Sunday, November 24, 2019

HumBug: Revisiting Old (Poisonous) Friends

Posted By on Sun, Nov 24, 2019 at 4:27 PM

Back on Oct 2., 2016, I posted an article on the infestation of western black widow (Latrodactus hesperus) spiders at the Carlotta Post Office. Just this week my wife and I had occasion to visit the area again. Guess what?
Cell phone photo of black widow crossing sidewalk in front of Carlotta Post Office. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Cell phone photo of black widow crossing sidewalk in front of Carlotta Post Office.
As we strolled along the walkway directly in front of the post office, I nearly tripped over a large black spider. One look an I knew they were back. Adult widows are distinctive. Their backs are very black (juveniles sport white markings), as if they had been carved from a piece of obsidian. Their abdomens have a distinctive red or orange hourglass mark. This one was definitely not a false black widow, like those I wrote about on Nov. 3 this year but the real deal.


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Sunday, November 17, 2019

HumBug: Late Butterflies, Hornets and Moths

Posted By on Sun, Nov 17, 2019 at 5:37 PM

A quick walk along the Van Duzen River turned up one each variegated meadowhawk and shadow darner dragonflies neither of which allowed me to get close enough to get a photo. It's OK, I have hundreds of shots of the meadowhawk and dozens of the shadow.

We got glimpses of a California sister butterfly, a cabbage butterfly, and an American rubyspot damselfly. They were all too active for pictures.
Mylitta crescent, notches out of its wings show it has been around. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Mylitta crescent, notches out of its wings show it has been around.

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Sunday, November 10, 2019

HumBug: Spiders at School

Posted By on Sun, Nov 10, 2019 at 3:51 PM

I recently did some walkabout lectures at a local middle school. The format was to walk around the campus for about 45 minutes and discourse on the various organisms we encountered. I did this six times with different groups. Aside from the stationary trees and plants, the organisms we encountered most reliably were the little wolf spiders (family lycosidae, most likely genus Padrosa).
Wolf spider in the garden. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Wolf spider in the garden.
Wherever you looked, they ran through the lawns in front of us. They were everywhere. In a cool off-season wandering we encountered hundreds. Starting life about the size of the head of a pin, if they're lucky, they capture enough prey to grow, shed their skins and grow again. Judging from sheer numbers, they must be one of the most successful lifeforms around and each full-sized individual must represent a dozen or so prey captured/killed.

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Sunday, November 3, 2019

HumBug: An Innocent Imposter

Posted By on Sun, Nov 3, 2019 at 11:19 AM

Being the local “Bug Guy” I was recently asked about a spider that looked “almost exactly like a black widow,” but lacked the distinctive red hourglass on the underside of its abdomen. This is a spider with which I am very familiar. They were nearly everywhere where I grew up in Pacifica, California. I hadn't seen any hereabouts but I was fairly confident what was being described was a female “false black widow” or Steatoda grossa. Although in the same family as the notorious mate-killer, this spider is much less dangerous and is usually timid. Neither are they the typical jet black of the widows, but usually a dark maroon.
False Black Widow ventral side. Note: no red hourglass. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • False Black Widow ventral side. Note: no red hourglass.

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