Monday, May 31, 2010

Arachnophobes look away

I found one of my favorite spiders today, the Fishing spider (Dolomedes tenebrosus).

Whenever someone comes to me, holds their hands 6" apart, and proclaims "the spider was THIS BIG!" I know that it was a fishing spider, and that their memory was a bit exaggerated. Their maximum legspan is about 3", which is still impressive for a spider in the Northeast US.

They are not dangerous, as evidenced below. Though perhaps it's only by luck that I play with so many spiders and have not yet been bitten. I think this species is particularly beautiful.
This is what I'm sure will freak some people out... I was letting her crawl all over me, and got a short video clip of her running up my arm. Those toes tickle!

Injured tree frog

The neighborhood kids brought me a surprise today, that they found in their pool - a fat female gray tree frog (Hyla versicolor). She had the most beautiful shades of green in her markings, but I noticed one flaw - her left hind foot was hanging off and mostly missing, with her bare leg bone exposed. She seemed to get along fine, though - looked well fed and active.
She has been released in my backyard, as the pond is rather a hotspot for gray tree frogs during the mating season. And there are no pools nearby to confuse her.


I was outside, and my mother was taking a walk around the pond. Suddenly she yelled "Come quick! Turtle! Should I catch it?" I shouted "YES", of course, and ran over.

It turned out to be a large female eastern painted turtle (Chrysemys picta), with her back end encrusted in mud - I surmised from laying eggs. We could not find evidence of a nesting site nearby, but I was excited at the prospect of baby turtles in the pond soon.

Later on, conducting my own walk around the pond, I paused to look at insects swimming near the water's edge. Just a few inches in front of me, through the leaves popped up a tiny head. Apparently some baby painted turtles have already hatched!

"Did you find your friend?"

Those were the words my dad said to me this morning. I had just showered and changed after my trip to the gym. I knew he could only mean one thing - he had caught something, and it was somewhere in the house. I did not think it could be in my room, as I had not noticed anything out of place.

"Well, you might want to check your windowsil"I pulled back my curtain, and sure enough, there was a "friend" there - a beautiful eastern tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus). It is one of my favorite butterflies, mostly because as a child they gave me the best exercise as I chased them down the street with my butterfly net.

Apparently my father was in the garden, and had captured it with his bare hands! I guess that instinct never leaves.
After a few photos, I carefully picked it up and released it outside. It is always thrilling to have such a beautiful animal in my hands (and to have surprises waiting for me in my room).

Sunday, May 30, 2010

R.I.P. Stumper the rabbit

Sadly, I came home from graduation to some bad news. Our rabbit, Stumper, had passed away. She had been losing weight gradually the past few months, and we took her to the vet once we saw her legs wobbling a bit. It was due to an infection of E. cuniculi, normally not an issue except in older rabbits with diminished immune systems. She quickly succumbed to the infection and subsequent paralysis of her legs, despite medication. She was pampered to the end, was dearly loved as a member of our family, and will be missed.

I never wrote a post about it, as I was taking a break from blogging at the time, but my beloved cat Skyler passed away in January. She lived to be 18 years old. She was like a sister to me, as we grew up together - I picked her out from a litter of kittens when I was only three years old. It still feels odd being at home, expecting to see her. Her brother, Sherman, is still with us, but slowly declining due to his thyroid and other health issues.

It's been a rough year so far as our animal family is concerned.

B.Sc. in Agricultural and Environmental Sciences

It's official!

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Driving back up to Montreal tomorrow for graduation! Finally! Classes/exams ended a month ago, but I guess McGill likes to take its time with graduation ceremonies.

Watch out, when I get back, I'll have a bachelor's degree in Agricultural and Environmental Sciences - Applied Zoology.

Monday, May 24, 2010

How sad... failure to emerge

Last fall, while I was away at college, my father caught an Io moth caterpillar. He kept it in a cage, and it soon pupated.

I've watched over the cage since I arrived home, not wanting to miss the moment when it emerged.

Finally, today I ripped open the silk covering to get to the pupae itself, to see if it was still alive (the pupae will often wiggle if you disturb them).

Much to my disappointment, the moth had already tried to emerge - and failed.
So sorry you didn't make it, little guy.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Craft show adventure

What a weekend! This has been my best craft show yet. Not only were there some beautiful moths, but the people were fantastic, the weather was great, and I had a decent number of sales.

Here I am posing with Cedric the centipede, my mascot.
I whipped up that little vendor's apron the day before the show, it worked out rather well.

I think my set up was much improved over last year's craft shows. The screen on the left was salvaged from a thrift store - it helped grab peoples attention. Half of the items on the screen sold!
I'd write more but I'm exhausted, my throat hurts from talking so much, and I have an attention starved parrot sitting on my lap who needs some snuggle time.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Moth results

Have had some interesting guesses, but most of you were right. These are all photos I took this morning. What an exciting day! I had never seen a Cecropia moth in the wild before. I had seen a Luna moth, but had never captured one. I do have a Polyphemus moth in my collection, caught when I was a preteen - but I had never seen one in the wild since then - until today.

Moth #1: Polyphemus moth (Antheraea polyphemus)
(Guess by: Ted C. MacRae)

Moth #2: Cecropia moth (Hyalophora cecropia)
(Guess by: Abitabite)

Moth #3: Luna moth (Actias luna)
(Guess by: shoelessjane, Ted C. MacRae, Robert Pace)

Moth faces - who am I?

I had such an amazing time at the craft show today... starting with an armful of large moths, one of which I had never seen in the wild before. They were clinging to the outside of the pavilion where the show was being held.

Before rambling on about how excited I was, I thought I'd offer up a little challenge.

Can you identify all three moths to the species level, just based upon their faces?

Moth #1
Moth #2
Moth #3
Aren't they just adorable?
After someone has gotten all three, I'll post more complete pictures.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Honing your senses - tree frog hunting

One of my favorite summer pastimes is hunting for tree frogs. Gray tree frog (Hyla versicolor) males gather around the pond in our backyard, and sing for the ladies. It's a good thing the pond is far enough away from the house, otherwise I'm not sure we'd ever get to sleep!

A few times when I was younger, my dad would catch a bunch of male tree frogs, put them in a jar, and sneak them into my room as I slept. Their sudden, and very loud, calling would startle me and throw me into a bit of a frenzy trying to find where he hid them. (You can be sure when I have kids I'll be doing the same thing.)

For my outdoor adventures I bring a flashlight, but only for when I think I've found a frog. The point of the exercise, for me, is to see how well I can find a courting tree frog by sound alone.

This can be tricky, especially the way they can throw their voice, or when there's a group of them together. You can think you're right on top of a frog, when it's really five feet away.

Tonight I also brought out my camera, to see if I could catch any frogs in action...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A herd of caterpillars

Some fuzzy things have descended upon my work space - I discovered a stash of fake fur fabric I had forgotten about, and decided to put it to use. I'm preparing for a craft show this weekend, and wanted to make a few more small/simple things.

Here are two American Dagger Moth (Acronicta americana) caterpillars. One is white, one is yellowish... in the wild they come in a range of shades.
My dad said they look rather like sheep. But they've got big spikes!
And note the labels - from now on all of my plushies and drawings, sold through my shop or through shows, will have their taxonomic hierarchy attached.
Ok caterpillars don't actually have eyes with pupils like that... but who can resist?

Two other species I have made are the Hickory Tussock Moth (Lophocampa caryae) and the American Lappet Moth (Phylloderma americana).
These are not in my shop yet, but will be if they don't sell this weekend.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


It seems you'd be hard pressed to find a person who isn't fascinated by trilobites. Strange looking, abundant creatures which emerged during the Cambrian Explosion, they dominated the sea floor invertebrate fauna for millions of years.

I've always loved looking for fossils. My grandparents have plenty hidden in the gravel of their driveway, so when family festivities get tiresome, I'll be out there digging up crinoid stems and brachiopods. Yes, I still do, just like when I was 7. I could never find a trilobite though! I think I might have a piece of one in my fossil collection somewhere, but I cannot seem to find it.
I recently went to visit my boyfriend, who also has a gravel driveway. The rocks were trucked in from somewhere else in the Catskills; this whole area of NY is full of fossils.

I found a chunk of slate which was cracked into a series of plates, and after separating them, I found a Cambrian trilobite! Only a portion of the body was sticking out of the rock, mostly the middle lobe. On the left is the imprint.
I wish I could reveal the whole fossil, but I'm not sure how I could do that without accidentally destroying it.

I've been inspired to make some more fossil plushies - none of which are in the shop yet, as I'm trying to build up some craft show inventory. Here's an example.
First show of the summer is this weekend, at Lakeside Farms in Ballston Lake, NY! Just a few minutes off of exit 11 on the Northway (I-87).
Click HERE for directions

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Inverts of the Arboretum

As promised, my last trip to the Arboretum in Montreal also revealed plenty of invertebrates.

Mourning cloaks (Nymphalis antiopa) are among the earliest butterflies to emerge in the spring, as they hibernate as adults. This one was spending most of its morning sunning on the pathway.

Herps of the Arboretum

Yes I've been home for two weeks now, but I thought I'd share one of the last days I spent in Montreal as a student.

My friend and I went to the Arboretum, the largest green space on the island. We didn't expect much, as it was a chilly day, still quite early in the spring. We were pleasantly surprised!

I'll start with the herps.
Under the first log my friend flipped, she found a blue spotted salamander (Ambystoma laterale). They're one of my favorites. Didn't get out the camera til we came to a small pond, and we couldn't resist getting a few shots of the eastern newts (Notophthalmus viridescens) we kept catching. They were rather sluggish due to the cool water.
Newt butt!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Creation of the Weird Bug Lady

When people ask how I became interested in insects or other animals, my answer is simple. Being outdoors and learning about wildlife has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. With help and encouragement from my dad, it became natural to explore and question everything I saw around me.

And, of course, it's just so fun to catch things!

Looking through photo albums at home, it's easy to see the pattern. On vacation? Catching lizards. In the backyard or visiting relatives? Butterfly net.
Read on for more pics...

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Home again

It hasn't quite sunk in, yet, that I won't be returning to McGill. Maybe it'll hit a bit harder when I finally graduate at the end of the month.

So I'm back at home for a few months until I move to CT.

I'm ready to start tackling my pile of custom orders (still not taking new orders yet, sorry!), preparing for shows, and maybe even sewing/drawing just for fun. This is my full time job right now.

I've added a bunch of sharpie drawings to the shop, and have many more to list as soon as I find suitable frames. Since I didn't have my sewing supplies during exam period, I drew instead.

Here are some together:
Top left: Spiny Crab Spider
Top right: Peacock Jumping Spider
Middle: Death's Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar
Bottom left: Red-Eyed Treefrog
Bottom right: Ant-Mimicking Treehopper