Thursday, September 30, 2010


This very large tarantula was found during our stay at Truman State Park. It was crossing a roadway near the park, and I told my husband to stop....well...screamed is more like it "STOP!!!!" I jumped out of the car, grabbed a container and ran back to where the spider was. I tried to coax this HUGE spider into a very SMALL container, and quite simply put "it did not want to go!!!" She/He reared back, showed their fangs and then did the unthinkable! It ran AT me. I began doing a very creative spider dance in the middle of the road trying to keep this huge spider from climbing my leg like a tree. I also did not want to accidentily step on it or hurt it. Finally I was able to safely place the container over the top of the spider and it crawling up on the side and I was able to slide the lid underneath and safely secure it. We returned to the campsite and the kids next to us wanted to know what I had found. I showed them and they were in awe of such a large spider. The next morning we began packing up to leave for home and I told the kids we could let the tarantula out of its container so they could watch it. They were so excited and came running over to watch. I opened the lid and this spider very gracefully and slowly crawled out onto my hand and behaved very nicely. It was certainly nothing like the freaked out spider from the night before. Of course I must admit that having a very large alien trying to grab you and shove you into a container might make anyone freak out. We watched it crawl around for quite sometime and took some photos. We were all surrounding this spider looking down on it, and it just meandered along as if oblivious to our presence. After about 10 minutes I let the little girl help me corral her again and safely place the lid on the container. She wanted so badly to take this gorgeous spider home with her and just kept saying how cute it was. The parents relented on the walking stick but held firm on NO tarantulas....LOL
Awhile  back I posted about a Tarantula I had purchased from a breeder, it is also the same species we caught at Truman. I bought her as a final step in overcoming my fear of spiders. I've often eluded to the fact that spiders terrified me. If you would like to learn more about these beautiful, large spiders that call Missouri home Oklahoma Brown Tarantula.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Northern Fence Lizard

 Once again I am posting something other than an arthropod, but I just can't help it. I am as fascinated by reptiles and amphibians as I am insects and spiders. These little Fence Lizards are so charming and cute, yes I said cute. Just look at that face! I found this one scurrying among the leaf litter at Truman State Park. Once it knew it had been found by prying eyes (mine) was quick to run away. It darted up a tree and froze there, seeming to think if he didn't move I couldn't see him. I let him think his ruse worked and began snapping pictures. I was exceedingly surprised that he sat still for so long. Normally they are constant motion and run away very quickly when they sense danger. Maybe he knew I meant him no harm....okay probably not, but I can think it.

Northern Fence Lizards(Sceloporus undulatus hyacinthinus) are very common throughout Central, Southern and Eastern Missouri. They appear to be absent from NW Missouri where I live. Therefore I felt very fortunate to have seen this one and be able to photograph it. They may reach lengths of up to 7 inches from tip of tail to tip of nose. So they aren't large lizards by any means. What they lack in size they  make up for in coloring.....especially the males. They will have iridscent blue markings on their belly and throat outlined in black. Their over all color is either tan, gray, brown or reddish-brown. Females have a deeply patterned back, whereas the males have little to no pattern. The females may possess some  light blue coloring along their sides.

Like all reptiles they are cold-blooded and will be found basking on rocks, logs or any other available surface. During the hottest part of summer they will bask and hunt for food early in the day, and typically rest in cooler shaded areas in the afternoon. They will become active again late in the day or towards evening when it is cooler. Fence lizards are associated with timbered edges, rocky glades and open fields. Look for them hiding among the wood piles, in tree stumps, within downed trees, and in rock piles.

Mating takes place from early spring to late summer. Females will produce two egg clutches. Males bob their head at females while performing pushups...apparently this showmanship earns him the favors of a female. It reminds me of the musclebound men on the beach flexing for the females. Are we females really that gullilble? I guess so. Once mated the female will look for an area with loose dirt and dig a suitable hole to lay her eggs in. All eggs will hatch sometime in August. Second year females produce more eggs than first year females, and few lizards live beyond their 3rd year.

