Tag Archives: Macro

Emerald Cockroach Wasp

An Emerald Cockroach Wasp in Hawaii

I spotted this shiny creature on the trunk of a mango tree, but wasn’t sure what it was. So I searched online using the striking details – iridescent green, red on legs, Hawaii – and the first result was a post on whatsthatbug.com. It was headlined, ‘Emerald Cockroach Wasp from Hawaii turns Roaches into Zombies!!!’ (link here). That got my attention! Within that posting was a link to a longer post with more details (here).

In brief, the female Emerald Cockroach Wasp (Ampulex compressa) stings a cockroach to temporarily disable its front legs. It does this to buy time to deliver a second sting to a precise spot in the cockroach’s brain that controls the roach’s escape reflex. The roach isn’t paralyzed, but it just stays where it is, that is until the wasp takes it by the antenna and leads its zombie prey back to her burrow. There she lays an egg on the roach, before walling up the burrow’s entrance. Back inside, the roach just waits while the egg hatches and the larva eats its way inside the roach and devours the roach’s organs. Four weeks later, a new wasp emerges from the roach and the burrow.

I was astonished to learn about this, in particular how, for the second sting, the wasp locates the exact spot in the roach’s brain using sensors on the stinger.

The source of the whatsthatbug.com description comes from Carl Zimmer who has a great article here. More information about this remarkable wasp can be found here, here, and here. And finally, a must see video of the wasp in action, including leading the cockroach to its lair, can be seen here.

Guess who’s coming to dinner?

A male and female Hawaiian Garden Spider and a beetle snared in the web

My house has been surrounded by spiders and their webs for most of the winter. One female Hawaiian Garden Spider has a web which angles across the living room window. I can follow the activities there from the comfort of the couch.

One morning, I raised the window blind and found this scene. The large, yellow-backed spider is the female. The much smaller drab, brown spider above her is the male, and when a male is seen on a female’s web there’s only one reason – he’s looking to mate with her. I’m not sure what the third character in this scene is. It might be a mango beetle, but it was securely trussed to the web.

What happened can be seen in the gallery. The male tried his mating moves, the female remained largely unmoved. Much of the time the male stayed on the relatively safe opposite side of the web to the female, but to mate he must venture to the other side. When he did, sometimes the female swung into action. Mostly, she seemed responsive, but one time the male disappeared in an instant. Then I saw him climbing back up the thread he’d dropped on. Something must have gone awry, but no harm done. Through all this activity, the beetle looked on, waving its little legs and antennae.

The presence of the beetle seemed to affect the delicate negotiations going on between the spiders. Sometimes, the male went over to the beetle and sort of prodded at it, but nothing more. In the early evening, the female lost patience. She straddled the beetle, shot out strands of threads, and rebound the beetle as she spun it with her legs. It turned like a rotisserie chicken in overdrive. I didn’t get photos of this as the light was fading.

Next morning, nothing much had changed. The female was still the central figure, the male still holding his position. The only difference is that the beetle had managed to push its legs and head through the engulfing threads and it was back to waving its little legs and antennae. Later that day, the male appeared to successfully mate with the female and escape alive. I last saw him wandering over to the next web along where he positioned himself carefully on the opposite side of the web spun by another large female.

The next day, there was still a female on the web but I think it was a different, smaller one than the one in these photos. The beetle was still there, still waving its little legs and antennae. That evening, the new female did the rotisserie chicken move on the beetle and retrussed it. Next morning, the beetle had freed its legs and head again and was waving its legs and antennae again.

The following day, only the new female spider could be seen!

Posted in response to this month’s Becky’s Squares challenge theme of ‘Odd.’ See more responses here.

There’s more than one kind of bird feeder

A Common Waxbill feeds on cane grass seeds
A Common Waxbill feeds on cane grass seeds
A Common Waxbill feeds on cane grass seeds

This week’s Sunday Stills challenge theme is ‘Feed the Birds.’ (See more responses here.) We don’t put bird feeders out here so I was going to go with a selection of birds feeding out and about. But a few days ago, I was reminded that, while we don’t put out bird feeders, it doesn’t mean we don’t have them around.

Right now, the cane grass bordering the property has gone to seed and has been attracting birds. Seeing them is one thing; getting photos another. The cane grass is up to 10 feet high and the little birds that feed on them are notoriously skittish and will take off in an instant. I’ve found my bathroom window to be a good spot for photography – as long as it’s clean! The window looks out at the level of a lot of seed heads, but they’re usually in motion because of the wind and the little birds working them over. And other stalks of cane grass swish back and forth, obscuring my view of the birds and playing havoc with my focusing.

However, I was lucky enough to get photos of two recent visitors. The top trio of photos show a Common Waxbill stripping a seed head that was nicely illuminated and in an open spot right across from the window. The bottom three show a Nutmeg Mannikin. This one hopped around more, but stayed long enough that I was able to get several photos.

Both waxbills and mannikins generally travel in small flocks. This waxbill was the only one I saw clearly, but I saw others flitting about and could hear them in the vicinity. The odd thing about the mannikin was that it was the only one I saw or heard. Also, as the sun went down, I went outside to see if I could get better shots from a different angle. This bird did not seem bothered by my presence. Normally, mannikins would disappear at my appearance (I don’t take it personally!). I suspect this one was a juvenile that was, hopefully temporarily, separated from the flock and hadn’t learned about the many dangers facing it.

Also posted in response to this month’s Becky’s Squares challenge theme of ‘Odd.’ See more responses here.

Sonoran Carpenter Bee

A Sonoran Carpenter Bee clambers through agave attenuata flowers
A Sonoran Carpenter Bee clambers through agave attenuata flowers

I saw this female Sonoran Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa sonorina) in an Agave Attenuata and at first thought she was dead. But when I went out to look, she moved a bit, then burrowed deeper into the plants and disappeared from sight. I saw her three days in a row on the same plant and then she must have moved on. I’m not sure exactly what she was doing there. She didn’t appear to be collecting pollen but might have been doing so, albeit very slowly!