Friday, March 16, 2018

Silk, Silkworms, and Related

Last month, I wrote about spider silk, inspired to research because of recent articles I wrote about argiope spiders. I decided to revisit one of my curiosities about silk, particularly silkworms.

What was the process for obtaining silk from those worms? Did "farmers" have loads of worms that they fed till the worms entered pupating stage, then farmers unwound the material? What happened afterwards? Did the worms die? Did they recreate their chrysalises/cocoons, only to have farmers steal again? And again? And again?

In initial googling, I see that worms become moths, and their pupating stage includes cocoons, not crysalises. About a year ago, I wrote "Leggy Bugs—Caterpillars (Lepidopteran Larvae, which Become Butterflies and Moths)". My article explains that butterflies emerge from chrysalises, and moths emerge from cocoons.

"How silkworms make silk" answered many of my questions. Yes, they kill the worms, thus, no pupating do-overs. Workers obtain the silk afterward. About 2500 silkworms are required to yield one pound of silk. (The video refers to both chrysalis and cocoon; however, these pupal terms are not interchangeable.)

"Interesting Silkworm Facts" describes basic silkworm information for casually interested readers (self included). The gist of obtaining silk from the worms:
Once they enter this (pupal) state, they become motionless and enclose themselves in an envelope of silk. … This silk comes from their salivary glands. And it is this raw silk that people harvest and turn into those lustrous and fine fabric. … these silk threads are so thin and so fine that it takes 3000 cocoons to make one pound of silk. The sad thing about harvesting silk from silkworms is that these creatures die in the process. To get the silk, the cocoons must be boiled.
Other silk thoughts came to mind: Silkworm missiles, certain items made of silk, different silks, …

Weapons—Chinese Silkworm Missiles and Tomahawks

I couldn't find a feasible explanation for why a Silkworm missile is named Silkworm. The worm itself seems innocuous. It dies an early life because it gets boiled while it's in its cocoon, seldom reaching its natural and metamorphosed life as a moth. Maybe the name is a disarmingly misleading descriptor for a potent destroyer missile.

Another missile name that might seem odd is "tomahawk". My first encounter with the word was reading "Tomahawk", a comic book series from decades ago. It was clear that an actual tomahawk was a hand-held weapon. "Short History of Tomahawk" informs of the name's origin, with descriptions of various tomahawks and their changes over time.

Silk Stockings and Parachutes

From "England Textile Occupations Silk, Cotton, Weaving (National Institute)":
Early references to silk weaving in England occur in the trade protection Acts of the last half of the 15th century banning the import of foreign silk goods. … The 19th century was the heyday of the fashion for silk ribbon, dresses and other uses … Shorter skirts from the 1920s created a demand for silk stockings, and during the Second World War all silk was requisitioned for making parachutes, each requiring 67 square yards. When someone found a downed parachute, or they were sold off after the war, they were snapped up.
Besides a commodity, Silk Stockings is a 1957 movie starring Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse. Another movie also named Silk Stockings came out in 1927. These two movies don't appear to have any relationship to the other.

More Silk and Hitting the Silk's entry for "silk" includes numerous definitions for uses as nouns, adjective, a verb, idioms, and word origin and history. The entry for "hit the silk" is the same as "silk", but includes additional information and explanation for the expression, which primarily pertains to a soldier jumping out of a plane in a parachute. (Some of the title headings might seem misleading or mistitled, in case you're persnickety, like I can be.)

Brocade and Other Kinds of Silk

In the past, I'd been curious about brocade, not knowing that it was silk with fancy characteristics. "The Different Types Of Silk" describes silk types that have familiar names (brocade, silk satin, chiffon, …) and shows illustrative examples.

"Damask vs Brocade: What's the Difference?" contrasts the two types of fabrics.
Damasks and brocades are not patterns but are two different types of fabric. Although they are both woven using a jacquard loom, they are constructed differently.
Although the article does not refer to "silk", it provides a link to "Jacquard Damask and Brocade Fabrics in Women's Fashion". This webpage talks about silk and additionally deeper details about the fabrics. Another resource is "Brocade and jacquard – what’s the difference? (or, the history of the jacquard loom, and all the weaves it can create)". (Despite the title lacking "Damask", the article gives it fair treatment.)

Silk Road

The more traditional Silk Road pertains to trade in the Far East. From's "Silk Road":
The Silk Road was a network of trade routes connecting China and the Far East with the Middle East and Europe. Established when the Han Dynasty in China officially opened trade with the West in 130 B.C., the Silk Road routes remained in use until 1453 A.D. … Although it’s been nearly 600 years since the Silk Road has been used for international trade, the routes had a lasting impact on commerce, culture and history that resonates even today.
Another source about the Silk Road, at a more elementary level, is "Ancient China The Silk Road". "Caterpillar drives sales on China's new Silk Road" describes more recent attention to the area.
Helping fuel the growth of that (China) market, Caterpillar executives and analysts say, is China’s Belt and Road initiative, a huge infrastructure spending spree that builds on the old Silk Road trading routes. The ambitious and ever-growing $1 trillion initiative now includes projects spanning Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
The more recent Silk Road is associated with entrepreneurial Ross Ulbricht. "Silk Road’s mastermind Ross Ulbricht takes case to US Court of Appeals" provides some background about him and his company that he named Silk Road.
Silk Road operated using the Tor Network and the marketplace users mainly bought and sold drugs, false identification documents, and computer hacking software. Transactions on Silk Road used Bitcoins, favoured because of the anonymity it grants.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Close Word Groupings for Pause

Did you think I mean "close" as proximity or imperative? As the text is visual rather than aural, the pronunciation can be either, and the title's meaning ambiguous.

Various words seem to have at least visually related words that cause pause before I pick one for uttering or inserting in text. Some word "sets" apply maybe more for people that English is not their first language. This article lists mostly pairs of words that can cause misunderstanding because of picking the incorrect word. Context helps with the correct word selection. The trade-off is a time slowdown to assess the situation.

