Second Contest of 2011!

It occurred to me that I promised to have another contest in April.  Seeing as I only have a few hours of April left, I’d better get on it!


block printed cards

Up for grabs this time is another item made by yours truly: a set of 5 note cards printed with insect block prints.  They’ll arrived bundled together with envelopes and a set of 6 hand printed bee stickers to act as seals.  The winner can choose 5 images they’d like from those in my collection of insect linoleum blocks (damselfly, ground beetle, tiger beetle, scarab, ant, dragonfly, giant water bug, predaceous diving beetle, or wasp – and I’m working on some new ones too!).  The image to the left is a set of cards I made for a grad student who let me stay in her house when I was doing some research in another city and are an example of what the cards will look like and the style of the prints.

Want a shot at winning these?  There are three ways to enter, so you can enter up to three times if you wish:

  • Method 1) Leave a comment below with the answer to this question: if you were to eat an insect, which one would it be?  (Or if you’ve already eaten insects, tell me which one was your favorite!)
  • Method 2) Follow me on Twitter (I’m @dragonflywoman2), then leave a comment below to let me know you are a follower.  I use Twitter to share news about insects, aquatic biology (including some marine), and other interesting bits of biology.  News about bats creeps in from time to time too because I love bats and I can’t help myself.  I tweet about 15 times a day on weekdays, less on weekend.
  • Method 3) “Like” my Dragonfly Woman page on Facebook, then leave a comment below to let me know you’ve done so (or that you already “like” me).  I created the page so that I could post notices about new blog posts, the occasional interesting news tidbit, and photos related to my blog separately from my regular Facebook account.  I promise to resist the urge to bombard you with status updates and other things that will clog your Facebook news feed.

I’ll accept entries for one week, then I’ll write all the entries on slips of paper and have my husband draw one.  I’ll announce the winner here and contact him/her by e-mail to make arrangements for shipping the cards.  Easy, right?  Just make sure you send me a valid e-mail address or I won’t be able to notify you if you win!

Good luck!


Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © 2011

Friday 5: Afternoon Tea with Dragonflies

I am an absolute tea addict.  I usually drink somewhere between 5 and 15 cups of tea a day (hot and iced) and I simply can’t get enough.  It’s gotten so that I can read a tea catalog (yes, I receive and read tea catalogs) and know exactly how a Darjeeling tea with an “exquisite floral aroma and pungent nutty taste” with “abundant golden tips” is going to taste.   My tea collection fills an entire cabinet in my kitchen.  I offer tea to nearly everyone who visits, but I think most of them are intimidated by the giant cabinet o’ tea and the 6 page single spaced list of teas I currently have stashed in there.  Most people take one from the front and never delve into the wonders I’ve got hidden further back.  But that’s okay.  I don’t particularly want people drinking my tea that was picked by monkeys in China because I want it all for myself.  It’s delicious and the idea that it was fondled by grubby little monkey paws only adds to its charm for me.

My tea addiction collided with my love of dragonflies long ago and I have quite a few tea tools, cups, and pots with dragonflies on them.  For this week’s Friday 5, I wanted to highlight some of my collection.  Combining these things with buttery cookies (cut with my dragonfly cookie cutter of course) or a small cake (made in the insect mini cake pan I couldn’t live without because it had a dragonfly in it) makes for the perfect afternoon tea!


A while back it occurred to me that, as a tea lover, I should collect teapots.  Terrible idea!  Two months later I already had something like 15 and ran out of space.  Since then, I’ve limited myself to dragonfly teapots and the teapot collection growth has slowed significantly.  These are my favorite dragonfly teapots:


Some of my dragonfly teapots

I like the Japanese tetsubin pots a lot better than the ceramic one though.  In case you don’t know, tetsubin tea pots are made from cast iron, so they’re super heavy and they tend to be rather small.  But look at those dragonflies!  Aren’t they amazing?  This is what happens when a tea drinking culture with a deep and profound appreciation for dragonflies makes a teapot.  I adore my tetsubin pots.  I’d get more, but they tend to be really expensive, usually $60+ for a 12 ounce teapot.  It’s just as well because I don’t have space anyway…


I already posted a photo of my favorite ceramic coffee mugs and it’s common for me to carry one of my dragonfly mugs from room to room with me all day.  My latest acquisition is these fabulous little teacups:

tea cups

Dragonfly teacups

Like my favorite teapots, they are also tetsubin, so heavy little cast iron teacups.  They hold about 5 or 6 ounces of tea.  I fell instantly in love with these after years of searching for dragonfly tetsubin cups to go with my pots, and they even had little saucers with dragonflies on them!  Hooray for the new tea shop in the local mall for carrying so many colors of these cups and saucers!  If I ever win the lottery, I’m buying a whole bunch more of these.


