Friday 5: Light Sculptures and Other Fun Things

Well, I haven’t been able to keep up with the ol’ blog here very well this week, but I’m getting a post up today if it kills me!  It’s Friday (which is no longer the last day of my workweek, incidentally), so it’s time for me to share some cool insect related things from the past week.  First up, this guy:

Brandon Ballengee speaking at RTP180

Brandon Ballengee speaking at RTP180

That’s Brandon Ballengee, an artist and biologist who gave a lightning talk at an awesome event I attended last night that focused on the intersection of science and art.  Ballengee’s artwork includes what he calls “Love Motels for Insects,” awesome large UV light sculptures that are meant to attract insects to them.  He hopes that people will document the insects they see for citizen science and that the installations will educate the public about the importance of insects in the environment.  He also does some crazy cool research on interactions between dragonfly nymphs and frogs that I’m going to share with you all soon!  I am really thrilled I had a chance to talk to him about the work he does, citizen science, and large insects that prey on amphibians.  Plus, free pizza and beer at the event!  How can you go wrong?

On a completely unrelated note, we’ve got a series of 8 camera traps on the grounds of the field station where I work that are part of a study looking at urban mammal populations.  This is NOT what you want to see fall out of the camera when you open it up to switch out the memory card and batteries:

Ants from the camera trap

Ants from the camera trap

Ants!  I believe these are Crematogaster ants (will one of the ant people kindly confirm this for me?) and there were HUNDREDS of them packed inside what is essentially a little computer.  I got an odd sort of satisfaction out of dismantling the camera and brushing out the ants from the surprisingly numerous nooks and crannies inside.  Dunno why, but I love taking computers apart.  Which is why I was glad to get this last week…

Hard drive

Space, glorious space!

I knew my photo obsession would eventually lead to this, but the 750 insect photos I took last weekend wouldn’t fit on my computer’s hard drive – it was officially full.  $80 and a few days later and I’m now set to take 100,000+ more bug photos thanks to my new second hard drive.  Woo!  And even though they forced me to buy a new hard drive, the photos I took last weekend were totally worth having to upgrade my hard drive for.  I found Halloween pennants at Prairie Ridge for the first time, and I found a LOT of them.  They’re really beautiful, so I of course had to take a bunch of photos:

Halloween pennant female

Halloween pennant female

 

When they fly, they have this lovely fluttery appearance.  I tend to see them in the late afternoon too, when the sun is getting a little low in the west and the area of the prairie where they like to hang out is backlit, so their wings gleam  in the sun.  It’s pretty spectacular.  I’ve gone back over to that area every day since to watch them and they make me really happy.  They’re all females, and I’ve yet to see a male at either of the ponds.  Makes me wonder what the deal is – why so many gals but no guys? – but I’ll take any Halloween pennants that I can get.  They’re one of my favorites.

And finally, I took this photo on Sapelo Island in Georgia when I attended Bug Shot 2014 in May:

Lactura pupula

Lactura pupula

I’ve been unsuccessfully trying to figure out what it is since I got home from that trip.  Tonight, I spent another hour trying to get an ID before I finally gave in and posted it to the Moths of the Eastern United States group on Facebook.  I had an answer in less than a minute.  It’s Lactura pupula apparently.  Isn’t the internet grand?  Less than a minute to solve a problem I’ve spent a good 5-6 hours on!

Speaking of moths, National Moth Week starts tomorrow and runs through July 27th.  Consider attending a public moth night in your area (you can search for them on the NMW website), or just turn on your porch light have a moth party of one!  Snap a few photos and submit them to a citizen science project of some sort (I recommend iNaturalist, Discover Life, or Butterflies and Moths of North America) so scientists can use the data you collected through your photos.  Easy peasy!  I think it’s a great project and really fun, so I’ll likely be out every night looking for moths next week, starting with the big public event I do for my museum each year.  I don’t get a lot of sleep during moth week…

Have a great week everyone!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth
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Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday: Livestock

I thought I’d jump on the ant bandwagon today and post a photo of an ant I took a few weeks ago while waiting for my husband to come pick me up after work:

big ant

Big ant

What sets my blog apart from the ant people who blog is the fact that I can’t tell you much about this ant apart from “huge” and “appears to be tending aphids.”   I can’t be completely sure that the latter is happening as I don’t know which ant species this is, but I suspect this ant was hanging around the aphids for their honeydew, a sweet liquid aphids excrete that many ant species love.  The way it typically works is the aphids benefit from having the ants herding them because the ants protect the aphids from would-be predators.  It’s a pretty neat system, so I hope that’s what was happening here!  Any of you ant people out there want to provide any additional information?  Would love to complete the story a bit more!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

Friday 5: Winter Invertebrates

Last weekend I led a public program for work that focused on how people can use nature photos to help scientists by submitting them to a variety of citizen science projects.  I really love doing this program as the people who sign up tend to be REALLY excited about documenting the natural world with their cameras, just like me.  I get people with all sorts of cameras too – really cruddy cell phone cameras all the way up to pro-level photo gear – but somehow the group dynamic just works.  We do a bit of introductory stuff in the classroom and then spend a lot of time practicing our photography and learning about the flora and fauna of North Carolina.  It is a ton of fun!

Last weekend, the morning started off very foggy.  It was supposed to clear off in the afternoon and become a magnificent day, but it was still dark and gloomy only an hour before the program.  Then, all of a sudden, the fog was gone!  The sun came out.  It was 75 degrees!  Toward the end of the program, I was roasting and started stripping layers off and ended up in a tee-shirt.  It was great.  And, not surprisingly, we found several invertebrates active, taking advantage of the most beautifully perfect winter day I could imagine.  Here are some of the spineless creatures we saw!

Ants.  LOTS of ants.

Ant colony under log

Ant colony under log

My most recent group of photographers got really into flipping logs!  We found all sorts of things lurking under them, including this colony of ants.  We have a lot of fire ants in the south, so it was nice to flip up a log, see several hundred ants underneath, and NOT have them come after you, stingers a blazin’, for daring to disturb their nest.  These ants seemed pretty docile as close to a dozen photographers snapped shots of them and the guy holding the log didn’t get stung once.  This was one of my better ant experiences actually.  I tend to have mostly bad ant experiences of the stingy, bitey kind…

Snails

Snail

Snail

There’s something about snails that I love.  I think it’s the eye stalks.  In fact, I’m sure that it’s the eye stalks.  Those things make snails look adorable.  Of course, snails are also important herbivores and detritivores, so they play an important role in the environment that shouldn’t be overlooked.  And, because I can’t think of snails without also thinking about this, I encourage you to watch the snail animated short that Miniscule did a few years back.  You WILL fall absolutely in love with snails after watching it!

Millipedes

Millipedes

Millipedes

Nearly every log I’ve flipped in North Carolina so far has housed at least one millipede under it.  This particular log had a lot of them.  All those little white things…  Those are all millipedes, and there were probably about 100 of them under this one log in a big mass.  Someone’s been getting busy procreating under this log.  :)

Pillbug

Sowbug

Sowbug

Did you know these guys (pill bugs, sow bugs, rolly polys, etc) are actually little land crustaceans?  I’ve always wondered whether they taste like the crustaceans people like to eat, such as lobsters and crabs.  (Don’t suppose any of you out there have tasted one so you can tell me what they taste like?  Because I don’t eat crustaceans.)  Like the millipedes in the previous photo, pillbugs are decomposers and are very important in forested areas like the one where I found this one.  There, they turn dead trees into soils so more trees can grow so more pillbugs can turn them into soil so…

And finally, I present this beetle:

Darkling Beetle

Darkling beetle

Darkling beetle

It never fails!  I tell a group of people that, because it’s been rather chilly the last few weeks, we’re unlikely to find many insects out and about.  Then we started flipping logs and found several insects and insect relatives.  One woman in the group was particularly interested in learning how to take better insect photos and was thus highly motivated to find as many as she could.  This was the largest insect we saw active while we were all together, a darkling beetle that was about an inch long.  It sat there and posed for quite some time as several photographers stuck their cameras right in its face to snap some shots of it.  It was even kind enough to sit on a lovely backdrop of dead leaves!  I thought it was rather beautiful, and I was glad we got to see at least one insect that wasn’t hidden under a log.

Turns out there were other things out as well, but I got wrapped up in helping people identify plants and birds and insects and answering questions about Prairie Ridge and I had to stop taking photos myself.  Sigh…  That’s what happens when you’re leading a group program though!  And it was worth it.  It was a gorgeous day and the group I spent it with a lot of fun, so it was a great day overall!

Not sure how many insects I’ll see for the next few weeks.  It finally snowed last night, so they might stay out of sight for a while as they wait out the cold.  Still, I hope I can bring more winter insects to you all soon!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

Adventures with Autumn Arthropods

When I moved to North Carolina, I was excited to see a real fall.  The trees are changing colors and we’ve had some gloriously crisp nights, but I have to admit I expected it to be cooler at this point.  It’s getting to be late October, yet there are still days when I get so warm that I shed clothes down to the base layer.  I also expected most of the insects to be gone by now, but that hasn’t been the case at all!  The dragonfly season is largely over as I’ve seen only one lone green darner and one blue dasher at the pond over the last month, but there are otherwise lots of insect activity still.  Let me give you a brief overview of some of the highlights of the last month.

This is cheating a bit as this was the live butterfly exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, but I got to see my first butterfly emerge from its pupa in several years:

A beautiful owl butterfly!  It was shocking how fast that little guy wiggled out of its pupal case and puffed its wings out too – under 2 minutes from a shriveled butterfly to this.  Wow.  Nature is amazing.  Truly.  The macro capabilities of my iPhone without any adapters leave much to be desired, however.

I’ve seen more of these…

Chinese mantids over the past month than I’ve seen in my entire life!  This beauty was incredibly pregnant and I’m sure she laid a huge egg case out in the prairie somewhere after she was re-released back into the wild after her trip to BugFest.

I have two eighth grade volunteers who are doing a service learning project with me in the citizen science center in the museum where I work.  We promote a new citizen science project, or group of related projects, each week.  A few weeks ago, we promoted monarch butterfly projects and I was shocked that I was able to find so many of these out and about still:

What sort of self-respecting butterfly is still in the caterpillar phase in the middle of October?  Crazy!  I haven’t seen any larvae since then, but up until the last few days I’d seen many adults flying around.  Last Thursday I saw a good 50 or 60 of them in just a few hours!  Some were tagged with the little Monarch Watch tags (thanks to our trusty 10-year-old butterfly catcher/tagger – he is awesome at it!), and some had yet to have found themselves in the clutches of citizen scientists eager to report their findings.  Is seeing monarchs on October 19 strange?  I really don’t know yet.

Speaking of pollinators… I walked through the prairie yesterday (it was my weekend to work) and stood there for a moment, marveling at the incredible sound the bees, wasps, and flies were making as they gathered nectar and spread plant reproductive cells bits about.  Bumblebees still make me happy every time I see them, and probably always will:

Look at that cute little fuzzy butt!  Bumblebees are adorable.  I have been amazed at how very many pollinators, like the bumblebees, are still out, but I suppose I shouldn’t when vast swaths of the prairie look like this:

Wow!  There are a lot of opportunities for a pollinator to both dine and spread plant genetics around out there!  Those are frost asters, in case you were wondering.  I’m slowly learning my prairie plant species, so I feel the need to show off my latest bit of acquired plant knowledge.  :)

Speaking of reproduction… One of the most exciting of the natural events I witnessed in the past month was the rise of the stinkhorns after a series of soaking rains.  If this doesn’t remind you of a particular anatomical part, I don’t know what will:

Then there are these:

Those are actually commonly called dog phallus mushrooms.  It might be a little hard to see, but flies LOVE stinkhorns, and both of these fine specimens have flies on them.  It’s nice being in a place where things like this actually have a shot at growing.  Shortly before I moved away from Arizona, we had a big rain and a mushroom popped up in my backyard.  It was the first mushroom I’d seen growing in the wild for a few years and I was SO excited!  Now I can step outside on any given day and typically find 5-10 species.  It’s great!

But this blog isn’t about mushrooms.  It’s about insects.  There were a lot of insects at the North Carolina State Fair, where I helped out with the museum’s tent.  This fine specimen was in the garden exhibit:

Love the creative use of recycled materials!  There were also a ton of these around:

Adults using them outnumbered kids 3 to 1.  I found that very amusing, and happily took a photo of a pair of women who asked if I could get a shot of them as the butterfly and bee.  I love it when these sorts of things get used by adults more than kids.  I’ve even considered making one for a party sometime and setting up a little photo booth with it.  I think it would be heavily used!

For all the ant loving people out there, I got to see a really cool battle between an ant colony and a termite colony recently:

The ants won.  Handily.  I watched several termites get stung by the ants and it looked awful.  Poor little guys…

Finally, I was photographing some moss sporophytes yesterday when I caught movement out of the corner of my eye.  It was this lovely creature:

… crawling down a moss-covered tree trunk.  That’s the American dagger moth, Acronicta americana.  Awesome caterpillar!  But, I say it again: what sort of self-respecting moth is still in the caterpillar stage as of October 21?  I can only hope it was headed down the tree to find a nice, cozy place to pupate for the winter.

I suppose I should be grateful that it’s still warm enough to see butterflies and grasshopper and bumblebees out, but I do hope it cools down more soon.  I have a whole store of sweaters ready to go that I rarely got to wear in Arizona.  Come on, North Carolina: bring on the winter!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

School of Ants

I’ve been talking about citizen science a lot recently, but I’m going to do it again today.  I think citizen science is a great thing!  Some of the projects are incredibly simple and require very little effort on the participant’s part, but produce massive results for the scientists.  I especially love those projects and I try to participate in as many as I can.

One of these super easy projects that I recently participated in was School of Ants.  Other entomo-bloggers have gotten involved in this project, so you may have already heard about it from other insect blogs (such as Myrmecos or Wild About Ants), but I’m going to share my experience anyway.  I think the project is fantastic and I want to get the word out to as many people as possible.

When I first asked to participate in School of Ants, all you did was fill out a form online so the administrators could send you a project kit.  A few weeks later, I got my kit in the mail!  When I opened the package, this is what was lurking inside:

the kit

The School of Ants kit

One little bag full of colorfully lidded vials and a sheet of paper:

The kit unpacked

The kit unpacked

The sheet of paper had the instructions on one side and space to record data on the back.  It explained the three different types of vials.  The blue capped vials are for green areas.  The red capped vials are for paved areas.  The orange capped vial gives people who aren’t entomologists an incentive to participate.  I’ll get to that vial in a moment.

Now I live in a desert.  We have a lot of ants.  On the other hand, “green” space can be a bit hard to come by.  I’ve actually been trying to kill the tiny little patch of obnoxious bermuda grass in my yard for the past 4 years without success.  Happily, my patch of grassy awfulness was in full swing right when my School of Ants kit arrived, so I decided to use that as my green area.  Sampling ants for the project couldn’t be easier!  You just take the lids off the blue capped vials and set them a foot apart in your green area, making sure the vials are touching the ground so the ants could find the delicious bait inside.  My green area vials looked like this:

Green area

Green area

Ah, bermuda grass and eucalyptus leaves.  It’s pretty much my worst nightmare: a yard full of little allergen factories that make me want to die come July when I can no longer breathe.  But there were lots of little ants in there!  And they were really excited about the bait.  Now you may be wondering what bait the School of Ants team puts in their vials.  According to my ant researching friends/colleagues, there is one ant bait that is the ultra mega granddaddy of all ant baits: Pecan Sandies!  All those little crumbs in the pictures above are delicious cookie crumbs!  Ants apparently find them irresistible.  The instructions for School of Ants say to leave the vials for an hour so the ants have enough time to discover the cookies inside, so I left them to feast and headed to my paved area.

Finding green spaces is a problem at my house, but paved areas are not.  I live in a complex of several duplexes and there’s one big parking lot that connects all the units.  I walked 5 feet out my front door to the end of my carport and set my vials down on the asphalt:

Paved area

Paved area

Easy!  I left those for an hour too, wondering what sort of exciting ants I was going to get.  I’d driven the fire ants out of my yard about 3 weeks before I got my kit, so I was super excited to see what ants had moved back into my yard.  When my hour was up, I rushed out back to see what I caught in my green area and saw… fire ants!  More $&$*#$@ fire ants and absolutely nothing else!  Same thing for the vials in the front.  After I capped my vials and put them in the freezer to kill the ants (the preferred method according to the instructions), I spent the next hour baby powdering my fire ants and setting up lines of diatomaceous earth along the fences to keep them from coming back in.  In spite of the fact that I didn’t find any exciting new ants in my vials, I was happy to catch the fire ants moving back in before they became a huge problem again.  And they haven’t been back since!  Woohoo!

So back to that orange capped vial.  As a thank you for participating (at least as far as I could tell), the School of Ants team included a vial in which I could put any insects I wanted to have identified.  Want to know what that fly in your house is?  Catch it, freeze it, and put it in the Everything Else vial when you send the kit back!  I briefly flirted with the idea of putting something really hard in my vials, like a blepharacerid pupa, but that would have been mean.  I am capable of identifying my own insects after all, but how great is it that they’re willing to trade some insect identification time for your ants?  Give a little, get a little – win-win for everyone!

I filled out the data sheet, froze my ants, and mailed my kit back.  The ants will be counted and identified at some point.  My location will be placed on the map on the School of Ants homepage, and – and this is really awesome – I’ll be able to look up a list of the ants that the researchers identified from my yard!  I’ll finally know for certain whether my fire ant is the native fire ant or the invasive red imported fire ant.  I think it’s the native ant, but I really want that confirmation.

School of Ants has been incredibly successful!  They quickly mailed all their kits and are mostly only supplying them to school groups now, but they’re still letting people participate.  Now they’re asking people to provide their own Pecan Sandies and place the crumbs on index cards in green and paved areas.   You then dump the card, the cookie crumbs, and any ants into plastic bags before you freeze them and mail them off.  There’s also now an online form for the datasheet.  I imagine the researchers learned what I did with my citizen science project last year – automation is good!  It can save untold hours later.

So.  School of Ants.  Do it!  A few minutes of your time, a few supplies, and a little postage can really make a difference.  And, you’ll walk away knowing what ants live in your yard.  Everybody wins!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © TheDragonflyWoman.com

My War Against Fire Ants

If you follow me on Facebook, you know that I woke up covered in stinging ants a few weeks ago.  Needless to say, it wasn’t a great way to start the day.  I sought out and massacred every ant I could find the moment I was conscious enough to do so.  Then I wondered what kind of ant they had been and IDed them.  Fire ants!  In my house!  In my bed!  But one day of waking up with ants in my bed seemed to be the extent of the problem.  They had disappeared, so I didn’t think much more of it.

vacuum

My favorite non-toxic ant control device! Just suck 'em up with the hose and repeat as needed.

Over 4th of July weekend I went away to visit family.  The day before I drove back home, I received a text from my husband: “Ants have invaded the bathroom.  Thousands of them.  They’re on every f*****g surface.  Please come home tomorrow and save me from the ants.”  I thought my husband was overreacting.  We’ve had winged ants invade our home after the first monsoon rain of every summer for the past 3 years and they’ve never caused any real problems.  I told my husband to suck them up with the vacuum (that’s what I do) and didn’t hear anything more about it, so I figured he’d taken care of it.

But then I got home and saw the ants myself.  It wasn’t the usual post-monsoon home invasion of harmless winged ants.  No, it was a massive invasion of fire ants!  I tried to vacuum them up, but our vacuum had broken.  I didn’t have any bug killers (I don’t use them because we have pets), so I spent 2 hours picking ants up with a paintbrush laced with rubbing alcohol because it was all I had on hand.  I killed several thousand of them.  Then I did it again an hour later.  Then again.  There were too many for me to handle alone and I had been stung many times, so I finally caved and called Terminix (my landlord unfortunately has a contract with them).   That went absolutely nowhere, as usual – no call back, no appointment scheduled.  Nothing.  Meanwhile I still had thousands of mean, stinging ants in my bathroom.

The next morning, things got even worse.  I opened my eyes to the most beautiful, enormous spider hunting wasp I’d ever seen sitting on the screen door in my bedroom, so I prepared to catch and photograph it.  I scared the wasp opening the door, but I ran after it.  15 seconds later, I ran back into the house as fast as I could.  I was COVERED in fire ants and being stung repeatedly.  I squished them all, but I couldn’t believe how many ants were in the yard!  I ended up with about 20 big red welts on my feet and legs where I’d been stung.  My dog Monkey went out later.  He ran back in the same way I had a few seconds later.  I brushed the ants off his legs and officially declared war.  Ants stinging me is annoying.  Ants stinging my dogs means war!

