Thursday, April 8, 2010


I believe that these are all galls, which are things that some arthropods ("bugs") cause plants to make for the arthropods' benefit. Usually the adult "bug" makes the plant form a gall so that its larvae (kids or babies) have a place to live in to hide from predators and eat part of the plant. I'm hoping that some people who know more than I do about galls will chime in and give me more information that I can post. In the meantime, you can find more information about common galls and gall-makers here: or about every gall many galls that people have taken pictures of here:

Monday, April 5, 2010

Aquatic life in sandhill habitat

This is most likely a mole cricket burrow at the edge of a pond/lake. They make what look like small mole runs, in damp sand and also have modified front legs that look something like moles. Some are pests, but others are inconsequential. All of them are pretty cool looking little monsters. More pictures here

This is obviously not living in the water, as it is hanging out on a pine tree, but before young dragonflies transform into adults, they live in the water and prey upon other invertebrates and even small fish or tadpoles. This adult was found not far away from the pond/lake where the rest of the pictures in this post were taken. It is most likely Ladona deplanata, aka a Blue Corporal. Yes, I know that it's not blue, but this is most likely a female, which are a different color. Pictures of males and other females here

This is a carnivorous sundew (genus Drosera and most likely D. brevifolia), which I've posted other pictures of, that is about to flower. There is a picture here of what it may look like when it flowers.

These are some ants, most likely fire ants (Solenopsis invicta) that were flooded out of their nest. They floated on the water and gathered together and are now clinging to a plant that sticks out of the water in hopes that the water goes back down.

This is a young backswimmer (family Notonectidae) that is just under the surface of the water in a pond/lake in sandhill habitat. Sandhill habitat is xeric (meaning very dry and pronounced as if the x were a z), but there are temporary and permanent wetlands in some sandhills. I think that you can see why it's called a backswimmer. It swims well and its long back legs are kind of like oars on a boat. It eats other insects and invertebrates.

Saturday, April 3, 2010


Yes, I am aware that these are not bugs. The first one is the stamen and the second a pistil of an Azalea flower. You can see the pollen coming out of a hole in the anther (dark end part) of the stamen and a few tiny pieces sticking to the stigma (the sticky end) on the pistil. These anthers are "poricidal", meaning that they have little holes. This type of anther is associated with buzz pollination by insects, which basically means that they vibrate the flower to get the pollen off of it. Pollen is what some insects, usually bees, but also moths, beetles and others depending, carry from one flower to another so that they plants can produce seeds. Some plants only have one pollinator and others have many, and not all plants use insects for pollination. Some let the wind carry their pollen to other flowers and others use other animals, such as hummingbirds or even bats.

Friday, April 2, 2010

obligatory butterfly picture

This is Urbanus proteus, or Long-Tailed Skipper butterfly, feeding on nectar from a flower. You can see the proboscis, sort of like a straw crossed with a tongue, sticking into the flower. Skippers are somewhat more related to moths than most other butterflies and they have antennae (the plural of antenna) with hooked clubs at the end, which you can also see in the picture. Most people don't know that there are more than ten times as many moths as there are butterflies, and it's difficult to believe because most people have seen more butterflies because butterflies come out in the daytime and are relatively large. Also, many people think of butterflies as important pollinators of plants, but they are relatively insignificant compared to bees and some moths. While butterflies are pretty, and of course important because they are one of the "little things that run the world", they are not anywhere near as numerous or important as their relatives, the moths.

Monday, March 29, 2010

This is Nephila clavipes, the Golden Silk Spider or Banana Spider. Their silk is actually golden yellow in color at times and their abdomen does look sort of like a small banana. This one has caught a relatively large dragonfly and I have seen one catch an anole, which is a type of lizard. Males are much, much smaller than females, which is common with many insects and spiders as for many species the males are not necessary to protect the young and a bigger body can produce more eggs, as well as protect them. (Yes, males don't matter very much in these species. :) When there is a difference in size or shape between the sexes, it is termed "sexual dimorphism", meaning basically two different shapes. The silk of these spiders is so strong, more so than steel, and stretchable that it was investigated as a material for making bulletproof vests! You are not going to believe this, but goats have been genetically engineered to produce spider silk proteins for something called "biosteel". (see here Spider goat, spider goat, does whatever a spider goat does; spins a web...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

This is the head of a blow fly, green bottle fly or calliphorid fly, depending upon your preference. They are especially attracted to carrion and feces (yes, that's a fancy word for poop). The thing sticking out to the left if its "sponging" mouthparts, used to sop up juices from its favorite foods. Larvae, otherwise known as maggots, have been used in modern times to clean up large wounds on people, as they eat the dead and rotting flesh and leave the healthy tissue alone. Maybe I should have saved this for Halloween, but I just couldn't resist. There are live pictures and more information available here

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

This is a "sap beetle", family Nitidulidae, species Thalycra carolina, with no common name that I know of. This was caught in a pitfall trap using fermenting syrup as an attractant. Sap beetles are usually attracted to fermenting sap, decaying fruit, etc and some of them like dung and carrion and such. They have large antennal clubs, which they use to "smell" for their favorite foods. In general, the larger the antennae (the plural of antenna for insects, whereas the plural of antenna when indicating a radio or somesuch is antennas), the more "smelling" an insect does. (I'm putting "smell" and "smelling" in quotes because they do not actually sniff through nostrils like we do.) There is more information about sap beetles here and here