I do not own the testubin trivet you’re supposed to use with your tetsubin teapots, but that’s because I had this one long before I ever bought my first tetsubin teapot:


Dragonfly trivet

This trivet was one of the first housewares I ever bought and I can’t imagine I’m ever going to want to replace it because it is exactly my style.  It’s 3/8 inch thick glazed terra cotta, so it’s heavy and strong and does exactly what a trivet should do.  Why spend $40 on a boring tetsubin trivet when you’ve got this baby?

Tea Ball

Most people who love tea as much as I do tend to be a bit anal about their tea preparation.  They heat only pure, freshly drawn filtered water to the perfect temperature for the tea they will prepare, measure out the exact perfect amount of tea for the size of the cup, and use only loose teas so that the leaves have enough space to spread out for the best infusion.  Me… I’m rarely that patient.  But sometimes it’s nice to do things right.  When I do, I use this:

tea ball

Dragonfly tea ball

Tea balls are nice because they’re a quick and easy way to make a single cup of tea using loose teas.  There are a lot more loose teas in the world than bagged, so most tea connoisseurs have a tea ball or two so that they can take advantage of the endless variety of teas on the market.  I was so thrilled when I finally found one with a dragonfly on it!  I think all of my other tea balls are jealous of how much love this one gets.

Tea Twig

I use this when I’m in the mood to be fancy with my tea preparation, such as when I treat myself to a true afternoon tea:

tea twig

Dragonfly tea twig

This tea twig holds a large tea filter bag in place inside the cup so that the leaves have a lot of room to spread out, but they’re still contained.  The resulting tea is a lot like using a tea ball, but I can’t help but think that using the tea twig is a whole lot more fun.  It’s just so cute!

I’ve gotten away from science this week, but I’m jumping right back in with a series on using insects as indicators of water quality starting Monday.  Until then, have a great weekend!


Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © 2011

Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday: Caddisfly

I love finding caddisfly larvae!  They make the most amazing structures from leaves and rocks, plus they’re bizarre looking insects when you get them naked:


Glossosomatid caddisfly

This photo gives me the impression of a cat, stoned out of its little furry mind on catnip, about to launch an attack on an unsuspecting passerby from its hiding place on top of a bookcase.  Can’t you just see it going, “AAAAAAIIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEE!” as it flings itself into your hair?  :)


Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © 2011

My Entomological Wedding

Sunglow Ranch

Sunglow Ranch, our wedding venue.

Everyone who reads my blog regularly knows that I am a die-hard insect fan.  Insects pervade every part of my life including my clothing, my home decor, and my creative style.  I am SO much of a bug fan that I even had an insect-themed wedding!  Terribly geeky, I know, but I couldn’t help myself.  I thought it was a lot of fun, so indulge me as I share some of the details.

Me and Monkey

Me and my dog Monkey (his nickname is Bug). I carried a handmade bouquet of feather butterflies with me down the aisle!

The hardest part of being an entomologist for me is knowing that the vast majority of people I meet think that I am completely insane for liking insects as much as I do.  This unfortunately extends to many of my family members, regardless of how much they love me and how often I try to change their minds.  They’re quite happy that I am following my dream and all, but when they come face to face with an insect, many of them fall into the “insect stomping” category of humanity rather than the “insect loving” category like me.  I wanted to have an insect-themed wedding, but how does one do that without scaring off all of your guests, and more importantly, your insect phobic fiancée?  Simple!  Just call your theme something other than “entomology” or “insect:”

“My wedding theme isn’t entomology!  Who would be that silly?  Ho ho ho!  No, the theme is woodland glade.

Officially, my theme was woodland glade, which was a fancy name for “insects with a few other things tossed in for looks.”  :)


Our wedding "cake." Notice the butterfly vase that we used as a cake topper!

So here I was, dead set on having a wedding with an entomological theme and a bunch of guests and a fiancée who don’t like insects.  I had to figure out a way to keep it from being blatantly apparent that there were insects everywhere so that people wouldn’t be too scared to come.  Live insects were out, though if you read my Friday 5 on Arizona’s beetles you know that this wasn’t for lack of interest on my part.  I don’t particularly relish being the center of attention, not even on my wedding day, and I was more than happy to give up my jars of live aquatic beetles to make sure my relatives were at the wedding.   I was throwing a big party and I wanted to make everyone happy, so live insects were out.*


My bridesmaids were decked out in butterfly stuff! They all wore butterfly headbands and glass lockets with real butterfly wings inside. These and the shawls were their gifts for being the best bridesmaids ever!

