Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Tiny World Of Insects

Pause And Observe A Micro World

We are literally surrounded by tiny organisms that we seldom see.  Part of their invisibility is our failure to look, to pause as we rush from here to there.  Today my post is to show some of the fun, or interesting, insects in our daily lives.  

For you who may be allergic to spider images, at the very bottom of this page is a picture of a Harvestman (Daddy Long Legs) - not really a spider but most people think of them in those terms.  I include this not for the Harvestman but for the teeny tiny fly sitting on it's butt! 

As days go on I'll post spiders, but for now I'll play it safe and not scare the britches off anyone.  Spiders are not the fearsome, horrific creatures many people envision; they are beautiful, diverse, fascinating, and everywhere.  Rest assured any spider posts will be clearly labelled.

It is common for some ants to "farm" aphids.  They carry them to food, clean them, pat them, fuss them up, and defend them.  In return, the aphids give the ants a special treat.  The ants LOVE the aphid honeydew (excretions).  Here you can see the ants doing their farming chores and the pampered aphids are serenely eating and getting fat.  I found them on the tender tip of a grape vine.

These are Milkweed Bug nymphs.  They are a couple instars old (each shedding of their skin is called an instar) and will go through more before becoming adults.  As adults, they are a wild orange and black pattern and you can find them easily as the days lead up to Halloween - perfect timing:>)  Milkweed bugs are born, grow, mate, eat, and die on Milkweed - that's their world.

These are aphids.  We know them well as garden pests and there are many types, colors, sizes.  They suck the juices of plants, and if there are enough of them, they will harm their food plant.  In the natural food chain, aphids feed a number of larger critters.  We can rid our plants of them with soapy water, but I beg you to think twice then twice again before using chemical pesticides.  Unintended consequences can be bad and many "good" bugs can be killed - not that aphids are bad!  They are only pests in our minds, not in the natural world properly in balance.

Last summer my husband found these eggs on our tomato plants.  We were puzzled and he researched to find out what they were.  Turns out these are the eggs of the Green Stink Bug.  We removed them and destroyed them - manually - but I thought you might like to see them and know what they are.
This is a Praying Mantis egg case.  These eggs you DO want in your garden or yard because the beautiful Praying Mantis is also a voracious consumer of garden pests.  Actually, they eat anything yummy that comes in reach.  this egg case feels like styrofoam or the foam you spray into cracks - very rigid and light.  Gardeners can purchase egg cases from nurseries or on line; they will be sent o buyers at the correct time of year for the little ones to hatch.

Capturing this fly on the Daddy Long Legs' backside was totally an accident, a happy accident, however:>)  This picture is BIG so you can see the insect.