Archive for the ‘Insect’ Category

house centipede by myriorama. Photo by myriorama

OK, OK, they weren’t really attacking anyone.

And, strictly speaking, there was only…..oh, say….about….er…….one.

But it was the BIGGEST house centipede  I have ever (evar!) seen. You could feed a family of four off its meaty thighs, I tell ya (should you, you know, desire to eat centipede legs).

It didn’t even run away when I picked up the box it had been hiding under off the kitchen counter (no, I did the running away). Seriously, you could have put a saddle on this fella and ridden him away. He eventually got tired of hearing my whimpering and stalked off (the ground shook!) under the cabinets.


Read Full Post »

At least, that’s how I imagine birds must view the cecropia moths….”Hey, look at that, Feathers, it’s a HUGE flying dinner! That ought to stuff the kiddies full!”

What?! Can’t I anthropomorphize a bit?


The moths have been emerging steadily with the current count at 3 females and 5 males. They all seem to emerge between 11 a.m. and Noon. By about 6 p.m., their wings are hardened enough to fly off if they choose. Of course, when they first come out of the cocoon, their wings are as fragile as wet tissue paper.

Oh, in case you do decide to have them emerge inside, you will want to put something below the cocoon, as they do empty their gut of all the wastes they have stored up over the winter. Yeah, it’s pretty smelly!

I was surprised that you can’t really tell which cocoon they emerged out of at first glance. Somehow, I pictured more carnage…kind of like Christmas Day with kids ripping open packages.

But, they manage to wriggle out a VERY tiny hole in the end of the cocoon and leave it intact. If you open the empty cocoon up, you can see the shed pupal case (complete with waste in the bottom that was squeezed out as the moth emerged…you are forewarned!).

I still have about 10 left that are sitting in the box. I’m wondering if they just didn’t make it. Here are some photos of the female vs the male antennae:

female antennae

Female above

male close an

Male above

I think there may have been something amiss with the latest female, as she and 2 males emerged on the same day. I expected the males to flock around here, but they ignored her and flew off. When I looked at her more closely, it appears she may have damaged herself emerging from her cocoon.

Here is a picture of her abdomen and then the close-up of what looks like a rip:

furry abdomen

female abdomen split A rip? She never flew (although she does pump her wings) and is still sitting alone in the lilac bush tonight, poor thing.

I just love it that these moths look like they are covered in shag carpeting, too!

fuzzy moth

And look at this beautiful wing pattern:

wing closeup

UPDATE: Turns out the female was O.K. I came back the next day to find her mating, so it looks like everything worked out for her. She did not lay her eggs on the lilac bush, though (whcih is good, because I really need to trim it back this year).

Also, 3 more males & 2 females emerged, leaving only 3 left in the box.

Read Full Post »


I did a little happy dance today (trust me, be glad you didn’t see it) when I peered into my box-o-cocoons and discovered this:

moth in box

Success! A cecropia moth! Well, OK, it’s only one but it means a lot to me (and, I suspect, to the moth…).

There she was (I’m pretty sure it was a female, as it looked full of eggs and had smaller antennae), just sitting there slowly pumping her wings.

moth side

So beautiful!

moth in hand

I took her outside to show my husband (out in the garage) and as soon as the sun hit her she started to “shiver” in an effort to get things ready for takeoff. Sure enough, in another minute she leapt off the leaf and into the air soaring straight for the trees.

It was really amazing to watch. I hope she gets a chance to mate and lay eggs before becoming someone’s dinner (to a bird, she must look like a big, juicy porterhouse steak…).


Read Full Post »

So, I just finished reading a wonderful book by Bernd Heinrich:

Summer World: A Season of Bounty

(although, not everyone agrees with my view of the book)

It had a nice bit about cecropia moths, although the news was not too encouraging. The bottom line is that very, very, very few cecropia moths ever manage to complete their entire lifecycle.

