Sunday, May 27, 2012

A pair of busy bug-catchers

Daddy bluebird on duty
This spring I have a new addition to my back yard: A bluebird box! I went out and bought one rather impulsively last month, after seeing bluebirds in my yard for several days in a row. It only took them about a week to move in, and now the box is full of fast-growing babies. How many? I have no idea, but they have been getting louder by the day, and the parents are very busy all day bringing them food.

So I have been doing a bit of backyard bird-watching, trying to see just what kind of bugs the bluebirds are finding and bringing back to the nest. I have noticed that sometimes they just swoop right into the opening of the nest box, but other times they will pause briefly on top of the box, or on the wires overhead, and those are the times I can catch a glimpse of what's on the menu. I borrowed Jerry's camera and made a sport of trying to take pictures of the bugs in the bluebirds' beaks.

Some kind of worm
Here's a mouth full of something. A worm, maybe?

He's brought back a moth
Here's a plump moth.

See, here's why I like Jerry's camera. I can start out taking a picture like this...

DS3_9543 - Copy
...and then crop it down so you can see up close. Wait, this isn't close enough...

DS3_9543 -super close up!
OK, now! See the ant? When the bluebird nabbed this worm, he also picked up a hapless ant, and took it on the ride of its life! And seconds later, probably stuffed it into the gullet of one of his kids!

Carrying a crane fly
Just added! Here's one with a crane fly. I took this a day or so after all the other pictures in this post, and I'm just now (June 19) adding it in!

a carrotwood seed!
And here's something I didn't know: Bluebirds feed the seeds of carrotwood trees to their babies. I always thought they were strictly insectivores. I only wish they would eat some of the excess sowbugs and earwigs we have. But so far, they don't seem to be interested in those. Too bad. The sowbug population, especially, is exploding around here this year.

Off to get more food!
These last couple of shots are blurry, but I still thought they look pretty cool.

Blurry leaves in the foreground
I like the out of focus leaves from my Chinese elm tree in the foreground.

As my little pocket point-and-shoot camera gets older and doesn't work quite as well as it used to, I think about what kind of camera I should get next. A DSLR like Jerry's takes better pictures, but I am intimidated (and lazy) to learn how to use it properly, and besides, it weighs a ton. All I was doing was sitting in a chair with it, and I got tired of holding it. Maybe next time, I'll set up the tripod.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Mantis Monday: Big enough to ride on!

But you'll have to click here to see it. The photographer gave me permission to post his photo, but it turns out his Flickr settings block the downloading of his images!   But it's worth the effort, so go look at it!

Anyway, I have always had a fantasy of riding on a giant praying mantis. And if I ever visit Detroit, you know I will be planning a visit to the zoo, where the carousel is located, and have my picture taken astride it! But in the meantime, I do have this picture from several years ago, photoshopped by my arboretum friend, Gloria.  Yes, that's me living my fantasy.  That grubby hand we're perched upon is mine too.  He he!

Morphing Monday

I chose this recent skipper photo last night to morph for today.
Umber Skipper

digitally altered skipper photo
After, using the "neon" filter in Picasa. I like how the out of focus background has morphed into a tangle of yarn. At least that's what it looks like to me.

This morning I see that Laura, my morphing mentor, has done a butterfly too!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Golden Mealybugs

At the arboretum, we have several trees of the genus Araucaria. They are conifers from the southern hemisphere. A couple of years ago, they suffered a hefty infestation of mealybugs, which I only became aware of when I saw all the predatory mealybug destroyers all over the trees. At that time, I was unable to find the offending mealybugs, but I have been on the lookout for them, and this week, I found them, once again on the bunya-bunya tree.

tiny mealybugs
First I saw the baby ones.

golden mealybugs
Then some larger ones.

golden mealybugs
Some parts of the tree were really crowded with them. I have identified them as Golden Mealybugs, Nipaecoccus aurilanatus.

mealybug destroyers
Once again, the destroyers (these white bugs) are on the attack, but right now, they are vastly outnumbered by their prey.

Western Tailed Blue butterflies and caterpillars

Earlier this month, I noticed lots of these cute little butterflies at the arboretum.

western tailed blue
This is a Western Tailed Blue, Cupido amyntula. The picture above is a little blurry, but at least you can see the "tails" on the hind wings.

western tailed blue
Many of them were paired up.

rattlepod bush
As I looked online to identify these butterflies, I read that their larval host plant is the rattlepod bush, also called loco weed. (Astragalus trichopodus) Of course, it just so happens that there were several patches of that very plant in the area where I found the butterflies. So of course, I had to go back and look for the caterpillars.

I figured that the caterpillars would be small and well-camouflaged. But I was still disappointed when I couldn't find any. Then I decided to take a closer look at the pods.

exit hole
Some of them had holes in them. I opened a couple of the holey ones to find just an empty pod. No caterpillar, no seeds. So I sought out the younger looking, greener pods...

a caterpillar in a pod
See that little shadow in there? It's a caterpillar.

caterpillar in the pod
I opened a pod with a bigger shadow. It had a larger (but still very small) caterpillar inside. He had clearly been eating the tiny bean-shaped seeds in there. You can see the empty stems left behind that had most likely each held a seed.

