Monday, June 9, 2014

All Creatures Great and Small

We have our 'indoor creatures':

But there's been a remarkable amount of wildlife around our property, outside, too.  Just this afternoon, I spotted a red fox trotting down by our fireplace.  Yesterday, I saw a barred owl there.  At first, I thought he was injured, because he was flattened out on the ground.

Soon he raised up and hopped a bit...

I don't know exactly what he was doing...hunting?  resting?  Regardless, he flew away shortly thereafter.  I'm very fond of our barred owls and hear them hooting in the woods almost daily.  They have the delightful call of "Who cooks for you?  Who cooks for you?"  You can hear it here

Of course, since we live by the woods, we have lots of deer.

Lots of very tame deer who don't mind if you get quite close.

Sometimes we hear them barking/screaming in the woods at night.  It's the noise they make when they feel threatened.  Creepy! 

I startled this little guy in the front garden - a Fowler's Toad.

This one, too:  a harvestman, partially hidden by a leaf:

Overturn a few rocks here, and there's a good chance you'll see Greenhouse Millipedes.  Heck, we even find them in our bathroom from time to time!  They love moist, dark places.  

During another trip to the garden, I noticed what seemed to be a walking piece of fluff.

I looked closer and then gave the end a gentle pinch so I could take a photo for later identification.

He scurried away, and I got to work figuring out his identity.  Turns out he's a lacewing larva, and an absolutely fascinating creature!  In a real case of "wolf in sheep's clothing", the lacewing larva will pile debris on its back in order to sneak closer to prey (mainly aphids) undetected by aphids or their protector, the ant (ants and aphids have a symbiotic relationship.  Aphids produce food for ants, and ants protect aphids from predators).  This larva, covered by a bit of fluff, is looking for an aphid colony to infiltrate.  Impressive!

I don't have to go much beyond my front door to find insects.  The door is recessed, a type of alcove, and all sorts of insects cling to the walls in the protected space.  Last week I saw a curiously shiny spider there, and, after doing some research, realized that it was a black widow spider.

We've all heard about female black widows - venom 15 times more toxic than that of a rattlesnake, aggressive, cannibalistic.  Well, this is a male, and while those two round orbs on top of his head are 'biting mechanisms', they rarely bite and are not aggressive.  They are much smaller than the females.

A lightning bug is caught in a nearby web:

Between the spiders, the webs, and the prey, you can see why I have to clean this area so frequently!

I had a large insect collection as a child.  I caught them, put them in a jar with a rubbing alcohol-soaked cotton ball, and pinned them to a framed board.  I haven't started another one, even though I'm still so interested in insects.  I feel guilty snatching them from the wild for my own purposes, even though I know I shouldn't.  To combat this guilt, I decided to order some insects that were raised for the express purpose of display.  With my shadow box and a carefully-cut piece of foam core, I was ready!  First I laid out the specimens in different ways to determine what order they'd be pinned in.

 Next, I typed out their Latin names and did another sample layout:

I didn't have any entomology pins, but I did have ones for sewing.  Now, apparently different insects are pinned through different parts of the body, but I wasn't that particular here.

Inserted into shadow box frame and done!

Going with my theme, I also bought some pages from a vintage children's book that feature insects in the drawings.  Love!  I hope to get them framed in the next week or so. 

Keep your eyes open when you go outside...who knows what little creatures you'll see!

Have a great week!

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