Thursday, September 24, 2015

Mantises and mosquito spray

Found this lovely in the shed and moved her outside. That round belly means she's full of eggs and will lay them soon, to hatch in the spring. Yay! We used to see mantises all the time -- now it's rare. Thanks to urban infill and the dadgum mosquito-sprayers. A guy was spraying my neighbor's bushes for mosquitoes and had this logo on his business van: "GREAT FOR KIDS AND PETS!" I bet. Anyway, mosquitoes breed in water, not bushes - ???

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Squeaky Bessbugs

Bessbug, native to NC. Sally Kneidel

Found this huge Bessbug in the backyard, displaced by our whacked-out climate. Bessbugs are cool - one of the only beetles that live in groups and raise their young communally. And communicate by squeaking! The rotting logs they live in are dried out from the drought, and they're already threatened by habitat loss in general. I love Bessbugs. I wish I could protect them.

More about Bessbugs

Bessbug,Sally Kneidel

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Blue Ridge Red Salamander! Yowza!

So excited to see this amazing Red Salamander (Pseudotriton ruber) last month. About 10 miles from Mount Mitchell in North Carolina, the highest peak east of the Mississippi.  I think it's Pseudotriton ruber nitidus, the Blue Ridge Red Salamander. It lacks the black chin of other Red Salamander subspecies. Red Salamanders are in the family of lungless salamanders (Plethdontidae).  They have neither gills nor lungs, but breathe through their skin! Their skin has to stay moist for them to breathe, which is one reason salamanders are more common at higher elevations with greater rainfall and cooler temps. The lungless salamanders are a huge family of salamanders in N.C.  I haven't seen a Pseudotriton in 20 years!  I'm grateful they're still alive.

They look similar to the much more common Red Eft (Notophthalmus viridescens). But the spots on the eft are little black circles with red dots in the center. Also similar is Gyrinophilus, another NC salamander that's red. But Gyrinophilus has a line of pigmentation between the eye and nostril.