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.
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).
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).
Sometimes it’s more interesting to look at something familiar from a different perspective to gain renewed appreciation. Have you ever looked at a zinnia this close before? I discovered a tiny forest of golden furry trees arranged in a perfect circle surrounded by a bed of brilliant red petals. Each yellow tree has a trunk filled with nectar that attracts bees, butterflies and moths. Each visitor gets a secret powdering of yellow pollen to transport to subsequent flowers, unknowingly becoming a pollen postal service. I go the garden to relax, unwind and refresh my mind, and while everything around me may seem tranquil, it is in fact the opposite – each and every flower, every insect and every plant is very hard at work.
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.
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.
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!
A bright sunny dahlia such as this is absolutely irresistible to bees…. and to myself. Bees (as am I) are mostly attracted to bright colored flowers, which is why wearing a brightly colored shirt may also attract bees, and also why beekeeper suits are white. Bees also have favorite colors which are yellow, blue and violet and dislike red which they actually see as black. They can also see the ultraviolet part of the spectrum which human eyes cannot detect. The world must look very different in the eyes of a bee, but despite this, we share a common appreciation of bright sunny dahlias. Happy weekend everyone!
For other beautiful dahlias please click here.
Recently there have been two scientific studies which have highlighted how smart bees really are at learning. One of these studies trained bees to pull on a string which gave them access to a sucrose treat. The second study wanted to see if bees could perform a very unnatural task that required manipulation of a tool to get a reward. The bees were shown that the proper location of a yellow ball was inside a drawn circle. The bee then had to figure out how to relocate a misplaced ball back into the circle to gain a reward. Once the bee had learned these tasks they improved significantly each time, taking less time to complete the task. Not only did bees learn these tasks, other bees which were placed as observers could then complete the task themselves on the first try, hence learning the skill from watching a trained bee. This learning could be transferred through many successions of new trainers and new observers. These studies show that bees can learn new and complex tasks which were previously thought to be unique to vertebrates such as mammals and birds and also transfer those skills throughout their colony which may help them adapt in the presence of changing evolutionary pressures (click here to see a video highlighting these studies).
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.