He mentions that each female cecropia moth lays from 200 to 400 eggs but that most of the larvae that do manage to hatch die. The ratio given in the book for live moths to live larvae was one moth per 100 larvae.

According to Heinrich, parasitic flies and wasps account for the bulk of the larvae deaths. Interestingly, those predators are then often parasitised themselves and then those are parasitised (referred to as a hyper-hyper-parasitoid wasp). Which makes me think of:

“So nat’ralists observe, a flea
Hath smaller fleas that on him prey,
And these have smaller fleas that bite ’em,
And so proceed ad infinitum.”

(As a side note, I was curious about the link to “turtles all the way down” and now want to get a t-shirt with that on it….possibly a job for Endangered Ugly Things?)

Anyway, Heinrich’s book gave a lot of good information on cecropia moths and I would highly advise reading that part if you are planning on rearing these moths. (His moths emerged at the very start of June, but I am still waiting on mine to emerge….stay tuned!)

I hope I get moths and not parasitic wasps/flies…

Read Full Post »

Things are definately happening inside the cecropia moth cocoons!

Most of them are strapped on to the lilac bush outside (held in place with plastic wire ties around the branches NOT the cocoons) but a few are still left in my inside cage. I took a good look at the outside ones today and they are looking swollen and…well, just different. I think they will emerge any day (night) now.

The ones inside will probably not emerge as soon, but I do hear sounds of movement coming from within them. Wheee! I really hope I can get a nice picture of them before I release them.

In the meantime, please enjoy this short time lapse video giving you an idea of what’s happening inside their silky cocoons:

Read Full Post »

ladybug_deathhead.jpg ladybug image by damitjanet_01 (damitjanet_01 )

(And, although its name is not a killing word, it is being killed….)

They’re baaaack!

The Asian Lady Beetles (Harmonia axyridis) have come out of their winter dormancy and are banging around all the windows and lights inside the house. And driving me crazy. (I know, I know, short drive…aha, ha, ha).

The US Ag Department released large numbers of these buggers in order to help control pecan and apple pests. Apparently, they still maintain that they are not a real problem/threat to native lady beetles:

“Multicolored Asian lady beetles have become a problem in some regions of the United States. It is probable that their introduction into new habitats in the United States freed these lady beetles from some natural population checks and balances that occur within their native Asian range. It is likely that these natural controls will catch up to the lady beetles in time and curtail their booming population. Additionally, a period of time may be required for checks and balances of our native lady beetles to adapt to this newcomer.”

I believe this is called the “wishful thinking” doctrine…

Here’s something I didn’t know about these beetles:

“Asian lady beetles are also becoming a concern of the wine industry. Due to their noxious odor, even small numbers of beetles inadvertently processed along with grapes can taint the flavor of wine.”

One article calls this “their special aroma” which is described as a musky basement smell. I can picture the wine tasting now…”Hmm, it’s a saucy little red with hints of moldy cobwebs in dank corners…”

Read Full Post »

Hodgepodge of Photos

Here are a bunch of photos that I was going to write a blog post around but never found the gumption to actually do so. Enjoy the randomness!

July 4th Sunset

July 4th Sunset

It kept changing in intensity.

It kept changing in intensity.

We were up high for a good view.

We were up high for a good view.

Pretty nice view, too.

Pretty nice view, too.

Saw this young starling peeking out in our front yard tree.

Saw this young starling peeking out in our front yard tree.


Time for dinner.

Time for dinner.

We call our resident pigeon Barry White due to his soulfull sound.

We call our resident pigeon Barry White due to his soulfull sound.

My camera doesn't do justice to this isopod.

My camera doesn't do justice to this isopod.

You can't tell in this photo, but the snail was blue with an almost translucent shell.

You can't tell in this photo, but the snail was blue with an almost translucent shell.


It's very flat here but it is beautiful in summer....sigh.

It's very flat here but it is beautiful in summer....sigh.