I also focused on insects that most people like.  Butterflies were an obvious choice.  I’ll admit that I’m not the biggest fan of butterflies.  I like big scary insects!  I like the bad a** insects.  Butterflies simply aren’t bad a**.  But, butterflies are well-loved by nearly everyone while the bad a** insects are not.  That makes butterflies a little more acceptable to people who generally don’t like insects.  In fact, people use them in their weddings all the time – even on edible things like cakes!  When someone like Martha Stewart promotes butterflies for wedding cakes, you know they’re okay.


Our table decor. The vases held a dozen handmade parchment paper flowers along with a feather butterfly. Two of my friends stamped the wine bottle labels with butterflies and plants. The table runners were stamped with butterflies, bees, plants, and birds. The potted plants and felt birds were given to guests as favors.

If you’re me and ecstatic about the crafting and do-it-yourself opportunities that a wedding affords, the wider availability of things like butterfly rubber stamps and paper punches compared to dragonflies or any other insects also needs to be taken into account.  Have you ever tried to find a decent dragonfly paper punch that’s bigger than an inch across?  They don’t exist!  So, I incorporated a lot of butterflies into my decor.  This should be abundantly obvious from looking at the photos.  I spent months making paper flowers and potting plants and stamping table runners and making invitations entirely by hand.  I used dragonflies, bumblebees, and plants too.  To keep it from becoming completely obvious that I was having a bug wedding, I tossed in some birds to throw people off the scent.   The little stuffed felt birds served as our wedding favors and made “woodland glade” a believable theme.  :)

guest book

Our guest "book" consisted of a bunch of paper butterflies, dragonflies, and birds. Guests chose a shape, wrote a note on them, and hung them from the tree.

My husband and I were married just over a year ago.  I found the most amazing venue in the foothills of the western slope of the Chiricahua Mountains 2 1/2 hours east of Tucson.  It was the perfect combination of stunningly beautiful, out-of-town, and cheap.  We took a chance having an outdoor wedding at a higher elevation in March and it ended up being a sunny, cool, perfect day.  Nearly everyone we invited came.  I was able to get married by water, under a huge tree by a beautiful lake.  Our officiant was an entomologist, as was our photographer.  Our food was amazing.  Our cake was amazing.  Lots and lots of things went wrong at the last second (e.g. did you see my dog in the photo?  He wasn’t supposed to be there!), but I didn’t care.  I didn’t have any live insects at my wedding, but I didn’t care.  I thought it was perfect.  I would change a thing!

But the best part: even my husband enjoyed it.  That’s right – my husband, who screamed like a little girl one night when a roach crawled on him, liked our bug themed wedding.  I drove home that night with my new husband and our two dogs, the happiest person on the planet.

Just married

Moments after we were married. I made the butterfly clips for my dress by gluing feather monarchs onto clip-on earring posts and clipped them to the corset strings of my dress.


Photos by Alex Yellich.  You can view photos of the invitations and our altar by clicking on the links.

* You might wonder why I didn’t consider having a butterfly release at my insect-themed wedding.  Partly it was because it usually costs over $5 a piece to have butterflies shipped to you, which is a lot of money to spend on something that is going to freeze to death the night after your wedding, especially when you only have $5000 to spend altogether.  Also, I read a fabulous Dave Barry column about weddings when I was in high school that made them seem less than appealing.  I decided right then and there that I was never going to do it.  Well worth a read!


Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © 2011

Friday 5: Making a Bee House from Recycled Wood


A native bee I came across recently.

I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for bees, especially native (i.e. non-honey bee) bees.  I like them so much, in fact, that I considered studying bees in grad school when I first started.  Luckily, I have a friend who is a native bee expert.  One of the many things I’ve learned from her is how many cavity nesting bees there are in the world, bees that don’t build their own nests.  Instead, they fly around looking for suitable pre-existing cavities, holes made by other creatures.  They lay their eggs in these cavities and provision the nests with food before sealing them up.  The larvae/pupae develop inside and then chew their way out of the nest when they become adults before flying off and starting the whole process over again.

One great way to attract native cavity nesting bees to an area is to give them a lot of cavities that they can use for nests.  You can do this by making a bee house!  My friend has made tons of bee houses and writes about to make them on her blog, and I decided I finally wanted to make one this year.  However, I didn’t have a piece of wood that was deep enough to make the right sort of cavities.  I also didn’t want to buy a whole new board because my yard is small and I don’t really need more than one bee house.  Then I remembered the big pile of cut tree branches in my back yard.  Last summer, a HUGE branch from my eucalyptus tree fell during a storm and I cut it up and piled the pieces in the yard.  They were still there, and I thought that if I clumped a bunch of them together, they just might work!

