Saturday, July 31, 2010


Life has been crazy lately, and it's about to get even crazier.

Moving into my new apartment in CT tomorrow.
Signed up for classes.
Tickets booked for my week long trip to Arizona.
Signed up to TA an intro biology course.

I probably won't get a chance to blog for a while...

It's been a great summer!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

What's cuter than a baby spider?

Yesterday I checked on the jumping spider momma and her egg sac, and found a few babies starting to crawl out of her silk enclosure. I used tweezers to pull apart some of the silk, and found it full of little wiggling spiderlings! The mother was not pleased at being disturbed, and looked considerably thin. I don't think she ate anything while guarding her eggs, though I did put plenty of appropriately sized prey in the cage.
I removed the silk covering completely, and brought the spiderlings and their mother out to the herb garden behind our house. This area is always teeming with insects, and hopefully will provide enough prey and shelter for these little ones.
Oh, and the answer to the title of this post?
A whole pile of baby spiders.


On 7/18, my white-dotted prominent emerged from its pupa. You actually can't see the white spots very well, but they're there. I love the tuft of hairs on top of the thorax, looks rather like a mohawk.
It was quite fun rearing this individual from an early instar caterpillar up through adulthood - hopefully now it will continue to have a successful life out in the wild.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Mr. Toad's new suit

My latest article has been published in Kaatskill Life magazine (the "Kaatskill Kritters" section is always written by either my father or myself, and we do all our own photography):
I love how they cropped my photo of the toad - what a face! Funny how toads always look grumpy. The next issue should have my article about sea monkeys/brine shrimp. My pieces are all only a page long, and meant for a very general audience. I am usually quite tempted to go into more detail, but I think people would rather have more useful information than be dazzled by taxonomy.

Kaatskill Life is a great local magazine, if any of you live in the Catskills of NY or surrounding counties, I'd give it a whirl. Subscription rate is $19 per year for four quarterly magazines. I've also seen them in plenty of shops.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


It's a good thing those neighbor boys keep coming over, they always end up finding something I have overlooked.

Look what one of them found today, after I had passed by a patch of queen anne's lace flowers without examining them: one of my favorite insects, the ambush bug (Phymata erosa).
As you can see, she's been put in an enclosure and given some flies to eat. She caught this one after about half an hour.

I did not realize they would be out this early, there is no goldenrod yet, which is where I usually find them. I'll be keeping my eyes peeled now. It's always neat to find ambush bugs in the wild and watch their behaviors - mating, competing for mates/territory, catching prey and sucking it dry... I've seen an ambush bug with a bumble bee in its grip before! They are quite adept at ambushing prey - hence their name.

A moth... already?

Remember those camouflaged loopers? And the one that made a pupa?
Well that did not last long, only a bit over a week later, here is the moth:
I had never seen such a beautiful little green moth before. Wingspan was about 2cm.
The adults are referred to as the "wavy-lined emerald", which is certainly an apt description.
And thankfully now I can regain use of that large critter-keeper cage the pupa was hogging.


Sticky the stick insect... real original, eh? Anyone want to come up with a better name?
The boys brought over a little northern walking stick (Diapheromera femorata) they had found in their yard.
Considering the years I had spent at the Lyman museum caring for their stick insects, I knew just what to do. An enclosure was quickly set up with paper towels, a few branches, a vial of water with a hole in the cap to place oak leaves, and a little water dish.

He/she has already eaten a few big chunks out of an oak leaf. I'm definitely keeping this little guy for a while.

Whose eggs are those?

I was examining the dill plants in our herb garden, hoping to see some eggs or caterpillars of the black swallowtail. Instead, I came across these curious eggs on stalks.
Of course, I knew right away what they were. Do you know?


