.

The little Iris is still with me. Now that the nights are getting chilly, I don't want to release her just so she can wither and die. I know she will eventually, no matter what I do, but for now she is still happy.

Bedroom eyes
Happy to be inside with her night-time purple eyes.

What, me worry?
Mantids in November are rare and fleeting.  I just want to enjoy this sweet little face as long as I can.






Sunday, October 21, 2012

My new aquatic snail

This past summer, I set up a little aquarium in my kitchen. Its only inhabitant has been a little Betta fish until the other day, when I decided the algae growing abundantly on every surface needed to be controlled. Specifically, I decided it should be eaten by a snail.

I chose a nerite snail because I read that they were compatible with Bettas, they don't eat the live plants, and they like their water more alkaline. (my tank is about 8.2) And, even though they can survive in a range of water conditions, they can't reproduce unless they are in brackish water, so I won't end up with a bunch of baby snails all over the tank.


starting on the flowerpot
So, here is his stripey self! He has wasted no time, starting his wandering/cleaning/eating moments after he was released into the tank.

eating his was along
See his little "teeth marks" on the flowerpot?

snail mouth
Here is a view of his mouth, from when he was cruising the tank wall.

a molluscan eye
Oh, and how'bout that snaily eye? Kinda reminds me of an octopus. A little.

scrubbin' the flowerpot
By the next morning, he had eaten off quite a lot of the algae from the pot.

cleaning the rocks
Getting down to business on the rocks.

clean rocks...
The rocks are even cleaner now than they were yesterday when I took this picture. The trade-off is poop, lots and lots of chocolate-sprinkle sized poop. But I hope that once he gets caught up, and all the visible algae gets eaten up, the poop machine will dial down a few notches as the snail goes into more of a maintenance-mode.

the meandering trail
His seemingly random and meandering path reminds me of two things: First, the Family Circus comics, where little Billy often wanders a dotted-line path all over the neighborhood. Second, a certain little autonomous robotic vaccuum cleaner, after which I have named my new snail: Roomba!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Nature is beautiful and harsh

While wandering through the arboretum this afternoon, I was scanning the milkweed plants, looking for monarch caterpillars, when I noticed a butterfly, hanging oddly still.

a monarch, hanging oddly

Mantis eating a Monarch butterfly
Closer inspection revealed the butterfly was in the clutches of a large praying mantis.

in her grasp
Sad for the butterfly, yes, but this is nature, no less than a lioness devouring a zebra. Powerful. Beautiful. Life and death.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

At long last, a banana slug!

Banana slug!
We are on the last leg of our vacation, and today we drove south along the coast through Big Sur. It was cloudy and drizzly, and the little canyon trail we found proved to be perfect slug habitat.

I resisted the urge to bring one home, but just barely.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Mantis Montage

Here are a few of the mantids that I encountered over the summer:

dark chocolate mantis
This little guy was really dark. 75% cacao dark chocolate dark.

dark mantis with fly
I fed him a fly, which he ate, and then he went on his way.

Morning Mantis
This guy lived on the same low-hanging branch for several weeks. I fed him a fly, skewered on the end of a grass-stem every day. I'd like to think he's one of the bachelors I saw hanging out with his buddies on my porch the other day. (down at the end of this post)

mantis
I thought this girl was resting when I found her on my screen door, but there was something wrong with her. She was virtually paralyzed. I don't know if she had somehow come in contact with some pesticide, or maybe she was stung by a bee or something, but I kept her for a few days and fed her droplets of honey, and she recovered. I released her back into the yard and saw her for several days until she disappeared (up into the trees, I hope).

Strange mantis Brice found for me
Brice called me from school the other week to tell me there was a large praying mantis that he thought "I would want to see". He was right. She was beautiful. Strangely yellowish, kind of "lemon-lime" colored.
Mantis back
She also acted strangely, and she wouldn't eat, which is very unusual for a large female. I let her go, too.

three bachelors
These "Three Caballeros" were on my porch light a few nights ago, when it was so hot. I like how they all stopped their partying for just a second to look at the camera.
;-)

It's been a long and mostly unproductive summer for me. I haven't felt much like blogging, although the bugs have been out there. And since we didn't take a vacation out of town, the bugs have mostly been just the every-day local ones. Still, I have taken a few pictures over the past couple months.

teneral
This beautiful grasshopper had just shed her skin one evening at the arboretum.

grasshopper shed
The old skin was on the ground right beneath her.

where were you during Moth Week?
A couple of moths that couldn't be bothered to show themselves during Moth Week.
cute little moth


bug
A brown stink bug...

stinkbug
And a mottled green one with pretty turquoise legs.

unfamiliar hemipteran
And this weird guy was on my porch just yesterday. Like the stink bugs, it's a "true bug", but I've never seen one like it before. So I'm still seeing new things from time to time, in familiar places.

There have been mantids, too, of course. I will make a post for them a little later.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Some eggs that hatched

Mystery eggs
A few days ago, I noticed this strange-looking cluster of eggs on a leaf of my Indian hawthorne plant. The whole cluster was about the diameter of a lentil. I picked the leaf, put it in a jar and brought it into my kitchen, which is where all my high priority bug things end up, of course!


First thing this morning when I checked them, I saw they had hatched.

Newly hatched
Eeee! Lots of tiny little assassin bugs! The white ones are the most recently hatched. The darker ones hatched first.

Newly hatched
After the photo shoot, I released them back into the bushes.

Moth week "meh"

First of all, I want to clarify that I do not feel "meh" about Moth Week itself. On the contrary, I was excited to learn about it, and hopeful that the warm mid-summer evenings would yield a nice variety of pretty moths that would come to my black light.

The "meh" refers to my results so far.

slim pickin's
This was the first or second night, at my front porch. I substituted my regular bulb with a black light bulb. What you see are just some drab little tiny moths and maybe a couple of mirid bugs. This was the morning after, but trust me, the night before was just as boring, except for the addition of a few lingering June beetles.

geometer moth
There were a few moths that may have been attracted to the light, but chose other areas to roost instead of the white sheet. Like this little geometer on the door jamb.

owlet moth
This armyworm moth was behind the sheet and fluttered to the ground when I moved the sheet.


Inside looking out
And this guy just made himself at home right inside the lamp!


After 2 nights on the front porch, I moved the whole set-up to the back patio. Same "meh" results. So now I have it under a tree in my back yard, but not holding my breath.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Celebrating National Moth Week

The first National Moth Week will be July 23 - 29. I love the idea of a week to celebrate moths. They have taken a back seat to butterflies for too long.

I have actually been using my black light and sheet in the back yard for the last several days, but haven't attracted much. My front porch light, with just a regular compact fluorescent bulb, has attracted a nice variety of moths over the years. For Moth Week, I'm going to try putting the black light on the front porch (Jerry loves this idea ...NOT!) and see what happens.

I will post any good moth photos I can get, and I'll link to some other bug blogs if I see they have good moth posts. In the meantime, here are a couple of moths I've seen recently, one on the sheet, and one on my front porch.

Back porch moth

Porch moth

For more info on National Moth Week, and to find out if there are any moth-related events near you, click here.

Here's hoping for a moth-filled week!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Milkweed bug cluster







It's a family of milkweed bugs, and they're all in a cluster.

Milkweed bug togetherness

These milkweed bugs, Oncopeltus fasciatus, huddle together to accentuate their red-and-blackness, nature's warning colors, that lets potential predators know these bugs are toxic, a result of feeding on the toxic sap of the milkweed plant.

Monday, July 02, 2012

A spider in the bed!

Parson Spider
I found this guy yesterday when I was making my bed.  I fluffed the sheets and suddenly there he was (on Jerry's side of the bed, too!)  He was so startling, I actually shrieked!  He was very fast moving, trying to scurry under the covers,  but I got him into a little jar to take his picture before I released him out back.
Parson Spider

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Ants tasting the rainbow


This story apparently was news almost a year ago, and I missed it. My son came across it the other night and shared it with me, and I, of course, must pass it along. There is an article with more colorful photos of ants filling up on colored liquid. You must see it!

A spider web in the sunset

Hackled orb weaver
This rather unassuming little spider has made a small web under the eaves on my front porch.

In the evening, the setting sun hits the web and lights it like a prism. I have been trying to take pictures of the colors in the glowing strands.

Hackled orb weaver

Hackled orb weaver

Hackled orb weaver
Here she is from the front. She's a hackled orb weaver, Uloborus diversus. At rest, she stretches 4 legs out in front, and tucks the other 4 next to her abdomen.
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