For this week’s Friday 5, I present you with 5 steps I took to make a bee house from recycled tree branches.  This was a very easy project and took less than an hour altogether.  Here we go:

Step 1.  Gather supplies and equipment


Supplies and equipment

You can use hand tools to make a bee house like mine, but it’s going to take forever.  I used a power saw (just a little jigsaw – a table saw or circular saw will work well too!) and a power drill (or a drill press – oh, how I would love a drill press!) to speed things up.   You’ll need drill bits (I used 1/4 and 7/32 inch bits), a sanding block or power sander with medium grit sandpaper, and some jute twine.  You of course also need some dry tree branches.  Some of my branches were about 3 inches in diameter and others were less than 1 inch.  Use several different sizes if you have them!

(If you’re going to make one of these bee houses, it’s a good idea to pull out some safety equipment too, at least a dust mask and safety glasses.  If you have a workbench, use it to clamp your pieces down while you cut and drill to keep your hands well out of the way of your power tools.  As with any project involving power tools, please be very careful that you don’t accidentally remove a finger as you remove parts of the branches with your saw.  It’s probably going to hurt a lot if you do.  Your fingers also work just fine without perforations, so keep your drill far from them.)

Step 2: Cut the branches into equal length pieces

Cut your branches into pieces.  You want to have several nearly cylindrical pieces, so cut off any smaller branches coming off the main stem.  I cut 7 inch long pieces using my jigsaw.  It’s okay if they’re not perfectly even or exactly the same length.  Sand any sharp pieces down so the edges are smooth.

Step 3: Drill holes


Drilled branches

I made two different sized holes (different sizes will attract different bees!) in my tree branches.  I made my holes about 5 inches long, which is a little short for some bees, but I didn’t want to buy special long drill bits just to make my bee house.  6 inch holes are better for some bees, so if you have the long drill bits, now’s a good time to use them!  I left some space between the holes in the larger branches and only drilled one hole in the smaller branches.

Step 4: Wrap and tie branches together


Wrapped branches.

Lay a long piece of jute twine on the ground and start stacking your drilled branches on top of them, centering the pieces over the twine.  Make sure all the holes face the same direction!  Tightly wrap the twine around the whole bunch of branches 7 or 8 times and tie off with a secure knot.  You don’t want any loose pieces sliding around, so wrap the twine around the smaller branches as you’re stacking if you think they’ll come loose.  My branches are in a roughly rectangular layout, but you could make a circle or another shape easily too.

Step 5: Hang your new bee house!

completed bee house

Completed bee house.

After I wrapped the bundle of branches together, I cut a long piece of jute twine, folded it in half, and tied it to the twine on either side of the bee house.  This left a long loop I could use to hang my bee house.  I hung my house from a hook I embedded in my tree a while back.  I hung mine in the shade because I worry about my bees steaming to death inside the branches in the sun, but it may be better to hang the house in the sun in cooler climates.

That’s it!  Very easy to make.  I don’t know whether my design will work or not, but I’m hopeful I’ll have some bees checking in soon.  If my bee house is a success, I’ll write another post highlighting some of my visitors this summer!


Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © 2011

Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday: Crane Fly

I really love crane flies.  They’re so very fragile and awkward that I just have to admire their ability to survive.  I came across this crane fly shortly after I finished the pond I built at the Biosphere 2, huddled in a tuft of ornamental grasses:

Crane fly

Crane fly

Isn’t he (or she) gorgeous?!  Love ’em!


Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © 2011

An Inordinate Fondness #15!

It is time, once again, to appreciate our hard-shelled insect friends and revel in pure beetley goodness.  Welcome to An Inordinate Fondness #15, your one stop shop for all things coleopteran!  Items have been kindly provided by myriad suppliers from diverse regions, so there’s something here for everyone with a love for elytra.  Step inside my little shop* and see what I have in stock for you this month!  Some highlights:

Live Items Currently In Stock

Ripiphorus viereckiRecently added to our inventory, straight from my supplier in the deserts of southern Arizona, these beautiful wedge shaped beetles (Ripiphorus vierecki) will make a stunning addition to any collection.  These unique beetles are ready to lay their eggs in marigolds so their larvae can hitch rides on visiting bees.  Yours compliments of Margarethe Brummermann at Arizona: Beetles Bugs Birds and More.

