Archive | January, 2013

Thursday Pic: The beautiful Pink Orchid Mantis

31 Jan

pink orchid mantis

photo credit: arpeggiosforwriters.blogspot.pcom.au

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The Australian Huntsman Spider

30 Jan

I’d have to say that for this post, I am extremely happy that I have a blog to write it on. On Facebook my spider posts seem to make a lot of people squeamish.  And after I tell you what I have to tell you, you may be too.

My love for the Huntsman pretty much started when I moved to Australia, mainly because of its size.  Yes, we have deadly spiders in the States.  Yes, we have large spiders.  But I’m from the Midwest – Indiana to be exact.  The biggest spider that we have there (that I’ve actually seen) is the Wolf Spider, and the tiny Barn Spider can easily make an insta-meal out of them.

But here in Australia, the huntsman is a huge spider — with some having about a 15cm (5.9 in) leg span — but it’s not even deadly.  Sure, try telling that to its prey.  And it’s not incapable of causing some side effects if you do happen to get bitten (more on that later) but for the most part, for bug lovers or people who aren’t fraidy cats (scientific term for arachnophobics), Huntsmen make great housemates.

Here’s why:

For one, they don’t build webs.  So, no messy webs cluttering up the corners of your rooms.  And as their name suggests, they hunt their prey, which happens to be pretty much anything insect wise.  See, another good reason to have them around.

Also, they are shy creatures and huntsman are known for surprising people.  Because of their flat body shape, they are able to hide easily and in tight spots.  Oddly enough, they are notorious for being found in vehicles.  I myself have found two in my car.  Once was when my husband and I were driving down the road (he was behind the wheel) and I put the visor down and BAM, there it was.  So, as I’m taking my camera out to get a picture, my husband pulled over quicker than a pregnant woman with a  full bladder and hopped out of the car.  (See below)

huntsman

I won’t get into it in this particular post, but there are many types of Huntsmen.  The Grey, The Brown, Banded, etc.  The two I see the most are the browns and greys. The above is a brown and the one below is a grey.

grey huntsman

For some reason I seem to see a lot larger greys than browns but I see browns with a lot more frequency.  At least here in Central Queensland.

So, as I read somewhere on some spider site, most arachnopiles (crazy people who love spiders) are bound to get at least a couple of bites in their adventures.  Well, I got my first.  All I can say is, thank the good Lord it was a Huntsman and not something deadlier.

But, before you judge me or call me an idiot for putting myself so close to them or laugh because I got what I deserved, let me tell you I did not get the bite from a healthy, active spider.

See, for a few days I had a four-legged Brown Huntsman on my back porch.  (For those that don’t know, spiders have eight legs).  For a while he seemed to be okay and I assumed he was feeding somehow since he would move and didn’t seem to be hindered by the fact that the four missing legs were all from one side of his body.  I know, talk about your bad luck.  So, my curiosity had a hold of me and I kept a watch on him.  After a couple of days, I even tried to feed him a grasshopper with some tongs ( I never feed live insects to other insects but I felt sorry for it) but aside from propping one of his legs up on the grasshopper, he made no attempt to eat it.   And over time he wasn’t even making any attempt to hide.  One time even sitting completely in the open on top of a white bucket.

So, when I came out one day and noticed he was on the ground, all four legs curled in, I knew he’d lost the fight.  He was off to the side so I left him there.  The next morning when I came out, he was once again in dead pose but this time was on top of a pile of linen I needed to move.  And since I’d picked up quite a few dead Huntsmen before I didn’t think twice about moving it.  First attempt I grabbed a leg and dropped it.  Second attempt, I grabbed a leg and WOWZA! felt two very sharp, very painful fangs sink into my thumb.  So, what does instinct tell you?  Shake your hand like mad.  So I did.  And it didn’t budge.  Spider or fangs.

And here’s the clincher; I had read many times about Huntsmen and I think the only part that stuck in my head was that they couldn’t kill you.  Do you think I ever remembering reading, even one time, that the huntsman had what’s known as a ‘cling reflex’? Nope.  And once they bite, well, they cling.  And they are really good at it.  So, here I was with a four-legged, half-dead huntsman with fangs imbedded, clinging to my thumb and my adrenaline is reaching is boiling point, thinking, “The longer it hangs on, the more venom I’m getting.”   I lost count of how many times I flicked my hand trying to get this thing to give up, but eventually he did.