We found several fence lizards while walking the trail along the glades. They would dart about among the trees, running just out of sight. Not one other lizard cooperated the way this one did, and allowed me to take pictures. Perhaps it is vanity?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Striped Bark Scorpion

My husband and I took a short weekend vacation to Harry S. Truman State Park in Warsaw Missouri this past weekend. We arrived and sat up our campsite on Friday and then decided to take a hike on one of two walking trails located at the park. This particular trail is called the Wallflower trail and runs through a rocky glade overlooking Truman Lake. It is a nice walk, if a bit treacherous with all the loose rocks and small boulders to step over. I immediately started turning over stones to see what would be underneath and it wasn't long before I found a Scorpion.

 Missouri is home to one native scorpion and that is the Striped Bark Scorpion (Centruroides vittatus). These are small scorpions that measure up to 1 3/4 inches. They are golden yellow or tan, some specimens may be almost white. There is a distinctive triangular marking on the head and two broad stripes down the back.

After locating this particular individual I realized I did not have a container to put it in. I was reluctant to carry it around in my hand while we finished the hike, so my husband came up with a suggestion. We had a copy of the trail map with us, he said roll it into a tube and clamp down the ends. It worked like a charm for a makeshift container. I took it back to our campsite and showed the children in the next campsite over from ours. They thought she/he was pretty cool, and I had to agree. This scorpion is now at home in my office at MDC. It will make a great exhibit specimen to show visitors who might not realize we even have scorpions living in Missouri.

Scorpions are often associated with warm, arid regions like the deserts of Arizona, Texas and New Mexico. Missouri has a more temperate climate and therefore not usually thought of as a home for a creature like this. I think that is what makes it even more remarkable.

Most scorpions in Missouri are located in the Central to Southern regions of the state. Although there are a few isolated populations found in some Northern counties. These are secretive creatures that hide out during the day under rocks or in crevices protected from the heat of the day and prying eyes of would-be predators. They are active at night and hunt for various insect prey to feed on. Creatures like raccoons, armadillos, opossums and lizards all feed on scorpions. So being secretive and shy helps them survive. They will sometimes end up in homes and are often found in basements, cellars and garages. Many people want to know if they are dangerous, sure, they can be. The sting is extremely painful, and the venom contains a mild neurotoxin that can cause a severe reaction in individuals who are sensitive to the venom. This would be people who are allergic to bee venom. People with these kinds of reactions may require hospital care, hence my hesitation in carrying it.

Mating occurs in the fall, spring or sometimes early summer. After engaging in an elaborate courtship ritual the male will deposit a sperm sac on the ground. He will then drag the female over this sac, at which point her body will take the sperm sac with a special organ located on her abdomen. The young will develop inside the female with a placental connection, and after approximately 8 weeks the young will be born. She may have up to 50 young at a time. These newly emerged offspring will ride around on their mothers back until their first molt, at which time they will desperse to live independent lives.

A cool feature about these and all scorpions is their ability to "glow" under iridescent light, such as a black light. This makes them easy to spot at night.

I found many interesting creatures during our weekend stay, and I will try to post a new one daily.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Summits Disease

While visiting my mom and grandmas house the other day I walked around their yard looking at the flowers and discovered these flies stuck to a blade of grass. Further investigation lead to more dead flies being discovered in similar frozen animation. I was perplexed by what could have possibly happened to these flies. Something awful it would appear, to have cut their life so short and in such a morbid way. I took a few pictures and put them on my facebook page seeking help from my fellow insect lovers, would anyone know what happened? It wasn't long and James Trager from over at Beetles in the Bush knew exactly what happened to these unfortunate flies. It was a fungus in the genus Entomopthora, which translates into "Insect Destroyer" this particular fungus is sp. muscae which means "of the fly" When putting it all together Entomopthora muscae literally means Destroyer of the Fly.

