What’s There?

mantisStare at this picture for a while and see if you can spot the beast. Stare at it long enough, and you might see unicorns and rocket ships. It’s a mantis, probably a Chinese mantis (Tenodera sinensis), that had been hanging around that grassy spot for a couple of months. It did not move far during that time, but was always a challenge to find. This photo was shot in October, 2014.

Follow the Arrow

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The Arrow-shaped micrathena (Micrathena ssagittata), also known as the Arrowhead orbweaver, is an odd-looking bug. It belongs to the group of spiders that weaves a flat, more or less circular web.

This particular individual, a female, spent most of her time upside down, hence the ventral view of the photo. The top has much more yellow. One can see that it is a female because the points are absent (or reduced) in males, and the pedipalps (you have to look very closely) are not broadened near the ends for transfering sperm during mating. Also, the epigynum (through which the sperm is received) is visible at the front of the abdomen.

This species is native to the eastern United States and is found as far south as Panama. The spider in this photo was at its web about three feet above the ground between leaves of a pokeweed.

For more information:
Spider Identification Guide
Bug Guide

Butterfly Snacks

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What a pretty butterfly! It’s a great spangled fritillary (Speyeria cybele).

What has it landed on?  Let’s take a closer look.

(Sniff, sniff)

Eewww!  It’s a dog turd!

It’s not at all uncommon for butterflies to feed on feces–they get some good nutrients. Is that any worse than that expensive gourmet coffee that tastes so good because coffee beans are eaten by Asian palm civets and crapped out?