Sunday, February 18, 2018

Uncanny silence

In my last post, I wrote that the matte darkling had suddenly calmed down and was resting all day. Last night, I dug it up for a checkup, and it was crunchily dead. Perhaps it could not tolerate the weather of an unfamiliar region, but in any case I strongly suspect that leaving it alone (in an attempt to reduce stress) backfired.

At least it had a chance to live. If I hadn’t captured it after it was first spotted on top of a human “steel fortress”, it would certainly have gotten stepped on or wiped into a dusty corner.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Coccinellid update (also with tenebrionids)

Today I finally fed some aphids to the 7-spot and ash-gray ladybeetles after noticing the former refused corn and started being restless again. The initial response was quite dramatic, with both specimens violently shoving their heads into aphid-populated plant matter. The 7-spot had forgotten all about restlessness =)

In the distant past, I have repeatedly noticed that:

- Although aphids sometimes do react to conspecifics' deaths with escape behaviors, they generally seem ignorant of predation risk and will sit around while their neighbors are being eaten.

- Although coccinellids are quite voracious, they (like many beetle spp.) only seem capable of detecting food that directly contacts their mouthparts. They will happily walk past food items millimeters away from them.

Thus began a pathetic game of hide-and-seek.

The beetles seemed to be attracted by the plants themselves, and were reluctant to leave the vegetation. This worked at first. Soon, however, they ate everything in the vegetated areas and ended up meticulously searching every millimeter of the plants while several alarmed escapees sat around on the walls and nearby floor.

I had to add more aphid-colonized plant matter.

A few other notable events:

- In the past few days, both darkling beetles have been mostly inactive under the surface, at least when I am watching them. The matte beetle had previously went from frantic edge-pacing to attempting to climb the edges only somewhat frequently; it seems that the insect has now become accustomed to captivity and has stopped panicking competely.

- While the ash-gray ladybeetle was vainly searching for nonexistent aphids, it stopped capriciously, extended its abdomen, and laid four clustered eggs very slowly. I now know it is female!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Rotten leaves update

The loquat jar had smelled of old bitter leaves in the past few days, but today it had the distinctive "poisonous" odor of mold. Since my 2015 attempt with oak went through a "nasty" stage before finishing up, I will not be too concerned yet.

The magnolia jar is a whole different story. So far, it has been developing a jasmine-flower scent, which increased steadily each day. It appears that the leaves are so chemically well-defended they can inhibit mold growth.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

I attempt to synthesize rotted leaves

Small-white-flowered magnolia(?) flakes

My last attempt several years ago was somewhat successful, but it smelled like a mushy forest. Since I am unable to find any instructions on making rotten leaves, I will try again as an experiment.

Currently, one of each leaftype is sitting in a moistened container. Roachcrossing states in its care guide that magnolia is roach-safe, and Tannin Aquatics sells loquat leaves to decay in the aquarium as shrimp food. They should be insect-safe, though I have noted the magnolia had an aromatic smell (many aromatic plants repel insects).

Although I have chosen plant ID matches with very close external appearance, I am very inexperienced in many things outside of arthropod-related matters.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Status update: so far so good (mostly)

7-spot ladybeetle
Whenever I stop posting for a while, it usually signifies that nothing very interesting has been happening. I've been mentally yelling at my tenebrionids, coccinellids, and Cotinis a lot recently. They have either been stuffing themselves senseless, doing nothing all day, or doing nothing notable all day. I'm a bit tempted to throw them out the window, though of course that won't be happening.

Some news of note:

My efforts to clean up the sloppy categorization are working so far EDIT: have been finished completely!  =)

Both 7-spot and ash-gray ladybeetles have been gorging themselves on defrosted corn with cartoonish enthusiasm. The ash-gray has also eagerly eaten moistened dry bloodworms, but the 7-spot rejects them. It seems strange that the yellow stuff is so palatable, given that both of them have rejected vertebrate meat, peas, egg, and pollen. At least the 7spot's restless flight attempts have mostly subsided.

The Coniontis has been buried and lethargic as usual, but the matte darkling keeps surface-wandering at day and night. It often stays away from the plastic edges, but frequently tries to climb them repeatedly. Its behavior reminds me of an Eleodes on youtube, so hopefully it isn't stressed.

I was informed on bugguide that Tanystoma maculicolle has a very distinctive color pattern in the area. This should mean that all of the carabids here that look like maculicolle are maculicolle.

I also have a safe ID for the brown fruit scarab! It should be Protaetia fusca.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

8-month (almost) anniversary: a reflection

Since the blog started at the beginning of July, a lot has happened in a short time.


I witnessed the rise and eventual fall of a cf. Diaperis rufipes colony as its host fungus pumped up new fruiting bodies for the year and then ceased all surface activity in the span of approximately two months. Simultaneously, I also managed to witness the spectacular annual emergence of Cotinis mutabilis (western green fruit scarab), rescue/keep several of them, and collect a Coniontis darkling beetle from an old web.


Soon after captive scarab #1's untimely death at the end of August, the wild Cotinis also began to gradually vanish. However, due to the year-round insect-friendly weather here, I continued on mostly as if nothing had happened. This did not mean that all was well, however. I spent a considerable portion of my time mentally "berating" the Coniontis and captive scarab #2 for giving me worries and (for the latter) constantly dirtying its cage. I did manage to have some fun at long intervals, however.

Everything ground to a halt for approximately the entire month of October due to blog security issues, and it was the thousandth cut in "death-by-thousand-cuts". Although I did manage to dispel some of my scarab worries, it wasn't enough. The rest of my insect and captive-vertebrate problems plagued me severely, and I will not mention the gory (yes, gore was involved almost in the literal sense) details.

Fall, part 2

At the start of November, the blog security issues cleared up sufficiently for normal operations to resume. Being exhausted and desperate, I started eating exterminators, staring at small garden carabids for hours, and synthesizing new posts at an astounding rate. I also realized that my captive Coniontis's restlessness was indeed stress behavior (as I suspected) after it calmed down and seemed content. The system wasn't perfect (the nocturnal carabids often sat motionless in their cages for hours, even at night), but at least it was all usually sometimes fun and games...


After getting rid of my pet carabids, at least I managed to get some temporary relief. I managed to get featured on WhatsThatBugeat another exterminator, and even figure out how to stop the green fruit scarab's (it refused to die with its wild brethren) cage from stinking up while simultaneously playing with katydids

Fortunately, that fruit scarab disaster was thankfully averted, and I had a semi-pleasant trip abroad. Since no airports were involved, I was able to rescue and lug home two ladybeetles and a new darkling to accompany the long-lived Coniontis, as well as observe a few other new insects along the way. I also managed to discover a camera that could take small insects' pictures without blurring them unrecognizably, so these recent links have plenty of pictures (and the blog's first ever videos).

The foreseeable future...

I'm surprised I managed to have so many insect adventures, because from the blog's creation to today my poor captive vertebrates have been stuck with chronic life-threatening trouble. I have been trying to hang onto their dear lives during every spare moment, but so far my efforts have been pathetically inefficient. Many of the above vertebrates have met unspeakably horrid fates.

The situation does looks good on the insectile front, as the restless 7-spot ladybeetle had been non-restless and stuffing itself on banana earlier today. If both ladybeetles start acting healthily, I will no longer have any insect issues to worry about.

Unfortunately, I expect to continue being quite miserable for the most part, since the poor vertebrates' issues are rather troublesome. At least my new insect-photographable camera will make documenting scientifically-undocumented things very very pleasurable during my spare time, which I will likely have plenty of.