The fungus makes its way into the fly via the digestive track, or possibly through any small opening in the exoskeleton of the fly. The fungus has one purpose, and that is to reproduce. It does this by rapidly moving through the flies system going directly to the brain. Once in the brain it will control the area that governs movement. The fungus basically takes over control of the fly and makes it crawl where ever it wants the fly to crawl. In the case of this fungus it wants to reach a high vantage point. So like a puppet on a string the fly will make its way to the tip of a leaf, blade of grass, plant or any other surface it happens to be on. This vantage point....or "Summit" is where this particular fungal disease got its common name of Summits Disease. By making the fly crawl to a higher point, it gives the fungus the best possible chance that its spores will be carried by the wind once released by the fly. After the fungus has fully controlled the brain of the fly it will then concentrate on infiltrating other areas of the fly and eventually will consume all of the flies internal organs, thus killing the fly. All that will remain is the macabre, skeletal husk of what was once a vibrant, if annoying fly.This fungal spore spreads rapidly and can affect up to 80% of fly populations in a given area. From the looks of my mothers backyard I would say it is well on its way to accomplishing that.

 This fungus was first described in 1855 by an individual named Cohn. he identified it as a epizootic of house flies. Entomopthora can infect numerous species of flies in a wide array of families. It would seem that Mother Nature provided a perfect method of controlling the overpopulation of flies. Could man capitalize on this? Can we make a biological agent capable of destroying disease carrying flies? Can humans copy what Mother Nature has given? There is much research and work being done to accomplish this feat. It seems this fungus is very short lived and highly sensitive making it very hard to replicate. With enough research and hard work I've no doubt a successful biological fly control that can be used broad spectrum in areas that are highly infested with flies will be designed. This notion is so much better than chemicals created in labs that have no preference as to the species it kills. Hate flies, but love butterflies? What better way to get rid of one and not harm the other than to manufacture a fungus designed to kill only your target?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Monarch Migration

The Monarch migration is in full swing here in NW Missouri. While out geocaching with my kids this afternoon we found a field of goldenrod that was full of nectaring Monarchs. There were hundreds of them everywhere you looked. It was such an incredible sight. Knowing that these beauties are making such an arduous journey, makes them that much more special.

Many of the plants had 5 or more monarchs together. Walking out among them as the fluttered up in front of me was an incredible say I was in awe is an understatement.

I've been seeing numerous Monarchs as they head south, crossing roadways and highways...I'm sure many of these meet an untimely death, as they are hit by passing cars. I find myself playing a little game of dodge the monarch. My daughter asked me just today "Mom, did you SERIOUSLY just slow down to avoid that butterfly?" Can't help it, reflex I told her. If I can safely avoid killing them, why not do it?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Locust Borer

This pretty yellow and black longhorn beetle is the Locust Borer (Megacyllene robiniae), they are serious pests of Black Locust trees and are found throughout most of the United States. Each autumn females will lay eggs in the Black Locust trees, those eggs hatch and the resulting larvae will overwinter under the bark of the trees. In the spring they become active as the temperatures begin to rise, and they will tunnel into the trees. Often times these tunnels are up to 4 inches in depth, and the constant feeding of these grubs may kill trees that are already stressed or weakened. In areas where these beetles are prevalent the damage to stands of Locust Trees may be severe.

 (Locust Borer)

There are other Black and Yellow Longhorns, namely the Hickory Borer. The Hickory Borer is active during the spring, whereas the Locust Borer is active in the fall. Be able to identify your trees also, this will go a long way in determining which beetle you are looking at. Locust Borers are associated with the Black Locust and its cultivars, the Hickory Borer is associated with Hickory and Pecan Trees.

These are not a large beetle, the females measure up to 3/4 of an inch, males are smaller at approximately 1/2 inch. Look for them now in areas where goldenrod is in bloom. The adults are nectar feeds and go bonkers over goldenrod. I photographed these beetles at my husbands uncles place. His farm has numerous black locust trees and the goldenrod is everywhere. Which happens to provide the perfect habitat for these beetles, and I must say they were everywhere. Gauging by the activity in the following picture, their numbers won't soon decline either.