I've run across most of my hesitancy-inducing terms that I list while writing technical documentation or composing or answering email. Occasionally, I've run across some terms in a conversation, a TV show, or visual text that I read. For an example of pause-causing terms, think of this sample sentence and my use of "read" in the previous sentence. I used "example", "sample", and "read". "Read" is past tense in the context of my having used "I've run", although "read" can be present or past tense.

example, sample
In differentiating example from sample, an example serves as a pattern to imitate or not, per, and a sample is a representative part of something larger. If you take a morsel from a tray of same-items to taste, that's a sample. If I see a crowd of people and notice someone dressed especially neatly, the person is an example of someone well-dressed.

resent, re-sent
If I send email and state that I sent something again, I will always write "re-sent" and not "resent", differentiating the action from a word that has negative meanings. (From "to feel or express annoyance or ill will at".)

pane, panel
"Pane" and "panel" differ by only one letter, but I often got confused when I confronted style guides that referred to both terms. Even googling "pane vs. panel" leaves uncertainty. In thinking out loud, I arrived at "instrument panel" for menu option panels, and at "window panes" for separate sections that display on a graphic interface.

A style guide at a current workplace would be the best source. If not thinking technical writing use, think of context—visualize window pane and wood panel.

astronomy, astrophysics, astrology
Of the three star-pertinent words, the two most recognizable ones are astronomer and astrologer. Their occupations are, uh, worlds apart despite their (uh again) focus on celestial bodies. From "The difference between astronomy and astrology":
Astronomy is ‘the branch of science which deals with celestial objects, space, and the physical universe as a whole’. If you’re thinking about the academic study, stargazers, telescopes, and the like, then the word you need is astronomy.

Astrology, on the other hand, is ‘the study of the movements and relative positions of celestial bodies interpreted as having an influence on human affairs and the natural world’. If you are writing about people using stars or planets to predict favourable or unfavourable events happening to humans, then astrology is the correct word.

Astrology originally included the calculation of natural phenomena and meteorological events (such as the measurement of time and the times of tides and eclipses) that are now considered the domain of astronomy.
"What is Astrophysics?" explains the professional's field. (The most well-known astrophysicist in our time might be Neil deGrasse Tyson.)
Astrophysics is a branch of space science that applies the laws of physics and chemistry to explain the birth, life and death of stars, planets, galaxies, nebulae and other objects in the universe. It has two sibling sciences, astronomy and cosmology, and the lines between them blur.
cosmology (science), cosmetology (certain appearance enhancement)
"Cosmology is not Astronomy/Astrophysics" is a YouTube explanation of cosmology (study of the universe as a whole), with nod to astronomy (study of individual celestial bodies, such as stars and galaxies).

Cosmetology is a field of hair, skin, and nail care, with subfields with varying occupation titles. "Cosmetology" shows cosmetology example focuses—hair, skin, and nail care.
Cosmetologists work on hair, skin, and nails. Estheticians work on skin care only. From "What’s the Difference Between a Cosmetologist and an Esthetician?"
Cosmetology is an area of study and a career that focuses on hair, skin, and nails. Cosmetologists can do both hair and nails, or focus their careers in one area. In comparison, esthetics focuses on skin care only. An esthetician is not qualified to perform pedicures, cut hair, or work with hair chemicals. With additional training and education a cosmetologist can also be an esthetician. … However, estheticians are generally not cosmetologists. Most states require separate licensing for each career.
The make-up artist in "What Is the Difference Between Cosmetologists & Makeup Artists? : Makeup Tips & Application" explains the differences between the occupations and also touches on esthetician roles. She also states that make-up artists only apply items to skin, a more narrow scope than esthetician.

Close Enough
If adjective, "s" pronunciation.
If verb, "z" pronunciation.

"English Pronunciation, common mistakes, close" is a good video for presenting both pronunciations and contexts.

If adjective, "s" pronunciation.
If noun, "z" pronunciation.

Numerous YouTube videos pronounce with "s" without explanation. I found some videos that provide context for "closer" pronunciation. Examples:
Additional Items (Short Looks)
If present tense, long "e" pronunciation.
If past tense, short "e" pronunciation.

If present-tense, long "e" pronunciation. Coincidentally, past tense has short "e" sound, but is spelled "led" rather than "lead".
If noun (the metal or periodic table element), short "e" pronunciation.

If adjective (denoting very low-note type or types of musical instrument), long "a" pronunciation.
If noun (fish), short "a" pronunciation.

If noun for seasoning or spice plant, silent "h".
If noun for male's name, spoken "h".

If noun for element or material for making particular type of semiconductor, short "o" pronunciation.

If noun for certain rubbery and flexible material, long "o" pronunciation.

If noun for items joined together, long "u" pronunciation in the first syllable, short "u" in the second syllable. Examples: Union vs. Confederacy, Western Union.

If noun for the plant, short "u" pronunciation in the first syllable, short "u" in the second syllable. Examples: Green onion, Eastern Onion Singing Telegram.

If noun for the pureed chickpeas food, short "u" pronunciation in the first syllable, short "u" in the second syllable.

If noun for decayed material for plant food, long "u" pronunciation in the first syllable, short "u" in the second syllable.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Spider Silk Miscellany

During my searches about argiope trifasciata (banded garden) spiders for "Argiope Trifasciata Spider--Final Bug Spotting of 2017" and "Argiope Trifasciata Spider--Doggone Buggone at 2018 Start", I collected information about spider silk, webs, stabilimenta, and Charlotte's web. IMHO, the most interesting information about spider silk is specialization. Spiders produce different silk for different purposes, coming from different "extruders" called spinnerets.

