Tuesday, July 15, 2014

An embarrassment of riches

 I was SUPER excited to find this ambush bug (possibly Pacific ambush bug, Phymata pacifica)
in my mint this week. 
Actually, the above photo should be rotated 180 degrees
to indicate its actual position ...

Looks like its beak is going straight for the neck. Look elsewhere for mercy.

Common buckeye. LOVE these guys.
So beautiful, but subtle, so from a distance they just look brown.

This dahlia makes me think about math: fractals, specifically.

Wee moth sipping mint plant nectar; I bet it's extra refreshing. =)
According to Dan Rubinoff, my mothy friend, it's in the pyralid family
which bugguide.net succinctly describes as "cosmopolitan." =)

Ridiculously glorious dahlia bloom: but wait, there's more!

If you look very closely, the petals have cinnamon sparkles in them (near the lower edge).
An embarrassment of riches, to be sure.

This tachinid fly (tribe Cylindromyiini?) worked this flower
moving its buns in swoopy circles,
very much like how phalaropes feed.

Trying to figure out what this wasp is (still not sure, maybe a sand wasp?),
I kept repeating, while flipping through field guides,
Because, I'm a professional biologist. =) 

Dahlia bunk bed for bumblebees (Bombus sp.).

Close up of how top bee has feet hooked onto petal edge.


While I enjoy all of these flowers & animals,
and I have more to ID and post later, 
 I'm EXTRA stoked my garden has an ambush bug--that was a first! =)


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Summer's bounty--flowers & bugs, living fast & hard


Time for county fairs and beautiful nights...

and for plants to leap skyward,

providing room and board for the myriad bugs that live among them.
Turquoise-eyed flies (probably related to horseflies)
none of which I noticed when I took the photo. Flies 4, bb 0. =)

In a quest to improve my attitude about summer
(it gets bloody hot here & I'm the first to drop)
I'm shining a light on summer-associated goodies that I adore.

Tiny plume moth. I've NEVER seen one before last week. SO exciting.
 ID thanks to Chris Grinter (@skepticalmoth). That body is less than a centimeter long.

A small ant (lower left) to provide scale for this wee, tiny moth.

Spotted assassin bug (Rhynocoris ventralis) on gaillardia.
First time I think I've seen this particular, dashing predator.
Nicely color coordinated with the gaillardia, eh?

Tarnished plant bug (Lygus hesperus).
A tiny little charmer.

A day later, the same species played peek-a-boo with me
Here you get a better idea of how tiny it is. =)

Crab spider dining upon an earwig, underneath a chrysanthemum bloom.

So many mysterious (and frequently tiny) creatures
to find and try to name.

An assassin bug (that I cannot ID, so far) dining on an unlucky bee or fly of some sort.

An ever-changing populace of
invertebrates in the garden. 

Ants, seemingly obsessed with carrot flowers.

For the plants
the plant pollinators,
the plant eaters,
and plant-associated-bug predators,
summer is no joke.

Lovely, little lynx spider female living on a mint plant.
She's so spiky.

Live life now,
for tomorrow is never guaranteed.

Which reminds me of two views I gained from the Ferris wheel:

the quick,

and the dead. 

It's always good to have a reminder.

Nature will do that for you.


Saturday, June 14, 2014

TINY mothies: apparently I've been DYING to see them & I DID!!!

I've REALLY wanted to see 
a really small moth ever since I learned about them
from Chris Grinter (@skepticalmoth).

Last night I DID spy tiny moths & got some photos.
Dark thing in lower left corner is a small ant, for scale...

Nectaring on a gaillardia...

Same moth, with flash... sparkly!
Only took a few shots w/automatic flash--seemed to upset the poor creature.
Paparazzi--SO gauche.

Here's a different (slightly larger) individual w/in (my) reach of the 1st.
That body plan confounds me.

Chris thinks these are probably plume moths, from the family Pterophoridae

He is ALL about these tiny little animals,
plus lots of other fabulous inverts, has a great blog,
and takes SUCH great photos, you may want to slap him.

Here's just one example of the
amazing images he shares of microleps
(what the pros call the TINY lepidopterans).

Meanwhile, back on the ranch...

The wings!!