Friday, September 17, 2010

2010 Insect-O-Rama

The 3rd annual Insect-O-Rama was held last Saturday (9/11) at the MDC NW Regional Office in St. Joseph. We had approximately 100 people in attendance, which was down from the previous two years. Even with such a low turn out I was extremely pleased with how things went. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, and we had absolutely gorgeous weather to have such a large special event.

Joe and Heather are two of our new volunteers taking the current naturalist course. This was there very first event to volunteer at and poor Joe just couldn't keep his eyes open....hehehe

Heather is another new volunteer who handled the Giant Hissing Cockroaches like a pro.
The kids enjoyed racing their roach of choice down the tracks.

Georgia helps a little girl coax her roach into racing

 Our Beekeepers got into the theme of things and talked about the importance of Honey Bees to us Humans.
Missouri chose the Honey Bee as their state insects in spite of the fact that they aren't native. What a great choice! Honey Bees are one of the hardest working of all insects, which I think typifies Missourians.

Scott is our fisheries biologist, he set up by the pond and let the kind use nets to find aquatic insects. Dylan is a new volunteer this year who assisted him.

Lots of interesting things come out of the pond...wonder what this is?

Our Insect Chef brought a lot of Tasty treats to try....stir fried hornworm, General Tso crickets, junebugs and grasshoppers, fried cicadas and mealworm cookies.
Here I am picking out a nice juicy june bug to sample. Yum!
My young friend next to me is Trevor, and after much coaxing and teasing we finally were able to get him to try some too.
Bottoms up!
Hornworms are a bit CHEWY!!

This is Paul our Insect Chef and next to him is Bryan one of our new volunteers. We caught Bryan more than once sampling the tasty bugs...LOL

Ella the Tarantula even got in on the fun, she was a huge hit with the kids. Many of them wanted to hold her, including a cute little 3 year old named Sydney.

Two little boys weren't about to be shown up by a wee little girl. It was time for them to get their hands on Ella.
These are our Butterfly Ladies. Linda raises all sorts of Moths and Butterflies. Joyce (brown shirt) raises monarchs, and Betsy (sitting) is the author of "Butterflies of Kansas City, a Photographic Field Guide". Her books is wonderful and I would recommend it to anyone in the midwest, you certainly do not have to be living in KC to benefit from it.

 What a sense of wonder for this little girl, an experience she won't soon forget. Being able to release a newly emerged monarch.

Many more people helped to make this years event the success that it was. I want to thank each and everyone one of them. Without them we could not do it! I hope we have many more years of Insect-O-Rama and the opportunity to teach the public about the wonderful world of BUGS!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Blog Award

I am constantly amazed that I have enough followers that like my blog to warrant recieving awards, and not only am I amazed, but I am truly GRATEFUL and super EXCITED about it.

With this award comes a few stipulations (as with most things in life)....

1.) I must thank the person and recognize them for their generosity....that's EASY!!!
2.) I have to list 7 things about myself.....Lord don't get me started
3.) and lastly Pass it along to as many as I would like to...not so EASY!

ok here it goes...

1.) Biobabbler over at was thoughtful and generous enough to think of my blog when passing along this award, and for that I must say THANK YOU. I must also add though that her blog is wonderful and full of interesting nature related posts. I learn new things there all the time. Well worth the visit.

2.) Talk about myself? Seriously? I spend so much time listening to kids, husband and others talk about their lives....that if I am finally given the floor I may never shut how can I resist the opportunity?

#1 --I grew up in a city of 80,000 then during my freshman year of High School we moved to a town of barely 5,000. I knew this was some sort of punishment visited upon me by the Gods of "unfair treatment of teenagers". My life as I knew it was surely over!

#2--During my time in this very quaint, small town I met the man who was to become my husband. We have now been married for 23 years and have two grown children. This wonderful man I married.....wasn't satisified to live in this tiny little town, he further "punished" me by telling me we were moving to a farm. Now I was to be isolated 6 miles from people!