Spider Silk and Webs
From "How Do Spiders Make Silk?"
The silk that spiders produce is five to six times stronger than high-grade steel by weight, and is stronger than any known natural or synthetic fiber on Earth.
From "Smooth as Silk"
All spiders produce silk but not all spiders spin webs. Silk is used for climbing, to create webs, to build smooth walls in burrows, build egg sacs, and wrap prey. … Most spiders have four or more openings, or glands, on their abdomen called spinnerets. When the spider releases the silk, it looks like one thread but it is actually many thin threads that stick together. ... Larger spiders, like the huge bird eating spiders, can actually catch and subdue animals as large as bats, mice, fish, birds and even snakes with their strong webs.
From "Spider Webs"
Web-Spinning Spiders … know when prey is trapped on their web by detecting and reacting to the vibrations the line makes from their prey moving and trying to get free.

Spiders have seven pairs of silk spinning organs or glands called “spinnerets” located either in the middle or at the end of their abdomen. Each spinneret on the spider is different from the other and used for making several kinds of silk: …

Web-Spinning spiders only use the tips of their legs when creating their webs so that their body doesn’t come in contact with the web and get stuck.
From "8 Silkily Engineered Facts About Spider Webs"
The basic structure includes radial threads that extend out like wheel spokes from the center. Another set of threads spiral out in concentric circles. The silk used to construct these two parts of the web is actually produced by different glands, which is why one is sticky and the other isn’t.
From "9 Amazing Facts about Spider Silk"
while the spider is not the only animal that can produce silk, it is the only animal that can produce different types of silk for different purposes. They can produce fine threads (called gossamer) and thicker threads, as well as both sticky and non-sticky threads.
From "Spiderweb vs. Cobweb - What You Need to know"
COMPLETE SHOW NOTES for this episode found at
Charlotte's Web
From "Charlotte's Web - WHO IS CHARLOTTE?"
Charlotte is a "barn spider." Her scientific name (today) is Araneus cavaticus. Her ability to spin orb webs is one of Charlotte’s characteristics.
From "10 Things You Might Not Know About Charlotte’s Web"
E.B. White created beloved characters out of the most unlikely of animals—a runt of a pig named Wilbur and a spider named Charlotte, who weaves words in her web to save his life.
From "Why Spiders Decorate Their Webs"
White wrote Charlotte's Web after marveling at the intricate patterns in a spider's web in the barn on his Maine farm. While we've yet to discover a real spider capable of weaving "some pig" or "terrific" in silk, we do know of many spiders that decorate their webs with zigzags, circles, and other fancy shapes and patterns.

These elaborate web decorations are known as stabilimenta. A stabilimentum (singular) may be a single zigzag line, a combination of lines, or even a spiral whorl in the web's center. A number of spiders weave stabilimenta into their webs, most notably orb weavers in the genus Argiope. Long-jawed spiders, golden silk orb weavers, and cribellate orb weavers also make web decorations.
More About Stabilimentum
"stabilimentum, stabilimenta"

In the Identification section of "stabilimentum, stabilimenta" Info tab—"conspicuous structures of heavy silk found in the webs of some orb-weavers (Araneidae)."

Recent Spider News Odds and Ends
From "Spider drinks graphene, spins web that can hold the weight of a human"
The webbing was on par with bulletproof Kevlar in strength.
From "How One of the Fastest Spinning Animals Catches Its Prey"
Flattie spiders can strike at speeds up to 3,000 degrees per second. That means that in the time it takes you to blink your eyes once, they can complete three full rotations.
From "Part spider, part scorpion creature captured in amber"
two independent teams describe four 100-million-year-old specimens encased in amber that look like a cross between a spider and a scorpion.
From "Eighteen new 'pelican' spiders discovered in Madagascan rainforest"
Pelican spiders were first discovered in the mid-1800’s, embedded in a piece of amber from the Baltics.

An ordinary house spider’s body is divided in two parts: the abdomen behind and cephalothorax in front, where the eyes sit above the mouth … But a pelican spider has an elongated head with eyes on top, and a long neck like a giraffe. The mouth sits at the base of the long neck …

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Argiope Trifasciata Spider--Doggone Buggone at 2018 Start

Tch! On the last day of 2017, I took pix and video of an argiope trifasciata spider. (For background, read "Argiope Trifasciata Spider--Final Bug Spotting of 2017".) The next morning, I went to the web; she was nowhere to be found. Over the next few days, we’d peered into the plant—no sign of the spider, nor indicators of web disturbances, nor egg sac.

I’m guessing that the spider did not undergo a "normal" life cycle. From BugwoodWiki's “Banded Garden Spider”:
The overwintering stage is the eggs, which are protected within an egg sac attached to vegetation. Upon hatch in spring the spiderlings disperse, … Adult males begin to appear in late July and females shortly afterwards. The males wander while the females remain within a web. Mating occurs in the latter half of the summer and females produce egg sacs, … Freezing temperatures kill off all remaining spiders at the end of the season and they have a one year life cycle.
I’m going out on a limb here. The case for the spider to not having been there in the summer and fall is lack of any egg sac since having spotted her on New Year’s Eve. I propose that the weather, fast approaching freezing, resulted in lack of prey or male, possibly (probably?) influencing her to abandon her web.

I gleaned the following temperature info from December 30 through January 3 results, using Weatherunderground's Wundermap for my area:

December 30 temps—high in low 60s at noon, temp 49ish around 8 PM when we spotted the spider.
December 31 temps—40 at AM start, 37ish around 8 AM when I took pix of the spider, gradual temp drops.
January 1 temps—mid-20s at AM start, less than 30 throughout the entire day and evening.
January 2 temps—lower than 30 throughout the entire day and evening.
January 3 temps—20s at AM start, climbing to 30s around 9 AM, climbing near 60s around 4 PM, then cooling down as evening progresses.

I speculate that the spider constructed the web during reasonable temperature, before the freezing temperature set in and that lasted a few days. During the freeze, prey maybe didn't approach the web (unwittingly or not); thus, no food for the spider. No male argiope trifasciata spider approached the web for mating; thus, no need for the female to create an egg sac.

