Wednesday, December 12, 2018

I both win and lose the staring contest

The lethargic Scudderia mexicana  deformed male has vanished for the past several days. I still cannot find it and probably never will.

Assorted news:

On Sunday I found a fallen string-of-bananas leaf while out for a walk; hopefully it survives because the species has some interesting attributes I wish to experiment with

I have discovered another "aphideating party" composed mostly of what appear to be adult Cycloneda sanguinea.

Phaneroptera nana lives in my area! I thought it was a small pure green Scudderia sp. until a Bugguide expert corrected me yesterday. Today I took some more pics of nana and have put them below. They are on the same bush as the coccinellids.

Unfortunately I will probably be unable to do any katydid or coccinellid posts for quite some time due to troublesome circumstances relating to the front yard.
Phaneroptera nana male

Same male

Nearby inseminated female

Same female (note spermatophore)

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Staring contest continues


Scudderia mexicana deformed-wing male (pictured above) is still doing fine. Yesterday the rosebushes were pruned and nearby resident female(s) have moved elsewhere. The male simply relocated itself to a taller bush next door.

Night walks have been unremarkable; surprisingly, the katydids seem very lethargic even in the darkest hours, although they do wave their antennae near-constantly once the sun sets. The deformed male often assumes an odd nighttime position in which it sits on a tall stem with head down and two front legs slightly in the air; perhaps this is a mate-searching behavior because scarabs have been known to use the same posture. I also did see a few small carabids (mostly Tanystoma maculicolle) and a pillbug with abnormally large yellow splotches, but the carabs failed to perform interesting behaviors.

No more coccinellid posts for a while; their aphids are all gone

Chlorophytum (?) plantlet was trashed accidentally

A few more succulent leaves have either begun, finished, or are nearly finished with sprouting plantlets. The "unusual red leaf" previously mentioned has died.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

I stare vacuously at katydids

deformed Scudderia mexicana male
I have been feeling very lacking in sanity lately, but I have been watching and feeding pollenclusters to the deformed male since Thanksgiving; the local katydids are quite lethargic, and rarely move far unless on dispersal flights or alarmed. The male appears to have inseminated a nearby female when I was not looking. I was rather annoyed at having missed the full courtship sequence (I took great pains to relocate females for the male), but here are some more pics:
inseminated mexicana female

female eating spermatophore

clearer spermatophore shot

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

More photosynthetic nonsense

it is no longer pink due to light-starvation

Unfortunately there will be no coccinellid posts this week.

Here are some notable updates:

- Many of the specimens pictured in the previous succulent post have been killed by a lawnmower; they have been replaced with fresh leaves

- Two leaves (one pink and one red) have successfully detached from their "larvae" (pictured above). The red specimen is behaving oddly; the sprout seems to have twisted into a wormy spiral while trapped underground, and the parent leaf has not withered (it is now translucent but still filled with liquid). I have replanted the red parent; perhaps it may display more anomalous behaviors.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Coccinellids (as promised!)

large grub, apparently Cryptolaemus montrouzieri
There are some hibiscus (well, at least they appear identical to hibiscus) bushes in a nearby parking lot; the violent pruning they regularly experience encourages them to constantly produce large quantities of young nutritious foliage. The large quantities of young nutritious foliage attract many small hemipterans (apparently these are mostly aphids/softbodied scales/mealybugs). Likewise, the small hemipterans attract many coccinellid beetles ("ladybugs").

Unfortunately the coccinellids were not particularly cooperative today; I was only able to photograph the lethargic fluffy larva pictured. I have observed several interesting phenomena, though:

- Two coccinellids which visually appear to be Cycloneda sanguinea and Cryptolaemus montrouzieri apparently dominate the scene; in fact they often seem to easily outnumber any Harmonia axyridis present. During today's visit I saw no Harmonia specimens present. I suppose this may be additional evidence that H is not as "invasive" as many terrified native-coccinellid enthusiasts think. I also see a very small black coccinellid (even smaller than C) every now and then, but it and the other three seem to be the only major ones. I think there were several sevenspot ladies around in the summer too but my memory is fuzzy.

- Around one of the less violently pruned bushes I saw a low-density swarm of male mealybugs or other waxytailed scales (I can't tell the difference) hovering erratically around (but rarely landing on) the leaves. It was quite beautiful; my phone could not photograph the tiny gnatlike things though (sigh)

Hopefully I can drag my blog out of dormancy with further observations of the hibiscus population dynamics; if everything goes well I should be able to produce a new post on the hemipteran-eating contest every week or two until it fizzles out

Friday, November 2, 2018

Various small updates

here is another photosynthesist for your viewing pleasure

- The Domino campaign has run out of steam yet again. Research papers state that successful scientific outreach requires feedback from the audience so that techniques can be adjusted; despite all our (yes, "our"; this is a multiperson effort) attempts, feedback was too sparse to be useful.

- In several of my previous posts I have been complaining of problems w obtaining cocofiber. I still haven't used brick #2 (brick #1 turned moldy); I am in such a terrible mood that I am unmotivated to hydrate (the brick expands into soil-like shreds once wet) and put insects in the fiber.

- I forgot to mention that I also have a plantlet of what appears to be Chlorophytum comosum (any help, plant hobbyists?); its roots developed white mold in the watercup but I washed it off. Hopefully it survives; if so, I will perform a pleasant small experiment with it.

- Coccinellid posts are planned for the future!

Thursday, November 1, 2018

This is not a plant blog, I swear

Many insects are somewhat poorly "designed" despite their adaptability and ecological success; for example, the oothecae of most roaches require a group effort from emerging nymphs for their lid to open. Too many infertile eggs in one ootheca can trap the viable nymphs inside, killing them (insect consciousness has not been undisputedly disproven, unfortunately).

On the other hand, plants are most certainly not conscious. I've been incubating several photosynthetic "oothecae" for a personal experiment:

Batch I-II

It took them roughly a month just to make these tiny sprouts, ugh

Appears to be xGraptosedum "Alpenglow"; 3 leaves

Appears to be pink Graptopetalum; 2 leaves

Appears to be Sedum burrito; 2 branches, many detached leaves; one branch has significant root growth but no branches have noticeable leaf growth

Batch III

From a few days ago.

Appears to be brown Echeveria; 2 leaves

Might be Ech. "Perle von Nuremburg"; 2 leaves

A number of the first and second batch specimens have long roots but all plants grow at an unbelievably slow rate. Since exotic houseplants often have few and very simple interactions w herbivores and lack the scientifically undiscovered behaviors common in poorly studied insects, I suspect they may have few interesting features except for color-derived beauty. Unfortunately I also strongly suspect that color-derived beauty is a useless byproduct of some human foraging/courtship instinct and thus not worth enjoying.

Perhaps they may prove me wrong though, so stay tuned for updates