Twelve Days of Christmas 2012

January 4, 2013

Since tomorrow is the twelfth day of Christmas, I thought I'd give you your belated gifts. Of course they're all part of L.A.'s surprising biodiversity, yes even those turtle wasps!

Twelve weevils wandering

 



Eleven pepsis wasps piping

 

 



Ten spiders-a-leaping

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Nine ground squirrels dancing

 

 



Eight ants-a-milking (though technically they should be milking aphids)

 

 

 

 



 

 

 

Seven spittlebugs-a-spitting

 



 

Six roaches-a-laying (down that is)

 



 

Five under wings

 



 

Four warbling birds

 



 

Three French (phorid) flies

 



 

Two turtle wasps

 



 

And a hawk in a pear infested pond

 



Wishing you a happy New Year...what urban nature will we find this year?


(Posted by: Lila Higgins)

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Psycho Spider Killer: What is It?

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 painwhich lasted for about 3 minutesas, "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 lifewhat a scientist!


(Posted by: Lila Higgins)


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