A few successive days of looking at the plant and noting the intact web, I sensed the female abandoned the web. I ruled out the possibility of a predator making a meal of the spider. I think a struggle would have resulted in the web being wrecked.

One other oddity: The orb web did not have a stabilimentum (elaborate web decoration) as I've noticed in several other images of female argiope trifasciata spider webs. The lack of stabilimentum might have indicated the stoppage or interruption of the spider's "housekeeping setup" process. Read more about stabilimenta.

Curious about doing your own weather timeframe lookup? Start at
  1. Confirm or click All Layers > Weather Stations > Temperature / Wind.
  2. At the search field, enter your city of interest, then enlarge the view to the scale you want.
  3. Scroll to the area of interest. (The results might be slow to arrive.)
  4. Click a number. When the inset window opens, click Visit local weather page for [your locale].
  5. At the new window, scroll down to the weather history options. The first option is interval, the default being daily. You can set for larger intervals or customize for date range. View graph or table.
  6. The newer window has an enlargeable inset map with additional station numbers you can click and find similar information.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Argiope Trifasciata Spider--Final Bug Spotting of 2017

The spider that I spotted in the morning of December 31, 2017 is in the same spider family and genus as argiope aurantia spider, which I wrote about in "Argiope Aurantia Spider--Part 1, Friday 13th Visitor" and "Argiope Aurantia Spider--Part 2, Post-Friday 13th Observations". The pixstrip images show the palm plant that this article’s spider was in, a peer into the plant, and larger views of the spider and inside of the plant. Click for a really close look of the spider and its spinnerets.

In my excitement over the spider’s striking looks facing me, I overlooked going around the palm plant for photographing or recording the spider's opposite side. In my quest for finding the spider's ID, I spotted various images that matched my best picture, which turned out to be the ventral view of an argiope trifasciata spider. Fortunately, I found some websites that show both ventral AND dorsal views. What a contrast!

In InsectIdentification’s “North American Spiders List”, I picked options at the bugfinder section at the bottom for general bug characteristics. The hits helped narrow down candidate bugs of various creepy crawly types.

I finally found the banded garden spider to be my model spider, but it was a roundabout way of finding the prospect. A helpful site was dPestSupply’s information section and picture for “Banded Garden Spider” (argiope trifasciata). (Coincidentally, just below the banded spider section was information and picture of a black-and-yellow garden spider (argiope aurantia), the one I wrote about in October.)

I found my way to InsectIdentification’s “Banded Garden Spider” page. Click the fourth and fifth thumbnails for viewing fill-the-screen closeups. The latter image very closely resembles my closeup near the top of this article.

As I dug deeper into the spider’s information, I found more corroborating information about the dorsal and ventral views.

BugwoodWiki’s “Banded Garden Spider” website provides basic information and images.
The banded garden spider (Figure 1 and 2) is a large species, with a generally ovoid form and bright markings. Mature females may be 13-14.5 mm when fully extended and the carapace of the body typically between 5-6.5 mm in length.

The banded argiope is an orbweaver spider that produces its large concentrically patterned web in areas of tall grass and shrubby vegetation. The web is sticky and strong, capable of holding fairly large and active insects such as wasps and grasshoppers.

Mating occurs in the latter half of the summer and females produce egg sacs, which have a general shape of a kettle drum. Freezing temperatures kill off all remaining spiders at the end of the season and they have a one year life cycle.
Fletcher Wildlife Garden (FWG) gallery at "Orb Weaver spiders (Araneidae)" shows a gallery of spiders in the family of orb weavers, including the argiope trifasciata spider (this article) and previous month's article about argiope aurantia spider.

View "Banded argiope (Argiope trifasciata), top side" (dorsal) and "Banded argiope (Argiope trifasciata), underside" (ventral). Another ventral view image shows an oval outline and arrow that identify the spinnerets.

A YouTube video "Argiope trifasciata (Banded Garden Spider) - catching a grasshopper" shows the spider in action, rotating itself several times, displaying its dorsal and ventral sides. Note the dorsal side's horizontal bands (invoking thoughts of Jupiter's cloud bands), and the ventral side's two prominent vertical bands with the red spinneret section as the spider maneuvers, wrapping its prey for later consumption.

Curious about the argiope garden spider for similarities and differences? Visit Bugguide's "Genus Argiope" taxonomy page. Also click Info and Images tabs.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Yucca End-of-2017 Miscellany

This article caps off this year of my yucca writings as follows:
  1. Yucca's Two Same-Year Stalk Bloom Cycles (contrasting a soft-leaf yucca's two stalks that bloomed within months of each other—one in July, and one in the fall)
  2. Yuccas as Succulents
  3. Relationship Among Yuccas, Agaves, and Asparagus
Yucca's Two Same-Year Stalk Bloom Cycles

The video provides visual progression contrasts between the two stalks. The first stalk's cycle lasted 22 days, and the second cycle lasted 12 days. I placed side-by-side images of two days (first stalk) and one day (second stalk) of the cycles for most of the video. The progressive yellowing of the leaves in the second stalk (right side) becomes more evident day by day.

The video also includes some recent post-bloom images. The stalks are bare of blooms, the leaves seemingly lifeless and having surrendered their nutrients to the two cycles of blooms. The successive images show stalks no longer upright, apparently leaning to the side, then succumbing to gravity. In the December 8 images, snow lightly blankets the leaves.

