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-Leaf Yucca (Rupicola)". 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 (Rupicola)

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 (rupicola) 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 Rupicola)

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.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Cicada Wasp N Cicada a Month Apart

The last few weeks while taking daily walks and pix, we've spotted some unusual buggy items that warranted closeups. (I’m getting better about carrying and whipping out a measuring stick so I can scale the objects.) My pixstrip with composites shows three related objects—cicada wasp (dead), cicada exoskeleton (aka "exuvia"), and cicada (dead), approximately scaled with my trusty 6” rule.

Some LinkedIn connections IDed the first bug as a cicada wasp (from June 12). Cicada wasp? It’s a wasp that zeros in on cicadas as they emerge from their hibernation. Note that the underside of the image pair shows the stinger. I created a composite with pastes of measuring stick segments and the camera pouch. I was amazed at the over-two-inch wingspan. According to "The Texas-sized cicada killer", the females have the stingers and are docile, and males don't have stingers but are aggressive.

The second image section (July 11) shows a cicada exuvia that hung vertically from a curb. You can see a hollow inside where the insect emerged from. For the image, I used masking tape to affix the measuring stick near the body length to get a sense of scale.

8/10/17, WRT to exuvia/exuviae—from Steve Schwartzman of Portraits of Wildflowers
from what I can tell, entomologists normally use the plural exuviae. The singular would indeed be exuvia, but entomologists seem not to use that form. While exuviae is formally a plural, it carries something of a singular force as a set of sloughed-off parts.

The third image section (July 12) shows the topside and bottom side of a cicada. I had help from additional LinkedIn connections in IDing it. Two commenters provided the same wikipedia link (endorsement!), which conveniently includes an audio link near the picture. In the last few weeks I sure have heard a lot of the same sounds. View the following YouTube videos for closeup motions and sounds.
View videos of cicadas starting out as muddy-looking bugs. Watch them detach from their exoskeletons and emerge as elegant, transparent-winged cicadas—
The following three videos show closeups of cicada wasps and their distinctive yellow markings. Two of the videos show wasps hauling their much larger prey.
Past Articles about Cicadas

Last year, I had written a couple of articles about cicadas, but was more focused on the exoskeletons than the wasp predator or winged insects. Both exoskeletons in those images had wound up on the same porch column at different times. Incidentally, one set of images includes wasps, but they seem to be maybe curious paper wasps buzzing at the empty shell.
Lots of thanks to LinkedIn people who helped ID my pictures in my feed and also commented! If you're a LinkedIn member, you can visit the following topics and images:

Cicada articles:

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Leggy Bugs--Grasshoppers

These REALLLY leggy bugs are great jumpers. As if having spectacular jumping legs weren’t enough for grasshoppers for locomotion, they even have wings to fly with. Visit a-z animals ”Grasshopper” website for basic information and images.
about 2 inches long although larger grasshoppers are found on a fairly regular basis that grow to more than 5 inches in length … all species of grasshopper have a three-part body … head … thorax … abdomen … six legs, two pairs of wings, and two antennae.

Grasshoppers have six jointed legs that are incredibly powerful for such a small creature, as grasshoppers are able to jump extraordinary distances. The two back legs of the grasshopper are long and powerful and are just for jumping, where the four front legs of the grasshopper are primarily used to hold onto prey and to help it to walk.
Grasshopper Anatomy” has overall descriptions, images, and additional information about body parts. The site is succinct about the grasshopper legs’ purposes.
The biggest Grasshoppers are about 4.5 inches (11.5 centimetres) long. Their legs are long hind legs that are used for hopping and jumping. The short front legs are used to hold prey and to walk.
"Grasshopper World, up-close and personal" is interesting for closeup views that include color effects and music. No narration and scant text, but the description area is reasonably informative.

Arthropod Morphology Parts of an Insect (Grasshopper)” shows a grasshopper diagram with body part identifiers and glossary. A complementary resource is Quizlet’s “Grasshopper” website.

