Friday, September 25, 2009

Praying Mantis

We had an insect program earlier this week. What a blast! We found all kinds of great bugs. Caterpillars galore, beetles, black-legged meadow katydids, and tons of spiders were found. The most popular find of the day was this little lady-a very pregger praying mantis. If you look at her abdomen, it is very swollen with eggs. I would guess she will be laying her egg mass sometime in the next few days.

When I first picked her up, she tried to nail me. She reared up and threw her front legs toward my hand. If you look at her front legs, she has wicked raptorial spines on her legs. She uses these to reach out with lightening fast quickness and snatch her prey. Then she will squeeze it like a pair of pliers while the spikes impale the hapless victim. She usually eats the critter while it is still alive, struggling to get free. What a way to go! Large Chinese mantids, like this one, can even kill hummingbirds with those spines.

Here is a closeup of the raptorial spines on the legs. If you

are a bug, you are NOT escaping those.

I let her go on my hand and after she realized I wasn't going to eat her, she calmed down and just explored. Such a curious animal! I then let the kids take turns holding her. When I explained what she was doing and how to react to her, they were no longer afraid of her. It was great to see so many of them that had never held a big insect like that, grin with delight. It was great to see them conquer their fear of bugs.

After the program, I snapped some pics of her and set her free behind our building on a False Sunflower. I hope she lays her eggs back there, so I can watch for the little praying mantises this spring!

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

A couple a weeks ago, we had a few visitors at our pond at Southeastway Park. They were Blue-faced Meadowhawks, Sympetrum ambiguum, and they were the first ones I had seen at the park. So beautiful! I just love their little blue "noses". At the time I had shot a few pictures, but sadly they all turned out blurry. When my friend John Howard sent me a shot he took in Ohio, I was delighted and knew I needed to share these amazing creatures.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Spiders and Pajamas

Labor Day weekend I visited my sister in Ohio. While there my brother-in-law, an avid gardener, called me outside to look at a spider that had taken residence in his beans. I was quite excited to find this whopper, a beautiful female Fishing Spider, Dolomedes tenebrosus, with a nest.

She had taken silk and fastened a few leaves together to make a nice protective nest. She was on guard on the outside. I warned my brother-in-law that spiders can be very protective when around their young, so we were careful not to bother her too much. At one point, while taking pictures, I got too close and she jumped at me. I backed off pretty quickly. Normally, I don't mind spiders at all and will even pick them up, but I knew she was in defense mode and might bite.

Such beautiful markings on this spider and such a large specimen. With her legs outstretched, she was about the size of my palm. (Yes, I know for some of my readers in Australia and other parts of the world this is a small spider, but for Ohio and Indiana, it is a big one! )

I walked aroung the back part of the nest and could peak inside and see some of the tiny spiderlings. They were so cute!

Kyle, my nephew's fiance's four-year-old child, is a bug lover and wanted to see the spider later that day. I took him outside and we looked at mama and the babies. He was absolutely thrilled. It was time for us to go, so I told him it was time for the spiderlings to go to bed, that they needed to put their pajamas on and brush their fangs. He thought that was hilarious and giggled about it for the rest of the evening.