Sunday, January 27, 2019

HumBug: Archaeognatha

Posted By on Sun, Jan 27, 2019 at 11:07 AM

Hump backed, jumping bristletails look like tiny shrimp. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Hump backed, jumping bristletails look like tiny shrimp.
When I set out to take a couple of photos of the jumping bristletails on the back of my garage, I was not prepared for what I got.

They're interesting for being such an old order. The name Archaeognatha means “ancient jaw.” This refers to the primitive structure of their jaw. Jumping bristletails are one of the first insects to show up in the fossil record (about 390 million years ago) When our first vertebrate ancestors crawled onto land, they were probably greeted by something that looked much like what we see today and ate them. Early colonization of the land by arthropods created a food rich environment for the first tetrapods to exploit.

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Sunday, January 20, 2019

HumBug: Winter Critters

Posted By on Sun, Jan 20, 2019 at 5:27 PM

Closeup of a variegated meadowhawk. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Closeup of a variegated meadowhawk.

Five years ago I started reporting seeing a small dragonfly in the middle of winter on sunny days, even following frosty nights. Dragonflies usually spend the cold months as larvae in the water. Up until then, none of the other dragonfly enthusiasts were reporting anything at all. I've been able to photograph and report this one species in December and January every year since.

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Sunday, January 13, 2019

HumBug: Earwigs

Posted By on Sun, Jan 13, 2019 at 11:29 AM

Female earwig cerci. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Female earwig cerci.

I have not been a big fan of earwigs ever since they ate the ceanothus moth I was trying to rear. Reading a bit about them, I found they indeed have some interesting and worthwhile features. The most common variety around here is the European earwig (Forficula auricularia).

We called them “pincer bugs” when I was a kid due to the pair of forceps-like cerci that adorn their tail. When assaulted by grabbing their head between your fingers, they will indeed try to pinch you with them. The shape of the cerci can be used to differentiate the sexes. The male's are rounded and sickle shaped, while the females' are straighter and appear parallel.

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