Monday, August 23, 2010

Cockroach Parasitoid; The Ensign wasp

This interesting wasp is an Ensign Wasp one of the members of the Evaniidae family. Quoting my efriend Roy " They are parasitoids of cockroach oothecae [egg cases] . Not really uncommon but, are still really neat wasps nonetheless." This individual was photographed in Port O'Connor on August 23, 2010 as it was on a door. This individual was ~1.5 cm long.

Thanks Roy, Linda and others for your comments.
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Friday, August 20, 2010

Spitting Spider (Scytodes atlacoya)

A common yet new described species found widely in Texas. From Allen Dean, " The scytodids in Texas are now known thanks to the revision of the Scytodes in Mexico that appeared several years ago. This species appears to be
Scytodes atlacoya that was newly described, I have found it to be the most common and widespread in Texas."

Spitting Spiders are known for their interesting hunting and method of subduing prey and perhaps deterring predators. They eject a mixture of silk, toxin and adhesive from greatly enlarged venom glands which quickly ensnares and subdues insects and spiders which make up most of it's prey.

Spitting Spiders build no webs to entrap prey and usually no web of any kind is found associated with the, This individual to the right is only about the size of a nickel but they can be considerably larger in the tropical species.

An interesting paper on these odd animals can be found at HTTP:// I obtained some of the above introduction to this species from this website.
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Monday, August 16, 2010

Beaded Lacewing..Delicate pollen grazer

      I rarely find these delicate little insects some know as Beaded Lacewings (Genus Lomamyia) and when I do they are usually in the large fragrant blooms of the Jimson Weed (a Datura) after a hot summer day.  Grazers of pollen they are and perhaps pollinators as well.  

I have watched the blooms for a summer specimen for several weeks and found this, my first of the year, just last night.  Last year during a horrific drought they actually seemed more common

The biology of these small insects actually belies their delicate grace as pollen fairy-like grazers.  From Dr. James Adams of Dalton State College, I was provided the some cool info.  He said " Berothid have a very unusual larval stage, in which the larvae are predaceous termite and ant nests.  The first instar is highly mobile, either crawling into nests or latching onto potential hosts for a ride.  Once inside the brood chambers, successive engorge themselves on the brood and are barely capable of any movement.  They pupate in place and escape the nest upon eclosion."

  I have never seen this but would sure like to see one just before it pupates. 

  At least in the case of termites, for the purposes of man, it must be considered  a beneficial insect, I suppose.  Regardless, finding one of these on a late balmy summer eve, with the heavy scent of Datura rising to meet you,  is one of those  
magical moments in the night that perhaps inspired so many Eighteenth and Nineteenth century naturalists, never mind the poets who wrote of fairies and other fair garden fantasies things so many years ago.  Truth of the matter is these beings still exist but sadly the distractions of this century has put them back into mythical gardens and lost memories.  Especially so for today's youth.

Thanks to Roy, James, Barbara and Kevin that added to this blog. Four photos from Utley, Texas taken Aug. 15,  2010 on the 

Brush Freeman

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Freeman Birding/ Banding 1938

Dad always had a love of birds in general which was passed down to his sons. He was an active member of FFA in the 20's-30's and the small population of birder's before WWII.... Here is an example of how the message was spread back in the day. In this case by him. This article is from 1938 reviewing one of his talks.

I mentioned this to Byron Stone yesterday and found one of the articles my brother had sent today. so thought I would put it up.

Just a brief post to get it out and done with .
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  I thought this was interesting.  From the NYTs yesterday.   Mike Quinn passed it along to me.

