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What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

San Bernardino Ring Necked Snake found in the Street!!!
Location:  Mount Washington, Los Angeles, California
April 8, 2014 approximately 7 PM
Yesterday, after a long day and stressful day at work, we decided to finish planting tomatoes, but all the junk mail that was in the mailbox caused us to detour to the recycle bin which was already on the street for collection.  We asked the woman who was rooting through the neighbors blue recycle bin to replace all the items she was placing on the curb in her search for the neighbors discarded soda and beer cans.  Our recycle bins are never that attractive to trash scavengers since we never drink soda and we like our beer in bottles which are heavier than cans.  We headed back to the garden and spied a wriggling snake in the street, which we quickly caught.  We were immediately impressed by the brown critters bright orange belly, and the other significant feature was a ring right behind the head.  We quickly put the sweet little guy [gal] in a 12 gallon sauerkraut crock, empty of course, so we could grab the camera and call Julian Donahue for an identification, which is much more fun and interactive than doing the internet research.

San Bernardino Ring Necked Snake in the sauerkraut crock

San Bernardino Ring Necked Snake in the sauerkraut crock

While on the phone with Julian we multitasked on the computer and we independently established the species, Diadophis punctatus, for the Ring Necked Snake, which is found across North America according to the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory.  Julian did mention the subspecies, but we forgot which third name he attached to the species name. We didn’t really have time for writing down what Julian said because we at least knew the species, and since the light was waning, we wanted to try to get some decent photos.

San Bernardino Ring Necked Snake

San Bernardino Ring Necked Snake

We suspect that the tail curling is some type of defensive action, perhaps a distraction to predators that would be attracted to the bright coloration and make a much less lethal strike at the tail, ignoring the more important head region.  After taking a few more photos, we released this colorful guy into the wood pile.  The subspecies which ranges in Los Angeles is the San Bernardino Ring Necked Snake, Diadophis punctatus modestus.  For more information on the seven California subspecies of Ring Necked Snakes, turn to CaliforniaHerps.com.

San Bernardino Ring Necked Snake

San Bernardino Ring Necked Snake

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Male Valley Carpenter Bees nectar from wisteria
Location:  Mount Washington, Los Angeles, California
March 16, 2014  11:30 AM
This morning while working in the garden, we observed at least three male Valley Carpenter Bees,
Xylocopa varipuncta, gathering nectar from the wisteria growing on the front porch.  The Valley Carpenter Bee exhibits extreme sexual dimorphism, with the male having a lovely golden color while the female, who appears to be a different species, is a deep black.  There were no black female Valley Carpenter Bees to be seen, though we did notice females earlier in the week.  The males fly for a very short period of time, unlike the females that live much longer so that they can have time to provision a nest with pollen for their broods.

Male Valley Carpenter Bee

Male Valley Carpenter Bee

Male Valley Carpenter Bees are perfectly harmless, though they will attempt to defend territory.  Since they do not have stingers, they are incapable of harming a human.  Females do have stingers, but they are very reluctant to use them.  Valley Carpenter Bees frequently visit wisteria and sweet peas in our garden, but they do not have tongues long enough to reach the nectar, so they use their mandibles to pierce the base of the bloom, allowing access to the nectar.  In researching this posting, we learned on BugGuide that:  “Their eggs are the largest of all insect eggs. The Valley carpenter bee egg can be 15mm long. (UC, Davis).”  While taking these images, we observed the first Western Tiger Swallowtail of the year flying overhead, but it did not alight for the camera.  Guess our 90˚ temperatures today have brought out many spring creatures a bit early.

Male Valley Carpenter Bee

Male Valley Carpenter Bee

 

 

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Reshoot of the Bolas Spider
Location:  Mount Washington, Los Angeles, California
March 12, 2014 6:45 PM
So, we got home with a bit more light this evening, and we reshot the images of the Bolas Spider that is still hanging out under the post supporting the bird feeder.