Yuccas as Succulents From "Super Succulents for Your Garden"
Some of our favorite plants are succulents – hens and chicks, agave, yuccas, aloes and more. ... The highlight of these plants (yuccas) is a tall flower stalk covered in cream-colored blooms that can reach anywhere from a few feet up to 30 feet tall, depending on the species.
From "Soft Leaf Yucca: 21 Important Facts On The Attractive Succulent"
A sought-after succulent, the yucca, adds a very tropical feel and a distinct look to your garden.
Relationship Among Yuccas, Agaves, and Asparagus

From "What Is the Difference Between a Yucca and an Agave?"
Both yucca and agave plants belong to the family of Agavaceae. The Yucca plant derives from the genera subtype ''Yucca,'' featuring about 40 species, whereas the agave belongs to the genera subtype ''Agave,'' which features around 300 species.
From "Why agave stalks look a bit like asparagus spears"
There's a reason agave stalks look a bit like asparagus spears. The plants belong to the Asparagceae family.
Agavoideae is a subfamily of monocot flowering plants in the family Asparagaceae, order Asparagales. It has previously been treated as a separate family, Agavaceae. The group includes many well-known desert and dry zone types such as the agave, yucca, and Joshua tree.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Soft-Leaf Yucca's Second Stalk (Recurvifolia)

This yucca originally sprouted a stalk that I took daily pictures of for 22 days ("22-Day Cycle of Soft-Leaf Yucca (Recurvifolia)", YouTube video). This article is about its second stalk. The blooming and decline cycle lasted about half as long as the first stalk's, which I will contrast (mostly with video) in the next article.

I spotted bugs for half the days—September 30, October 1 through 4, and October 6. Some might be on more than one day's picture. Most look to be leaf-footed bugs, and an occasional spider.

Before I prepared the images I made for this article's video, I thought the yucca might be a weeping yucca:

"Yucca, Weeping
Yucca, Soft Leaf
Yucca recurvifolia
Weeping Yucca begins as a uniform rosette shrub, growing upward on a single trunk reaching heights of five to six feet before falling over its own weight. New trunks will sprout where the main trunk makes contact with the ground, making it a multi-trunk shrub. … The flower stalk can grow up to five feet above the foliage, displaying a large cluster of white to pale yellow bell-shaped flowers in the early spring that last into the summer.
The description looked good regarding height, multiple stalks, and flower shapes. However, blooming occurred only in July, then again for a very short time in the fall. I also noticed Mortellaro Nursery's image shows the blooms not quite resembling those of my images. Mortellaro's blooms look somewhat splayed, while many of my subject yucca's blooms resemble upside-down tulips.

My next yucca article, besides contrasting the yucca's first and second stalk, will also include some "leftover" succulent info.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

22-Day Cycle of Soft-Leaf Yucca (Recurvifolia)

I took daily pictures of a neighborhood yucca that, coincidentally, totaled 22, same as "22-Day Cycle of Twist-LeafYucca (Ripicolla)". The soft-leaf yucca has bell-shaped blooms and soft, flat leaves, as you can see in the YouTube video. Closer views of blooms start on July 9 (day 6). I did not create closer views for the final two days.

Bug alert for July 11 (very wee, without additional zoom image), 15, 17, 18, 20, 21. and 23. Weirdly, I found many of the bugs in the pictures after I spotted them during full-screen playback inspections. I got pretty good with creating and inserting new images of bugs in blooms. Most look like bugs that I wrote about in "Leaf-footed Bug Visitor".

Visit some recurvifolia-themed sites:

"Yucca recurvifolia"
Yucca recurvifolia, commonly known as the Curve Leaf Yucca, Weeping Yucca or Pendulous Yucca, is native to southeastern USA. Yucca recurvifolia is synonymous with Yucca gloriosa var. tristis, Yucca gloriosa var. recurvifolia or Yucca pendula. … Recurvifolia is derived from the Latin recurvo meaning ‘bend back’ and folium meaning ‘leaf’.
"Yucca recurvifolia Soft Leaf Yucca"
Soft Leaf Yucca is generally a single stem in youth and can become multi trunked with age. The growth habit is rosette in youth, with age the plant can become tree like. This Yucca will bloom late summer to fall, the flowers are creamy white and bell shaped and are borne on 3-5' spikes.
"Monrovia 3.58-Gallon Soft Leaf Yucca"
Succinct info:
Common Name Soft Leaf Yucca
Botanical Name Yucca recurvifolia
Sure, it's a sales page, I do like it for basic info and the clickable image, which you can pan and zoom for gleaning great visual details. Another site that has a good image that resembles my July subject is at Mortellaro's Nursery.

Matt Anders Landscaping Blog
"Soft Leaf Yucca"
Many soft leaf yuccas are a single trunk shrub but I’ve seen a few that have formed miltiple [sic] trunks. They bloom from summer to late fall, usually June through October. Once in bloom the they will sprout a 1/2? to 1? stem covered with white bell shaped flowers hanging downward.
The yucca that I took daily pictures of in July surprised me by sprouting a second stalk a couple of months after the 22-day cycle. More on that, along with an accompanying video in the next article.

Friday, November 24, 2017

22-Day Cycle of Twist-Leaf Yucca (Ripicolla)

This yucca was the first one I'd been able to take daily pictures for its entire 22-day cycle, April 28 through May 19. All previous twist-leaf yuccas (ripicolla) didn't survive. Deer chewed off stalks and blooms within four days of bloom beginnings. Closer views of blooms start on May 6 (day 9). I did not take close-ups of blooms for the final three days.

In rewatching my video, I spotted an ant. I hunted down the original image. It was a pleasant surprise to see not only one, but two ants. Click image for larger composite.

Click for an even closer look.

Specific to the Twist-Leaf Yucca (Yucca Ripicolla)

From Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower center page for "Yucca rupicola":
New leaves are straight but become twisted with age. Flowering stalks often over 5 feet tall, bearing a cluster of bell-shaped, white flowers with petals up to 2 1/2 inches long and an inch wide, appearing from April to June.
Scroll past "Plant Database" fill-in section. Also, click the gallery link and scroll down to view images. Several of the bloom pictures resemble close-ups that are in my video.
From "Twist-leaf Yucca, Twisted-leaf Yucca, Twisted Yucca":
Its narrow, undulate, olive-green leaves twist as they age; the leaf margins can be yellow, orange or red, with minute sharp teeth. Rupicola means "lover of rock."
Dave's Garden "Twistleaf Yucca, Twist-leaf Yucca, Twisted-leaf Yucca, Rock Yucca, Texas Yucca" has very succinct info, but includes great pix!

