Posts Tagged ‘insects’

The Madagascar hissing cockroach

laelene Posted in stories,Tags: , , , , , ,

holding madagascar hissing cockroach to faceIt’s been almost exactly a year since I started volunteering at the Smithsonian’s Insect Zoo & Butterfly Pavilion! It’s hard to believe and I’m happy that my volunteer time is still going strong. Every time I go volunteer, there is so much to preoccupy me that I hardly ever get pictures. I’m slowly working on that so I can share more of what you’d be able to experience there!

Let’s start off with the Madasgascar hissing cockroach, one of the staples found on the insect cart. These are hardy creatures that don’t require much maintenance. We keep two tiny slices of sweet potato in a jar for them and I can’t even tell they’ve been eaten. While they may look scary, they’re actually really safe and quite clean. I’m sure that’s why they’re popular in TV shows that have them crawl all over people or offer them up as creepy snacks to contestants.

Hissing cockroaches don’t fly, jump, or bite. They are not toxic, have no stingers, and their only defense is to hiss. So really, there’s no way they can hurt you. At all. Even when people know this, they get creeped out. I guess many phobias are rather irrational. I admit they aren’t the prettiest of species, but they’re cute in their own way.

You’ll only find them hissing when they’re feeling upset/threatened (or for males, also when they want to mate). They domesticate pretty easily and the ones we have hardly ever hiss. Usually it’s just a brief “Ugh, why are you picking me up again? Just leave me alone” sort of hiss that vaguely resembles a rattlesnake. To create the noise, they have spiracles along their abdomen – look closely and you’ll see dots lining the sides. They push air through these spiracles to hiss, which is kind of like whistling through your sides. This is pretty unique in the insect world, since most of them create noise by rubbing body parts together, like wings. Obviously, the Madagascar hissing cockroach does not have wings, so it found a different way.

Here I’m holding a male up to my face to show you how large he’d gotten. You can tell he’s a male by the horns on his head, which are quite pronounced. Females have tiny bumps there and their antennae don’t get nearly as fuzzy. They grow to similar sizes and colors vary from about as dark as this guy to far lighter, almost golden yellow. They can live a good 2-5 years (females tend to live longer), which makes them a long-lived insect. Their longevity combined with their ease of domestication and lack of harmfulness make them great pets! I’ve had many schoolteachers and students tell me they had them in their classrooms.

It’s always fun to see who is willing to hold these guys and who freaks out. It’s usually the children running up all wide-eyed and excited while the adults stay back. The larger the person, the greater the fear it seems. I had a towering giant of a man scream when he tried to hold one, which was actually quite terrifying. Some people actually shake and jerk as they try to not throw it off their hands. Then there are the babies who jut out their little hands and I can barely get the hissing cockroach on their tiny palms. Usually people go away with a new appreciation for these creatures, and a little less fear/misunderstanding of them. That’s always my goal!

Sunday stroll

laelene Posted in lifestyle glimpses,Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Yesterday after dusk, Panda went on a walk to Walgreen’s to pick up some food. Along the way, he spotted a ton of fireflies, so tonight we decided to go back along the walk and catch some on our way to get groceries. We got some bug bites out of it, but it was well worth the effort. We both came away with five each, proudly stored in our respective jars. Our little stroll turned out to be a bit of a nature walk and we came across all sorts creatures! As we approached the first area we saw fireflies, a bunny rabbit scurried off. Then I spent a little time poking at an Eastern Bess beetle running across the sidewalk (thanks to my time volunteering at the Smithsonian Insect Zoo for that knowledge!). After getting our groceries, I stopped for a quick look at a June bug and then a toad.

I was pretty thrilled with our little excursion and soon we got home to play with our new firefly pets. Smokey immediately started stalking them even as they climbed around in the jars. We let one out, which she swatted at, so we quickly learned that they are not safe around her. Since they like humidity, we took them into the bathroom and let them fly free as we ran the shower. Seven out of the ten took advantage of that time to crawl out and explore. After my shower, I recaptured them all and then took the jar to the porch to set them free. Again, seven eventually made their way out (some with a little “help” from Smokey) and I decided to retire and keep the last three overnight. Smokey’s been having a blast staring at them so much that I don’t know if she’ll sleep a wink tonight!

eastern bess beetle on sidewalk at night june bug on sidewalk at night toad by sidewalk blending in with wood chips

Adventures with a new neighbor

laelene Posted in lifestyle glimpses,Tags: , , , ,

This morning, I received a picture from Panda after he had left for work. It seemed like we had a snail chillin’ on our front door. I figured it was probably out after the rain last night, but then I found out what it really was… take a look for yourself here:

small wasp nest on door frame of front door

Could be a snail, right?

Well, turns out it was a wasp nest. This black, red, and yellow wasp was happily working away at its nest, not even caring that I was sticking a camera in its face. I didn’t have time to deal with it before going to work, so we just left it.

black and red wasp on wasp nest in doorway

Nasty fellow.