(Internet image)

Oh it gets worse! We were going to raise hogs! Seriously.....HOGS? Was he out of his mind? Possessed, that's what he was, but raise hogs we did...oh yes! I learned to give shots, deliver pigs, wean pigs, transport pigs, cut teeth and tails...but I drew the line at way no how!
What I viewed as a sure punishment for unknown crimes commited against my husband has turned into a blessing and I can't imagine myself living anywhere else. (He got lucky!)

#3---I was a very precocious child (thats what my grandma says)....I was happy, friendly and talked non-stop. I remember as a child going through grade school....EVERY single report card that went home stated "Shelly is a delightful child, with a beautiful smile, but she needs to talk less and focus more"
Heehee..seems I still have that problem. I worked for a company for 10 years, and my boss there used to tell me I talked 125 mph with gusts up to 180....seems I have a lot to say and I am afraid I will run out of time to do so.

#4---One thing that has held true from the time I was a small girl was my love of all things outdoors. I spent hours outside exploring creeks, catching crawdads, butterflies and anything else that caught my fancy.....I even brought a bat home once and was determined to keep what I viewed as the "cutest thing ever" as a pet. Unfortunately my mother did not see it the way I did, and me and my bat were banned from the house until I let it go. Since I figured I had to eat sometime, I had to say goodbye to the bat.

                                                                                                (internet image)

#5---When I hit the rip old age of 35 I walked into the Conservation Department and introduced myself and asked if they ever needed help rehabbing wild animals that people bring in. They took my name and 2 months later I recieved a phone call that they had 5 baby raccoons for me to care for. This phone call started a journey that has forever changed my life. I took classes through a facitlity in Kansas City called Lakeside Nature Center that taught me the proper care of Missouri Wildlife and since then I have cared for 8 raccoons, 36 Fox squirrels, 3 gray squirrels, 1 blue jay, 1 ground hog, 1 red fox, and 20 opossums. These experiences have taught me the value of even one small life.

#6---I attended a Naturalist training course through the Conservation Department. This allowed me to work as a volunteer for MDC. I embraced this opportunity and over the course of 6 years I put in nearly 1,000 hours working with children. I led trail hikes, helped at special events like Eagle Days, and I led nature related programs. I met numerous interesting people and touched the lives of untold amounts of chidlren and was able to share my love of nature. This volunteer time led to a job and since January I have been the naturalist at the same facility that I volunteered out of. I am one of the lucky ones who can say I LOVE MY JOB.

#7--Lastly and probably one of the most dear to my heart are the INSECTS. The blog that I have was created to be able to share my photography and my limited knowledge of insects. This has been a journey of learning for me. I have written a field guide to Missouri Insects that I am trying to get published. I wrote a short field guide to Missouri Grassland/Prairie Insects that is being used by the Grassland Coalition of Missouri and is also linked on the Missouri Prairie Foundations website. I collect insects and mentor children who want to do the same. I read every single book I can get my hands on about insects. I am currently writing an article for our local paper entitled MObugs Discover Missouri Insects and Spiders. I enjoy writing and expressing myself, but I especially love bringing nature and INSECTS into what I write.

Now to nominate some of my favorite blogs


Julia over at has a blog that will leave you in stitches as she relates her everyday life raising two children, and a husband (as she tells it). She lives in California and raises horses. She shares her farm with numeorus other creatures including one ornery rooster. She recently wrote an endearing childrens book about "Bingo" their new cat. Be sure to visit and share in her day-to-day life...I promise you will relate!


Eric over at writes a supremely interesting blog about insects and all the places he visits in his home state of Arizona. His knowledge is vast and his willingness to share it is greatly appreciated by many, including me. He is also the lead author of the Kenn Kaufman Field Guide to North American Insects. He volunteers his time helping identify insects on and More recently he is a staff member of which is hugely beneficial website created to help all of us identify those spiders we come across.


The Geek at is sure to impress with his enthusiastic approach to adventure and insects. Countless times I've laughed at the situations he finds himself in; along with his ever present canine pals.


