Archive | February, 2013

Quick Post: The Peacock Spider

12 Feb

So, I’ve had two people send a picture of this little guy to me so that must be my sign to share it with you all.  This is called the Peacock Spider for obvious reasons.

peacock spider 3

The above picture is credited to a Mr. Jurgen Otto who has a ton of great pictures of this spider that you can see at:

Both male and female only reach about 5mm in length, which makes them easy to miss.

peacock spider 2

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As you can probably guess, the male of this species uses this abdominal flap as a way to impress the ladies.  He raises it in the air, along with his third pair of legs and vibrates the flap and he dances from side to side.

They are found in New South Wales and Queensland (which I didn’t know) so of course, I’m going to make it my mission to find one of these amazing creatures.

peacock spider1

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So, I saved the best for last.  Jurgen Otto, otherwise known as Peacock Spiderman, has made quite a few videos showing the mating ritual of these guys.


The Mountain Katydid

11 Feb

So, what was your guess? Did you guess it was a katydid?  When I first saw this strange creature, I thought (from afar) that it may be some type of weird rainforest spider.  On closer inspection, I noticed the resemblance of its head to grasshoppers.  So, although it looked nothing like a grasshopper otherwise, I assumed it must be related somehow and it was probably (fingers crossed) not deadly.  So, imagine my surprise that it was indeed a katydid, a Mountain Katydid to be exact; an insect in the same order — Orthoptera, or straight wing — as grasshoppers.

colourful katydid

Female Mountain Katydid

Next I’ll tell you that I misidentified this as the Colourful Gondwanan Katydid.  For an amateur like me, to even find something that was so close was a huge feat.  But my lack of expertise, unfortunately, doesn’t allow my eye to be as keen as a professional.  So, right before I posted this huge error in identification, I realized the bodies of the two types of katydids were different.  Had I found a male Mountain Katydid, I may have still gone ahead with the erroneous post.

Luckily, this is a female Mountain Katydid and has a much more robust body than their male counterpart.  The females are flightless and  although they do have small shell-like forewings, they do not have a second pair of wings functional for flight.  When disturbed (usually when handled as I found out) they will lift the forewings and show their colourful bands of red and blue underneath.  This female was very tolerant of me for quite a while before showing hers to me.  I didn’t have a chance to get a picture of this but was able to locate one so that you may see how it looks.

mountain katydid colours

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Very impressive, although more beautiful than scary…even though I’m sure it’s effective when it needs to be.

The male of this type of katydid can fly and can look quite different.  From the pictures I’ve seen and the one male that I found (although I didn’t know it at the time that it was a male mountain katydid)  the body is more like that of your average katydid; more streamlined and leaf-like.  They too have the colours underneath that can be seen along the sides of the body even when the wings are down.  But the male that I found, I had mistaken for the Colourful Gondwanan Katydid and only after hearing back from the Entomology expert, did I realize what I had found.  See pic below.  You’ll have to  look closely at the body to see a hint of the blue stripes.

male mountain katydid byfield

Male Mountain Katydid

Since these are slow-moving insects, their physical attributes (like most creatures) serves as protection in a few different ways.  First, they are usually lower down on plants where the leaves are dead and they can blend quite well.  They are also known to be wherever kangaroos are common and it’s not a coincidence that, the female especially, resembles kangaroo droppings, that they will mimic as a defence. And as I mentioned previously, they will raise their wings, displaying their colourful stripes as a warning they could possibly be poisonous to a potential predator.  And since they love the ragwort plant (which is poisonous and stinks) they in turn make themselves unpalatable to anyone who dares eat them.

This katydid has definitely proven to be one of my more interesting finds as well as a huge learning curve.  And although I had to call in help again, I feel that I’m starting to get the knack of identification.

On to the next!

The Fly in the Mail-Coach

10 Feb

I know some of you are waiting on the answer to the “What is it?” post.  I have consulted with my expert friend and am eagerly awaiting her reply.  Unfortunately, in my own research I found out that I may be wrong in what I believed it to be.  The phrase ‘close but no cigar’ comes to mind.  But, in any case, I am hoping to have an answer by tomorrow.  In the meantime, enjoy the little fable dealing with ‘humility’. 


The Fly in the Mail-Coach

A mail-coach, one hot summer’s day, was traveling along a very dusty road.  There were several passengers all in a great hurry to get to their journey’s end, and the coach drove very fast.  There was a clergy man going to preach his probation sermon the next day; there was a lawyer hastening to settle who had the best right to a great estate; and there was a young couple in a hurry to be married.  Besides this there was a bag of letters, some on very urgent business, and some enclosing bank-notes to a considerable amount.  So that, you see, what this coach carried was altogether of some importance.
In the coach, among the passengers, was a fly.  Nobody observed this fly; he sometimes sat upon a gentleman’s hat, and sometimes upon a lady’s handkerchief, and sometimes in the shade upon the lining of the coach.  But the fly was, in his own judgment, of more importance than all the rest; indeed he had so high a conceit of himself, that he absolutely forgot there was anybody else in the coach.  He thought it a very nice thing to travel so fast without feeling fatigued, and he was in as great a hurry to get to London, which he had never seen, as any of the human passengers.
It happened, as they drove along at a great rate, that a large school of little gentlemen and ladies was walking along the causeway.  It was a holiday; they had all been very good; they were dressed in their best clothes; and their school-mistress was taking them to a nice dairy-house, to treat them with syllabub and cheese-cakes.  As the coach drove by, the wind set full in their faces, and the por children were almost blinded with the dust.  The fly looked on very attentive at all that was passing.
“Upon my word,” said the fly, “I am very sorry for these children.  I am quite grieved that I should incommode them thus.  If I had not been so extremely in a hurry, I would really have desired the coachman to stop, till they were past.  But a person of my consequence cannot pass through the world, however excellent his intentions may be, without frequently occasioning inconvenience to his inferiors.”
A pretty butterfly, who heard this self-conceited speech, could not help rebuking this coxcomb fly.  “You insignificant little insect, do you think anybody here knows any thing about you?  I dared not come into the coach, till I saw that there were no children in it, because nature has thought proper to adorn me with brilliant colours, which often bring on my ruin from naughty boys and girls, who do not recollect that a butterfly can feel.  Bu you may go through the world unnoticed by anybody, unless it be by a spider.  Do you think the coach goes one step the faster or slower, because we are in it?  Take my word for it, my friend, that the most ridiculous creature in the universe, is he who entertains a big imagination of his own importance, that no one ever dreamed of but himself.”
The fly was so ashamed at this just rebuke from his brother insect, that he crept into a crevice made by a corner of the worsted-binding of the coach, and never showed himself any more, till he smelled the butchers’ shambles in Whitechapel, as he entered London from the east.  Then he roused himself from his hiding-place, and flew away to his dinner.


The Book of Fables. Selections from Aesop, and Other Authors

by ed. Edward Baldwin
    Published by Robert B. Collins, New York, 1854

Farewell Byfield Rainforest

8 Feb

This is a bitter sweet post for me; our family is moving next week.  When we first moved to the Byfield Rainforest, I had no idea the adventures I would uncover.  I have always had my creature friends everywhere we’ve lived; birds of many species, different frogs, lizards, bugs, etc.  But, as you would imagine, a rainforest has a few more exciting creatures than your average place.  Just when I thought that I had seen everything the rainforest had to offer, something else would turn up.  And sometimes it was something I never knew existed.

I’ve always been an animal lover but Byfield is the place that really cemented my love for the insect world.  I mean, midwest America isn’t exactly the mecca for unusual bugs.  And there is just something special about being in another country and learning about all of the new, and sometimes strange, wildlife.

In the eight months we’ve lived here I have taken hundreds of pictures and encountered many species of bugs, birds, snakes, lizards, marsupials, arachnids and even fish.  And let me tell you, I’ve heard children are hard to photograph but they don’t have a thing on a stick bug or a lightning fast skink.  The challenge wasn’t necessarily to find them, it was to get a picture that was clear and showed their colour, size and features.  We had a few mishaps, frogs landing on heads, katydids landing on faces, Christmas beetles who seem to almost relish defecating on you whenever possible (I chalk that one up to nerves) and one, four-legged Huntsman spider that made sure he went out with a bang…or should it be ‘fang’?

I will miss them all greatly, they’ve taught me a lot.  But I am thankful for the excitement and thirst for learning they have all instilled in me

Please enjoy my collection of photographs I’ve taken over the past months.  And stay tuned!  Lots more adventures to come!

Dew covered insects

5 Feb

Sorry for the lateness on the What Is It? post.  I’ve been a bit under the weather the last couple of days.  So, in the meantime, I will share with you some pictures of insects covered in dew.  The first one, the dew covered dragonfly, was sent to me by fellow enthusiast, R. Dubya.  I loved it so much, I decided to look up a few more for your enjoyment. Promise to have another post soon.

dew dragofly

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dew butterfly

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dew fly

photo credit: Miroslaw Swietek/Solent


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dew ant

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dew blue

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dew spider

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dew dragonfly 2

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What is it?

3 Feb

Any guesses? Find out tomorrow. As always, no cheating!

colorful katydid

Entomology Quiz

1 Feb


So, I thought it would be fun to put together a little quiz for you.  Some of these answers I knew but even with my bucketfuls of curiosity about all things creepy crawly, some of these had me stumped.  So, how many will you get right? (Googling the answers is not allowed)

1. Entomology is the study of:

     a.  insects and animals

     b. just insects

     c. just animals

     d. entertainment

2. A spider is:

     a. an insect

     b. an arachnid

     c. both

     d. scary

3. Most grasshoppers make noise by:

     a. snapping their hindwings rapidly

     b. rubbing their abdomen against their wings

     c. rubbing the pegs on their back legs together

     d. Both a and c

4. The Periodical Cicadas spend how many years underground before emerging? 

     a. 3-5

     b. 7

     c. 13-17

     d. 21

5. How many different species of butterfly are there in the world?

     a. 438

     b. 4000-5500

     c. 15,000-28,000

     d. 100,000+

6. How many eyes do most spiders have?

     a. 4

     b. 8

     c. 12

     d. I’ve never been that close to one to find out.

7. What is this?

mole cricket

     a. Australian Toe Biter

     b. Mole Cricket

     c. Cane Weevil

     d. My worst nightmare

8. Nocturnal means active at night.  What is the word for things that are active during the day?

     a. Dayurnal

     b. Solcistinal

     c. Diurnal

     d. Employed

9. What insect has killed more humans than all the wars in history?

     a. mosquitoes

     b. bees

     c. flies

     d. fire ants

10. Certain types of grasshoppers and crickets have ears:

     a. on their feet

     b. under their wings

     c. on their front legs

     d. that are missing


1. b          6. b

2. b          7. b

3. d          8. c

4. c          9. a

5. c         10. c

1-3 right: Stick to studying the insides of your eyelids.

4-6 right: You know enough about entomology to impress people at your next nerd party.

7-10: Either you Googled the answers, are an Entomologist or have way too much time on your hands…like me.