General Yucca Links
 Overview of Yuccas
 New Mexico State Flower
Extensive Yucca Info, Some with Pix or Links to Pix for Specific Yuccas
Other Yucca Items to Pique Curiosity

Monday, October 30, 2017

Argiope Aurantia Spider--Part 2, Post-Friday 13th Observations

My previous article "Argiope Aurantia Spider--Part 1, Friday 13th Visitor" is an introduction to a spider that we spotted in our photinias around 4 PM on Friday 13th. It had alien-face features on its back, with its large orb web and zigzag design. Took pix at varying angles for capturing features and web.

The next day around the same time, the scenery changed. The orb web was gone, seemingly replaced by a bridge-like structure between two taller plants. The spider was nowhere in sight. We thought maybe it might repair the web. From "Black-and-Yellow Argiope Spider", "Black-and-yellow argiope spiders often construct and repair their webs after dark". We decided to visit the area the next few days to observe additional changes. By the 16th (Monday), we took new pictures, trying to replicate some of the framings.

Between the 13th and 16th, I had researched the argiope aurantia spider. One unusual feature is its forming of one or more egg sacs, which occurs after orb web construction. We reviewed pix from the 13th. Aha! An egg sac already there! So, the spider had already set up a nursery even before we'd spotted her and orb web on the 13th.

Unfortunate that we have only one pic from 13th with egg sac. However, we have several pix from 16th that show it. See composite for its relative location.

They also show the different web structure and lack of spider. (On the 13th, orb web.)

On the 16th, the bridge-like web spanned two taller plants, as though a possible dismantling of the orb web. As really amateur observers, we speculated that the spider might have wrecked the orb web deliberately and departed.

Maybe the web clump centered between the taller plants might distract predators' eyes away from the egg sac, positioned at the leftside plant.

Friday 27th morning, we noticed that the bridge-like web was no more, speculating that the previous night's winds overcame it. Oh, well. In any case, the egg sac remains! Bug Eric's article "Spider Sunday: Black and Yellow Argiope" provides information about sequence of events about egg sac(s).
Once mated, a female produces one or more egg sacs, each about the size of a large marble, and covered in tough, papery silk. Inside are 300-1,400 eggs. The eggs hatch in late autumn or early winter, but the spiderlings do not exit the egg sac. Instead, they go into diapauses, a dormant state with lowered metabolism. They emerge the following spring and reach adulthood by late summer. Various parasites and predators can take their toll on the egg sacs and spiderlings, however.
One video that shows an egg-sac creation is "Argiope Aurantia Making Egg Sac Complete (Time Lapse 6500%)". The video owner's description mentions "8 hours of video compressed to around 7 minutes". Exhausting, yet fascinating! A related video "Garden Spider and her egg sac" shows the spider working on her egg sac in the garden, something we ourselves missed seeing.

Speaking of video, I pondered over citing videos in my previous argiope aurantia spider article "Argiope Aurantia Spider--Part 1, Friday 13th Visitor". I decided to save video links for this article (Part 2).

For short but succinct video info about the spider, view "Black and Yellow Argiope Spider Documentary.m4v".

Take a closer look at argiope aurantia spider web-building:
  • "Argiope aurantia "Writing Spider" builds web."
    ("An hour and twenty minutes of the work of an Argiope Aurantia spider building its web is compressed to only three minutes ten seconds in this back-yard video."
    This video contains additional textual commentary.
  • "Argiope Aurantia Making Web Close-up HD"
    ("Notice how the Argiooe [sic] aurantia spider uses each leg to measure out the threads. Also notice how she uses her third pair of legs to cut the scaffolding thread!")
    This video show excellent views of spider's underside pattern (ventral view) as it weaves the web. Note the underside pattern we captured in our own pic.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Argiope Aurantia Spider--Part 1, Friday 13th Visitor

On Friday the 13th, we got trees trimmed. While looking around mid-afternoon at the newer photinias from July last year, we spotted a yellow and black spider and its good-sized "orb" web. The design on the spider's back resembled a combination of alien faces and loving cup handles. Including the legs, the spider looked to be at least two inches end to end. (We were so fascinated by the size, the dorsal yellow and black design, and the vertical-facing zigzag near its head).

I posted to my LinkedIn feed and a listserve for ID help. A day later, I received corroborating info—a mouthful of a name—argiope aurantia spider.

"Argiope aurantia (Black and Yellow Garden Spider)"
Argiope is Latin for “with bright face” (Cameron 2005); aurantia, in Latin, is an adjective meaning “orange-colored.” … Body length (excluding legs) of adult female ranges from 14-28 mm; adult males range from 5-8 mm.
"Black-and-Yellow Argiope Spider"
Largest size spider in Galveston-Houston region. Females ? to 1? inches (19-28 mm). Males 1/4" to 3/8" (5-9 mm) … These spiders prefer sunny places with little or no wind to build their webs. Once they find suitable sites, they will stay there unless the web is frequently disturbed, or they can't catch enough food. Black-and-yellow argiope spiders often construct and repair their webs after dark. Their orb webs can be up to 2 feet in diameter and are very complex. is my normal go-to site for bugs. I noticed that both and state that body lengths exclude legs.

At "Species Argiope aurantia - Black-and-Yellow Argiope", size information "female: 14-25 mm … male: 5-6 mm (sizes do not include legs)" helped nudge me to rethink my initial observation comment about size. Thus, I modified an image for scaling the body against a measuring stick, which came to 13/16" (.8125"). At 20.64 mm, the spider is definitely in the large female size range. No peewee male here!

Dorsal Designs Galore!

