Friday, June 26, 2015

This place is hopping, part one

Here in Houston we've been having a bit of rain recently (to put it mildly).  As a result, the woodland near my apartment became more of a wetland.  Not only did puddles appear all around, but so did plenty of frogs and toads ready to take advantage of them.  There isn't much action in the video below, but you can hear the calls of several eastern narrow-mouthed toads (Gastrophryne carolinensis) competing to attract mates.

Many frogs and toads had apparently already been successful in attracting mates, as the puddles were swarming with tadpoles of various shapes and sizes.

The trail through the woodland -- turned into a tadpole spawning ground.
The puddles were also excellent breeding grounds for mosquitoes, so I hoped that the tadpoles were feasting on all the mosquito larvae.

One of the larger tadpoles.
Meanwhile, some other animals proved to be better at coping with the new landscape than might have been expected.

A spider walks across one of the plethoric puddles.

Monday, June 22, 2015

More than an itch, part five

Near the leaf-footed bug nymphs on the lantana were a couple of my favorite bug nymphs.  As adults, they look like typical bugs, but as nymphs they look remarkably like ants!

A broad-headed bug (Alydidae) nymph.
Nevertheless, they can be distinguished easily from real ants (such as the one pictured below) if you know where to look.  Despite mimicking an ant's appearance in many ways, these nymphs still have the long mouthparts characteristic of bugs.

A carpenter ant (Camponotus sp.).
The ant mimics also don't act much like ants.  When they are approached, they quickly run for cover and unlike some other bug nymphs, they aren't quick to return.

The ant mimic scurries away.

Friday, June 19, 2015

More than an itch, part four

Like the bordered plant bug nymphs, leaf-footed bug nymphs are often found gathered in groups.  Therefore, the bug nymph pictured below appears to be unusually alone.

A leaf-footed bug nymph (Coreidae) on a lantana leaf.
However, looking from another angle reveals that the "lone" bug nymph is actually just the tip of the iceberg of bug nymphs!

Many more leaf-footed bug nymphs hanging underneath the leaf.
The large group of bug nymphs shared the limited space on the underside of the leaf peacefully.  However, another group feeding on unripe lantana berries nearby was not nearly so tranquil.

As I watched, an extended fight broke out between two of the nymphs.  They may have been competing over access to the berries.  Yet, there seemed to be plenty of berries available, which should have made a fight unnecessary.  An alternative explanation is that one of the nymphs may have tried to switch from eating berries to eating the other nymph, as some bug species are known to be cannibalistic.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

More than an itch, part three

For most insects, tiny bug nymphs pose a negligible threat.  The threat is hardly increased when the nymphs are in a group (which they often are).  However, unlike the beetle being assailed by the stink bug, there are some potential victims that lack the mobility to attempt an escape.

A group of bright red bug nymphs (Largus sp.) feeding on a white object.
The group of bug nymphs pictured here had located one such immobile victim on a leaf.  In order to see what they had found, I blew air at them.  The nymphs quickly scattered across the leaf, revealing a while cocoon.

The bugs scatter revealing a cocoon.
Nearly as quickly, the bug nymphs began to return to the cocoon and to resume feeding on whatever had been developing inside.

The bugs begin to return.

Monday, June 1, 2015

More than an itch, part two

Compared to the assassin bugs, stink bugs (Pentatomidae) may seem to be unlikely predators. While most stink bugs do stick to feeding on plants, some supplement their diets with insects. Others are pure predators.

A leaf beetle (Ophraella sexvittata) being attacked by a predatory stink bug (Perillus sp.) on a goldenrod (Solidago sp.) leaf.
A few of the predatory stink bugs are even used to control agricultural pests. However, the stink bug shown here had trouble controlling just one small beetle.

The beetle struggles to get away.
The stink bug appeared to have pierced the beetle with its mouthparts, yet the beetle showed no sign of giving up.

The bug continues to pull away.
I did not see whether the beetle escaped in the end. Yet, what I saw when I came back several days later convinced me that neither the stink bug nor any other predators had been very successful in reducing the beetle population.

The goldenrod plants later that week.