ant control

Fire ant control agents

Because Teminix wasn’t going to solve my ant problem, I turned to the internet for information on how to do it myself.  My department’s integrated pest management people recommended using a poisoned ant bait called Amdro to control fire ants.  Because I have dogs, I am very reluctant to use poisons, but I put it on my list anyway.  I was desperate!  The ants supposedly gather the bait and carry it back to their nests so that all the ants, including the queen, eat the poisoned bait and die.  I looked into natural products and lots of people recommended diatomaceous earth.  I’m still not exactly sure how this kills ants (there are several competing ideas), but it was worth a try.  Breathing in diatomaceous earth is rather like breathing in powdered glass, and it can severely dry your skin/mucous membranes if you touch or inhale it.  Still, I figured it was safer than poison and added it to my list.   Many people also recommended baby powder and swore by the results.  I didn’t think there was a chance that it would work (why should it?), but baby powder is cheap and relatively harmless, so onto the list it went!  I bought everything on my list, the Amdro and diatomaceous earth from Home Depot and talc-based baby powder from the grocery store.  It cost about $20 for all of it.

diatomaceous earth

A diatomaceous earth barrier. Ants had to walk across this line of diatomaceous earth to enter my home.

My attack was simple.  First, with the help of the most wonderful friend ever (how many friends are willing to risk being stung by fire ants to help you?), I raked up the leaves in my yard so I could find the nests.  Many of the nests were under rocks, so I waited until the ants were less active and dumped ant bait under them.  I wanted the poisoned bait out of reach of the dogs, so I only put it under rocks.  I then spread a thick line of diatomaceous earth along the base of the house to act as a barrier for ants that were coming in from the yard.  Indoors, I thickly sprinkled baby powder all over the shower head and along the loose caulking around the base of the shower, the two areas where most of the ants were coming in.  For good measure,  I also baby powdered the base of the toilet and sink.

The following day, I went into the bathroom and was surprised to see that there were only about 30 ants running around.  I used my paintbrush on them and that was pretty much that!  I’ve only seen a total of 4 ants in the two weeks since!  I don’t know how or why it worked, but the baby powder seems to have actually worked.  I’m leaving it down a few more days, then I’ll just vacuum it up (with the new, working vacuum).  Easy!

There were also far fewer ants in the yard, but there was one line of them stretching all the way across the yard still.  When I looked closer, I noticed that the ants were all carrying larvae with them.  I had them on the run!  I ran inside and grabbed the baby powder and heavily powdered the entire line.   The next day, my yard was virtually fire ant free!  There are a few other species of ants in the yard still, but they’re not problem ants and I’m going to leave them alone.  But the fire ants are gone!

dog in yard

My dog Monkey sleeping in the fire ant-free yard!

I can once again use my bathroom without being stung.  I can chase bugs in my flip flops to my heart’s content.  My dogs can spend hours each day lying in the dirt, basking in the hot sun.  It’s glorious!  And if you’re wondering just how happy I am with the results, the very existence of this blog post should be a good indication.  Never though I would EVER write a pest control post!  But these ants…  They were awful!  They stung without provocation and there were SO many of them I just couldn’t ignore them.  I am not sorry to see them go either.

I think the method I used will work for others.  My friend who helped rake leaves had fire ants invade her house shortly after mine and my method worked well for her.  I also baby powdered the larger black ants (no idea what kind) my sister recently discovered in her pantry at the Grand Canyon.  They left immediately, though they might come back because we didn’t figure out where they were coming in and create a barrier there.  I’m not convinced that any of the methods I used will work in humid areas either (I do, after all, live in a desert), but if you live in a dry area and have fire ants, it might be worth trying a combination of the control agents I used.  They worked very quickly and very cheaply for me!

Today’s post was a little later than usual, but I should be back to my normal posting schedule now.  Check out Wordless Wednesday this week!  It features a group of amazingly beautiful ladybugs.

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © TheDragonflyWoman.com

Friday 5: Insects The Dogs Ate

I’ve got two dogs.  This one was part of the bargain when I started dating the man who is now my husband:

Cotton

Cotton

Her name is Cotton and she’s a purebred coton de tulear.  She’s also purebred crazy!  I’m not a little white fluffy dog person at all, but I think Cotton’s pretty awesome as far as LWF dogs go.  She has issues.  Big issues.  I’m pretty sure she was a cat in a former life actually.  She doesn’t like to be touched, unless of course she decides she wants to be touched, in which case you are obligated to immediately drop whatever you are doing and pet her RIGHT NOW!  She won’t eat the same food for more than a few days in a row.  She scratches the hell out of your legs.  And, she is a fierce hunter.  See what I mean?  Cat!