The designs resemble a combination of stacked alien heads and loving cup handles similar to close-up near the top of the article. See if you agree.

This article (Part 1) is primarily an introduction to our Friday the 13th argiope aurantia spider visitor, primarily the fascination over the physical scenery. "Argiope Aurantia Spider--Part 2, Post-Friday 13th Observations" describes how the scenery changed or didn't change when we looked a mere 24 hours later. Although the post-Friday 13th pix are from Monday 16th, they actually reflect the scenery from mid-afternoon Saturday 14th until maybe early Friday 27th.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Wasp and Cicada Together

Earlier this month, a wasp and cicada caught our eyes. I might have whipped out my measuring stick and laid it near the duo, but decided to not disturb the wasp. As it turns out, several resources claim that the wasp is likely busy and not interested in a nearby human. From Cicada Mania's "10 Facts about Cicada Killer Wasps"
They are so focused on cicadas or other Cicada Killer Wasps, that they could care less about you. Sure, if you step on one, squeeze one in your hand, or otherwise harass the insect, it might sting you. Unlike other wasps, it will not go out of its way to harm you. Play it safe, do not go near these wasps, …
The last few months have been interesting for encountering cicadas and related items—exuviae (discarded exoskeleton), cicada wasp (humongous insect), and a molting cicada visitor on my doorstep—all separate events. This incident was different—both wasp and cicada in the same scene. In looking closer at the pictures and doing Google lookups, a real oddity was the size of the pictured wasp compared to the cicada. Resources such as Cicada Mania and BugGuide.Net describe the wasps as large.
If you compare the pictures with numerous online images or videos of wasps flying with their prey, my wasp is an absolute peewee. As I didn't spend much time with the duo, and didn't shoot a video, I'm inferring a story. The cicada's back faces the sky. For the wasp to use the cicada as food source for its larva, it must be able to insert the egg into the cicada. In the three pix, the wasp looks waaaay too small to be able to turn the cicada onto its back.

Walking in the same area the next day, did not see either insect. Dang! Missed opportunity.

While researching sites and videos to better identify the wasp and cicada. I noted a couple of coincidences:
Additional video resources show wasps with cicadas. Those wasps are maybe half the size of the cicadas (unlike peewee wasp), but strong enough to haul their prey. Some of the videos also include narration about the wasps' actions on the hapless cicadas.

Cicada articles:

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Wire Hanger Crowdedness? Use Cable Clamps as Separators

If you’ve tangled with wire hangers with clothes, it’s time to put space at those annoyances on your closet rod. (Works best if the rod is a simple dowel.) Use cable clamps to separate hangers from each other and keep them orderly. Two main spacer methods:
  • Alternating hangers and cable clamps, and simply sliding items along the rod. Hangers can easily hook or unhook from the rod.
  • Hooking each hanger in each cable clamp’s set of holes. Use each hanger and clamp as a unit for draping or removing the article of clothing.
1 Determine the suitable size of cable clamp you need. First, measure the existing rod for its diameter (4 suggested methods).
  • Hold measuring stick across the dowel’s diameter.
  • Use calipers to measure diameter.
  • Wrap measuring tape around dowel for circumference, then divide by pi (3.14) to obtain diameter.
  • Wrap paper around dowel, fold to mark circumference, measure length, then divide number by pi (3.14) to obtain diameter.
2 Obtain suitable cable clamps.

The brand of cable clamps I bought were Thomas & Bettes (100 for $10, free shipping, fast delivery), using eBay.

**Beware of high price quotes at other websites showing the same part number.**
100 Thomas & Betts 1.5" Nylon Cable Clamp # N6NY-024-9-C, $10.00, FREE Standard Shipping

3 View the video for ideas for cable clamp and hanger placement ideas.

Eye-catching Wire Hanger Topics Encountered During Research

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Peewee Leggy Bugs--Water Striders

Jesus! A bug type that can walk on water!

A neighbor walking with us spotted a bug he considered a "leggy bug", like several I had written about the last few months. From looking at images and diagrams of proportionally for legs vs. body length, I could agree. However, after peering more into the water strider (aka pond skater), I'd characterize the bug as a peewee leggy bug. These striders' body lengths measure only about 1/2". Their legginess, however, helps them navigate on water surfaces.

From Osborn School site "Water Strider"—"½ of an inch long … sometimes called 'Pond Skater', can run across the surface of the water, very sensitive to movement".

Enchanted Learning's site "Water Strider" has similar information with a descriptive diagram.
The water strider (also known as the pond skater) is a true bug that can run across the surface of water … The underside of the body is covered with water-repellent hair. … Most water striders are over 0.2 inch (5 mm) long. … The long, middle legs move this bug across the surface on the water like paddles. The long hind legs steer them and act as brakes. The short front legs are used to catch prey.
Coincidentally, I wrote about a "true bug" previously—the leaf-footed bug that visited me at one of my porch columns "Leaf-footed Bug Visitor". The commonality—piercing mouth parts: In the case of the water strider in BugFact's "Water Strider (True Bug)" site, using the bug POV, "[I] use my piercing mouth parts to suck the juices primarily from other insects or spiders, alive or dead."

Is the water strider a leggy bug like several I have written about recently? Yep, if considering ratios of body parts. "Water Strider (True Bug)" emphasis on legs—"I am able to slide along the surface of the water by distributing my weight evenly on my long legs. … I have two antenna and six long thin legs. My front legs are shorter than my back legs."'s "Family Gerridae - Water Striders", shows the size to be a puny (3-16 mm, about .12 to .63 inches)—not as impressive as walking sticks, crane flies, or huntsman spiders.