I ran to the closest sink and squeezed my thumb upward, bleeding and hopefully devenomizing (my word) it until it was purple and pulsating.   And then I hit the internet to find out what was about to happen to me.  Local pain, swelling, nausea, vomiting, heart palpitations…alrighty.

So, of course for the next couple of hours I psychosymatically caused every one of those symptoms to happen.  Well, I didn’t vomit but I sure sat there and was positive it was coming.  So, either I did have some of those symptoms or the adrenaline caused what I like to call the Hunstman Hangover.  I definitely didn’t feel too hot.  But, since I knew death was not on my doorstep, I eventually calmed down and started to feel better.

And I must say, although I would never have wished for it to happen, it has given me a new respect for all of the creatures I encounter.  I mean, if a half-dead, four-legged spider can inflict that kind of pain with such speed, what would a healthy one have done? So, a blessing in disguise? Perhaps.  Stupid move on my part? Maybe.  But lesson learned, either way.

And I can tell you this; I wasn’t mad at the spider and I am not afraid of them now because I got bitten.

They are still my favourite spider.

In memory of Jimmy Four-Legs

huntsman no legs

Quick Post: The Stick Mantis

29 Jan

Today’s Quick Post is on the Stick Mantis.  Sometimes mistaken for a stick insect, the aptly named Stick Mantis is a fun find for any W.E.  I found the one pictured below while out and about in the rainforest one day with my girls.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have a way to measure it but I’m assuming from its size it must have been a female since they grow bigger than the males (up to 110mm/4.3 inches) and this one was at least that big.  But, without taking a better look at it (there are tricks to mantis sex identification) I can’t say for sure.

They are such docile creatures and I’m excited every time I find one.  Especially this one because it’s the largest I’ve ever found.

Take a look!

mantis1

mantis2

Striped Rocket Frog

28 Jan

Okay, so as I said when I started this blog, I not only love insects but animals of all kinds.  So, I decided to do this first ‘non-insect’ post on the Striped Rocket Frog.  The reason I picked this little guy is that we have an army (get it? ) of them around the house here in the rainforest.  The first time I encountered these guys was when I fished a few of them out of our pool one morning.  Since they were a bit worn out from being in the pool, I was able to hold one and really inspect it.  Then of course, I took a hundred pictures and got on the internet to do my research.

IMG_1436

Here’s a few things I found out:

They’re called ‘rocket’ frogs because of their pointed nose and streamlined body.  But the name also comes from their amazing jumping ability.  Even though they are only about 5.5cm long, they jump on average about 50 times their body length!

-The rocket frog is actually a ‘tree frog’ but can usually be found in wet, marshy areas such as swamps or ponds.

-The throats of the breeding males are yellow and they make a ‘wik wik’ sound when calling to females.

-Rocket frogs are unable to climb (which explains all of the near deaths in my pool)

Now, the other night I kept hearing these clicking sounds coming from under our back veranda — which is about 3 meters off the ground.  At first, because of all the rain we’ve had, I assumed it was a drops of water coming off of some part of the house; albeit huge drops.  Then I noticed the sound moving and there were more ‘drops’.  It was pretty late so I forgot about it for the moment but noticed during the night (through my open window) that the ‘drops’ got louder and closer to my window.

The next night, the drops were back.  Well, by this time I was convinced from the numerous places I was hearing them (as my ear was pressed to the veranda boards) that it just had to be something…a frog of some sort was my guess.

So, I put on my trusty head lamp, took the dog just in case, and headed downstairs.  After much peeking through the grass underneath (now marshy and full of water thanks to the rain) I found the source.  And who should it be but my little buddy the Rocket Frog.  And I can tell you that the sound they were making this night was a completely different sound to the one I heard on another night which was the ‘wik, wik, wik, wik’ sound but higher than you hear from larger frogs.

Luckily, I got video of it and you can find it at the link below. (Take note of how quickly he jumps out of scene at the end.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ue_1RIjjb64&feature=youtu.be

The Owlfly

26 Jan

instar1

Okay, so I have to tell you, I’m a little too excited about this blog post.  Mainly because (unless you saw me post part of the answer on Facebook) you are not going to believe what the above creature is.  Well, what it turns into, I should say.

Let me first tell you that the above version of the insect is not the final product.  Crazy, right?  That’s what I thought.  See, like katydids (as I mentioned in this blog post —>) and most other insects, they go through many stages, or ‘instars’ as they are referred to.  Instars are defined as “a phase between two periods of molting in the development of an insect larva or other invertebrate animal”.  As an example, fleas go from egg, larva, pupa and finally to adult.