The photography at this blog is sure to impress. He sees the world of insects in a way that makes them art. I can hardly wait for his posts to see what he has found next. His photography is superb and I must admit I am a bit jealous of his talent!


Words cannot describe the photos you will see on this blog
Richard Steel is a photographer whose talent is unsurpassed as far as I am concerned. I have not seen such clarity or attention to detail anywhere. He primaryly photographs birds, and you are drawn into the photograph. He makes you feel like you are there seeing what he is seeing in person.


Meredith at has a way with words that turns all she sees in nature into poetry. Her love of the outdoors is apparent in everyword she writes. She is taking a short break from blogging after the loss of her father, but I suspect she will be back with her usual child-like excitement. To be able to see the World for the first time everytime is a true gift....and it is one that Meredith possesses.


Maria at has a zest for life that is contagious. She shares her home and her life with a menargerie of critters. Her blog posts are always interesting and fun and she invites us into her life and to come along on all her adventures.

Eighth is a blog started by Steve who has a passion and a love of the prairie and all the things that call it home. He shares thoughtful prose and beautiful pictures with his followers that often make us ponder.


Dr. Art Evans over at shares his vast knowledge of insects, especially beetles. He is the author of the National Wildlife Federations book on North American Insects and Spiders.
He brings wit and common sense knowledge to all he writes. He is quick to help identify insects and provide you with information about whatever it is you've found.


Lastly and certainly not Ted MacRae's blog Ted hales from Missouri just like me. He lives on the Eastern edge and I live on the Western edge. He has a love of beetles as the title of his blog implies. He writes valuable information on a vast array of subjects, his favorite being his beloved beetles. He has a passion for the outdoors that shines through in his writing.

Again thank you BIO for the recognition and for believing that this blog is worthy of yet another award.

I hope everyone visiting will take time to check out the above blogs. Each and every one will be worth the time invested. The knowledge shared is limitless and hugely beneficial. I am proud to be linked to such intelligent, friendly, and helpful people.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Pigeon Horntail

This bug eyed creature is a Pigeon Horntail (Tremex columbia). They are found throughout North America. The one pictured here was photographed in St. Joseph, MO. We were at my husband's uncles place cleaning out sheds when this very large wasp-like insect began hovering around my leg. It was about ready to land on my leg so I could finally identify what it was when my brother-in-law took his hat off and swatted it. He knocked the poor think loopy and it hit the ground dazed! Fortunately he didn't kill, it was only stunned. I was able to pick it up and was thrilled to discover that it was one of the most beautiful specimens of this species I had ever seen. I captured several images of it and decided to add it to my insect collection.

This particular one was very large at approximately 2 inches in length. This one is a female, which is evident from the stinger-like projection at the end of her abdomen. This projection is called an ovipositor and it is used to drill into decaying timber and to deposit eggs. The female typically chooses Silver Maple, Cottonwood, Ash and Elm more often than other varities of trees. The young larvae will bore into the wood and feed on the wood pulp. It will take the larva several years to reach full size, at which time they will pupate and emerge as adults a few weeks later. The adults feed on nectar, and are often seen hovering about flowers in gardens. Especially if these gardens are near a stand of timberland.

As adults they can vary a lot in coloration, and may be blue, black or even brown. The legs will have yellow coloration on them.This one was predominantly yellow and orangish-red. Males are smaller than females and usually only measure up to one inch.

This species is often parasitized by the Giant Ichneumon Wasp. The females of these large wasp-like creatures will investigate a decayed piece of wood, and if she senses that there is a horntail larvae burrowing within, she will take her extra long ovipositor and drill into the wood and deposit an egg on the horntail larvae. It seems an impossible feat for her to be able to detect that worm-like creature tunneling underneath the bark without being able to see it. Her egg will hatch and the young larvae will burrow into the body of the horntail larvae. It will feed until it is ready to pupate. This ultimately kills the horntail larvae.

