Thursday, July 24, 2014

Ladybug


Ladybug

Coccinellidae
Photo: Ladybug on cholla cactus
Ladybugs, ladybirds, or lady beetles—whatever one calls them—are favored by farmers as voracious pest-eaters.
Photograph by Raul Touzon
Many people are fond of ladybugs because of their colorful, spotted appearance. But farmers love them for their appetite. Most ladybugs voraciously consume plant-eating insects, such as aphids, and in doing so they help to protect crops. Ladybugs lay hundreds of eggs in the colonies of aphids and other plant-eating pests. When they hatch, the ladybug larvae immediately begin to feed.
Ladybugs are also called lady beetles or, in Europe, ladybird beetles. There are about 5,000 different species of these insects, and not all of them have the same appetites. A few ladybugs prey not on plant-eaters but on plants. The Mexican bean beetle and the squash beetle are destructive pests that prey upon the crops mentioned in their names.
Ladybugs appear as half-spheres, tiny, spotted, round or oval-shaped domes. They have short legs and antennae.
Read full here...http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/bugs/ladybug/

Monday, May 26, 2014

Black Widow Spider

Black Widow Spider


Latrodectus hesperus

Photo: Female black widow spider on a leaf
Notorious for their bloodthirsty courtship, black widow spiders are identified by the colored markings on their black bodies.
Photograph by George Grall
Black widows are notorious spiders identified by the colored, hourglass-shaped mark on their abdomens. Several species answer to the name, and they are found in temperate regions around the world.
This spider's bite is much feared because its venom is reported to be 15 times stronger than a rattlesnake's. In humans, bites produce muscle aches, nausea, and a paralysis of the diaphragm that can make breathing difficult; however, contrary to popular belief, most people who are bitten suffer no serious damage—let alone death. But bites can be fatal—usually to small children, the elderly, or the infirm. Fortunately, fatalities are fairly rare; the spiders are nonaggressive and bite only in self-defense, such as when someone accidentally sits on them.
The animals most at risk from the black widow's bite are insects—and male black widow spiders. Females sometimes kill and eat their counterparts after mating in a macabre behavior that gave the insect its name. Black widows are solitary year-round except during this violent mating ritual.
These spiders spin large webs in which females suspend a cocoon with hundreds of eggs. Spiderlings disperse soon after they leave their eggs, but the web remains. Black widow spiders also use their webs to ensnare their prey, which consists of flies, mosquitoes, grasshoppers, beetles, and caterpillars. Black widows are comb-footed spiders, which means they have bristles on their hind legs that they use to cover their prey with silk once it has been trapped.
Find more here... http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/bugs/black-widow-spider/

Friday, April 25, 2014

Scarab

Scarab


Scarabaeidae
Photo: Scarab
Most scarabs are monotone black or brown, but some wear bright colors, intricate patterns, an iridescent glow, or even a metallic sheen.
Photograph by David C. Hawks
Scarabs are a mesmerizingly diverse family of beetle found in every part of the world except in the oceans and on Antarctica. There are about 30,000 scarab species comprising about 10 percent of all known beetles.
The June bug pinging incessantly off your front porch light is a type of scarab. The Japanese beetle that savages your landscaping? A scarab as well. The enormous rhinoceros beetles of Central and South America are scarabs. And perhaps the most famous member of the family, the sacred scarab, was actually worshipped by the Egyptians as the embodiment of the sun god Khepri.
Most scarabs are monotone black or brown in color. But many, particularly tropical varieties, explode with bright colors and intricate patterns. There are even species that are iridescent and some with a truly unnatural-looking metallic sheen.
Scarabs are generally oval-shaped and stout, ranging in size from miniscule to mythic. The smallest grow to about 0.08 inches (0.2 centimeters) while the Hercules beetle can reach a palm-covering 6.7 inches (17 centimeters) in length.
Diets of these beetles vary from species to species. Some consume live plants and are considered agricultural pests. Some eat fruit, fungi, carrion, or insects. There’s even a variety that subsists on the slime left by snails.
But the most well-known diet item is consumed by the scarabs called dung beetles. These beetles subsist entirely on the undigested nutrients in the waste of herbivores like sheep, cattle, and elephants. The Egyptian sacred scarab is a dung beetle.
Dung beetles have a keen sense of smell that allows them to hone in on their favorite food and use specialized mouth parts to draw out moisture and nutrients from the waste. Some species simply live in the dung, while others form perfectly spherical dung balls, which they roll with their hind legs, often over large distances, to a place where they can bury it. Females plant a single egg in a dung ball where it matures from larva to fully formed beetle, feeding off the waste. Because they move so much waste underground, dung beetles are considered essential to controlling disease and pests among livestock.
Read full here...  http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/bugs/scarab/#close-modal