This one is my baby:

Monkey

Monkey

Monkey is a mutt (obviously).  I rescued him from the pound, my reward to myself for passing my comprehensive exams.  And what a reward he’s been!  He came down with parvo two weeks after I got him and nearly died.  He came home from intensive care with a stubborn case of kennel cough, which eventually turned into pneumonia because the normal medications didn’t work.  He caught valley fever while he had the pneumonia and underwent treatment for that for about 6 months.  Next came inflammatory bowel disease (that’s right, my dog has a canine gastroenterologist) and most recently luxating patellas (might be getting an orthopedic veterinarian soon) and a skin disorder.  He averages one vet visit every 2 months.  But Monkey is worth every penny and every worry because he’s the sweetest, most loving, wonderful dog I could imagine having.  In spite of all of his illnesses, he’s full of life and personality.  He’s also a total mama’s boy.  I adore him.

My dogs are polar opposites.  Monkey craves (nay, demands!) attention while Cotton wouldn’t dream of demeaning herself with such base behavior.  Monkey is prissy and very clean while Cotton would happily spend the rest of her life rolling in a big ol’ pile of duck poop (the only reason why I’m convinced she’s actually a dog deep down).  Cotton is very nervous and barks at everyone and everything while Monkey would invite Satan himself into the house if it meant he’d be petted for a few minutes.  To hell with guarding the house!  That suspicious person knocking on the door might pat his head or scratch his belly!

They’re also very different in the way they handle bugs.  Monkey isn’t at all sure what to make of insects.  I think they scare him, which puts him firmly into the male camp in our household.  :)  Cotton’s hunting instincts kick in when she encounters an insect (she belongs to the female camp) and she’ll happily eat insects that are bothering her.  She’ll chase flies for twenty or thirty minutes at a time, even launching her whole body into the air trying to catch them (once again, cat characteristic).  Occasionally one of these ends up in her mouth and is quickly dispatched into her stomach:

fly

Fly

Both dogs are incredibly jealous when the other one gets something that they don’t though.  It really comes into play in their dealings with insects around the house and jealousy can override their usual instincts.  One night Monkey was playing with a click beetle he found in the bathroom:

click beetle

Click beetle

He kept putting his paw on it and then jerking back when the beetle clicked.  He seemed to be nervously trying to figure it out, but then Cotton noticed he was up to something and ran in and ate the beetle so he couldn’t have it.  He chased her through the house for a while, presumably trying to get it back, but it was down the hatch the instant Cotton got it into her mouth.  Cotton doesn’t mess around.

Another night I was in the back yard taking photos by the porch light and Cotton was toying with a cicada.  Monkey was very upset that she was playing with something that he wasn’t, so he ran over, grabbed the cicada in his mouth, and ran into the house with it.  It was still alive, and considering his nervousness around insects, I can’t imagine it was pleasant for him to carry a screaming, angry cicada in his mouth.  He wasn’t about to swallow it, but he certainly wasn’t going to let Cotton have it either!  10 minutes later, I finally extracted this slimy, dead cicada from his mouth:

cicada

Cicada

You can’t see the teeth marks from this angle, but the deep puncture wounds in its back were likely the source of this poor bug’s demise.

We’ve got a ton of these little ants in the house:

ants

Ants on my kitchen counter.

Both dogs will eat these when they crawl onto their fur.  I’ve seen them stomp a few with their paws too.  I don’t think these ants sting, so I don’t worry about the dogs eating them too much.  The ants annoy the dogs and they respond by licking them up and swallowing them or crushing them.  But there are also a lot of these:

cricket

Cricket

Monkey doesn’t like crickets at all and gives them a very wide berth.  Cotton eats them like candy.  She’s even tracked and eaten them before.  This is great because I hate the noise crickets make.  I’m happy that my little huntress exterminates them for me so I don’t have to do it myself.  Go crazy little Cotton!

Thankfully neither of my dogs have ever eaten any of the stupid things other dogs in Tucson have eaten.  The beagle I grew up with once ate a massive tomato hornworm feeding on a tomato plant and vomited more than it should be possible for a dog to vomit.  Yea for nightshades!  A friend of mine’s LWF dog licked one of the psychedelic toads we get in Tucson and nearly died.  There’s none of that going on at my place.  Neither dog has ever encountered a toad or a rattlesnake or a scorpion.  Monkey’s too chicken to eat most insects and Cotton sleeps 21 hours a day so she misses a lot of what’s going on around her.  Yep, my dogs live a pretty sheltered life.  It’s good to be a dog in the Dragonfly Woman’s home:

Monkey on back

Cotton on back

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