(Giant Ichneumon Wasp-Female (note the LONG whip-like ovipositor at the end of her abdomen)

The Pigeon Horntail is often called the Wood Wasp, for obvious reasons, they not only look likes wasps, but they are associated with woodlands. They are harmless to humans, and will not sting. The projection at the end of the abdomen is hard and sharp, but she will not burrow it into your skin. These are interesting insects to have around and if you are lucky enough to find one ovipositing into a tree trunk I'm sure it would be a sight you wouldn't soon forget.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Just look into my eyes

 This praying mantis has two different colored eyes. I searched and could not find any info that would cause such an oddity. He seemed to have some kind of genetic problems or brain damage. He could not keep his balance, and every time I placed him on my hand for a picture he would fall off.

Has anyone ever seen eyes like this on a mantid?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Carolina Sphinx Moth

This pretty orange-spotted moth is the Carolina Sphinx Moth (Manduca sexta). They are sometimes called the "Six-spotted Hawk Moth" because of the orangish-yellow spots on their abdomen. These moths have  distinct black, brown and white markings on their wings. The hindwings are black and white with two zig-zag median lines.

These are large moths with a wingspan up to 4 3/4 inches, and are often found nectaring at dusk at various flowers. Because of their size and their flight pattern they resemble hummingbirds and are often mistaken for them.

The caterpillars are called Tobacoo Hornworms. They are large and can consume large amounts of foliage as well as fruit in a short period of time. If these caterpillars end up on your tomatoes you won't have much left unless you remove them. They are a beautiful green with yellow stripes and a red-tipped tail at the end of the abdomen. Fully grown caterpillars will be approximately 3 to 3 1/2 inches long. They will drop to the ground and pupate in the soil. They will spend the winter in this stage and emerge the following spring.  There are several host plants for this species, such as tobacco, potato, tomato and other plants in the nightshade family.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Albino Toad

 I realize this little toad is in no way an insect, but I figure since he feeds on insects he would qualify for being included on this blog, he is all white,  plus he is just plain cool....did I mention he is WHITE? I received a phone call from a man living in Missouri City, MO who said he had found an albino toad and wondered if we would like to have him. He sent me some photos and after looking at them I assured him I would love to have the toad for an exhibit animal at my office. My supervisor lives near this guy so he said he would pick it up for me. Now we have this beautiful little white toad in our office.

He is not a true albino, he has instead a Leusistic abnormality. Meaning he has the inability to produce pigment cells. Some animals with this defect will have patches of white where the cells are abnormal, resulting in a pie-bald appearance. This little toad is completely white, so his entire surface area lacks normal pigment cells. He has black eyes, rather than pink which indicates he is not a true albino.

We've had him about 3 weeks, and he has almost doubled his size. He eats like a little piglet, consuming 6 or more crickets each day. I just think he is the cutest little guy in the amphibian world right now.

Just thought I would share such a unique creature with all of you readers. It just goes to show you never know what will show up once you venture outside.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Waved Sphinx Moth

 This pretty gray moth is a Waved Sphinx Moth (Ceratomia undulosa), they are found throughout Eastern North America. There are records from Oregon and Texas as well. These moths are large with a wingspan up to 4 inches. Of all the sphinx moths in NW Missouri this is without a doubt the most common one I see. They frequently come to a mercury vapor light that I have set up near our timber, sometimes as many as 3 or 4 at a time. Tonight however was the first time I had ever seen the caterpillar. It was feeding on an Ash Tree near our implement shed. The caterpillar was very large at almost 3 1/2 inches long and was a beautiful green color.

These moths are easily distinguished from other gray moths by two white spots located on the forewings. These spots are visible in the first picture. Mating occurs in the early to mid summer. Females lay their eggs on the host plant. For this species the hosts will be Ash, Lilac, Hawthorn and other woody plants. Some reports indicate they  may feed on Oaks, but this is probably in error.

The adults most likely do not feed. Look for them  in deciduous hardwood forests, orchards, timbered edges and suburban areas.