This Bedbug’s Life

Istvan Banyai


I had been a professor of entomology for 15 years before I saw my first live bedbug. It crawled out of a plastic film canister that had been mailed to me by a distraught student in the Boston area who had no idea what it was. I was so thrilled to see a live bedbug, I showed it off to every graduate student I ran into that day: Cimex lectularius — a small, flat, wingless, brown ectoparasite that hides in cracks and crevices in human dwellings and emerges under cover of darkness to feast on human blood.
That was in 1995, and none of my students had laid eyes on Cimex lectularius either. A century ago, bedbugs were ubiquitous in New York — so much so that their presence in an apartment wasn’t considered sufficient legal cause for withholding rent. Bedbugs, one judge remarked in an early 20th century lawsuit against a landlord, “can be dealt with by the tenant by processes known to all housewives.” But with the midcentury advent of synthetic organic insecticides, these insects all but vanished from urban landscapes (and pretty much every other kind of landscape) in North America.
My Bostonian bug turned out to be one of many on the forefront of an unprecedented resurgence. Global travelers now bring in a steady supply from around the world, inconspicuously undeclared in checked bags and carry-on luggage. Today, bedbugs have been found in all 50 states, as well as Guam, Puerto Rico and American Samoa, and bedbug-related calls to pest control operators are escalating at a fantastic rate. From June 2009 to June 2010, there were more than 31,000 calls in New York City alone.
Now, bedbug-related lawsuits can lead to thousands of dollars in punitive damages for mental anguish, embarrassment or humiliation.
Everywhere New Yorkers go — theaters, stores, offices, schools, trains, ships, hospitals — bedbugs go, too, hidden in folds of clothing, bags, backpacks and purses. Getting rid of them has become more than any housewife could ever be expected to handle. Even professional pest control operators are struggling to keep up, because bedbugs have become, for the most part, resistant to the old pesticides that once were so effective, and relatively few viable chemical alternatives exist.
We reserve a special kind of enmity for bedbugs because, though humans generally do not like being anywhere other than at the pinnacle of a food chain, there is a particular horror associated with being consumed while relatively helpless, asleep in what should be the security of one’s own bed (or chair or couch). With bedbugs, it’s personal — unlike cockroaches, ants, silverfish and other vermin that are attracted to our possessions, bedbugs are after us. And they’re remarkably adept at circumventing our defenses: They not only attack while we sleep, but they also inject anesthetics, so as not to awaken us, and anticoagulants, so that in every 10-minute feeding they can suck in two to three times their weight in clot-free blood.
Bedbugs win neither praise for their sophisticated technique, nor very much respect for the fact that they don’t carry diseases, as most bloodsucking human ectoparasites do. Although their bites can cause unrelieved itchiness, bedbugs take only blood and leave no pathogens behind. In contrast, lice spread typhus; mosquitoes carry the viruses that cause yellow fever, dengue, encephalitis and West Nile disease; ticks transmit the Lyme disease bacterium; and fleas can bring the bacterium that causes plague.
But lack of involvement in spreading disease is hardly an endearing attribute. In fact, precious few aspects of bedbug biology are endearing. They don’t build their own houses or care for their young, and their sexual practices are bizarre even by insect standards: Because the female bedbug has no genital opening, the male inseminates her by using his hardened, sharpened genitalia to punch a hole through her abdomen. With no elaborate courtship ritual, males in a frenzied pursuit of sexual congress often blunder into and puncture the bodies of other males, occasionally inflicting fatal wounds.
To top it off, almost every aspect of bedbug behavior is mediated by airborne odorants, almost all of which are, when detected, repulsive to humans.
What, if anything, is there to like about a bedbug? They certainly like us; we probably have no greater admirers in the insect world. They like the way we live, unlike most vertebrates, in permanent homes. (Bats and birds, which also build homes, are hosts to several of the bedbug’s close relatives.) Bedbugs do not discriminate among humans on the basis of race, creed or socioeconomic status, and they’re happy with almost any interior decorating style; they are as happy in a French provincial nook as they are in a contemporary cranny. The bugs’ climate preferences are essentially an exact match to our own, and a small wingless creature couldn’t ask for a better traveling companion — airlines have opened a world of possibilities for a species that can’t get very far on its own six legs.
Perhaps the one good thing about bedbugs is that they provide a rare point of agreement that transcends race, religion, culture, nationality, tax bracket and party. It may be one of the few remaining universal truths — urban or rural, red state or blue, everyone agrees it would be great if bedbugs would disappear once more.

May Berenbaum, the head of the entomology department at the University of Illinois, is the author of “The Earwig’s Tail: A Modern Bestiary of Multi-Legged Legends.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Bastrop Co. late Scissortails Nestlings and Plebeian Sphinx Moth.

These animals were noted in Bastrop Co. today.  These 3 late but near fledged Scissor-tailed Flycatchers were still on the nest this morning , August 7, 2010. This nest is in a normally very busy day use area near a swimming pool in a small planted Live Oak located in a sub-division of Bastrop . Given the location I found it remarkable they succeeded to this advanced stage. They were just out of human reach. We saw the mother bring in Field Crickets (Grylline) to plump them up.