"Grasshopper Facts for Kids" is a YouTube slide show with text and images. Information about jumping distances and mechanics of jumping run from about 1:50 to 2:30.

Two Websites that Emphasize Grasshopper Jumps

These two websites explain the structure of grasshopper hind legs and mechanics of jumping capability.

From “How the [Grasshopper] Legs Work”—
The thick part at the top of the leg (femur) contains the muscles which make the thinner lower part (tibia) move. The foot at the end of the leg has sharp claws, which give the grasshopper a good grip so that its foot doesn't skid when it pushes on the ground as it jumps.
From “Basic Requirements” (for good grasshopper jump)—
First, the legs have to thrust on the ground with a lot of force.
If the thrust is too low, the animal doesn't get a fast enough take-off and it doesn't jump very far.

Second, the legs have to develop this force quickly.
If the thrust builds up too slowly, the legs will extend before the thrust reaches its maximum. Once the grasshopper is standing on tip-toe, it can't thrust against the ground any more.
Two Grasshopper-featured Stories

Grasshoppers are in a couple of notable stories—both also involving ants. One story is an Aesop fable. More recent is A Bug’s Life (1998). A YouTube video is a movie excerpt featuring a tribe of grasshoppers discussing ants.

Wider View of Jumper Insects

The focus for this article has been strictly grasshoppers WRT leggy bugs. Other jumping insects are also significant. The Orthoptera order includes grasshoppers, crickets, and katydids. Grasshoppers are in the Caelifera suborder. What about locusts, you might wonder. They belong to the Acrididae family.

Difference Between Locust and Grasshopper” provides contrasts and comparisons. The most significant clarification is "The locust is a type of a grasshopper which is short horned. The grasshopper is not a type of a locust.” Visit the DifferenceBetween website for fuller explanations about these two very similar-looking insects.

What about grasshoppers and crickets? Loads of websites contrast these leggy bugs. Amateur Entomologists’ Society’s “Grasshoppers and Crickets (Order: Orthoptera)” has a good contrast list, example pictures, a distinguishing-features section, and subfamily information.

What about grasshoppers and katydids? Wannabe Entomologist’s “Grasshopper or Katydid?” has good explanations of these bugs’ features and a couple of eye-popping pics of someone handling each.

An entertaining website is “’The bug-investigation’ – Locust, grasshopper, cricket or katydid?”. The article is written as though investigating suspects in a crime. It has sections for pictures, ID cards, commonalities, clues, and conclusion.

Leggy Bugs articles:

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Leggy Bugs--Huntsman Spiders

Inspiration for a leggy bugs article about spiders came in when I spotted a news item about a very large spider found in a toddler's room (in Michigan). Visit "Mother calls experts after giant spider found in toddler's room".

In the accompanying video, a pet store worker said that it was "a mature male heteropoda venatoria … Australian huntsman spider … one of the largest spiders in the world". The clip segued to a quarter and the dead spider for size comparison. Taking a screenshot, then duplicating adjacent images of the coin, I concluded that the spider spanned almost 4 1/2 inches, about four and a half coin diameters.

In researching more about the incident and huntsman spiders, I found that their leg lengths, rather than body sizes, make up a large part of their span sizes. I'd run across "heteropoda venatoria" and "heteropoda maxima" in numerous websites, often not both on same websites. More on the taxonomy terminology farther down.

General Huntsman Spider Information

Numerous websites separately addressed huntsmen spiders as being “heteropoda venatoria” or “heteropoda maxima”. A website that shows hierarchy is Encyclopedia of Life's “Heteropoda venatoria Domestic Huntsman Spider” classifications.
  • From “Heteropoda venatoria Domestic Huntsman Spider” overview:
    commonly called the brown huntsman spider…. They are fairly large, some having a leg span of approximately five inches (13 centimetres). … Brown huntsman spiders do not spin webs. These spiders are known to hunt by waiting quietly on a vertical surface (or even a ceiling) and then rushing forward when their prey gets within close range.
  • From “Heteropoda maxima Giant Huntsman” overview:
    Winning the title of largest spider by its legs, the Giant Huntsman is twelve inches (30 cm) in diameter, the size of a dinner plate, and was discovered in Laos in 2001. This arachnid does not build a web. Stealthy and quick, it prefers to hunt for its prey and has been seen eating insects and small rodents.
"Huntsman Spiders: Low Risk • Non-Aggressive"
Fuma Pest, an Australian pest control includes an interesting tidbit—“the first 2 pairs of legs are longer than rear two”.