Flying tiny apparently poses different challenges,
hence microleps are known for narrower, feathery wings
versus the big, dusty plates of their larger brethren.

Like feathery oars...

If I remember correctly, when you're REALLY small,
the air is relatively more viscous (thicker),
so different structures work better to move your tiny bod.

When they fly, you just see a wee blur,
drifting past, like plankton.
And you think, "What the heck was that?!?"

Legs, legs, legs.
So spiky.

I'm guessing all those spikes help them hang on,
and not get blown away by the tiniest breeze?
Although the other one's legs aren't nearly so spiky.

Can you tell I'm fascinated?

So, didn't get to sleep until LATE (for me) 'cause I was SO pumped about this. =)

I've been SO richly rewarded for the pollinator-attracting seed mix I planted years ago.
I HIGHLY recommend it. Best part of summer, IMHO.

Well, that and perfectly ripe peaches.


xoxoxoxo bb

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Bugs on my house, inaugural edition

If you've not noticed, I added a new page to this blog
(see BB Pages, right column)
explaining #BugsOnMyHouse, a campaign to
document & learn about bugs wherever you are.


EVERYONE is welcome to participate. =)
Bloggy, tweety, instagram-y, tumblr-y, however you wish.

#BugsOnMyHouse will unite them.

Feel free to "comment" links to your work if you like. =)

Here's First Batch, from Saturday, 31 May.

Beautiful bug: guessing it is a hemipteran,
that is, a member of the Hemiptera order, true bugs.
 As with the rest of these, will look them up as I have time.
I've already updated this post once to improve the IDs.

Here's another hemiptera candidate, 2 views:
 My SUPER unscientific 1st guess was stink bug,
'cause I tend to think they're cute. And this guy was cute.

Update: looking at Laws Fieldguide to the Sierra Nevada and bugguide.net,
I now think it's a shield bug, in the genus Eurygaster.

Side view of same.

This one was SO dark, I had to lighten it a LOT to see anything.
Some kinda beetle?

Guessing it's a treehopper or a planthopper... 
 Those beautiful wings are almost iridescent.

Ladybird beetles are having a banner year. 
Maybe because it didn't freeze forever so there are 10 million aphids.

Update: best guess is convergent lady beetle, Hippodamia convergens.

Mayfly. Pretty intricate, when you look closely.
 the Ephemeroptera order.

Update: it may be a female Callibaetis ferrugineus hageni,
one of the small minnow mayfly species
(btw, the photo at that link is AMAZING).

I remember from water quality monitoring (looking at benthic macro-invertebrates),
finding this species indicated good water quality. =)


See?!? EASY.

That's the point:
photograph, post, guess & go.

=) Happy Summer Bug Time!


Saturday, May 31, 2014

Returning home late last night fm. fieldwork, I see this out the bathroom window

Some little greenish light glowing from the grass.

Is it a shiny beetle, spotlighted by the bathroom light?
Did my husband drop his cellphone?

So, despite the late hour, I go out w/fast fading flashlight, and see this:
Just a wee thing, and here you can see the bum-bum glowing (left)
despite the bright flash I'm using.

It's a California glowworm! Maybe Ellychnia californica, tho' I really don't know.
It's much smaller than I thought it would be.

Here it is the next day, by my pinky (appropriately enough):

Honestly, SUPER thrilling for me.
I NEVER thought I'd get to see one.

Cute little face...

Myrmecos has an interesting blog entry
about how glowworms, which are actually beetles,
 retain their larval form into adulthood.
An uncommon strategy, as you might imagine.

I feel super fortunate to have seen this very interesting animal.

So, this a.m. I had to relocate it 'cause of Bear's weed whacking plans.
A little later, having learned that it prefers moist habitat,
I return to its dry location to move it to damper spaces.

And cannot find it.
Make several attempts, sifting through leaf litter.

Then I see a shadow move in front of my head.
Looking up slowly, I see a female western bluebird watching me closely.
Silently, from six feet away...


She was probably looking to see if I was going to lay out
any additional tasty pink morsels for her.

Drat. =( My bad.

Well, perhaps the glowworm is now part of
a tiny western bluebird chick?

Next time I relocate something larval-looking,
I'll be sure & hide it from busy bird parents.