The above picture is only the second instar.  Now, when I found out what these little guys become, my first thought was, “Wow, talk about an ugly duckling!”  But that was of course in reaction to what they finally become.  But truth be told, when I first found this bug I didn’t necessarily think it was ugly but more…unusual. So unusual, in fact, that when a friend of mine suggested perhaps I had found a new species (talk about dreaming) I actually thought it might be true.  I mean, have you ever seen anything like that?

Well, fortunately for all of us, there are people out there who have dedicated their lives to identifying these types of things and after much research of my own, that led absolutely nowhere but the wrong direction, I decided to write to an expert at the University of Queensland and beg for help.

I’m happy to say that a mere day or two later, Kathy Ebert from U of Q wrote me back.  And in addition to her answering my question, she included some really great links.

So, with no further ado (and I know I’ve made you wait) I will post Kathy’s letter, some pics of the final product and the links.  Be sure to note the last paragraph where she mentions my blog.  🙂  Enjoy!

****************************

owlflyyellow

Cloudy-wing Owlfly

*photo credit: http://www.brisbaneinsects.com

Hi Lisa,

 Thanks for your query!  It’s not a Heteropteran because Heteropterans have piercing and sucking type mouthparts and this guy has great big grabbing mandibles out the front.  What you have is a Neuropteran larva!  Neuropterans include lacewings, ant lions and owl flies.  These are great insects to have in the garden as they are predaceous on pest insects.  This larva is probably a type of owlfly based upon those projections along the side of its body and how flat it is.  The Australian Museum has some good information about these creatures.  Check out:
 
 
 
The following websites also have photos and more info about Neuropterans and their very cool larvae.   Some attach debris to their bodies as camouflage; others dig those little pits you see in the sand where they’ve made ant traps.
 
 
 
I took a look at your blog and it looks like you’re off to a good start.  Your katydid photo is a beauty!   Your owlfly larva should give you some interesting things to write about.   If you have any bug queries in future, don’t hesitate to contact me.  I’ll try and remember to take a look at your blog periodically to see how you are going!
 
Kind regards,
Kathy
***Quick note:  There are many types of owlflies and I’m sure at this point you are shaking your head saying, “I thought those things were called Dragonflies anyway.”  I promise to clear up the difference in a future post.  Once you know how to tell these guys apart, you’ll be surprised you ever got it wrong.

Cecropia Moth-North America’s largest moth

25 Jan

cecropia_moth_hand

photo credit: Wormspit.com

This is the Cecropia Moth whose wingspan can reach in excess of five inches. Living for a short time of only a week to ten days, the Cecropia moth’s sole purpose is to pro-create.

I found a website where the entire life, from egg to moth, is documented with amazing close-up pictures.

You can find it here ——> http://www.wormspit.com/cecropia.htm

What is it?

22 Jan

The thing I love most about entomology is that you never stop learning.  Not that I’m even remotely close to having the knowledge of a real entomologist, but there are so many twists and turns when learning about all the wonderful creatures around me.

Now, this little creature was found on the side of the pool in a little puddle of water.   Every morning I do my rounds, looking for any leftover visitors from the night before.  I always check the pool to make sure no one is in it that shouldn’t be.  I’ve acquired a pretty keen eye for spotting something that isn’t just a stray leaf.  And this little guy caught my attention.

instar1

I would say, at this point in my learning, I’ve seen a lot of different insects and not much surprises me.  This guy did.  Mainly because I couldn’t even place what type of bug it was.  Cricket? Grasshopper? Assassin Bug? Nothing fit.

And since I assumed because of its colour, leg placement and the fact that it had pincers on its face that it probably wasn’t a water bug, I decided to take a chance and instead place it out on a tree branch — where it blended nicely and began to crawl away.

Here’s a second, and best picture I could get, of the little guy’s legs.  He/she had three on each side sort of fanning out from a central point, if you will.  A little hard to see but take a look.

instar2

Alright, so I posted this picture on Facebook (after much research of my own that led nowhere but to more confusion) and a few people made some guesses.  I was sure I had it in at least the right class of bugs and after much frustration, decided to bite the bullet and ask an expert.

I won’t tell you yet what it is…just yet.  I will do that post tomorrow along with the response I got from a very accommodating and well-informed entomologist from the University of Queensland, Kathy Ebert.  And I’m sure you will be just as surprised as I was at the result.

Stay tuned!