Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Walking Sticks

I don't mean the type that serves as an aid to walking either - I'm taking about the insects.  Some of the largest insects are walking sticks.  They are found in tropical and subtropical regions around the world.  Although they don't bite, they do have defenses to protect themselves from pretadators.  As their name implies they can act like a stick, even falling to the ground and playing dead for long periods of time.  Some walking sticks may also release an irritating chemical (can make a person's eyes water if they touch them after getting the substance on them).  Numerous studies have also shown that a male and female paired are in a better position to fight together - they combine their efforts to fend off attackers, allowing both to live longer. 

This pair hung out at our front door this week - literally on the door facing, so we got a front row seat to their mating show. 
walking stick female (large) with male
Obviously they are working on producing fertilized eggs, and they were in this position for several hours.  I've also read that staying coupled together for longer periods is for their benefit as well - more eggs.  According to one of my bug books - mating should be in August - well since the weather lately is so unusual - guess everything else in the cycle of life is a little off. 

I had grown up thinking that the female will then eat the male, but I couldn't confirm that during my really quick research confirmation.  Walking sticks are also considered decent pets - think I'll pass.  I'm not squeamish about bugs, but I think some wild things should be left wild.  Walking sticks aren't seen as often, so I tend to think that we are killing them during our attempts at mosquito and other bug/insect control.  Whenever I do see one hanging out on an area that could be dangerous for them - I do relocate them (moved one from the horse cross-tie area just this week). 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

My Backyard

I wish I could blame the hot dry weather for the state of my backyard, but I have to admit I had something to do with it as well -- or rather the lack of my involvement had an impact.  Since the hurricane a few years ago, parts of the backyard have become wildish areas.  But on the positive side, critters, insects, etc. have been spotted that I don't usually see.  On the negative side, dewberry plants are trying to take over too (and winning in some places - darn those things are hard to kill).  I took a quick walk around the yard this morning just to see if anything was alive & moving about.  I was surprised at what I found - a couple of green anoles (they are always around), a blooming soft green eyes (officially a native wildflower, not a "weed"), a few cicada skins (empty & dry) and a few new blooms on my lemon tree - and not to leave out - a few mosquitoes (guess that whopping .45 inches of rain this week really perked everything up.  Here are a few pictures from my morning walk.

soft green eyes

green anole

cicada skin
lemon tree bloom

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Let's Talk About the Weather

Yes, I'm talking about the weather again. although usually talking about the weather is what people do to make small talk or old-timers do to pass the time of day.  However, around my state/region it is serious - seriously dry and hot.  Areas/counties are now in what is classified as an exceptional drought (one that occurs about every 50-100 years).  We have received 1/10th of the precipitation that we should have by this time of year which equals to over 10 inches behind.  Mix in a long period of high pressure and we've got hot and dry.  One local news source compared the area to the Sahara Desert - saying our actual rainfall amounts have been about the same.  Here are some stats:

average rainfall amount:  5.35 inches
actual rainfall received:     .90 inches
highest temperature:          100 degrees - on June 5th (when it is technically still the spring season)

average rainfall amount:  4.78 inches
actual rainfall received:    1.47 inches (as of this posting)
highest temperature:           98 degrees - (guess all that extra rain cooled us down a bit)

My kids & I actually spent some time out in the rain this week - was kind of a different feeling getting wet outside instead of just in the shower.

Here are a couple of pictures showing the effects of the drought - one is the grass in my backyard (I don't usually water my yard especially when water rationing could become a reality) and the other is a dried up horse pond... interesting that the ever-present, invasive chinese tallow tree survives despite the dry, cracked dirt.