In the evening, Panda and I decided to take down the nest before that wasp got too comfortable and produced offspring or attracted other pests. I got a bag to capture it in and set to work. We tried spraying it a bit to scare it off, but that just seemed to get its wings wet and make it stay in place. We tried sticking a yard stick through the door cracked slightly open to shoo it off, but it just climbed on the yard stick! I then got gloves and put a plastic bag around it. The first attempt was awful and I did not capture it. Luckily, it wasn’t upset with me and just went back to its home. I had Panda bring me a chair to give me better leverage. This time we got it stuck in the plastic baggie and I managed to tear off the nest. I zipped it all up and cleaned off the residue on our door frame. I then took the wasp to the porch and opened the bag partway so it could find its way out. At first it flew to our railing and took a break, but eventually it moved on. I hope it doesn’t return! We’ll have to keep a close eye on our doors now.

catching wasp from Mary Qin on Vimeo.


365great Day 249: praying mantis

laelene Posted in 365great,Tags: , , ,

365great challenge day 249: praying mantisI love it whenever I catch a praying mantis. They’re tough cookies, but have an elegance about them in the way they move. Once, I kept one indoors for so long that its eyes went black. It literally went blind on me. I’d put my finger up to its face and get no reaction. I felt horrible, so I took it outside into the grassy area and watched it wander around for awhile. Somehow, miraculously, its eyes recovered and it flinched when I tried to get too near. Soon enough, it scampered away to its natural habitat. Ever since then, I’ve been careful to only play with them for a few minutes before releasing them. They’re surprisingly interested in people and I’ve had more than a few come to me. It’s pretty cool to get that sort of interaction with an insect. I’ve always enjoyed playing with them, so that’s great for me!

365great Day 238: dragonflies

laelene Posted in 365great,Tags: , , , , ,

365great challenge day 238: dragonfliesDragonflies are my favorite insect. I’m not sure why exactly, but I love to see one flitting about. One of the things I like about them is the variety of colors and sizes they come in, with everything from tiny blue ones to massive(ish) green ones. I used to try to catch them as a kid when I spent my summers in China; there was a type we called “big green bean” in Chinese that was very common across the area I was in. I’ve always admired their agility and grace… they can glide around rather effortlessly through the air. So much better than bugs that don’t fly or make it look like it’s a lot of effort. They’re kind of like the cool kid on the block and I think they’re awesome all around! If I was an insect I’d have fun as a dragonfly. A cute little blue one. 😛 It’d be great!

When bugs try to enter

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , , , , , , ,

large bug crawling up car window to crackI don’t know what it is about bugs and Panda, but they sure seem attracted to him. I previous shared a video of a bumblebee that wouldn’t go away from the window. It almost seemed to be searching for him each time it flew by and I was afraid to open the porch door because it nearly came inside. Just last night, this bug acted as if it wanted to enter the car as Panda was trying to get out. We kept the door closed hoping it would fly off again but it climbed up the window until it found the crack (and thank goodness it didn’t come in!!). I got out on my side to take a picture from the opposite view but as soon as it saw me it went off. Apparently I do not hold the same attraction that he does.

Then of course there are the mosquitoes that have gotten a few tasty meals out of Panda’s blood. That one at least makes sense, since they like to feed off us. But when it comes to the variety of other insects that have a strange fascination with Panda, I am just baffled. Does he emit some odor that only bugs can detect? Perhaps they find him fragrant as a flower? Or do they just like how he looks? 😉 It’s kind of a funny situation, especially considering how he is not a fan of bugs. While I will play with them, he avoids them. And it might be just that that attracts them. Ironic.

closeup of cicada sitting on stairsOh, and on a separate bug-related story, when we were heading out earlier in the day yesterday he told me about a grasshopper sort of thing on the stairs. We get to that part and I find a cicada lying upside down. Just as I was saying something about it being dead and he was trying to explain how it was alive, I went to pick it up by the wings and flip it over to show him what a cicada looks like up close. Suddenly, it started to flap its wings manically and I screamed so loud as I quickly let go! I nearly threw my phone from my hands from the shock. I really expected it to be dead. I mean, what cicada lies on its head? Must be a dying/weak one. So yeah, lesson learned – poke it first before trying to pick it up. This is like the time I was young and saw a cool fuzzy rock. I went to pick it up only to find it was actually a grey bumblebee and it stung me. I had no clue bees could be that color! And hey, how cool is a fuzzy rock?! Yeah… maybe my interest in bugs isn’t a good thing.

365great Day 112: butterflies

laelene Posted in 365great,Tags: , , , ,

Learn more about 365great here.

365great challenge day 112: butterfliesButterflies are such interesting insects. The way they transform from crawling caterpillars to flitting butterflies is amazing. The way their tongue curls up when they’re not eating, then uncurls to reach deep into flowers for nectar is fascinating. The way they gently flutter their wings to fly about is captivating. They also represent so much to us – hope, rebirth, luck, and even that nervous or happy energy we get in our stomachs. Who doesn’t love observing these gorgeous creatures? They’re so delicate and fun to watch. I visited a butterfly house today and it was great!

Fit furry fellow

laelene Posted in video blog,Tags: , , , ,

I’ve never seen a caterpillar move quite so fast before!

caterpillar run from Mary Qin on Vimeo.

Digital insect

laelene Posted in video blog,Tags: , , ,

Doesn’t the way it moves remind you of an old-school video game?

funky bug from Mary Qin on Vimeo.


laelene Posted in photo blog,Tags: , , ,

bug camouflaged to look like stem or leaf of plant

preying mantis camouflaged to look like dead leaf

preying mantis camouflaged to look like dead leaf hanging from tree stem

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