Debbie – The Garden Orb Weaving Spider

Debbie the Garden Orb Weaving Spider – Photograph by Laura Lecce

I’d like to introduce you to Debbie. She is a large, Garden Orb Weaving Spider that lives on my balcony in Australia. I rarely get a good look at her because she is a night spider that sits in the middle of her giant web from sunset until very early morning. She is hoping to catch some large insects for dinner such as flies, beetles and occasionally a cicada. Some nights if she hasn’t had much luck catching bugs, she stays out a little longer in the morning, which is when I got to take this great photo of her. I even fed her a large blow fly that had flown into my kitchen after I stunned it with the fly squatter. For a hefty spider, she certainly ran faster than I expected towards the fly I stuck to her web. She immediately wrapped it up, took it to the center of the web and ate him – she must have been hungry! During the day when she is not in the web, she is contently tucked away into her sleeping hole in one of the bricks of my balcony. She will sadly only live a year, as they generally die out in late Autumn to early Winter. Before that happens, she will try to find a mate and lay eggs in late Summer to Autumn encased in a silky cocoon. Unlike some other spiders, males and females are similar in size. The babies will hatch not long after and catch the breeze with their little silk balloon to relocate to a new home. Hopefully there will be many more little Debbies to share my home with and admire.

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The dragonfly that stood still and smiled

The smiling dragonfly – Photography by Laura Lecce

It might not have been the prettiest of colours, but this dragonfly stood still long enough for me to get some pretty good photos. Not only did it sit for a while, but even smiled for the photo (well not really, its mouth parts just give that impression). If you Google “dragonfly faces”, you get quite a selection of adorable dragonfly closeups showing you the different expressions of various dragonflies, some are very happy and others are quite grumpy looking. It’s an odd sight considering a dragonfly face is not something many of us get to see, especially since they’re mostly whizzing around at top speeds between 30-60 km/h (19-38 mph).

The dragonfly that stood still – Photograph by Laura Lecce

Sometimes blending in is more important than standing out

Black and white butterflies – Photograph by Laura Lecce

Looking at this photograph I started to wonder –  What is the difference between a butterfly and a moth? Simple, right? Not so much. For every rule, there are always exceptions and this is no different. However, here are some of the (exceptions aside) differences between moths and butterflies.

Butterflies are generally a day creature (diurnal) while moths prefer the night (nocturnal). Due to this distinction, moths are usually colored grey, black and brown, while butterflies generally show off brilliantly colored wings. Butterflies have slender bodies and long, thin antennae with a club-shaped end, while moths are stout and furry and have feather-like antennae. Butterflies rest with their wings up (like the butterfly in this image), whereas moths rest with wings down. During metamorphosis, moths make a silk cocoon, whereas butterflies make a smooth and hard chrysalis.

Although these are the general rules, this particular butterfly is not so brightly colored, and for the most part sat with wings down against this tree (see image below). I think these traits ensure successful camouflage with the bark of this tree, and therefore a greater likelihood this butterfly evades predation. This reminded me of the classic evolutionary tale of the peppered moths (for more info follow this link).

Butterfly Flattened – Photography by Laura Lecce

A flag footed bug from Belize

Flag footed bug – Photograph by Laura Lecce

This brilliantly colored bug from Belize is called a flag footed bug and is also known as a leaf footed bug (Anisocelis flavolineata). It is found throughout Central America and comes in a variety of brilliant colors. There is very little information about them online, except that they can fly and are relatively harmless to humans. Although they can bite if provoked and it will sting a bit. The festive colors of this insect make it the perfect bug for the holiday season. Enjoy!

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.

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.