Read Full Post »


I realized I hadn’t updated the status of my cecropia caterpillars in a while, so here is goes…

Out of all the caterpillars I released outside, only two (yes, TWO) survived to spin a cocoon. Technically, they are now pupae (for a nice explanation of what this means, check here).

They are out in the lilac shrub and I hope they survive to emerge in the spring. However, I am finding out that almost everything eats them (squirrels, woodpeckers, etc…) at their various life stages, so keep your fingers crossed.

OK, so the yellow jackets were eating the caterpillars I released and I finally broke down and pulled as many I as could back inside. While not all of them successfully spun their cocoons (some of the late bloomers just keeled over), most of the caterpillars got busy and made fairly large orange ones.


You could tell when one was getting ready to spin, as it would stop eating and wander around looking for that perfect spot to spend the winter. And they are surprisingly picky! It probably didn’t help that there were so many of them in one cage, as I would guess it might be instinctual to spread out and pupate.

Also, right before they started to produce the silk, they…er…well…evacuated a lot of “liquid” from their bodies. I have no idea if this is just extra water, extra leaf residue or some sort of internal chemical change discharge. Whatever it is, it really, really stinks. Phew!

Once they start to spin out the silk from their mouth-parts, you don’t want to move them. That stuff will stick to everything (including you) and the caterpillar is loathe to move from its chosen spot anyway. You might not even notice it is spinning, however, as the silk  comes out clear. The white cocoon will eventually turn some shade of brown-orange and stiffen. Here is one that was spun in the corner of the cage (note its squared-off shape):


For a few weeks after they make their cocoons, you can hear the pupa moving around. It’s kind of cool to hear this small rustling every so often. Right now, though, they are firmly in their forms and dormant for the rest of this winter.

Here is a picture (by Dave Keith, U.N.) of what one would look like if you cut open its cocoon (because I most certainly will NOT be doing that!).

I am keeping the cocoons in the cold part of my basement (they need to overwinter in cold temps) and occasionally spritzing them with water (so they don’t dry out). Everything I have read about emerging time has been pretty vague, saying spring to early summer, so I will have to keep a close eye on them. Hopefully, I will have some great photos of cecropia moths to share then!

p.s.: I will not be raising them again…too time consuming for me.

Read Full Post »

I’m on vacation this week, but as we are too poor to actually travel anywhere I will just post random stuff in between sleeping and reading.

This is pretty cool…and an unusual art process. Bozo would have been proud, bless his big red nose!

“Bending Balloons into Giant Flowers”

Read Full Post »

Something has been chomping on my outdoor (recently freed) cecropia caterpillars. At first, I thought it must be the marauding packs of house sparrows, which seem to pick the yard clean of anything that moves. Yesterday, however, I discovered the true fiend: yellow jacket wasps (insert dramatic music crescendo here).

They will search out the feeding caterpillars and fly in and nip off a bite. It looks like they start on the knobs and then start taking chunks out of the meaty bits. Now, having worked as a naturalist and also as a volunteer at a wildlife rehabilitation center, my “ick” reflex is pretty strong (try having a sick woodchuck sneeze green snot all over YOUR face…) but being slowly eaten alive by wasps…ICK!!!

Not a pretty way to go. And the caterpillar ooze (oh, sure, that’s the scientific name…just as “thingy” and “whatchamahoozit” are valid, too) is a horrible black, tarry mess.

Still, I am hoping some survive, as there is just no way to protect these wild caterpillars from everything out to get them. I still have about twelve I am continuing to raise inside, so keep your fingers crossed.

—As a side note, one year when I was in high school, a yellow jacket queen made her nest up against one of the windows in my room that was missing a screen and was always covered up by curtains (it looked directly out and into the neighbors house less than four feet away). In a few months, it became quite a large nest and I had an actual cross-section view into it whenever I lifted the cutains…very cool! Wish I had taken some pictures back then.            

—I’m just glad the nest wasn’t as big as these monster ones. Look at the one in the car!

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »