Archive | April, 2013

The Giant Weta

23 Apr

weta carrot

photo credit: SOLENT (www.telegraph.co.uk)

This giant weta (or wetapunga), one of the largest on record, weighing in at 71 grams (2.5oz) was found by adventurer and American researcher, Mark Moffett on New Zealand’s Little Barrier Island.  These insects can grow up to 10 centimetres long and have a leg span as wide as 20 centimetres.  It’s genus name, Deinacrida, means ‘mighty locust’.  Dating back 190 million years, these creatures are in fact insects in the Orthoptera order.  The same order as grasshoppers, locusts and crickets.

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Marine Tube Worms

21 Apr

So, because I’m still doing the research (I opened up a whole can of worms with this one-pun intended) I will do this as a quick post and just give you a taste of what’s to come.

This first photo is of these little tubes I find all over the beach.  When I tried guessing what they were, I thought they might be some sort of coral.  Then, when I found the stingray spine and the misinformed gentleman told me it came from a worm that makes tubes, I thought the two things went hand in hand.

photo (1)

He actually was right, just about the wrong thing.  So far I have found out that this is the tube that some marine worms form around themselves as sort of protective housing.  One of those worms that does this  is called the Christmas Tree worm.  As you can see from the picture, it does in fact resemble a Christmas tree.

christmas worm

photo credit: 

So, to clear things up, that top part is actually the worm’s mouth (I know, a bit confusing) and the tube part is below.  From what I have gathered, the shape and make of the tubes I am finding (and the location) all point to it being this type of worm.  But, I want to make sure.  After I’ve finished my research and understand it myself, I will do a follow-up post and tell you all you need to know about these amazing creatures.

So, what was it?

20 Apr

Okay, so I’ve kept you all waiting for long enough.  (Sorry, the impending birth of my son this coming week is keeping me on the couch.)

So, what did you guess?  I did have someone guess correctly (and to me I thought it seemed obvious at first)  but I’m curious if it was that easy for everyone.

Now, (drum roll, please) this is a picture of a

stingray barb!!

barb

I know, I know, nothing to do with entomology but, still intriguing.  So, I guess the guy on the beach, who seemed to know what he was talking about, didn’t.  Always trust your gut but more importantly, do your research!

The barb (also known as the tail spine or tail sting)  on a stingray’s tail is covered in a sheath of venomous skin.  The venom is dispersed when pushed into a foreign body usually when the ray is defending itself.  Contrary to popular belief, it is not used to capture prey.

southern_stingray

Most species of stingray have at least 1 to 2 barbs although some species can have zero, while others can have  7 or more!  When a stingray loses/uses its barb it immediately starts to regrow one in its place. And even though these creatures can seem frightening, especially after what happened to Steve Irwin, stingrays are known to be docile and run from confrontation.  They have been nicknamed the “pussy cats” of the ocean.

What is it?

14 Apr

Okay, so I found this thing at the beach one day.  I had an initial idea of what it was but considering I’m a. from America and b. come from a land locked state, I assumed I was probably wrong.  So, I stopped a gentleman walking and asked him if he knew.  And this nice, seemingly well-informed Aussie man told me with the utmost confidence that it was just one part of a larger tube that housed some sort of oceanic worm.  And he was so convincing, I just spent and hour trying to find out what worm and what this thing’s purpose was.  Now, although I stumbled across some extremely interesting information about types of ocean worms (some of whose exoskeletons I’ve collected having no idea that was in fact what they were) I also found out that the gentleman was wrong and my initial guess was right.  I’ll save the ocean worm info for the next post, but any guesses on what YOU think this is?

barb

Australian Red Eye Bug

3 Apr

Okay, so sometimes life is stranger than fiction.  I just did the post about the boxelder bugs my friend back in the States found and today on my little tree in the backyard (while stalking a praying mantis) I saw a bug that, by all accounts, was a twin of the boxelder.  The problem? I live in Australia and as far as I know there are no boxelder trees (or ash or maples) here.  So, of course it had to be a completely different bug, right?  Weird.  So my curiosity got the better of me and I had to find out what it was. Here’s a close up of the bug.

DSC_0007

It took me a minute to figure this one out.  I had it pegged as some sort of a Eucalyptus bug and then stumbled across one of my favourite insect pages www.brisbaneinsects.com (not sure why I don’t just go there first) and found out that I had spotted what’s known as the Red Eye Bug.  Well, actually it’s called Leptocoris Tagalicus, but I promised no fancy stuff on this blog…for the most part.

Here’s the clincher: This bug is in the SAME family as the boxelder!  The Rhopalidae family, also known as the scentless plant bugs.

It’s name is fitting considering its eyes are actually red, if you zoom in.  They are found on plants (and trees apparently)  and feed on the flowers and seeds of certain ones.  There are two types of these bugs, the Red Eye Bugs and the Ground Red Eye Bugs.  From my research, they say it is hard to distinguish between the two.  But, as you probably guessed, the Ground Red Eyes can be found (drum roll) on the ground where they feed on ripe, fallen seeds.  Since this guy was on my tree, I’m assuming he is just the Red Eye Bug.  (That it’s a ‘he’ is also an assumption 😉 )

So, there ya go.  Cousins found on two separate continents within a couple of days.  And had it not been for my shy praying mantis, I may have never found it at all.

The Boxelder Bug

1 Apr

A friend of mine back home, Randy Wallace  (United States) is an avid fan of covered bridges.  He runs a Facebook page chronicling his adventures in ‘bridging’ and posts about everything from restorations, to the history, to the technical information regarding how they were built.

You can find his Facebook page here ——> https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Indiana-Covered-Bridges/271207486230890

Recently he posted a picture of some bugs he found on one of the bridges and was concerned if they were in fact damaging the bridge, since there were numerous holes around, or if they were harmless; a legitimate concern for a bridge enthusiast.

Well, the insects in question are called Boxelder bugs.

boxelder

Photo credit: Randy Wallace

The Boxelder bug is a North American true bug and can commonly be found on or near, you guessed it, the Boxelder tree.

Boxelder_tree

Photo credit: http://www.nativeohioplantlist.com

Although pretty to look at, unfortunately these guys get a  bit of a bad rap.  At the onset of the fall season, these bugs will usually congregate in large numbers on the sides of the trees, houses or structures, facing the sun.  This is normally when people become aware of them since they can sometimes find their way into houses through cracks in an attempt to find a suitable winter lodging.  Although they don’t cause any damage to houses or structures, the sheer numbers of these guys is enough to turn most people off.

The bugs later emerge from their hibernation sometime around April or May — just in time for the opening of the boxelder tree buds.  They make their way back to the trees where they feed mostly on seeds and foliage and the females begin laying their spring eggs.  Although they prefer the boxelder tree, maple and ash are other favorites.

Sometimes mistaken for stink bugs, these bugs are actually part of the family called Rhopalidae, or ‘scentless plant bugs’.  Although they are able to release a pungent compound to thwart potential predators.

boxelder2