November 7, 2012
Have you ever jumped in your car and realized there was a bug on your windshield? Not a gross squished one, I mean a living one, ready for a hitchiking adventure. When this happens, you might be like me, and decide to spark up the engine and see how long that sucker can stick around for (never speeding of course)! In my extensive experience, the bugs usually manage to "hang on" for much longer than one would expect. Case in point: This bright green katydid—a close relative to grasshoppers—traveled with Nature Lab project manager, Jennifer Morgan, all the way from Palos Verdes to Pasadena, reaching speeds of up to 70 mph!
Katy "done" did it right!For a better idea of what a katydid looks like, here's an image courtesy of What's That Bug:
But why are they called katydids? According to Insects of the Los Angeles Basin, "Katydids are so named because of their supposed participation in a legendary love affair. Involved were two maidens: one was fair, the other (whose name was Kate) was more on the stately side. The masculine corner of the triangle, an anonymous lad, fell in love with the fair one and scorned the passions of Kate. When he mysteriously died, the question was: "Did or didn't the proud Kate do him in?" The insect lives today as the deceased's spirit, continually proclaiming the answer each summer night "Kate-she-did," or the variation "Katy-did."" So next time you're standing on a freeway overpass, look at all those cars speeding by and wonder, how many invisible hitchikers are passing by under your very nose? Furthermore, what are the conseqences of such movements? What happens to all those insects that are now 70 miles from their home?
October 31, 2012
I've been waiting an entire month to write this post, and maybe my entire life to entomologically riff off a Talking Heads song title! On Monday, October 1, I found a large tarantula hawk wasp (a.k.a Pepsis wasp) on some flowering Baccharis in the North Campus. This blue wasp with orange wings was the first of its kind spotted in our new gardens, and is indeed a spider killer.
Tarantula Hawk on BaccharisThis is what Insects of the Los Angeles Basin has to say about tarantula hawks preying on spiders:"When a female wasp finds a tarantula, she alights and engages it in battle. The wasp then stings the spider on the underside between the legs and usually succeeds in paralyzing but not killing it. She has previously dug a shallow burrow, using her mandibles and legs as a pick and shovel, or selected an earth crack, rodent burrow, or even the burrow of a tarantula for a nest, and she now drags the paralyzed prey into his hole, lays an egg on the victim, and then seals the tunnel with soil. A supply of fresh food is thus insured for the developing larva."Oh and let's not forget that a sting from one of these wasps can be very painful to us humans too! According to awesomely geeky entomologist, Justin O. Schmidt, this wasp's sting is among the most painful in the world. He described the pain—which lasted for about 3 minutes—as, "blinding, fierce, shockingly electric. A running hair drier has been dropped into your bubble bath (if you get stung by one you might as well lie down and scream)." He also rated the pain as a 4, which is at the very top of his 0-4 scale of pain. That's right folks, he has documented the pain induced from over 100 insect stings in his life—what a scientist!