Well that large jumping spider was fat for a reason - she was full of eggs.
As soon as I put her into her enclosure she started making a web hammock, and avoided the food items I dropped near here. She did attack a cricket, but did not eat it.
Soon I saw why she was so nervous.
A big pile of orange eggs!I'm a little worried, because I've read that mother jumping spiders will often avoid eating while they are guarding their eggs. She has webbed herself in there pretty well, she does not appear willing to venture out. Guess we shall wait and see.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A new addition

I'm on my way to the pet store to pick up some small crickets... if this jumping spider (Phidippus audax) eats well, she'll get a nice cage and be my pet for a while.

She was captured by my neighbors - I haven't seen a jumping spider this large since I was about 10 years old! Most definitely a female, and I can already tell she is full of personality.
How can anyone resist that face?
They tend to live for only about 5 months, and as she is already quite large, I'm not sure how much longer she has to live. She will be a fun addition for a little while at least.

Time for change

My white-dotted prominent caterpillar is on its way to adulthood... I'm so proud!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Upside down

Found this big guy in our neighbor's pool - transferred it to my pond.
There is something wrong with this picture, though...
It's upside down! That's right... this is how they're supposed to be...
Backswimmers are quite common in my pond.
Like the lace bugs in the last post, they are in the order Hemiptera. Take a look at that beak!
Backswimmers are in the family Notonectidae, swim upside down, and are proficient predators. This one had a body length of a bit over 1cm.

Elegant lace

A few weeks ago, as shown in this post, I noticed a lace bug next to some eggs on our oak tree.
Yesterday I checked the tree, and it was covered in young and adult lace bugs!They are true bugs in the order Hemiptera, family Tingidae.
They can be pests on plants, but at the same time are rather beautiful (if you can get a good enough look at them, they are very small).

Monday, July 5, 2010

Water snake hunting

She's back again! The boys and I watched the northern water snake catch and eat one frog, but she kept hunting for more. So I ran to get my camera, and took a video of her hunting along the edge of the pond. What neat behaviors! She does a lot of poking around, lunging onto land, and wiggling her head back and forth.

She does not seem to mind us too much, in fact before I took the video, we all got to pet her. I think she's starting to associate us with food.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

All silked up

Looks like someone else is getting ready to pupate...
My white-dotted prominent caterpillar has been looking funny lately - getting brown spots on its body, not moving much, sitting on the bottom of the jar, yet still eating and pooping in great quantities (just look at the size of that frass!). Yesterday I noticed it silking up around the bottom of the jar, so I ripped up a few leaves and threw them in to act as a substrate (better than glass alone, I'd think). We'll see if it follows through, I'll surely take more photos of the whole process.

Luxury accomodations

When I kept those camouflaged loopers for a day, I put them in one of my large plastic critter-keepers. Well one of the caterpillars decided the side of the cage would be a good place to pupate. So while the rest were released, I kept this one because it had silked up its decorations to the plastic. Over the next couple days I've watched it slowly transform, and today it finally looks more like a pupae than a caterpillar.
Only problem - now I can't use that whole big cage til this little guy is done!
Oh well, it'll be worth it to see the emerald moth that emerges.

Teensy tiny

Caterpillars!About a week ago the boys brought over a dead leaf with four tiny, perfectly round eggs on it. Two days ago they hatched into the tiniest caterpillars I have ever seen. I could only find three out of the four, and they had mostly eaten their egg shells. Since the eggs were laid on an oak leaf I have given them a piece of oak to eat, but I have not seen much evidence of feeding yet.

To give a sense of size, the vial in the above photo is only two inches tall, about an inch wide. The caterpillars are about 3mm long. Not sure if an ID is even possible at this point, but they sure have some distinctive hairs.

If I don't see them eating the leaf soon, I'll transfer them to a larger enclosure with more plant choices. Would be really fun to watch these grow!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

How to eat a frog... backwards

Nature has really been spoiling me lately.

Northern water snake (Nerodia sipedon) takes down a little green frog (Rana clamitans) for dinner.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Camouflaged loopers - again

Remember those decorated caterpillars? I kept them overnight after placing a pink flower in their cage. Lo and behold...Cute little opportunists, aren't they.