Sunday, July 24, 2011

"Ctunning" Ctenucha

Ctenucha moth
I saw a couple of these moths flying temptingly just beyond my reach, but managed to get a few pictures, and an ID. Ctenucha moth.

Ctenucha moth

A wet caterpillar

Dewy Caterpillar
On a dewy morning along the boardwalk at Moonstone beach.

Salt Marsh Caterpillar
And a dry one nearby.

Coastal Spiders

spider

IMG_1343

spider

Seeing the unseen

seeing the unseen
I didn't even realize it when I took this picture, but there is a caterpillar resting in the spokes of this horsetail plant. It seems to have too many prolegs for a lepidoptera, so it might be a sawfly larva.

More from the porch at Cambria (updated 8-18-2011)

beetle
This was a pretty good-sized beetle. (It would have been shrimpy next to that prionus beetle, though!) It was hard getting a good shot of it in the dark. If you look carefully, you'll see little brown ovals around his head. I'll warn you now, there's a yucky shot coming up.
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The ick factor increases..
This beetle is beset with parasites. Ticks? Mites? Something like that. Icky.

Update!  Thanks to this post by Margarethe Brummermann, I was able to identify this beetle as Nicrophorus nigrita, the black burying beetle.  What does it bury?  Dead animals, which it uses to feed its larvae.  And those mites?  They're not harmful to the beetle, just hitching a ride. (see this BugGuide thread)

And I'll digress now to say that both Jerry and I "collected" ticks on our walks along the grassy coastal bluffs. But do you think I would have the presence of mind to take pictures of them? Uh, no. Sorry. It was just "Eww, a tick? Get it off me!" and I picked, flicked and sighed with relief that at least none of them latched on for a meal. How can I pick up a great big beetle (okay it was dead but still...) and still freak out over a tiny tick? Beats me.

10 lined june beetle
This lovely 10-lined June beetle came to the light the same night as the beetle with the ticks/mites. But like the smaller June beetles we get at home, it landed clumsily on its back and struggled to right itself. I flipped it over and took this picture.

by dawn's early light
In the morning, I found it resting on the top of the sheet. By late afternoon, I found only a piece of its striped shell, apparently having been eaten by a bird. In fact, by the 3rd night with the black light, the birds had pretty much figured out that I was setting up a banquet for them, and they would happily pick off whatever was left hanging around by dawn.

Cambria porch-moth-o-rama

Of course, I brought along my humble black light and my sheet, figuring there would be a good spot to set it up outside out rented guest house. The best option turned out to be replacing the bulb of their back deck light with my black light bulb, and draping my sheet just beneath it.
my set-up, such as it is
This is it. Tacky, but effective.
moth

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There were plenty more moths nearby, but not on the sheet.

moth

Nonchalant

moth

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green beauty
I have several shots of these lovely green geometrid moths. You can see them, and some other bug shots that I may not necessarily post here, on my Flickr set.

More beetles on the Fiscalini Ranch

Full of beetles
There were a few together on this one little plant.

beetle
They were busy eating the bright yellow flowers.

My bug finds along the Cenral Coast

forest trail
Very close to where we stayed in Cambria is the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve. Its trails run from the forest to the ocean (which sounds far, but actually, part of the magic of this place is that the forest is so close to the ocean!)

poison oak abounds
Poison oak abounds. Made for a lot of walking with my hands very close to my body.

big dead beetle
One of the first bugs I found was this very large prionus beetle, laying right in the middle of the trail.

4 finger beetle
It turned out to be dead. Freshly dead, which was fine with me. I was able to pick it up and look at it without concern that it might suddenly fly away or try to bite me.

beetle face
I think this was a female, because when I looked up information on prionus beetles, it said the males have big jaws, and this one's jaws didn't look too big to me.

IMG_1234
I also saw a few of these guys: California firefly, maybe. But a lot bigger than the ones we have around Fullerton. This was about 3/4 of an inch long.

Yellow ladybug
Along one part of the trail, there were several of these yellow ladybugs, which I later was able to identify as Coccinella trifasciata.

IMG_1252
Part of the trails were along the bluffs, covered in tall grass that is now mostly dry. There were tons of grasshoppers, most of them small, all of them very hard to photograph in the windblown grass. So mostly, I didn't even try. I just got lucky with this one.

hopper
Same goes for this tiny homopteran (a hopper, but not to be confused with grasshopper!)
Looking at this not-quite-in-focus shot, it seems like there is an appendage, (an ovipositor, perhaps?) leading from the bug into the grass stem. I will investigate further.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

If this pupa's rockin', don't bother knockin'!

Here's a little peek at my tomato hornworm pupa.
Who dares disturb my slumber?
I really wanted to dig him up and show him to you, faithful readers. But he was very upset at being disturbed and was twisting and writhing terribly at being exposed, so this was as far as I got before I re-buried him.  Here is an excellent photo from alletahg's Flickr page of what I just can't show you right now.

New uses for oregano

...as an ornamental plant and a caterpillar host plant :)

Oregano flowers
I don't know what possessed me to plant oregano. I haven't really used much of it in the kitchen. Meanwhile, it's growing like crazy and made beautiful flowers. So even if I don't cook with it, I have a lovely herbal bouquet!

Lovely purple oregano caterpillar
I was delighted to find this caterpillar, most likely from a moth, on the flowering stem.

Lovely purple oregano caterpillar
Love the color match!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Back lit moth

Stained glass moth
This little geometer moth was in my house, on the stained glass panel on my front door.

Stained glass moth
Another view after he fluttered to a different spot.

Little assassin

little assassin
These little suckers (as in: they suck the juices out of other bugs) have always been hard for me to photograph because they always see me coming and duck around the back of the stem or leaf they're on. It doesn't help that they're also very small and delicate, so all in all, this picture came out pretty good.

poking fun at the fat green guy

My tomato hornworm has gone under the soil to pupate, but before he did, I took some pictures.

Jaws
Aaah! Look at his jaws!

Full size
Measuring him the morning before he went underground.

The face
Contemplating one last leaf. (and he ate it, too.)

proleg love
I have a thing for caterpillar prolegs.

proleg love
Look at the velcro-like grippers on those things! (The better to hang on to the tomato plant, dearie.)

proleg love
And when they don't have a tomato stem to hold onto, they just hold onto each other ♥.

spiracles
Sorry about this. I couldn't resist.
Spiracles, by the way, are the little holes that insects breathe through. On this guy, they just look like a row of evil little sideways eyes, though, don't they?