Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Baby hummingbirds, one week old.

a snug fit
Look how much they've grown since the day they hatched.

Small carpenter bee

small black bee
I didn't know it until I looked it up, but this is a carpenter bee. It's tiny, not like those big black ones that usually come to mind when I think of carpenter bees. Maybe only about 1/4 inch long.  I'm pretty sure this one is Ceratina arizonensis.

A weird-looking new bug

upright-winged hopper
When I came across this funny looking little bug, looking down on it's fat bottom, I thought it was a spider trying to hide from me. I didn't have my glasses, so I couldn't really see it very well.

upright-winged hopper
I had to rely on my camera to focus where my eyes could not. Viewing the image on the screen of my camera, I was still mystified. What's with those wings? Surely it can't actually fly. I tried to maneuver the bug a little bit, but it jumped away.

So once I got home, it took me surprisingly little time to find a name for this guy.
It's an upright-winged hopper, genus Danepteryx. A hemitpteran (true bug). A plant sap-sucker.  And a native Californian.

Western Lynx spider

western lynx spider
Another trip through the Thorn Forest, another little spider.
This is a male western lynx, I think.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Little "sword swallowers"


Her beak is so long. The babies are so tiny. How does she do it??

I was able to capture this video through my bathroom window. Again, the camera is up higher than my head, and I can see through the little LCD screen on the back of the camera, rather than looking directly out the window. I'm pretty sure the hummingbird doesn't notice, or at least is not bothered by the appearance of a little silvery rectangular object nearby.

This video was taken yesterday. The babies were about 3 days old.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Deep in the thorn forest

It's been a long, slow spring. Finally, the bugs of summer are beginning to show themselves at the arboretum.

Under the kapok tree
In the thorn forest, under the kapok tree, there are tiny green creatures to be found.

green lynx spider
A little green lynx, as vivid as the leaf it's sitting on.

little mantid
It was here that I finally saw my first baby mantids of the season at the arboretum.

Flowers, fluff, and buggy stuff

daisy-like, but messy
We have lots of these deceptively cute but highly invasive little flowers popping up along the edges of the trails in certain parts of the arboretum.

dead flower heads make fluffy seeds
When the flowers die, they leave round seed heads that explode into tiny, fluffy, cottony seeds.

fluffy stuff
Lots of seeds.

little stinker
I saw a cute little stinkbug nymph on one dead flower head.

Tiny seed eaters
and lots of super-tiny seed bugs on another.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Baby hummingbirds, day 2

baby hummingbirds
This was taken this morning. You can see their crops were full. The crop is like a pouch in the throat that the mama bird packs with food. So it looks like they're being fed OK. I found a website all about hummingbirds, and according to what I read, the mama bird still spends a lot of time sitting on the nest to keep these tiny, naked babies warm. This definitely goes along with what I have been observing.  In a couple of days, when they start growing some feathers, she'll start feeding them more frequently.

Mama hummers feed their babies a slurry of regurgitated insects and nectar. I didn't even realize that hummingbirds ate insects until I saw a Nature episode about hummingbirds a couple years ago on PBS. Watch a video clip from PBS that shows how hummingbirds catch insects.   Since my awareness was raised about this, I have noticed a hummingbird feeding in a cloud of gnats a time or two.

I was lucky enough to see the mama feeding the babies this evening, but I didn't get a picture of it. I'll try again tomorrow.

baby hummingbirds
Here they are this evening. The nest was glowing in the sunset, but inside it their bodies were dark, so I used digital "fill light" to see them a little better.

I should explain that this nest is up a little higher than my head. When I take pictures directly over the nest like this, I am just reaching up, holding the camera so the lens points down over them and shooting in macro mode with auto focus and hoping for the best. Right now, the babies still have their eyes closed. I don't plan on using this technique once their eyes are open, for fear it might stress them out.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Baby Hummingbirds




































Just a real quick picture for now. I'll try to get some better pictures later. This is day 23 of my nest observations, and approximately 18 days since the second egg was laid and mama bird started incubating.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Blog interview

Belinda blogs about a variety of topics, or as she puts it, everything that makes you go ooohh...

One thing she likes to do is interview other bloggers about their jobs or hobbies, and she interviewed me. I'm not sure how a bug lady like me fits in with the kind of culture and lifestyle posts that she seems to favor, but then I continue to be surprised by how many otherwise "normal" people are fascinated by bugs and critters.  And then also, maybe my fellow bug bloggers would like to know about fun stuff like Tea Bag Coasters, or maybe  a Digital Color Picker Pen, among other things.  Lots of other things.

Morning snail

The other day, I watched this snail haul itself up and across the sidewalk in front of my house.

up and over

up and over

Moving on

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Bug ID on a small scale

scale infestation on star jasmine
Yes, these are insects. A man brought these to the arboretum for me to identify today. He found them on his star jasmine. They are soft scale insects.  I think they were roughly about the size of sesame seeds. With the help of BugGuide and Google, I was able to identify these as Protopulvinaria pyriformis.

scale infestation on star jasmine

scale infestation on star jasmine
These are mostly mature female scales. The (sort of) heart shaped scaly part is a protective covering.  Any vestige of buggy-looking parts, like legs and antennae, are under the cover.  The transparent ones are immature.  The tiny things are babies.  Mature males look more like tiny little wasps and have no mouthparts.  Their job is to mate, and then they die.

Scales can be damaging to plants.   Heavily infested plants grow poorly and may suffer dieback of twigs and branches. An infested plant can sometimes become so weakened that it dies. Scales often secrete a sticky honeydew which is attractive to wasps and ants and which supports the growth of black sooty molds.

scale infestation on star jasmine
The fluffy white stuff is a scale egg case.

Here's another post about a different scale infestation I investigated last fall.

Ashy gray

ashy gray ladybug pupa
One of the pupae I collected was smaller and paler than the others.

Ashy gray ladybug
It turned out to be an ashy gray ladybug, Olla v-nigrum.

Ashy gray ladybug
Cute, huh?

IMG_0046
Yesterday, I found one at the arboretum, too

Asian ladybugs

Asian Ladybug
There have been a bunch of ladybugs in the tree in my backyard. I kind of collected a few just to take pictures and compare them.
Asian ladybug pupa
I was intrigued by the different spots on the pupae. I wanted to see how different the adult ladybugs would look.
Asian ladybug pupa

Asian ladybug pupa shell
I haven't been lucky enough to see one emerge... yet.
The new beetle
But when they first come out, they're yellow and spotless.

The new beetle
The spots become visible as the shell hardens.

Asian Ladybug

Asian Ladybug

Asian Ladybug

The three ladybugs above all have the same number of spots in roughly the same pattern, but the spots are different shapes and sizes. Also the pronotum, the black and white part behind the head, is different in each one.

Just a fly

Just a fly

Saturday, May 7, 2011

my little mantid is growing

praying mantis exoskeleton
He shed his skin the other day. Here's a look at it. The exoskeleton covers everything: body, head, legs, toes, mouthparts, even the antennae.

Me and my shadow

He's still pretty tiny.
This view shows how small he still is. He will need to shed his skin several times before he is fully grown.

Oh, and for all you new followers, just so you know, I usually call bugs "he" by default unless I know for sure that it's a female. And this little "guy" is too small to be certain of the gender.

Hummingbird nest, Day 7

Thanks to everybody for the nice comments about the hummingbird nest. This is an Anna's hummingbird, by the way. They are very common here in Southern California.

Hummingbird egg x2
Now there are 2 eggs:)  They are about the size of Jelly Belly jelly beans.

Mama sits on the nest
I have learned that hummingbirds lay their eggs a couple of days apart, but the babies still hatch together because the mama hummer doesn't really start incubating until she's done laying. That explains why, when there was only one egg in there, she was away from the nest all day, and now she's staying put. But I also think that she is becoming more wary of me and my camera, even through the window.  And when I walk out the front door, (and the bush with the nest is right off the front porch), she zooms away.  That's how I got the picture of the two eggs in there.   She returns to the nest as soon as I leave.   So I'm going to try to stay away from her as much as I can.  I'll go in and out through the garage, so I won't disturb her too much.  I won't really need to take pictures of her for a while anyway.  What you see now is pretty much what she will be doing  for the next couple of weeks.  I will update when the eggs hatch.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Hummingbird nest

Blatantly non-bug, but too cool to pass up:  A hummingbird has made a nest in my yard.  It's in a very good spot, too.  Under the eaves of my front porch, in a big camellia bush, but facing the wall, and most importantly, viewable from my bathroom window.

Hummingbird nest, Day 1
Here it is on day 1.  Barely more than a little fuzzy bump on a dead flower.  The only reason I found it was because I happened to follow the path of the hummingbird that flew right past me and ended up landing there.

Working the web
This picture was taken through the window screen in my bathroom on Day 3.  You can see a strand of spider web in her beak.  Yes, they use spider silk in their nests.


Here is a little video of the hummingbird working to finish the nest.


Day 5
The nest today (Day 5)

We have an egg
We have an egg! :D

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Red on Black, 4 spots

Red on Black
I'm pretty sure this unusual (for here) ladybug is actually just a less common color variation of the common Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle.

Red on Black

White Earwig

I don't know if I've ever posted a picture of an earwig on here before. I know I've tried to take pictures of them many times, but the earwigs, being the under-stuff dwellers that they are, are always too fast for me as they scurry for cover if they're exposed  This one stood still for a moment. Perhaps because she had just molted and was still a little fragile.
White earwig
I didn't collect her. I just let her go.  Within a few hours, her skin will have turned dark brown, like other earwigs.

Coincidently, one of my favorite Flickr bug sets, Urtica's bug of the day, featured the cutest earwig ever.