He didn't like that I had exposed him. I put him back on the plant, hoping he might chew his way into a new pod.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Morphing Mantis Monday!

My blog-friend, Laura, of Forest Walk Art, has started a weekly feature called Morphing Monday, where she takes a photo and digitally alters it. Morphs it, you might say! I have always enjoyed fiddling with photos in photoshop, and especially after finding a the Percolator app for my iPad, I couldn't resist joining in!
Tropical mantis
First, I painted this cartoony tropical mantid using Sketch Club on my iPad.

Percolator Mantid
Finding out what kinds of effects Percolator can do...

Percolator Mantid
Wow, this is really wild! Pretty fun!

Here's one from last summer. Before....

Percolator Mantid
After. This reminds me of a Gustav Klimt painting. Sort of.

Thanks, Laura, for inspiring me this week! I might just post a few more Percolated bug pictures before I get this out of my system!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

In the Buglady's kitchen...

I am quite at home in my new kitchen these days. I still don't have a window treatment, but I have added a little something that makes it a little more me.

in my kitchen
See on the windowsill, the little jar with the leafy stem sticking out? There are 33 butterfly eggs on there.

Mourning cloak butterfly
You see, yesterday, I just happened to be in the right place (my back yard) at the right time to notice a mourning cloak butterfly laying eggs in my Chinese Elm tree. I was also lucky that she laid the eggs where I could reach them, after grabbing the branch and pulling it gently down.

Mourning cloak eggs
Some butterflies lay their eggs one at a time, here and there, spreading them evenly among their larval host plants. The mourning cloak lays a bunch of them all together, and the siblings will spend their larval lives together as they grow. Only when they are ready to pupate will they go their separate ways, as each individual follows its own instinct as to which is the best spot to make a chrysalis.

Last year, in the same tree, I found some mature caterpillars, and they were ready to pupate within a couple of days. I have never reared mourning cloaks from eggs before, so this will be interesting. Kind of like a "prequel" to last year's caterpillars.

Needless to say, in a very few days, I'll need to get that little twig off my windowsill and put it in a proper enclosure. But for now, I'm glad to have this little sprig of life in my kitchen.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Mantis Monday: Alebrijes!

Mantis Alebrije
A couple of weeks ago, one of my favorite art bloggers, Geninne, posted this picture of a cute little mantis figure. It's a Mexican artform called an alebrije, a brightly painted creature that could contain features from different animals, or sometimes just a fantastically decorated version of a single animal.

It made me want to search online for more mantis alebrijes, and I did. Here are two by Pablo Lopez.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

A bounty of spring babies

In a typical spring season, I will see a high density of baby mantids in my Indian hawthorn plants. They have most likely drifted down from the crepe myrtle tree. This year has been no exception.

Little Brown Mantis
I found one second-instar Stagmomantis californica.

little mantis
There were several of the S. limbata. The fact that there are so many more of these larger, more aggressive mantids, makes me wonder if they are taking over the range of the californica. Or maybe just taking over my back yard.

tiny katydid
I am also finding a few of these tiny katydids. I recognize them as Mediterranean katydids, Phaneroptera nana. They feed on the fuzzy surface of the Indian hawthorn leaves. This particular nymph was less than 2 inches away from one of the little mantids, so I went back later to check on them both.

What's that over there?
At first, I only saw the mantis, and it seemed to be looking at something.

What's that over there?
It was the katydid. It had just shed its skin. Its new skin was still very pale, and its slow movements had attracted the mantid's attention. But the mantid apparently wasn't hungry enough to try to catch it.

I expect the bounty of little mantids and katydids to decrease over the weeks, as they go their separate ways, or get eaten by birds, spiders, lizards, or possibly each other.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

What's in a snail?

back lit morning snail
Last week, on a sunny morning, I took this picture of a little snail as it crossed the sidewalk in front of my house. I later realized that I could sort of see through him. This was a much different and much more pleasant sight than what I usually see of snail innards, which is squished snail guts on the sidewalk! So what are all those parts there that I can see? I decided to find out!

Google provided me with many diagrams of snail anatomy. I liked this one because it was colorful and easy to read, and the snail in the diagram was positioned just like my snail photo. (and if you click the photo, it will take you to the Snail World website, where I found it.)

inside a snail
Unfortunately, the real thing still looks different from the diagram to my untrained eye, so I wasn't sure what I was seeing in my photo. I labeled the few things I thought I could recognize. The only organ I had actually seen before (without realizing what it was at the time) was the lung,   Hoping Aydin from Snail's Tales will see this and help me fill in the blanks.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Porch moth

porch moth
I'm not sure if I've ever seen this kind of moth before. I looked on BugGuide to ID this one, and I'm pretty sure it's a Lucerne Moth, Nomophila nearctica. It's certainly nothing exotic, just that this particular combination of size, shape and pattern was new to me. Always nice to see something new :)
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