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Saturday, October 22, 2016

Some Jumping Spiders from August

In August I had a visit from Tim Manolis, author of "Dragonflies and Damselflies of California", and the illustrator of "Field Guides to Butterflies of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento Valley Regions" and the "Field Guide to Spiders of California and the Pacific Coast States".

He came primarily with the goal of searching for Maevia sp. jumping spiders. I observed and photographed two specimens in 2014, and more specimens are needed for a proper description of what might be a new species. Here are the two individuals that I found in 2014:

Maevia sp., Cuyamaca Woods, Julian, California, July 5, 2014. First found clinging to the stucco on the outside of the house.

Maevia sp., Cuyamaca Woods, Julian, California, July 20, 2014. Found on the stairs INSIDE the house.
We had no conclusive luck in our search of my property and neighboring areas, but did find some other jumpers. Here are the best images of them below:

Young Phidippus sp.. These young ones have eluded conclusive determination so far, although P. californicus is a possibility.

Young Phidippus sp.

An even smaller immature Phidippus sp.

It looks like this one is saying "They went that-away!". All of the above (minus the Maevia sp.) were photographed in a little indoor "photo studio", and then they were released back to the outdoors.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Deer Dynamics and Much-needed RAIN

For the past several weeks we have seen a doe with twin (spotted) fawns on or near our property, usually several times per week. The doe is unusually "reddish"-hued, so easy to recognize.

Last weekend we were outside doing various small projects and the trio were nearby browsing on vegetation. A sudden noise startled them, and I saw one fawn move downhill while the doe and second fawn went in the opposite direction. Later that afternoon, at dusk, we saw a single fawn in the landscape slowly moving uphill towards a neighbor's property. Then about ten minutes later, we saw the doe and single fawn walking in a very different direction! What could be done? Nothing of course. We could only let nature take its course and hope that the lost fawn would find its family again.

Come Monday, I looked out a window and saw an adult deer with a spotted fawn. I looked more closely to see if there was a second fawn, but it didn't appear that there was one. Then upon craning to get a better angle...there it was - the second spotted fawn. The family did reunite.

I captured one photo of the three of them as they wended through the landscape. One of the fawns is right in the middle of the picture - well camouflaged.

Family of mule deer - reunited.
Monday and Tuesday (and a little bit on Wednesday), we had a fantastic drenching from the remains of Hurricane Paine. It didn't bring us any "paine" - just MUCH-needed precip! In the end we received a little over an inch - a lot for September. Many local trees and shrubs were getting stressed from almost four months with virtually no rain, so this might take the pressure off them for a little while, anyway.

On Wednesday, I saw a vigorous-looking yellow mass popping out of a tree on our walk. Today it had matured a bit more - a shelf fungus. In general there don't seem to be too many other fungi popping up, though.

Looks like Laetiporus gilbertsonii (the Sulphur Shelf) - the west coast version of the "Chicken of the Woods" (Laetiporus sulphureus). 
For comparison, here are photos of the eastern Laetiporus sulphureus ("Chicken of the Woods). This was a massive fruiting body that I found on our short stay at Kilen Woods, Minnesota, back in 2012.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Some July Arthropod-oriented Miscellania

Dr. Art Evans paid a visit for a couple days, and we spent some time in the field, primarily looking for species of value for his upcoming western beetle book.

One the first night at my patio black light, one of those rarely seen prionids, Tragosoma pilosicorne made an appearance. This is only the second individual of this species that I have seen here.

Tragosoma pilosicorne
On the way back from a drive out to the In-Ko-Pah area on the border of San Diego and Imperial Counties, we checked out Boulder Creek Road near McCoy Ranch Road and found several Onitis alexis under cow patties. Never a common dung beetle in my experience in San Diego County, but I have observed it in quite a variety of locations now: Rancho Bernardo, Lake Sutherland, Ramona, Lake Henshaw and now in this latest locale.