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Hornet

Hornet 

Vespidae
Photo: Close-up of a hornet on a plant
Hornets eat leaves and tree sap but are also accomplished predators, feeding on flies, bees, and other insects.
Photograph by H.L. Fox/Animals Animals
Hornets are wasps of the genusVespa, closely related to (and resembling) yellowjackets. There are about 20 hornet species. Most live in tropical Asia, but the insects are also found in Europe, Africa, and North America, where the European hornet was introduced by humans.
These social insects construct hives by chewing wood into a papery construction pulp. They mature from egg to adult inside the community hive.
Queens dominate hornet hives and are the only females to reproduce. Most other hornets are asexual female workers that perform essential community duties such as building the hive, gathering food, feeding the young, and protecting the colony. Males are few and they have only one real role—mating with the queen. Males typically die soon after their sexual task is complete.
In colder climes, hornet nests are abandoned in winter and only new, young queens (and their eggs) survive the season by finding protected areas under tree bark or even inside human dwellings. In the spring, such a queen will begin a new nest, and soon her young will become workers and take over the chores of the new hive—leaving the queen to tend to reproduction. She will produce more workers to expand the hive and then, before she dies, yield a breeding generation of new queens and males (drones) to restart the cycle of life.
These insects eat some tree sap but they are also accomplished predators. A hornet hive will eliminate many flies, bees, and other insects.
Workers defend their hive with potent stingers. Though these insects do not sting humans unless provoked, some people are allergic to their venom and can have very dangerous reactions to a sting.
Read full here... http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/bugs/hornet/#close-modal

Friday, January 24, 2014

Ant

Ant


Formicidae
Photo: A leaf-cutter ant carrying leaf
One of 10,000 species of ants, this leaf-cutter ant hauls a leaf more than three times its size back to the nest.
Photograph by Roy Toft
Ants are common insects, but they have some unique capabilities. More than 10,000 known ant species occur around the world. They are especially prevalent in tropical forests, where they may be up to half of all the insects living in some locations.
Ants look much like termites, and the two are often confused—especially by nervous homeowners. However, ants have a narrow "waist" between the abdomen and thorax, which termites do not. Ants also have large heads, elbowed antennae, and powerful jaws. These insects belong to the order Hymenoptera, which includes wasps and bees.
Enthusiastically social insects, ants typically live in structured nest communities that may be located underground, in ground-level mounds, or in trees. Carpenter ants nest in wood and can be destructive to buildings. Some species, such as army ants, defy the norm and do not have permanent homes, instead seeking out food for their enormous colonies during periods of migration.
Ant communities are headed by a queen or queens, whose function in life is to lay thousands of eggs that will ensure the survival of the colony. Workers (the ants typically seen by humans) are wingless females that never reproduce, but instead forage for food, care for the queen's offspring, work on the nest, protect the community, and perform many other duties.
Male ants often have only one role—mating with the queen. After they have performed this function, they may die.
Ants communicate and cooperate by using chemicals that can alert others to danger or lead them to a promising food source. They typically eat nectar, seeds, fungus, or insects. However, some species have diets that are more unusual. Army ants may prey on reptiles, birds, or even small mammals.
One Amazon species (Allomerus decemarticulatus) cooperatively builds extensive traps from plant fiber. These traps have many holes and, when an insect steps on one, hundreds of ants inside use the openings to seize it with their jaws.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Pelican

Pelican


Pelecanus
Photo: A brown pelican
A brown pelican
Photograph courtesy Gary M. Stolz/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
There are more than half a dozen species of pelicans, but all of them have the famous throat pouch for which the birds are best known. These large birds use their elastic pouches to catch fish—though different species use it in different ways.
Many pelicans fish by swimming in cooperative groups. They may form a line or a "U" shape and drive fish into shallow water by beating their wings on the surface. When fish congregate in the shallows, the pelicans simply scoop them up. The brown pelican, on the other hand, dives on fish (usually a type of herring called menhaden) from above and snares them in its bill. Pelicans do not store fish in their pouch, but simply use it to catch them and then tip it back to drain out water and swallow the fish immediately. The American white pelican can hold some 3 gallons (11 1/2 liters) of water in its bill. Young pelicans feed by sticking their bills into their parents' throats to retrieve food.
Pelicans are found on many of the world's coastlines and also along lakes and rivers. They are social birds and typically travel in flocks, often strung out in a line. They also breed in groups called colonies, which typically gather on islands.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Cuban Screech Owl

Cuban Screech Owl


Gymnoglaux lawrencii
Photo: Cuban screech owl standing against a rock
The Cuban screech owl is endemic to Cuba, where it is found in wooded areas, often nesting in abandoned woodpecker holes.
Photograph by Steve Winter
The goggle-eyed Cuban screech owl gets its other common name, bare-legged owl, from its featherless lower appendages. While most of the world’s more than 200 owl species wear feathers down to their toes, the Cuban screech owl’s warm tropical habitat appears to have encouraged it to evolve permanent Bermuda shorts.
These nocturnal birds of prey are endemic only to Cuba, and their substantial range covers nearly the entire island. They prefer forest and wooded areas with palm trees, which they bore roosting holes into. They will also frequently occupy abandoned woodpecker holes.
Their feathers are dark brown with white spots on top, and their bellies and bottom wing feathers are grayish-white. They have large brown eyes outlined with dramatic white feathers. The Cuban screech owl is not well studied, and information about its diet is scarce, but, like most owl species, it likely feeds on small mammals, other birds, frogs, and insects.
The bare-legged owl became the Cuban screech owl in 1998, when the American Ornithologists’ Union reclassified it in the genus Otus, which includes scops and screech owls. However, in 2003, the union, citing differences in morphology and vocal patterns, reversed itself, placing the owl in its own genus,Gymnoglaux, and restoring its former name.
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