Bolas Spider

Bolas Spider

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject:  Bird Poop Mimic Spider
Location:  Mount Washington, Los Angeles, California
March 11, 2014  7:30 PM
We noticed this Spider under the post for the bird feeder, and we were struck by its excellent mimicry of bird droppings, but we could not turn around to take photos prior to leaving for work this morning.  We remembered the spider as it was getting dark, but we decided to take a few images anyways.  Tomorrow we plan to attempt to reshoot with more light, hopefully getting sharper images with better exposure.

Bolas Spider

Bolas Spider

We quickly matched this spiders interesting coloration and distinctive shape to a Bolas Spider, Mastophora cornigera, pictured on BugGuide.  According to BugGuide:  “Glistening appearance, like a fresh bird dropping, and pair of lumps on the dorsal surface of the abdomen seem to be genus-wide traits.  The female spiders can be narrowed down by whether they have abdominal humps or not. However, this field marking does not work for males which can have humps or no humps in the same species” and “The only species in the west is M. cornigera.”  BugGuide also notes that they feed on:  “Flying insects; certain species specialize on particular species of moths, to the point of releasing mimics of their pheromones in order to attract prey (virtually all male moths) within capture range.”  BugGuide also provides this information on the life cycle:  “When egg sacs hatch they release immature females and *mature* males! Presumably an adaptation to avoid inbreeding. Males are short-lived and much smaller (obviously) than females.”  This same behavior applies to a Bird Dropping Spider from a different genus found in Australia, according to the Victoria Museum Website which state:  “During the day, female Bird-dropping Spiders sit motionless with their legs drawn up against their body; this behaviour combined with their humped abdomen and black and white colouring makes them look just like bird poo.  This is a brilliant evolutionary strategy: no one wants to eat bird poo! Providing the spider doesn’t move and give away its cover, it will not draw the attention of predators. The male, as is often the case with spider species, is much smaller than the female.  The hunting behaviour of this species is just as remarkable as its appearance: Bird-dropping Spiders releases a smell which resembles the sex pheromone that female moths use to attract males. When male moths fly in to investigate, ready to mate, they are grabbed by a Bird-dropping Spider.”

Bolas Spider

Bolas Spider

 

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject:  California Mantis in Mount Washington
Location:  Mount Washington, Los Angeles, California
December 7, 2013 4:30 PM
Yesterday, we decided to abandon the computer and attempt to get some yardwork done.  We have some primrose plants that have naturalized in the garden and the stalks grow well over eight feet high if conditions are right.  Though the flowers aren’t showy, we allow the plants to grow because the Lesser Goldfinches love the seeds and we get small flocks of the pretty birds extracting seeds from the seed capsules for many months after the plants dry.  We decided to pull a few plants out and just as it was getting dark, the well camouflaged female California Mantis jumped onto the pavement after its home was disturbed.  In the waning light, we managed to get a few photos.  Since we have had a cold snap and since she was somewhat lethargic, we decided to bring her indoors in a small habitat until temperatures warm up again toward midweek.  Nighttime temperatures are expected to dip into the high 30s for the next few day, and we hope to be able to prolong this California Mantid’s life for a bit longer by sheltering her from the cold.

Female California Mantis

Female California Mantis

Update:  December 10, 2013
Well, it has gotten a bit warmer in Los Angeles, so we released the female California Mantis onto the wisteria in the back yard where there is a southern exposure, hence it is the sunniest and warmest part of the yard.  We hope our intervention increases her life span and that she reproduces in our garden.

California Mantis three days later

California Mantis three days later

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Nuptial Flight of Termites
Location:  Mount Washington, Los Angeles, California
November 30, 2013 1:25 pm
Few insects justify the term fluttering when it comes to flight styles, but Western Subterranean Termite Alates do the adjective justice.  More to come. …

Termite Alate

Western Subterranean Termite Alate

Julian Donahue Confirms
With a black head, rather the reddish head on winged forms of the Western Drywood Termite, I agree with your identification. The first fall rains always bring them out, and they came out of the ground in our yard this year right on schedule.
Happy holidays,
Julian

Termite Alates in a Spider Web

Termite Alates in a Spider Web

We know the insectivores had a field day today with all the swarming Termite Alates today.  Several Termites fell victim to the spider that built a web stretched between the rose cane horns of our scarecrow.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination