What Visited My Blacklight Last Week (Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday)

I am part of a grant that is bringing together science and writing by partnering science museums, like the one where I work, with local chapters of the National Writing Project to create K-12 educational programs.  I’ll share more specifics about the activities we’re offering later (they’ll be online, so you can participate too!), but the activity that my team is developing and rolling out to the public next month explores nocturnal insects.  As my team’s science museum representative, it falls to me to create the science-related content that supports our activities – field guides, photos, videos, etc.  One of the things the English teachers and poets on my team really wanted was a time-lapse video of my blacklight sheet.  So, I took a camera out a few nights ago, snapped 2700 photos of my sheet, and this is the result:

Now, what I get on my blacklighting sheet in North Carolina is nothing compared to what I used to see in Arizona, but it’s still interesting to see what came to the light.  My favorite part: the damsel bug that shows up in about the last 30 seconds and starts eating other insects on the sheet.  :)

Anyway, I hope you all enjoy a glimpse at the insects I’ve been seeing at my backyard blacklight recently!

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

It’s been a long week, so though I started a Friday 5, I’m not going to finish it before I fall asleep… Instead, I wanted to quickly share a video of some eastern green June beetles I encountered today as I walked past a bald cypress.  There was a lot of frantic buzzing going on, so I peered into the tree and saw this:

Apparently there was a shortage of female June bugs in the area as a good dozen males were flying around the immediate area and several males were attempting to mate with the one female in this video at one time.  I felt a little sorry for her, pursued by so many amorous males at once…

The June bugs appeared about two weeks later than usual here this year (that seems to be the case for many species in my area of North Carolina), but they seem more numerous than I’ve ever seen them too.  SO many Jung bugs flying around!  But I love it.  What gorgeous, fun animals.

I am going to try to get the post I started up tomorrow, but we’ll see if I get it finished.  Here’s hoping I’ll feel a little more energetic tomorrow!

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

Scarab Grub Locomotion (Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday)

Hey everyone!  Long time no see again – been really busy at work and long hours have been preventing my blogging.  However, wanted to share this video I took last weekend after my coworker brought in a scarab beetle larva she found outside.  I set it on my desk, turned my back on it for a minute, and when I went back to take a closer look it was gone!  We looked around for it and found it speeding across the floor like this:

It’s crawling UPSIDE DOWN!!!  Super crazy cool.  Our hypothesis: it’s so huge and fat that the little legs aren’t strong enough to drag that massive body along, so it uses this “backstroke” sort of approach instead.

Yep, nature is cool.  And a little gross.  But mostly cool.

Going to try to get a post up on Friday!!  I have a huge backlog of stuff I want to post, so here’s hoping I’ll have a chance to get one of them online this week…

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

Friday 5 (on Saturday): Capturing Insect Behaviors

A few days ago, the place where I work started a new weekly activity, a nature story time for young children.  After reading a story about butterflies, the leader took everyone up to our native plant garden to look at some live butterflies.  They were totally upstaged by a black rat snake sitting curled up in the wisteria vine, but there was a good crowd wandering around looking at things.  At one point, my boss called me over to look at something, a group of insects flying over the grass.  I told him what I thought they were, but I didn’t give it much thought as I needed to get my volunteers ready to do the weekly ladybug sampling.  I was about to go into the office yesterday morning when something flew by that reminded me of that little swarm of insects and how interesting it was.  So, I took my camera down to see if I could film it and was happy to walk away with a short recording.  Later in the day, I ended up with some time to kill after work and before my evening moth program, so I headed back down to the garden to take some photos.  I ended up with several videos of fun insect behaviors, so I thought I’d share some with you!  First up, the little swarm…

Swarm of Scoliids

Scoliids are awesome wasps!  They’re gorgeous creatures with bold markings and you can find them by the dozens at flowers in my area of North Carolina. Now I’m not entirely sure what the scoliids in the video (Scolia dubia) are doing, but there are two good possibilities.  Scoliids are parasites of scarab beetles, including the green June beetles we have in very great abundance around here. That area where they were swarming is also an area where the beetles have been very active until recently.  The wasps could have swarmed the area because there were a lot of good beetle larvae to parasitize by laying their eggs on them!  The other option: males are known to do little mating dances for females, a wiggly little S shape or figure 8s.  You can see these sorts of patterns in the video, and I know at least some members of the swarm were males, so it could have been a bunch of males showing off their sexy dances for females.  Either way, it was super cool to see so many scoliids flying around in one area!

Munching Pipevine

The woolly pipevine is currently COVERED with pipevine swallowtail caterpillars!  I’ve shared some photos of their awesome defense mechanism before, but the video above highlights their feeding behavior.  I don’t care as much about how it looks as how it sounds.  If you can’t hear it, turn the volume up. You can hear those little buggers chewing!  You can stand 5 feet back from the vine and hear these little popping noises and it’s all the caterpillars crunching up pipevine leaves.  I think it’s fantastic!

Off to Pupate

Once the voracious little pipevine swallowtail caterpillars have eaten enough to grow to a certain size, they wander off to pupate away from the vine.  The video above shows a caterpillar wandering.  That little guy was surprisingly fast!  Desperate to pupate?