"Giant Spider! World's Biggest Spider Giant Huntsman Spider"
This video has good basic information about size, leg joints that contrast with tarantulas, speed, recommendations regarding disposal, and habitat. Although not mentioned in the video, that it mentions Laos and "giant" MIGHT mean the spider is "maxima" rather than merely "venatoria".


From Latdict Latin Dictionary & Grammar Resources for "maxima"—
definition of maximus, maxima, maximum are as follows:
  highest, utmost
  leading, chief
"Biggest" and "largest" descriptors seem appropriate for these spiders.
Some rudimentary information from RedOrbit's website “Giant Huntsman Spider”:
This is the largest spider of the genus Heteropoda. It is also the largest spider in the family Sparassidae. It has a body-length of 1.8 inches and a leg-span of 12 inches. The scientific name maxima, is derived from maximus, meaning “the largest … the legs are long compared to the body, and twist forward in a crab-like style".
LiveScience's website "Giant Huntsman Spider: World's Largest Spider By Leg Span" includes content very similar to the YouTube video "Giant Spider! World's Biggest Spider Giant Huntsman Spider".
The average huntsman spider species is about 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) long with a leg span of up to 5 inches (12.7 cm). The giant huntsman spider, however, has a leg span of up to 12 inches (30 cm), making it the largest spider by diameter; it is often described as being "the size of a dinner plate".

Because of their size, huntsman spiders are sometimes incorrectly identified as tarantulas. One way to tell a huntsman from a tarantula is by the position of the creature's legs. … Huntsman spiders' legs have twisted joints, which allow the appendages to extend forward like a crab's. Their alignment allows them to move side-to-side, further explaining the crab nickname.
Out of curiosity about the spider's size, I took a screenshot of the penny near spider, then duplicated adjacent images of the penny. I concluded that the spider spanned almost 3 3/4 inches, about five penny diameters.


From Latdict Latin Dictionary & Grammar Resources for "venatoria"—
definition of venatorius, venatoria, and venatorium is "of a hunter".

