Bug Mysteries

The BugLady takes lots of pictures as she moseys around—flowers, landscapes, a surprising number of people, and, of course, all manner of bugs. Bug pictures may stall in the BugLady’s X–Files, awaiting identification—some for a long time. Here is a selection from the X–Files. In some cases the BugLady knows part of the story; in others, even less.

Mullein Watching

The BugLady has always enjoyed mullein plants (Verbascum thapsus). Oh, she knows that they’re sun-slurping aliens whose mission is to blanket the earth at the expense of native vegetation, but they produce cheery yellow flowers, and they stick out of grassy fields like skinny saguaro cacti.

Wall Watching

The BugLady has been stalking invertebrates that hang out on the east wall of the Field Station lab. The wall is painted cinderblock that warms up in the morning and probably keeps some heat as it gets shaded in the afternoon. Grass grows right up to the edge of the building. The BugLady hypothesizes that bugs can enjoy the residual warmth without getting fried by the sun, because she sees some small critters on the north wall but very few on the bright south wall. She found some familiar faces and some new ones—plant-eaters and an array of carnivores that come to collect the herbivores.

Spider Flight

When the weather conditions are right, warm enough for thermal updrafts but not too windy, young spiders and even adult spiders of the smaller species climb to the top of a tall object, face into the wind, and release one or more fine strands called gossamer. Thermal updrafts pick up the line—and the spider—for a trip that may span inches or hundreds of miles.

The Porch at Night

It’s a good thing that the BugLady doesn’t have nearby neighbors (or a Home Owners’ Association) who might be alarmed about someone who turns on the porch light and then creeps around taking pictures of porch critters at midnight.

A Passel of Predators

The BugLady has been a fan of predators since she was old enough to lisp out the word. She likes the cuts of their collective jibs and their matter-of-fact fierceness. To her, the “eat-ers” are far more interesting than the “eat-ees.”

A Tale of Two Sac Spiders (Family Clubionidae)

The Sac Spider uses silk to hold the leaf edges together and to line the enclosure. Medicinal plant researcher James Duke calls this structure “both nursery and coffin.” She deposits her eggs inside, stays to guard her brood, and she dies there before her offspring emerge. They, hungry for protein in their first hours, consume the first bit of meat they come across, which is their mother’s carcass.

Funnel Web Spider (Family Agelenidae)

The Funnel-web Spiders in the U.S. are 99.9% harmless to people. FwSs resemble wolf spiders. Both groups dress in shades/stripes of gray/brown, but are slimmer than wolf spiders. A male FWS lives to mate, and after mating, dies. The lives of many females are restricted to their webs. After mating, she creates a disc-shaped egg case and lays up to 200 eggs inside. Hiding her egg case in a crevice is her final act before she dies.

Jumping Spider (Family Salticidae)

When we stare at Jumping Spiders (JSs), they stare straight back through 8 more-or-less forward-looking eyes. And we get plenty of chances to stare at them, because jumping spiders are very common outdoors and are not averse to coming indoors. JSs don’t spin webs to capture their prey; when they spot a potential meal, they jump. JSs will pounce any invertebrate they can catch. But some JSs are omnivores, feeding on nectar and pollen as well as on the pollinators.

Crab Spider Revisted

Today’s episode is a rerun/rewrite of Crab Spiders from the early days of BOTW. The BugLady is not on vacation, but she wishes she were.