Terrifying Tarantula

Terrifying Tarantula – Photograph by Laura Lecce

Even though I named this photo terrifying, and I can understand why it might be to some people, I was so excited to see this gorgeously hairy tarantula. Even though tarantulas have fangs and are venomous, and may on a rare occasion bite causing discomfort, there has never been a death by tarantula bite (of a human). Their body hairs however can irritate the skin and cause a rash, and some people are known to be highly allergic to them. These spiders hunt at night which is when we saw this beauty, which was about the size of my hand. Squished up in a burrow they wait for unsuspecting prey (or a thin stick in this case) to walk by the entrance to their lair, and then they pounce! As is quite common in the world of spiders, male spiders are terrified of females, but of course need to get close to mate. So to make it a quicker affair, before males encounter a female they lay a ‘sperm-web’ and secrete semen onto it, rub their specialized legs into it (pedipalps), and then go on a search for a receptive female. Using female pheromones to guide him, he finally encounters a female burrow, and will tap to let her know he is there. If she likes him she will exit the burrow and he will spider-dance for her. If he has impressed her, her will get closer, hold her fangs with his legs and deposit the sperm underneath her abdomen. If she didn’t enjoy his dance she will either pay him no attention at all or attack him, and hopefully he has fast enough reflexes to get away.

 

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Friday Flower – Pink with an Eastern Black Swallowtail Butterfly

Eastern Black Swallowtail – Photograph by Laura Lecce

Ok, so this photo is not so much about a flower as it about the stunning black butterfly perched delicately on these tiny pink flowers. Those large dark wings with golden circles and a powdering of shimmery blue. The signature elongated wing tips of a swallowtale and delicate lines of white dots along the abdomen. This butterfly truly turns heads as it flutters past and really tested my patience as I waited for it to sit still long enough for a photo that was in focus. I will dearly miss the warmer months this year as the weather is already getting too cold for my liking, and we still have so much further to go into the cold abyss of winter. Have a warm weekend everyone!

For more butterflies please click here.

Friday Flower – Yellow zinnia with a yellowjacket

Yellow zinnia with a yellowjacket – Photography by Laura Lecce

This cute little bug might seem adorable sitting on a matching, bright yellow flower, but do not be deceived as it is a fearsome, predatory wasp. A yellowjacket wasp that lives in a colony underground and can pack a pretty nasty sting as many times as it wants. If you disturb or injure one of these wasps near their home, they send out a distress signal to all of their friends and relatives as a sign that they must attack and defend. At that point you have no choice but to make a run for it! Cute photo though.

Friday Flower – Ironweed with a monarch

Ironweed with a monarch – Photograph by Laura Lecce

Ironweed is a species of plant within the larger genus of Veronia. They have very distinct and intense purple flowers, which are a fantastic pairing of colors for this stunning orange monarch butterfly. I was very lucky that this gem sat still long enough to get a photo of it’s wonderful spots. When summer ended I made sure to take my camera to the local flower gardens to catch the last of the butterflies before they depart during the colder months. Ironweed is a great addition to your garden to make sure that the butterflies come to visit. For other posts on butterflies please click here.

Happy weekend everyone!

Bark-mimicking grasshopper

Bark-mimicking Grasshopper – Photograph by Laura Lecce

This sizable insect is commonly known as a bark-mimicking grasshopper (Coryphistes ruricola) and even its eyes look like they are actually made of wood. They are common in Australia and depending on location and surrounding environment, appear in various colors from grays to browns. Collectively they are an interesting view of natural selection at work. This grasshopper which was photographed in Western Australia was in an area where there weren’t many trees at all, but blended in very well with the sand it was sitting on. If I was a bird I would certainly think twice about whether I was about to eat a grasshopper or a piece of fallen tree branch.

For other insects please click here.

Red-Banded Leafhopper

Leafhopper - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Leafhopper – Photograph by Laura Lecce

Gary I found one!!! Australia definitely doesn’t have such boldly colored leafhoppers, they are mostly a boring green color, making them very hard to spot amongst the leaves. In contrast, this red-banded leafhopper I found in Central Park is incredibly colorful, and doesn’t blend in at all. Native to North and Central America, this insect is so teeny tiny, it makes some ants look big! I wouldn’t have even known what I was looking at if it wasn’t for a post by Gary on his blog called krikitarts showcasing this spectacular insect (click here for post), with a fantastic photo as well. As soon as I spotted it, I was so excited to see one for myself. It was incredibly hard to photograph as the breeze kept moving the leaf, and the little critter wouldn’t stay still at all, and he’s so tiny I kept losing him, so this is as good a photo as I could get. This colorful insect certainly brightened up my overcast and dreary Sunday afternoon.

Blue Eyed Grasshopper

Blue Eyed Grasshopper - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Blue Eyed Grasshopper – Photograph by Laura Lecce

This past weekend I went to Mexico and had some amazing experiences that I will share with you next week. However, of all of my photographs, this one was quite unexpectedly the most beautiful (and I never thought I would say that about a giant grasshopper!). This almighty insect which visited my balcony was an incredible lime green color with striking blue eyes. It happily sat still while I took my time getting the photo just right. Later that same night as I was walking along the beach, I spotted a few more (even bigger ones!) which I almost stepped on in the dark. One of them was in the direct path of a crowd of people coming down the beach and in need of rescuing. I decided to carefully nudge the insect onto the book I was holding so that I could safely relocate it (mind you, the book was no bigger than the bug itself). However, rather than happily complying with my request, it instead took a flying leap onto my knee, and although I am not at all afraid of insects, this was still a most unpleasant surprise! After a successful second attempt, I moved the big guy out of harms way, and I’m sure he will make a very large and tasty breakfast for some bird in the morning.