Courting

There have been a lot of butterflies around recently as they’re getting a late start on their summer activities.  I came across the scene above in the native plant garden, a male and female variegated fritillary getting ready to get it on.  Bug porn!  The pair ended up being scared away by a bird or something that flew overhead, so I only got the courtship, not the result…

And last, but not least:

Gulf Fritillary Nectaring

Apparently these butterflies are exciting here!  Considering I’ve only been here two summers and I’ve seen them both summers, they didn’t seem that exciting to me, but I was talking to one of the leaders of the annual Wake County Butterfly Count today and he told me he’s only seen them in any sort of abundance only three years out of the 50 or so years he’s been watching butterflies.  Perhaps their movement into North Carolina is due to climate change?  Or perhaps the warm winter we had?  Who knows, but they’re beautiful so I can’t say I’m sorry they’re here.

Because I’m getting this up on Saturday and not Friday, I think it’s only fair to share a bonus video with you!  This isn’t an insect behavior, but one that I think is really entertaining:

For whatever reason, the juvenile hawks seem to LOVE the wind turbine!  You’ll see them up there riding around like this every now and again.  It makes me smile every time I see it.

I have had a great bug weekend and have more to look forward to tomorrow, so my weekend’s been going great so far.  Hope you all are having excellent weekends as well!

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

Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday: Nom Nom Nom

When I was a kid, I never would have expected that I would own a cell phone, that I would spend a lot of my time sharing things I write via the internet, or that anyone other than James Bond could capture videos with a tiny device that you could hold in your hand.  Younger me carried an enormous 126mm camera around with her, took 3.5 inch square photos, and had to take them to a drug store and pay someone to have them developed.  Take a moment to appreciate this fact: we can do truly magical things with our phones!  Case in point, I took this video last week to test out Instagram’s new video function.  A cell phone, an inexpensive macro lens attachment, and a woolly pipevine plant, and here’s what you get:

That’s a pipevine swallowtail caterpillar, munching away on its host plant.  How awesome is it that we can do this sort of thing with our phones??

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

Friday 5: Why Jumping Spiders Will Always Be My Favorite Spiders

I haven’t always been the biggest fan of spiders, but there’s one group that I’ve loved for as long as I can remember: the jumping spiders in the Salticidae family.  These charismatic spiders, sometimes called “salties” by their enthusiasts, are intelligent, expressive, interactive, and downright adorable compared to most spiders. But don’t take my word for it!  Today’s Friday 5 is all about convincing you all that salties are the best.

Reason Number One: The Eyes

Check  out the eyes on this little saltie, compliments of the magnificent Thomas Shahan:

Saltie eyes

Close up of the eyes of an adult female Paraphidippus aurantius. Photo by Thomas Shahan, used under Creative Commons. Original image available at http://www.flickr.com/photos/opoterser/4228767271/in/photostream/

Salties have very large eyes and are incredibly visual little spiders.   Their eyes are part of what give them their personalities as they are quite capable of and willing to follow you with their eyes – they can really watch you in a way most other spiders cannot.  (They’ll also interact with their reflections in camera lenses, which results in some of the really great head on shots of salties that you see around the web and among Shahan’s work.)  I think their ability to watch you and interact with you makes them seem a little less alien than many spiders – and much more palatable to more people.

Reason Number Two: The Hairdos!

Some salties have wild hairdos.  They can have little mohawks, beards, mustaches, spiky hair…  I think the hair makes these guys absolutely adorable!  I mean, how can anyone be scared of an animal, even a spider, with such ridiculous looking bedhead?:

Saltie hair

Hairdo of the female jumping spider Phidippus mystaceus. Photo by Thomas Shahan, used under Creative Commons. Original image available at http://www.flickr.com/photos/opoterser/6253069072/in/photostream

Fabulous!

Reason Number Three: Saltie Mating Dances

If you’ve never seen one of the saltie mating dances, you’re in for a treat today!  Researcher Jürgen Otto works with Australian peacock spiders and has captured some hilarious footage of their mating dances, including this:

SO funny!  I’ve watched this several times already and it makes me laugh every time.  Nature is so bizarre.  And awesome.  Completely awesome.

Reason Number Four: Peacock Jumping
Spiders Rock.  Enough Said.

The peacock spider in the previous video was pretty impressive, but they don’t hold a candle to this amazing, brilliantly colored beast, also recorded by Jürgen Otto:

Isn’t it great to live in a world where such crazy looking animals exist?  Peacock spiders alone would make me think that salties are the best spiders, even without  all the other crazy things they’ve got going on.  They’re just that cool.

Reason Number 5: They Are Amazing

I saw a TED talk a few weeks ago by Mark Berman about appreciating insects and their relatives.  I really enjoyed it, especially as promoting insect awareness and a greater love for insects is one of my personal goals.  It’s a bit longer and more academic than the other videos I’ve included here, but it’s well worth watching.  And why is it in my saltie Friday 5 post?  Because Berman uses salties as an example of an amazing arthropod – and has more hilarious video footage of saltie mating rituals to share:

I really love the quote at the end:

“The more moments in time you take to look again, the more amazed you’ll be by the world we live in.  But I suggest you shouldn’t be surprised.  You should come to get used to amazing things in your world.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself!  Love the salties and be amazed by them – but never be surprised by any of their fantastic and wonderful traits.

Go salties!

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

Well Nigh Wordless Wednesday: Scorpion Eating

Last week, I fed one of the emperor scorpions we use in the insect outreach program I’m working with and I was surprised to see him grab the cricket with his claws, crush it, pop it into his mouth, and start chewing moments after I dropped the cricket in.  I hadn’t ever watched a scorpion eat up close before, so instead of a photo this week, I give you this short video so you can share my experience.  Note the movement of the mouthparts as he grinds up his meal:

How completely awesome is it to see those claws emerging from his head to help him pulverize and manipulate his food?  I was blown away!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © 2011 DragonflyWoman.wordpress.com