An informative site, seemingly hostile to water striders, is PestWiki's "Water Strider: 8 General Facts and How to Get Rid of Them". (The descriptive illustration is pretty cool.)
They have short front legs which help them to capture aquatic insects in ponds. They also have wings on dorsal sides. They use their middle pair of hydrophilic legs for propulsion and their hind pairs for steering. The adult water striders come in two species i.e. one with wings n (sic) the other without wings.
How It Works' "How do water striders walk on water?" provides another description of mechanics and water-coping ability of this bug:
Despite being denser than water, a water strider doesn’t doesn’t sink; … The forces of attraction between all the molecules in the water pull the molecules at the surface together so that they lock like a thin elastic membrane of slightly denser molecules.…

The middle pair of legs, lying ?at on the water, are used as oars to ‘row’ over the surface while the rear pair act like rudders for steering. Long, splayed legs enable the pond skater to distribute its weight evenly over a greater surface area, further helping it to float.
Some TouTube Videos About Water Striders with Emphasis on Water-walking Talents
A Male Water Strider Species with Captivating Courtship

"Male water striders evolved antennae to grab females by the eyes" describes a study of rheumatobates rileyi species of water strider. The male bug mates with the female, first using his antennae to physically capture her eyes. Besides vivid descriptions, the article includes a video of the couple in action.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Molting Cicada Visitor at My Doorstep

Last month, on my way back from a morning walk around 8 AM, I spied a cicada partially emergent from its exoskeleton at my front door. It looked to be trapped and unable to have exited. Took pix, natch. Checked later, and found it had moved. In the course of the day (about 4 1/2 hours), the two of us took series of pix and videos. (View the finished YouTube video.)

Around mid-day, the other pictaker took a last shot of the cicada, fully extended, still drying out. Shortly thereafter, we saw it had departed, leaving the exuviae that had a more slender exit cavity than I'd seen of other vacated shells. The video is time-sequenced for cropped stills and clips. Most amazing is capturing stages of emergence and the stunning mask-like look on its back.

Note: Somehow, I missed the shelly cicada on my way out for my walk (7-ish, maybe). I either didn't spot it, or it approached the doorstep during my walk. View "Cicada Molting - Nature Time Lapse (Cicala fa la muta)" to see a couple of shelly cicadas undulating and splitting the shell backs, starting the emerging process, then completing the molting process. and Cicada Mania has been my most frequent go-to site for bugs. For this article about cicadas, Cicada Mania's "The most interesting 17 year cicada facts" bubbled to the surface as a compelling site to visit.
More worthy Cicada Mania sites:
Some images from's "Subfamily Cicadinae" page resemble my visitor cicada. The genus might be neotibicen ("Genus Neotibicen - Annual or Dogday Cicadas") or megatibicen ("Genus Megatibicen").
From "Genus Megatibicen"
Most members of the Megatibicen are >2.5 inches long (incl. wings). Megatibicen are often "stockier in appearance" & characteristically more pruinose (white powdery wax) than are most members of the Genus Neotibicen.
Pee Ew
One of the clips in my YouTube video shows the emergent cicada spraying a fluid. Did it pee? Sure looked like it did! Found some info and a video, although these cicadas were already free of their shells.

At Massachusetts Cicadas site (slogan: Dedicated to the Study of the Cicadas of Massachusetts and New England), "Cicada Molting/Eclosing Process" shows a timeline a timeline of the cicada's emergence. For ick factor, view the closeup of cicada pee. Cicada Mania's "Do cicadas pee?" mentions cicadas after they molt, not during. The site includes YouTube video "Cicadas - Drinking & Peeing (01Apr2012a)" of branch with emerged cicadas on it spraying away. (The spray resembles the emission as from my molting cicada visitor.)

Cicada articles:

Monday, July 31, 2017

Leaf-footed Bug Visitor

My bug visitor was unusually shaped, like a slender, upside-down bell, with muscular-looking, long, rear legs. It was nearly monochrome dark. From preliminary research and images, I settled on it being a leaf-footed bug.

From “Leaf-Footed Bugs, Family Coreidae”—“Many members of this family have noticeable leaf-like extensions on their hind tibia, and this is the reason for their common name.” Another good preliminary resource is the Insect Identification site for “Leaf-Footed Bug - (Acanthocephala spp.)”.

A few days ago (about 8 AM), the intriguing bug was on a porch column, unmoving. I left it alone, but took several pictures. After about an hour, I returned, toting my camera and masking tape-backed measuring stick, to see if it was still there. The bug had moved. I aligned the ruler near it and pressed; took a couple of shots. Bug stayed put.

I decided to return after the house shadow would fall across the column for better pictures (around 3 PM). As I set some blank background nearby, the bug started to move! Upward! Out of range of my backdrop! Aha! I would just RECORD it for a little while! Then it froze. I took more pix, then left. About an hour afterward, I looked to see it had left.

Later, for help in identifying the bug, I posted the ruler-accompanied bug picture to my LinkedIn feed, emailed someone who had blogged about a similar-looking bug, and scoured big-picture bug sites. By poring SLOWLY over the big picture sites, I narrowed down my search. It helped to have an idea of the bug I wanted to ID. Good jumping off (ha) sites:
I kept encountering the term “true bug”. From ASU School of Life Sciences site:
The key difference between true bugs and other insects is their mouth parts. … true bugs have specialized mouth parts used to suck juices. … The proboscis of a true bug is not retractable. Insects with movable mouthparts allow them to move food from the source to their mouth. The proboscis of a true bug is more rigid and cannot be rolled up.
Poring more into Google site and image searches, I found several sites that showed bugs with strong resemblances to my visitor.
Although "What’s That Bug" did not include the species name declivis, I found declivis and three other species names (femorata, terminalis, thomasi) in the Bugguide taxonomy tab. Best match for images is delivis.

*** View my video of the leaf-footed bug that was on my porch column, leaving around mid-day. Includes motion footage, a still of it with accompanying measuring stick for size reference. Additional stills capture a seeming heel click and shadow-illusion pushups. Check out the carapace. As it turns out, I’ve been bugged a long time ago, over the same type of bug … in 2005, when I helped a friend move. I have included some of those stills also.
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