The 13 Bugs of Christmas

“The Twelve Days of Christmas” is an English carol that was probably borrowed from the French and that was originally an acapella chant/call-and-response/children’s memory game. It first appeared in writing in 1780, and there were (and still are) many variations of it, though the words were more-or-less standardized when an official melody was finally written for it in 1909.

Splendid Dwarf Spider (Family Linyphiidae)

Splendid Dwarf Spiders belong to the large Linyphiidae spider family. Linyphiids are second in species numbers only to Jumping spiders and are a dominant group of spiders in the cooler regions of the Northern Hemisphere (where they’re sometimes seen walking on snow). Splendid dwarf spiders are found from coast to coast, mostly across the northern half of the U.S. and southern Canada.

A Jumping Spider’s Story (Family Salticidae)

Brilliant Jumping Spiders, a.k.a. Red and black jumping spiders, can be found from coast to coast but are more common in the eastern half of North America. Creatures of tallgrass prairies and open spaces, these spiders not only sit near the tops of plants, they put their nests and egg sacs there, too.

Seasonal Sights and Sounds

Everywhere you look, you see adult insects, young insects, and the kinds of activity that will result in them. Here are some sights from the BugLady’s walks in southeastern Wisconsin.

Nursery Web Spider (Family Pisauridae)

Nursery Web Spiders are found in tall grass, along wooded edges, and in shrubs (and sometimes houses) from the Atlantic into the Great Plains (the species is also found in Europe), and one spider expert speculates that Pisaura mira may be one of the most common spiders in eastern North America.

Wildflower Watch – Dawdling among Dandelions

Dandelions produce both nectar and pollen and so are appreciated by wildlife, especially early bees and butterflies (100 species of pollinators have been tallied). The BugLady has been dawdling among dandelions to see who else appreciates them. She saw representatives of 8 kinds of hymenopterans (ants/bees/wasps), 4 kinds of flies, 3 of arachnids (spiders and spider relatives), and 1 beetle. Seen, but not photographed, were a few cabbage butterflies.

The Wonders of Webs II – Insect Silk

It turns out that spiders aren’t the only animals that make silk. The ability to make silk is found in most of the 26 (or so) insect orders. Larvae of many of the species of insects that have complete metamorphosis (egg-larva-pupa-adult)—like ants, wasps, bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, and flies—can make silk. Young fleas, lacewings, mayflies, thrips, some leafhoppers do it. Silverfish, and a family called “raspy crickets,” and a primitive little tropical order called Embioptera (web spinners) make silk as adults.

The Wonders of Webs I – Spider Silk

Spiders carry a gel called “unspun silk dope” in their silk glands, and when the liquid is released, it travels through projections called spinnerets located on the underside of the abdomen’s tip and becomes solid when it hits the air. Spinnerets are the external extension of the silk glands; most spiders have between two and eight spinnerets, tipped by “spigots” that control the diameter of the emerging thread.

Twelve Bugs of Christmas

The fourth Annual chorus of “The Twelve Bugs of Christmas,” the BugLady offers a Bakers’ Dozen of Bug Portraits that were taken this year but are unlikely to appear in future BOTWs because their stories have been told in past BOTWs (hence, the links, for BugFans who want to know “The Rest of the Story”).

Midsummer Report

The BugLady would like to dedicate this episode to the late (great) Cornell Professor Richard B. Fischer (January 19, 1919 – August 7, 2005) who taught the BugLady how to sneak up on insects (no bobbing or weaving, just slow and steady and straight ahead.