Naupactus xanthographusThis Argentinian weevil beauty comes to my humble shop compliments of AIF founder Ted MacRae of Beetles in the Bush.  This lovely weevil is Naupactus xanthographus, a denizen of the Buenos Aires area that is sometimes found munching happily on grapes and other fruits.

Pachylobius picivorusI wish to welcome a new supplier to the AIF family of beetle lovers, Rebecca in the Woods!  Rebecca brings us the weevil Pachylobius picivorus, a lovely little beetle with an elegant snout, along with a long cherished weevil joke.

One of my personal contributions to the shop include various members of the predaceous diving beetles and water scavenger beetles.  Come into the shop to check on current availability.  Don’t know which one you want?  Visit The Dragonfly Woman for information on how to tell the two families apart!

MeloeDon’t you just love oil beetles?  We’ve got you covered!  Our Canadian supplier, The Geek at Fall to Climb, brings us the first Meloe specimens of the spring season.  Just look at those stunning c-shaped antennae on the male!  This beetle would be a prized addition to any collection.

Diloboderus abderusAnother spectacular specimen from Argentina, the fiercely good-looking Diloboderus abderus is a captivating scarab.  These beetles are turf pests and larvae will arrive lovingly gift wrapped in sod.  Supplied by Ted MacRae of Beetles in the Bush.

Hydrochus sp.

Straight from the mountains of southern Arizona, I present a lovely little Hydrochus specimen.  These iridescent little beetles are small, but don’t let that stop you from taking a second look!  They’re absolutely beautiful up close.  Read more at The Dragonfly Woman.

Live Items Coming Soon (Available for Backorder)

OrsodacneComing soon from the wilds of snowy Alberta, I present Orsodacne atra, a confusing little beetle.  Our gracious supplier, Home Bug Garden, discusses the mess surrounding this pretty little beetle’s name – and how easy it is to mistake it for the leaf beetles in an entirely different family!

Cerotoma trifurcataFrom Missouri, I offer a true leaf beetle: the showy Cerotoma trifurcata, also known as the bean leaf beetle.  This stunning red or yellow/tan beetle with black spots is yours compliments of Shelly Cox at  MObugs, who describes them and their habits in detail on her blog.

Dynastes tityusTed MacRae of Beetles in the Bush provides me with this stunning, giant of a beetle, the eastern Hercules beetle (Dynastes tityus).  This is one of the largest beetles in the US, and a perfect addition to any beetle lover’s wish list.

Palo verde beetle

The palo verde beetle is a common sight in the deserts of southern Arizona.  This giant beetle flies drunkenly around the desert at night, and will make a feisty addition to your menagerie.  But I love them anyway!  Learn why at The Dragonfly Woman.

Non-Living Curiosities and Gifts

The fabulous Bug Girl provides me with a preview of the 2011 Volkswagen Beetle, the obvious vehicle of choice for any true beetle connoisseur.  Visit her website to view the complete Super Bowl commercial for this fabulous new ride.

Other Interesting Tidbits  From Potential Future Suppliers

The brilliant insect photographer Alex Wild at Myrmecos offers several spectacular beetle photos this month.  Check out his sexy weevils, the first sap beetles of the spring, and a stunning pleasing fungus beetle from Ecuador.  And just in case you missed it, be sure to look through his gallery of wallpaper images for your computer.  Revel in beetle fabulousness every time you minimize your windows!

Kurt at Up Close with Nature discusses the gorgeous spiny giraffe beetle on his blog.  Be sure to take a look.

And Allison at 6Legs2Many shows off a wasp mimicking long horned beetle.  Amazing!  A must see.

Recent Beetle News of Interest to Our Beetle Loving Customers

Love beetles?  Then you’ll love these news stories:

beetle invasion!Aquatic beetles invade Australia

Tiger beetle larvae that roll like wheels when disturbed

Movie about endangered tiger beetle in Nebraska is moving forward thanks to financial support of beetle lovers

Sacramento area property owners suing Fish and Wildlife Service to have endangered elderberry longhorn beetle delisted


I hope you enjoyed this edition of the An Inordinate Fondness blog carnival!  The next edition will be hosted by Dave of Dave Hubble’s Ecology Spot. Send your submissions by e mail or use the submission form by May 15th.

Want to host a future AIF?  There are slots open starting in July!  Send Ted an email to get signed up.


* The items listed here are not actually for sale, just in case you were wondering.  This is a blog carnival, a collection of blog entries about beetles.  The “shop” is simply how I chose to present the collection of posts submitted by the bloggers featured in this post.


Text copyright © 2011  Images are owned by the bloggers who submitted posts to this edition of the An Inordinate Fondness blog carnival.