We’ve had a lot of small monarch caterpillars on our milkweed plants this summer, but so far none of them seem to be surviving to pupate. They’re supposed to be gross and poisonous, but I don’t think the birds have gotten the memo yet. I just went out and collected as many as I could find—I count eleven caterpillars and one unhatched egg. We’ll take care of them until they’re ready to pupate, and then we’ll set them out on the porch to emerge as butterflies.
A mother butterfly followed me around from plant to plant, laying eggs on one leaf while I plucked a caterpillar from another. Best wishes, ma’am!
Birds aren’t getting them, wasps are. Their larvae eat caterpillars and grubs. If you watch your garden, you’ll see paper wasps wandering around hunting for them.
The sticks have been molting every week–I’ve caught (and filmed) several molts. They seem to grow almost an inch with each molt, and they are starting to change colors. Originally green with white specks, the male is now a dark green/grey, female is green/gold/pink. They both have the spines on the two rear sets of legs seen in adults. Since adult Megaphasma denticrus don’t have wings, I’m not exactly sure how to tell when they are done growing up.
They are big now, so they are also much faster, and cleaning the tank is an exercise in juggling giant sticks. As seen above.
May 24, 2017
The female (first photo!) was an adult in this photo series! You can tell they are done growing by how mature their… uh… reproductive organs are, and also by how well-formed the spines on their tibias are!
The male was still one molt away from being an adult in these photos.
Also, I learned: How do you keep them from constantly escaping while cleaning the tank? Turn the tank on it’s side! Granted, they still escape, but they have a much harder time finding the exit. Right now I have… uh… more than two, and usually only four of them can escape while I’m cleaning.
Spittlebugs are fun to bother. They’re like opening Christmas presents–you never know what you’ll find wrapped in the mass of slimy bubbles. I just tried two in my yard–they may or may not be the same species (I definitely do not know much about these kids). The first one was kinda shy, but the second did a cool butt dance.
March 31, 2017
Diamond-backed Spittlebug nymphs (yes, same species!). They produce the foam by essentially “farting” into their “pee,” which is more or less just the plant’s juices with a little bit of the sugar removed. The little butt-dance the last one is doing is the accordion-like movement that they use to blow the bubbles.
Oak galls in Travis Audubon’s Baker Sanctuary outside Austin, March 18, 2017. Galls are a new thing for me: they are growths composed of plant matter that grow around a larva, typically of a gall wasp. They do not harm the plant, and if you don’t know any better you would think they are dried berries or seeds.
This was my first time seeing fresh ones–before I had only seen the brown dried up ones the wasps had already emerged from (several are pictured above, look for the exit hole). The green galls seemed to be only on the saplings. I collected a couple to dissect at home (didn’t bring my knife!).
Turns out each gall has an individual wasp. The middle of the ball has a suspended encasement for the larva. You can see where the larva is in the photo of the dissected green gall–the larva is on the side I’m pointing to with a needle. I pulled out my trusty iPhone microscope, and amazingly was able to get (very shaky) video of the larva MOVING. Creeped me the hell out when I saw it.
Fun fact: when I first saw the wasp larva moving in the microscope, I actually screamed 👍
Amphibolips sp. – Wasp that produces galls on oak trees
Yesterday’s Walking Photo: Whoops, sorry, ran out of time last night to post this before going to my gig. I actually spotted this very tiny but very cool-looking insect on my car before I ever left the driveway. Doesn’t it look like a cross between a grasshopper and a classic movie alien? For all I know it actually is some kind of larval grasshopper. Something about those rear legs, not to mention the enormous antennae. I like it.
Hi! If it interests you, there’s an app called iNaturalist where you can upload photos of flora/fauna you find and there’s a community of people who can try and identify it! If you already know what you’re looking at, you can immediately label it as such, and other people will verify or disagree. It’s a really cool citizen science network, and if you like taking photos of life you find, it’s a fun way to learn about that life. 🙂 I have no idea what your bug is, but I love it!!
Ummmmmm YES it interests me! Thank you for this tip as I am frequently inviting/requesting help with identifying various organisms here. I wasted no time grabbing iNaturalist, setting up an account and submitting this photo. So far no quick ID, but I’m waiting to see if anyone in the community chimes in. Now I feel like I should journey back through my archives and see what still needs identifying. Thanks again!
Of course! I really love iNaturalist because it’s been such a low-stress way for me to learn a little bit about the flora/fauna around me and also feel like I’m contributing to some kind of larger science network. 🙂 To follow up, @nanonaturalist created an “iNatters of tumblr” group on iNaturalist last year, which I believe is still open to join, which might give you a bit of a starting point with the app!! You can find the link to that post here. (@nanonaturalist I hope you don’t mind that I tagged you in this!)
This baby is a young katydid nymph! The genus is Scudderia. They start out looking super freaky!
The adults look more like standard katydids:
I have these all over my yard. They’re big as adults!
This federally endangered beetle hasn’t had a reproducing population in Ohio since 1974. For the last ten years, conservationists from the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium have released captive-reared beetles, but have been unable to find any surviving offspring after the released adults finish their short lifespan.
This last year conservationists released 472 captive-reared beetles from large, more cold-hardy stock and finally found new, overwintered beetles. Another participating institution, the Cincinnati Zoo, also found overwintered beetles for the first time this year.
Burying beetles are one of the few beetles to show monogamy and extended parental care. When it’s time to reproduce, a mated pair of burying beetles finds the carcass of a small bird or mammal, digs underneath it to submerge the carcass in the earth, and then raises their larva inside the carcass (larva even beg for food from their parents like baby birds).
While it may sound gross, burying beetles do important work cleaning up dead animals, recycling nutrients, and limiting the spread of disease.
It’s unclear what caused the American burying beetle to decline in the first place, but one theory is that the extinction of the passenger pigeon harmed them by removing a large source of appropriately-sized carcasses (though multiple factors were likely involved).
“Our mission is to make sure that we’re looking out for all wildlife, not just the cute and fuzzy ones.”
July 10, 2019
Oh hey, I was involved in this!!
Incredible beetles, really. Larger than you’d think! The males have a large, orange rectangle on the head while the females have a small red-ish triangle.
This one on my hand is a female! It’s a bit hard to see, but there’s a small triangle below the large patch on the head.
Both a male and a female, along with a dead r.at, were placed into a hole with the hopes that they would breed. I’m happy to report that recently they were checked on and lots of beetle larvae were found!