Below  is a photo of what I believe to be a Plebeian Sphinx Moth ( Paratraea plebeja ) based on hind-wings not visible here. If so, it is a new moth for me in the Lost Pines region.  I am rapidly building a healthy list of Sphinx moths in Texas, not that I am much of a lister.. At dusk I noticed several sphinx moths drawn to the overly sweet smelling Jimson weed blooms and other plants as well as the banana baits,  Perhaps this was one that also responded (?).  As I am completing this post, a giant female Black Witch Moth in very fresh condition is at the banana baits as is a huge Sad Underwing.

Elsewhere in Bastrop County today, Byron Stone and I relocated a previously found Least Grebe on a nest near Smithville for only the second breeding record for the county and while at the same location noted a rare August Peregrine Falcon.

It might be a little warm, but it is hopping with nature activity out there.....Just think forward to December and January..Ugh....Actually today was quite pleasant with lower than normal humidity...Makes for more watering but better for being outdoors. It only reached 98.4F at the cabin today..Never even fired up the power sucking A/C as the humidity was so low.

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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Spider Chicks

Short and simple this evening. A photo from the cabin in Bastrop Co. of a "Hen" with a whole load of baby spiders on her back. I am not sure of the species but figure it is a Wolf Spider.
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Monday, August 2, 2010

The Scorpions of Utley

The Bark Scorpion Centruroides vittatus is the only Scorpion known from Bastrop County. It's sting is painful though usually not life threatening. They can grow to be as long as almost 3 inches but are usually about 2-2.5 as adults.

Like most scorpions, they glow under black light as show to the right. Here is a female with young on her back. Notice they do not glow as babies. Scorpions give birth to live young. This female has about twenty five on her back. They stay with her eating scraps of her meals until they can fend for themselves.

Bark Scorpions are efficient hunters and when they get hungry they can consume large prey items. Note the red mite parasite on the scorpion's tail.

 Below  is a photo of the same female taken with a regular white flash which shows the young more clearly.

  Bark Scorpions make hardy and interesting 'pet" but I don't like sleeping with them.  I have before and it was not pleasant I can assure you.
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Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Nine-banded Armadillo and the number 4

  Nine-banded Armadillos (Dasypus novemcinctus...Gotta love that genus name) are all about 4s.  Everything about them seems to revolve around the number 4.  Of course they have 4 legs but beyond that.....

1. population increases seem to run in 4 year cycles
2. they have a maximum of 4 young at birth all of the same sex.
3. they only live 4 years
5. they only have 4 toes on the front feet
6. they only have  4 feet of small intestines
7. They have been reported to spring into the air
up to 4 feet when surprised suddenly.  This habit of jumping upwards when startled accounts for many of the belly up critters one sees on the highways.
8. after blastocyst (delayed implantation) the gestation period lasts 4 months
9. young are fully capable of walking after 4 hours of birth.
10  content of inherit debris of their diet amounts to ~4% (sand etc.).
11.  burrows avg. 4 ft. in depth.
12. they only have 4 major predators...Cars, Man, Coyotes and Mountain Lions.
13. Since their expansion started in the early 1900's, they are
reportedly moving north at about 4 km per year (Walsh 1975)
14. Young are usually born in April the 4th month of the year.

 Another interesting fact is their teeth lack any enamel at and
wear down quickly which likely limits their age to 4 years. They have the potential, rarely, of  being hosts of trypanosomiasis, which can be passed to humans potential via it's exposure to the blood sucking insects, vector, in burrows that belong  to the genus Triatoma (Cone-nosed or Kissing Bugs)

  15.  Getting down to the meat of it now, slow baking an Armadillo for 4 hours with potatoes and carrots will provide 4 people a succulent, bacony tasting and very greasy southern dish. During the Great Depression many knew them as "Hoover Hogs" and many of them filled bellies.I tasted a plate many years ago.
...swimming in buttery fat.
  16.  A serving of Armadillo will likely provide you with 4 times the recommended amount of  cholesterol one should ingest in a single day.

   If you have other "4s" I can add them .

Brush Freeman