Onitis alexis. One of several dug from burrows under the cow dung. An introduced species originally from southern Europe and Africa, deliberately released in California to control cow dung accumulation. Specimen collected by A. Evans.
This small orb weaver was spotted after dark on my property as we looked for nocturnal species.
Body length around 10 mm (so small).
On the second day we explored the San Felipe Creek area. Quite a few hymenopterans and dipterans were out at the Eriogonum blooming near the creek in one spot. Macrosiagon sp. (likely M. cruenta) were present in the blooms also. This family of beetles lay eggs in flowers which hatch into small larvae. The larvae then hitch a ride to the nest of bees or wasps that visit the flowers. Then the beetle larvae parasitize the early larval stages of the hymenopterans.

Macrosiagon sp. (likely Macrosiagon cruenta). Specimen collected by A. Evans.
On the way out of the desert a dead deer presented itself along the road. Art stopped to look for dermestids and histerids, and was rewarded for his efforts. Why let a little smell deter one from the possibility of interesting beetles!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Some Arthropods of the New Season: Part 2

(Note: Please see my beetle site, "Beetles of the Cuyamaca Mountains" if you are interested in San Diego County Coleoptera: http://www.beetlesofcuyamacamountains.net/index.html )

Here are some arthropods seen around the county this spring, from the desert to the higher mountains.

This first set are from Culp Valley in the Anza Borrego Desert. Yerba Santa (Eriodictyon trichocalyx, I believe) was blooming in a big way near Pena Spring, and many insects were at or near the flowers. Also Encelia farinosa and Eriogonum sp. were in bloom, among others.

A bombyliid (bee fly) - to be determined. At the Eriodictyon.

Small jumping spider, Pellenes sp.

Large robber fly, maybe Stenopogon or Scleropogon sp., perched near the blooming Eriodictyon, waiting for prey.

Toxophora virgata, some very small bombyliids (bee flies).

The next set of images are of Eupompha elegans found in Crest (just SE of El Cajon) on May 18th. This is a very different-looking morph from the sort I usually see in the Anza Borrego Desert (see below the following two images).

Eupompha elegans, Crest, California.

Eupompha elegans, Crest, California.

Eupompha elegans, Borrego Springs, California.

The next set of images are from Palomar Mountain on June 5 and 6th. First we camped overnight at Fry Creek, something we have not done in MANY years! It was well worth it, with many interesting insects to be found on the flowering shrubs in the Fry Creek Campground, and then more visiting the black light that I set up that night. Then the next day we walked the road in the campground again and found new insects at the flowering Coffeeberry, etc., and then visited Doane Pond at Palomar Mountain State Park before heading home.

Callimoxys fuscipennis, a small long-horned beetle. Out in the daytime on the first day. Fry Creek.

Some mystery cocoons. Fry Creek.

Dichelonyx sp., maybe D. vicina, but I am still unsure. Quite a few of these scarabs came to the light at night. Fry Creek.

Another Dichelonyx sp. with slightly different coloration, but it still has the medial groove on the pronotum. Fry Creek.

Ready for take-off! Fry Creek.

Oeme costata, a species that we saw in decent numbers during the first couple years in Cuyamaca Woods following the Cedar Fire. Then they dwindled to nothing in my neighborhood (at least at my light). Three showed up here at Fry Creek at the light. 

Silis sp., a small cantharid. Out in the daytime on the first day. Fry Creek.

Neobellamira delicata australis (male), a small, delicate cerambycid (long-horned beetle). I believe that this is flowering coffeeberry (Rhamnus californica). Fry Creek.

Neobellamira delicata australis. Fry Creek.

Small tenebrionid (darkling beetle). Probably Eleodes sp. Fry Creek.

Moth (which came to light). To be determined. Fry Creek.

Moth (which came to light). To be determined. Fry Creek.

"Inch worm", TBD. Fry Creek.

A small robber fly that was perched on a leaf near the base of the Fry Creek Campground on the morning of the second day. TBD.

Harvestman abroad at night. Fry Creek.

Hippodamia convergens, nectaring. Fry Creek.

Swallowtail (Papilio sp.) drinking at the moist edge of Doane Pond. Palomar Mountain State Park.

Close-up, showing the proboscis better.

Acmaeodera connexa, sharing the wealth with bee flies, Thevenetimyia sp.. Palomar Mountain State Park.

Acmaeodera connexa, Palomar Mountain State Park.

