Monday, July 17, 2017
The eggs were small, but quite a bit larger than the Monarch butterfly eggs I had been looking for, and placed in these very nice rows, for a total of 15 eggs.
I don't know how old they were when I found them, but 5 days after finding them they hatched and I was very surprised to see what the hatchlings looked like. Not at all what I was expecting.
Their antenna were longer than their bodies and legs, and were waving all around as they started to move away from the eggs as a group.
Spiny Assassin Bugs are true bugs, and in the insect order called Hemiptera. All true bugs have a tube-like sucking mouth, and they either suck plant juices, or prey on other insects and suck the juices from their prey.
Spiny Assassin Bugs are predators and capture other insects to eat.
As they eat they grow, and need to shed their skins to grow. With each shed they look different, so see below.
I will try to post pictures of their next instars, but will need to recapture one as they have been released back into the native wildflower garden to contribute their part to the very active ecosystem there.
Thursday, July 13, 2017
But in nature there are many battles every species needs to constantly fight to have its population stay healthy and survive to reproduce the next generation.
For the Monarch a parasitic tachinid fly is one of the battles it must face.
The eggs hatch and burrow into the insides of the caterpillar, feeding on non-vital tissue, so the caterpillar can stay healthy enough to keep eating, providing more food for these parasites.
The fly larvae, which are small white maggots, continue to eat inside the caterpillar until they are ready to pupate, the stage of metamorphosis in which they will prepare to turn into adult flies. To do this the maggots have to leave the caterpillar and drop to the ground.
After the fly maggots eat an exit hole in the caterpillar or chrysalis, and drop to the ground, the Monarch caterpillar or chrysalis always dies. Its vital organs finally having been eaten by the maggots before they left.
Below are eight pupae of the parasitic tachinid fly shortly after they emerged from a Monarch chrysalis 11 days ago.
They stayed like this for ten days, and began to emerge as adult flies yesterday.
The two gray antenna on the front of the face seem slightly different than other flies.
The pattern on the back seems a little more pronounced than some flies.
The face down below would only be appealing to another tachinid fly.
Wednesday, April 12, 2017
But Hepatica are different. They have tiny flowers. Mine measured only 3/8 of an inch across. But somehow they make it worth a pollinator's effort. There were a couple of flies nearby when I took these pictures yesterday, but none landed on the flowers while I was there.
It sure is nice to see these pretty flowers after the long winter in Minnesota.
Brown Creepers are strange and fairly uncommon little birds that act like nuthatches but are more closely related to wrens.
They fly to the base of a large tree and creep up the bark while spiraling around the tree trunk until they reach the top, then fly to another tree and do the same.
They find tiny bugs under the bark using their curved bill to fit into tiny crevices.
As can be seen in the picture they have long toes with long claws for gripping bark.
Brown Creepers also have long tails
I have enhanced the colors of this picture, but it still blends in very well. Their camouflage is so effective that the auto focus on the camera has trouble finding a focus point, so the majority of the pictures I took of this little bird yesterday have the bark in focus instead of the feathers on the back of the bird.
The feathers on the top of the back of the bird are perfectly in focus here, but still look blurry. These birds are good at hiding even when in plain sight!
Notice the long tail and see the picture below.
Brown Creepers have 12 tail feathers, so 6 come to a point on one side, and another 6 on the other, making a stiff and very effective brace.
With its solid color, the tail is one of the easiest parts to see on this tiny bird, at least in a picture.
When you actually see one of these interesting birds they never stop moving, so are hard to observe for more than a second or two in one spot.
This picture shows the forked tail, and the long leg, toes, and claws, as well as the brown mottling colors that are typical of Brown Creepers. The black curved beak is a little harder to see at the top of the picture.
The picture also shows the little midge fly in the lower right. These had just emerged and were flying in clouds of thousands all around the area where I took these pictures yesterday. Many of these may have been on the tree bark, and might have been part of a late lunch for this Brown Creeper.