Found this lovely in the shed and moved her outside. She’s a Carolina Praying Mantis, a smaller mantis species. That round belly means she’s full of eggs and will lay them soon, to hatch in the spring. Yay! We used to see mantises all the time — now it’s rare. Thanks to urban infill and the dadgum mosquito-sprayers. A guy was spraying my neighbor’s bushes for mosquitoes and had this logo on his business van: “GREAT FOR KIDS AND PETS!” I bet. Anyway, mosquitoes breed in water, not bushes – ???
Found this huge Bessbug in the backyard, displaced by our whacked-out climate. Bessbugs are cool – one of the only beetles that live in groups and raise their young communally. And communicate by squeaking! The rotting logs they live in are dried out from the drought, and they’re already threatened by habitat loss in general. I love Bessbugs. I wish I could protect them.
For more info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passalidae
So excited to see this amazing Red Salamander (Pseudotriton ruber) last month. About 10 miles from Mount Mitchell in North Carolina, the highest peak east of the Mississippi. I think it’s Pseudotriton ruber nitidus, the Blue Ridge Red Salamander. It lacks the black chin of other subspecies. Red Salamanders are in the family of lungless salamanders (Plethdontidae). They have neither gills nor lungs, but breathe through their skin! Their skin has to stay moist for them to breathe, which is one reason salamanders are more common at higher elevations with greater rainfall and cooler temps. The lungless salamanders are a huge family of salamanders in N.C. I haven’t seen a Pseudotriton in 20 years! I’m grateful they’re still alive.
A rare treat — a fabulous Giant Stag Beetle (Lucanus elaphus). My fingertips for scale. Incredible!!! Saw this one at a city greenway last week. The huge jaws are only on males, they fight for females just like male elk, deer, and moose. Check out this video of 2 males fighting (a different but similar species): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r34FSI2HKPY
Jun 26th, 2015 by Sally Kneidel
Saw this beautiful big click beetle on the deck a couple of days ago, about an inch long. If clicked away after one picture, disappearing into the brush.
The two black spots are fake eyes that startle birds and other predators and give the beetle a chance to get away. Lots of butterflies and caterpillars have fake eye spots for the same reason.
Click beetles move by suddenly snapping their body at the middle — they do that by pulling a peg on the thorax out of a tight groove, sort of like pop beads. When they do that, their body flips away, accelerating faster than any other animal on the planet. They don’t go very far, especially the little brown click beetles that are so common. But this Eyed Click Beetle moved fast enough to get away from me and my camera. I couldn’t find it again.
Thank you little beetle for letting me take the one picture!
Jun 3rd, 2015 by Sally Kneidel
I saw this family of Great Blue Herons yesterday at a wetland along a city greenway. After watching this sequence, I understood why Mama usually rests with her bill pointed way up in the air.
They try to get mom to give up some fish from her mouth. One of the chicks hustles to be first.
Their enthusiasm overtakes them….
These beetles must spend a lot of time mating. Yesterday was only the second time I’ve ever seen them, and both times, every beetle in sight was so engaged. Dozens of them. On both occasions, they were on patches of Common Milkweed. I was taking a walk when I saw them yesterday, hoping to spot Monarch caterpillars on the milkweed, to report to the website Journey North. Was disappointed to find no Monarchs, but enjoyed seeing the lovely Red Milkweed Beetles instead. They’re in the family of longhorn beetles, Cyrambycidae — notice the long antennae. Not to be confused with the much more common Milkweed Bugs, which are also red and black, but are not even beetles. Milkweed Bugs are in the order of true bugs, Hemiptera.
It’s not a coincidence that Red Milkweed Beetles, Milkweed Bugs, and Monarchs all are red or orange — “warning” colors to birds and other predators. The Monarchs and Red Milkweed Beetles and Milkweed Bugs are all toxic to predators because of toxic chemicals in the milkweed they eat.
Whenever I see milkweed, I look for monarchs. These celebrated butterflies are declining because milkweed is declining. The over-spraying of herbicides on genetically modified crops in the Midwest is a major reason for the demise of milkweed. Check out this excellent article from Slate. Monarchs need our help. Plant milkweed! The beetles will enjoy it too!
May 10th, 2015 by Sally Kneidel
I wish a safe Mother’s Day to all the wildlife mothers across the world. Especially the world’s primates, most of which are threatened or endangered.
Primates are special, for me. Most animal mothers don’t provide any maternal care whatsoever. Instead, they lay eggs and abandon them, never seeing their own babies. That includes most (but not all) fish, reptiles, amphibians, insects, crustaceans, and lots of others. Sounds cruel, but it’s not. The hatchlings in those cases are equipped to fend for themselves. It’s nature’s way. Mortality is high, but the mother lays lots of eggs, so it works out. (When humans stay out of the way, that is.)
Birds and mammals are different as a group in that they all provide some degree of maternal care for their young. Bird and mammal moms invest huge amounts of energy into feeding their young, cleaning them, keeping them warm, protecting them from predators, and so on.
I love seeing primates and their babies. To me, primates share our essence — they can be tender, loving, playful, and smart. But unlike humans, they’re innocent. They’re not destroying the planet!
Today, on Mothers Day, I’m celebrating some of the primate mothers and babies I’ve photographed around the world. These pics were taken in some of my happiest moments – seeing primates doing their own thing in their natural habitats. I am very grateful for those opportunities.
Help protect the world for animals that can’t fight back. Work to stop habitat destruction due to global warming. One way to do that is to get involved with Greenpeace (https://www.facebook.com/greenpeacenc). I recommend it. Greenpeace is a hard-working, dedicated group of people I’m proud to volunteer with.