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Rainbow Scarab Beetle – Phanaeus vindex

 

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I recently came upon this beetle while on vacation in Charleston. My wife and I were checking out one of the amazing historic cemeteries in the city and noticed something shimmering on one of the church steps. It was this beetle… a Rainbow Scarab. In my head the word ‘Scarab” conjures up images of ancient Egypt and flesh-devouring beetles, no thanks to “The Mummy”. But, in reality this is a pretty common North American dung beetle. It eats poop… not people.

Essentially, they dig burrows near the excrement and roll it down to the bottom. They then lay eggs in it and the dung feeds the larva as they grow.

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Cicada Killer Wasp – Sphecius speciosus

Published on August 5, 2012, by in Insects.

Usually, when one first meets a Cicada Killer, their first impression is one of intimidation. They look like giant pulsating Yellow Jackets and by the time your brain processes the fact that you’ve seen one, they are usually already strafing circles around you like a military helicopter waiting for launch orders. These would be the males of the species by the way. I should also mention that the males have no stingers and this is really just  them checking you out to see if you are either a suitable female or another male who needs to get the hell out of his territory. They won’t actually attack you (though my wife at first thought differently based on her run-ins with them).

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Why I Eat Bugs

Published on April 22, 2012, by in General, Insects.

Anyone reading this site knows by now that I have a general catch and release policy when it comes to insects in my house. I just can’t seem to bring myself to kill them if I can help it. So, at this point you may be wondering why the heck would I eat them? In a nutshell, it’s because I can’t avoid it.

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Eastern Gray Squirrel – Sciurus carolinensis

Published on January 29, 2012, by in Mammals.

If you spend most of the day with your eyes open, you have most likely seen one or a million of these. In my opinion, their most notable characteristic is playing chicken with you while driving. They have a habit of going one direction, then pulling a fake-out at the last second to throw off your compensation which usually results in you having a near miss or an unfortunate not miss. I’ve had the misfortune of having one of those before :(

Despite its name, these squirrels aren’t limited to that color. They sometimes have a brownish color and sometimes even come in black (which are melanistic). They are also hoarders.. and no, not like the show. Actually, they are scatter-hoarders which means that they can have any number of hidden food caches throughout the area. They are very spatially aware and are known to use landmarks to keep track of these.

I have a few more characteristics for you which are based entirely off of observation. Eastern Gray Squirrels are capable of being quite mean when confronted (we’ll touch on that later). Due to some ineffective blockading of an old furnace chimney by some previous owner of our house, we ended up with one of these  in the basement. After noticing the squirrel at the same moment the squirrel noticed me, we then entered into a 5-10 second staring match. One waiting for the other to make the first move. The squirrel moved first, darting to the far side of basement only to disappear amongst the shadows and boxes.

This leads me to another observation. Eastern Gray Squirrels are capable of being almost completely silent and will remain so for annoyingly long amounts of time. After it performing a vanishing act that would even impress James Randy and win it the $1,000,000 prize, I proceeded to wait it out. It took about an hour before I heard some rustling which finally led me to its location. Now on to the previously mentioned mean-ness.

I located the squirrel and with broom in hand, made the move to poke it out from behind a box. I now know that squirrels growl. Yes, they growl. They also spread out all of their little fingers to expose their decently sized claws and will attempt to remove one’s face if close enough. I feel that I’m dragging this on so let’s just say that after building a contained pathway out of boxes and Rubbermaid bins, I was able to direct it out the door.

Also, they are cute.

The End!

Yo!

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Milkweed Tussock Moth Caterpillar – Euchaetes egle

I was surprised to see these when I did for a couple of reasons. The first one is that I don’t expect much from the forever unwanted milkweed that seems to creep up every year. Don’t get me wrong, it does attract its fair share of creatures (mostly green bottle flies and the occasional butterfly), but never anything that caught my eye like these. Sure, they are just caterpillars from some boring moth eating the leaves of a weed, but it was something about the way I found them that made me take a greater interest.

The first thing that caught my eye was the vibrant yellow-orange colored tufts that lined the body. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t pet it. The next thing I noticed was the fact that there was more than one. It seemed like each time I noticed another one, more and more would pop into my field of vision. There was a pretty good number of these things climbing all over the plant, either munching the leaves or making their way up the vines to get to the leaves. While observing them, I came across the perfect photo op. Two of them were crawling up the stalk almost in a mirror image of each other. They were a perfect example of symmetry in nature. Part of me wants to say that it was a sign from the universe especially for me and it’s my mission to interpret the meaning, but the boring part of me says it’s because there’s only enough room for one on either side and they both reached the top of the stalk with nowhere else to go. Oh well… enough of me now.

The Tussock Moth caterpillars are really good at eating. Like me. They are able to reduce leaves to a skeletal state in record time. Like me… except by leaves I mean whatever is on my plate. One interesting tidbit is that they acquire their chemical defenses from their host plants. This kind of gives a purpose to that milkweed I neglect to get rid of year after year… I’m saving Tussock Moths.

 

 

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The Zanesville, Ohio Tragedy

Published on October 20, 2011, by in General.

So I’ve been following the whole Thompson Exotic Animal Farm thing for the last few days and feel like it’s something I should post about. I’m pretty sure just about everyone has heard about it by now, but for those of you who haven’t,  all of the details can be had by looking at any of the local news sites (or national for that matter). I don’t really see a point in rehashing the news ad I wasn’t there so… Now it’s time for my thoughts.

When I first heard about the shooting, my first reaction was anger towards the police. I mean, I’m sure there had to be another way! I kinda figured they just in guns blazing in some sort of fantasy safari-style hunt (yeah…I’m..ummm creative, that’s it!). Well, of course that wasn’t the case. Tranquilizers were used and deemed too unreliable and dangerous. I also realized that I wasn’t actually thinking of the general safety of the community. “To protect and serve” after all. I finally came to realize that the police were only doing their jobs, and actually some of the animals were saved and were transferred to the Columbus Zoo (my home town!). I was happy to hear that as I always was a giant Jack Hanna fan as a child.

I think that in the wake of an event like this, it’s very easy to start throwing blame around.  It’s Terry Thompson’s fault! It’s the police’s fault! It’s the government’s fault for not having better regulations! In the end, fault doesn’t matter. It’s an event that happened… a truly truly tragic event, but to dwell on blame only works to darken your own mind. A man died. Innocent animals died. We need to just send out good thoughts to those involved and suffocate any growing animosity with knowledge of the event and deep reflection on the reality of it.

After reading all the news reports on this, I’m left with this one final thought. I better go hug my dog NOW!

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St. Joseph New Cemetery: A Place of Life

Published on October 19, 2011, by in General.

St. Joseph New Cemetery

This is kind of a different type of post for me, as I usually write about specific life forms or places like parks. Well, now that I think of it, a cemetery is sort of like a park… actually, St. Joseph New Cemetery is quieter than most of the city parks around here… that’s a win in my book.

When one thinks of a cemetery, the brain usually conjures up images of hearses, black clothes, and many shed tears. Yes, these things are present at times, but nature and all the life it provides and sustains is always there. It’s a peaceful place. I recently had to lay a family member to rest at this particular cemetery. As I silently said my goodbyes and reflected on the end of a life gone by, I noticed all of the life that was still going on all around me. The grass was its greenest, the birds were their loudest, and the sky was its bluest. Even with death, life is a wonderful thing.

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Canada Goose – Branta canadensis…. Eh

Published on October 16, 2011, by in Birds.

Canada Geese

If you live near just about any body of water in the Cincinnati area (or most of the U.S. for that matter), you’ve most likely seen some of Canada Geese. Actually, even if you don’t, you may have seen them flying above in a V-shaped formation, honking comically as they migrate to a warmer climate for the winter. I’ve come to associate that unmistakable honk with the arrival of autumn, as they never fail to serenade me from above year after year like a barrage of broken trumpets.

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Mallard (or wild) Duck – Anas platyrhynchos

Published on October 11, 2011, by in Birds.

When I hear the word “duck,” the first picture that comes in my mind is the image of a Mallard duck. I think that’s probably because they are so common around here that it’s most likely one of the only species of duck I’ve ever seen anyways.

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Eden Park – DUCK PARTY!

Published on October 9, 2011, by in General.

With the nice weather fading away, my wife and I have been scrambling to get in outside time before the weather changes. As I’ve mentioned before, Cincinnati has a lot of really nice parks, and this past weekend we decided to hit up Eden Park. We have a lot of nice memories of Eden Park, since I went to the Art Academy of Cincinnati when they were still located in the old Art Museum Building. In down time between classes, I’d often wander around the area and she’d often come up and join me. It’s a nice trip down memory lane for us to go there.

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