End of 2013 Backyard Bug Hunt!

This post has nothing at all to do with writing.

2013-12-28 13.31.31But, since my blog has been sorely neglected for the past few months, I figured here would be as good a place as any to geek out over my little Saturday afternoon project with Kid 2.0. Junior received a bug catching kit from Uncle Gert and Aunt Nell for Christmas, as well as a cute little specimen collection system from Sinterklaas (Dutch Santa). Today, we put them to good use as we searched the backyard for various creepy crawly critters.

Now I don’t normally do field work. I prefer my nice, climate-controlled laboratory, conveniently located within walking distance of the coffee cart. But for my favorite little lab partner, I bit the bullet, grabbed coat, boots, tweezers, and iPhone, and headed outside. I didn’t expect much. It’s freakin’ December, after all, but we managed to wrangle some pretty interesting specimens.

1. The Pillbug and His Little Buddy, the Kudzu Bug

2013-12-28 13.34.16Okay, the first isn’t all that exotic, but good old Rolly Pollies are hard to find in2013-12-28 14.11.50 winter. We turned over at least six good sized rocks before we found our prize. The second catch proved far more interesting. After a bit of Google Image detective work, we identified it as Megacopta cribraria, a.k.a. a kudzu bug. This nuisance species is a threat to soybean and corn crops, as well as other plant species. We reported our find to Kudzubug.org. It will be interesting to see if we get confirmation on our ID, as well as to find out if these critters are on the move in Tennessee

2. Dome Snails and Slimy Slugs, Oh My!

2013-12-28 13.58.45It may be chilly, but where you find water, you’ll find snails and slugs. The cute little guy2013-12-28 14.09.02 with the shell had made a home for himself (or herself?) under the lid of our irrigation main water shutoff valve. Lab partner used great care and tweezers to collect our Tennessee dome land snail, Ventridens percallosus, for photodocumentation prior to release. They captured the slug by accident, or in official scientific lingo, serendipity. Kid 1.0 and 2.0 went out on a preliminary survey yesterday and left the lid to the bug house outside overnight. Condensation + plastic = habitat, baby!

3. Spider eggs!

2013-12-28 13.31.02The coolest find from our backyard expedition, hands down, had to be the spider eggs. 2013-12-28 14.10.16Ma Nature is the best decorator – note the contrast between the white Basilica spider eggcase and the green and red of it holly bush home. My Christmas tree should look so nice! Though I wasn’t quite able to identify the species of orb weaver, several members of this arachnid family make their homes in Tennessee. Orb Weavers are wonderful additions to backyard gardens and flowerbeds. They are colorful, beautiful, and catch plenty of pesky mosquitoes and other nuisance bugs. Perhaps Charlotte’s brood will build a few webs in our yard come spring when they hatch.

4. And Last, But Not Least, The Dead Ladybug

2013-12-28 14.12.37Me: “Son, this bug is no more. It has ceased to be.”

Kid 2.0: “No, Mama, she’s just sleeping. She’s so cute! Let’s collect her.”

Assuming there’s no taboo against collecting insect corpses, I humored the little guy and put the dead ladybug in our bug house and took a photo. I’m sure a few live ones are hanging around in our garage. Interestingly enough, we didn’t find a single earthworm in the wet garden soil, no matter where or how deeply we dug. Presumably they are nestled away some place deep in the earth, warm and snug, thus proving that earthworms are much smarter than me and my outdoor lab partner.

But it was a fun afternoon!

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