Cyclocephala sp., a masked chafer. Oddly, this one was in the dirt trail in the hot sun. I picked it up and photographed it in the shade. Palomar Mountain State Park.

Some Arthropods of the New Season: Part 1

(Note: Please see my beetle site, "Beetles of the Cuyamaca Mountains" if you are interested in San Diego County Coleoptera: http://www.beetlesofcuyamacamountains.net/index.html )

Over the past weeks (and months) there have been some nice warm days, and mild nights which brought out some insects and spiders around the house, and also elsewhere in the county. The El Nino winter only brought 28 inches to Cuyamaca Woods, and we had hoped for more to ease the drought. But we probably shouldn't complain TOO much! It seems to be a green and verdant spring.

Here are some Cuyamaca Woods observations from the past few weeks, followed by another post of insects seen at Culp Valley in the Anza Borrego Desert, Crest in eastern San Diego County, and Palomar Mountain this spring.

Camponotus sp. (carpenter ants), winged reproductive forms emerging from a nest near the water tank slope.

Some of the winged ants lined up in this manner after emerging from the nest. This was in April, when we had some rain recently.

Bristletail on the patio near the black light. Two ways to distinguish bristletails from silverfish are the posterior cerci on either side of the medial posterior filament (which are shorter than the medial filament and point somewhat posteriorly in bristletails and are longer and point at almost a right angle to the medial filament in silverfish). Also bristletails have small lateral "styli" on the abdomen, which can be seen between the second and third pairs of legs here.

Ceanothus Silkmoth (Hyalophora euryalis), an occasional visitor in spring. This one appeared at the patio black light on June 2.

A small species of bostrichid (a horned powder-post beetle). It is starting to unfurl its second pair of wings for flight. This little one was less than 10 mm long.

Mating crane flies (to be determined) on the patio - a common sight in spring if there is a light nearby!

A giant crab spider, Curicaberis sp., the first I have ever seen. Smaller than the Olios giganteus (another member of this family) that are so common here.

Ashy Gray Lady Beetle (Olla v-nigrum) - the black and red morph.

A click beetle (Lacon sp.) which appeared in the near garden on a warm day.

Styloxus fulleri, a fairly predictable visitor at the light in spring.

A better image of Trox fascifer than my last attempts. This is quite a small beetle, perhaps 6-7 mm long! A member of the Trogidae (hide beetle, with an appetite for skin, feathers, etc.), not Scarabaeidae.

One of the acorn beetles, Curculio sp. Females bore through the outer layer of an acorn with their long snouts, to deposit eggs, and the larvae feed on the juicy acorn meat.

This little beetle was confusing me, and looked a bit like a blister beetle at first (I thought). It is actually a member of a different family, the Anthicidae, or antlike flower beetles, in the genus Duboisius. It is quite small - about 10 mm long.

Microphotus angustus, a small firefly species. There are no firefly species with flying bioluminescent members in California. Apparently this is the only member of the genus Microphotus in California, although there are several species in Arizona. This is a male, who can (obviously) fly. The females are larviform, meaning lacking wings and resembling larvae. The females ARE bioluminescent, and are called "pink glow worms". Below are two photos of a female Microphotus that I found in Payson, Arizona a couple years ago, the second showing her glowing rear end. I haven't found a female Microphotus in Cuyamaca Woods yet, although Gary and I did see one at Palomar Mountain many years ago.

The same male Microphotus as shown above, but with his bulging eyes protruding a bit from under his pronotum. In the first week in June, quite a lot of Microphotus (around 15-16) came to the black light in the warm dry spell we had following our cool foggy period. Some were collected and sent for DNA analysis to the University of Florida.

A very uncooperative velvet ant (Dasymutilla aureola) spotted in the garden. She did not want to slow down for an instant, and this was about the best image I could get as she scrambled around (looking for the nests of bees or wasps that might contain larvae to be parasitized by her own larvae). These wingless forms are females. Below is a photo of a winged male of this species from San Diego County, found several years ago. 

Colonus (Thiodina) hesperus, male. Thanks to Tim Manolis and G.B. Edwards for helping identify it. This is a diminutive jumping spider, but he has some really sharp colors and markings when seen close-up!

Peucetia longipalpis (the Green Lynx), lurking on a potato plant in the garden