My usual go-to website, BugGuide, has a page for "Species Heteropoda venatoria - Huntsman Spider", but none for maxima. Compared to maxima size references, venatoria spiders look to be smaller.
Body length of adults ranges from 22-28 millimeters [.87 to 1.10"]. The long legs add considerable size; leg spans can reach 3-5 inches.
The Animal Corner website "Huntsman Spider Characteristics" mentions venatoria. The size reference is more generous than BugGuide's—"large, long-legged spiders, measuring up to 15 centimetres [almost 6"] across the legs". Additional information:
found in Australia, New Zealand, Southeast Asia, the Mediterranean, Florida and Hawaii and possibly in many other tropical and semi-tropical regions. Adult Huntsman spiders do not build webs, however, they hunt and forage for food.
Additional Links Featuring Huntsman Spiders
  • "How to handle a Huntsman Spider - by Brennan Hatton"
    This video shows gutsy huntsman spider handler, imo. Cringeworthy, perhaps, if you wince at arachnid touchy-feelies.
  • The Spider Named After David Bowie (And It's From Malaysia, Not Mars)
    The spider, part of the tropical genus Heteropoda more commonly called the huntsman spider, has bright orange hairs on its red-brown body and legs, and sports vibrant red markings on its underside.
  • "Terrifying moment a pest controller finds huge huntsman spider and hundreds of her babies in Australia"
    This article is another Australian huntsman spider story, with a link to an artful 21-second video.
  • "Giant Banded Huntsman Spider Vs Jungle Huntsman Spider | MONSTER BUG WARS"
    Two huntsmen spiders battle to be predator winner. This fascinating video incorporates live footage, narration, and graphics simulation to explain these spiders' physical characteristics, speed, and battle capabilities against each other.
  • "12 World's Largest Spiders"
    This slide show of spiders includes narration and introductory captions. Two of the featured spiders are huntsman spiders.
  • "11 BIGGEST Spiders"
    The video's expandable description includes the transcript of the narration. The video owner lists Heteropoda maxima, a huntsman spider, as #4 for size.
  • "10 of the World’s Largest Spiders"
    This website presents static information and images in countdown from 10 to 1 “starting from the smallest of the largest, all the way to the winning monster-sized, biggest spider in the world”. The huntsman spider comes in at #2 for size.
  • "Most AMAZING Spiders In The World!"
    These spiders are truly amazing for looks and characteristics. Has some specimen overlap with "11 BIGGEST Spiders". An identifying caption spans each spider's clip. The segment about the cartwheeling spider, a huntsman spider, also shows a robot based on its movement.
  • Cartwheeling Spider Found, Inspires New Robot
    This article provides information about the cartwheeling huntsman spider, also informally referred to as the flic-flac spider.
  • "18 Creepy Facts about Arachnophobia"
    This website includes information about the search for the spider to be the star attraction in Arachnophobia. Woohoo! A huntsman spider won!
  • To find the right arachnids for the job, Marshall and his team evaluated a number of species—including wolf spiders, tarantulas, and huntsman spiders—by putting them through a “spider olympics,” running each species through 10 tests, including speed (the faster the spider, the scarier it is), climbing ability, and reaction to heat and cold. The “gold medalist,” according to Marshall, was the three-inch-wide Delena spider, a harmless but sinister-looking huntsman native to Australia that was introduced to New Zealand in the 1920s.
A Couple of Non-huntsman Spider Links
  • 10 Creepiest Spiders in Movies
    This website provides instances of spiders (mostly tarantulas) in movies, accompanied by video clips, excluding for Home Alone.
  • GIANT SPIDER Movie Montage
    The video's description attributes music scores and video clips. Eye-popping! No kidding about "GIANT".

Leggy Bugs articles:

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Leggy Bugs--Praying Mantises

This bug is a fascinating study in bug looks for more than just legginess (big 'uns). The proper spelling is "praying", not its homophone "preying". From "PRAYING MANTIS INFORMATION AND STUDY", "The name praying mantis refers to the prayer-like stance of the insect (the name is often misspelled as "preying" mantis because they are predatory)." Evidently, they're built for predation with their "grasping, spiked forelegs called 'raptorial legs' (illustration)".

Prayingmantisshop notes the flexibility of the head—"permitting nearly 300 degrees of movement in some species and allowing for a great range of vision without the need to move their bodies". As for more physical information, the site notes "Praying mantises are often confused with phasmids (stick-leaf insects) and other elongated insects". Coincidentally, my previous article is about such bugs—"Leggy Bugs--Walking Sticks".

Praying mantises are noteworthy for the following main physical features:'s site "Order Mantodea - Mantids" summarizes:
Relatively large, elongate insects up to several inches long. Typical features include triangular heads with large compound eyes set on either side and usually three ocelli in between(5); very flexible articulation between the head and prothorax providing great mobility and allowing a mantid to "look over its shoulder"(6); raptorial forelegs used to capture prey.
For non-physical notable features, mantises' eating habits are carnivorous and cannibalistic. They trap and eat live prey. Some females cat males while copulating with them. Young mantises cannibalize siblings. Feast your eyes on a couple of beasty feasty links:
Mantises can be pets or garden pest control. Of interest is the availability of places that sell egg cases (eggs clumped together) that hatch into baby mantises. SSuch sites, besides The Praying Mantis Shop, also offer advice on care and feeding. Some sites as follows (not intended as endorsements) also include at least rudimentary descriptions of mantises.
You can buy egg cases even at Amazon.
Leggy Bugs articles:
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...