August 29, 2007

Creepy Crawler Carnivals #4 & #5

It's been a while since my last Creepy Crawler Carnival, so I'm glad that this episode involves not one, but TWO very cool insects. First up is one that I've never seen in the wild before, so it was particularly exciting when Sonja discovered this one crossing the sidewalk this evening.

Creepy Crawler Carnival #4
Walking Stick
Parabacillus sp.

Definitely one of the coolest insects I've ever seen. And to think I almost stepped on it cuz I wasn't paying attention to where I was walking. Unfortunately, there are 2,800 known species of walking sticks, so I haven't quite been able to figure out which species this one is. However, I think I've narrowed down the genus to Parabacillus. But that's only because the link I found for a book on walking sticks only had three sample pages available. And this genus was on one of those.

But Sonja's keen eyes spotted it after Harvey and I had already walked past. It seemed in no hurry to go anywhere, so we decided to pick it up to get a better look. Always a good idea with any unfamiliar insect, of course.

But then, everyone knows that walking sticks are harmless. Or are they? Either way, you've got to admit that's a pretty darn cute wittle face!

Blogger's got a new video interface, so I figured I'd try it out with this little movie of Sonja playing with our new friend. If you don't like how it works, though, you can always watch it on my youtube page.
If only I had the camera rolling when it first decided to stop acting like a stick while sitting on Sonja's hand.

Creepy Crawler Carnival #5
Velvet Ant

I've been wanting to get a picture of one of these for months, now. I don't see them very often, and when I do it's usually when I don't have a camera with me. Unfortunately, it was already twilight when we saw this one, and she was booking it into the brush, so I had to struggle with our crappy camera to get this picture.

There are over 40 species of velvet ants in Arizona, so I'm not even going to pretend that I know what species or genus this one belongs to. I do know that this is a female, however, since it lacks wings. These are actually a type of wingless wasp, also known as cow killers. I'm assuming that they got that name from their very painful sting. I'm sure it hurts just as much to a cow as it does to us to get stung by one of these, but I seriously doubt if any cows have died as a result. Either way, you don't want to try picking one of these up.

I did a little further digging and think I might be closing in on a species...or at least a genus for this velvet ant. The closest I can come to identifying this species would be Dasymutilla vestita. But without a range map I can't be sure.

I wanted to end with an off-topic photo I was able to get at the start of our walk. Like the velvet ant, I've been wanting to get a good picture of a Phainopepla ever since they arrived in our yard in the spring. But the little buggers don't usually stand still long enough for me to try digiscoping them. The few times I've tried it have not turned out very well. But the lighting tonight was spectacular, and when I saw this juvenile pepla perched at the top of our cottonwood with the setting sun illuminating its crest, I just had to try again.

It turned out pretty good, but I can only imagine what it might have been like if I had my dream camera (not to mention my dream lens). Someday...


Anonymous said...

You sure have taken many wonderful pictures with your crappy camera. I can't wait to see the ones you'll take with your dream camera. What camera is that, exactly?

P. Ollig said...

Wow, thanks whoever you are. What's my dream camera? One of these, actually. But, the good news is that you won't have to wait long to find out what kind of pictures I can take with it. We decided that it will never be the "right time" to buy we bought one. It should be arriving this week.

The only catch, I promised to start submitting my photos for publication and see if I can make any money off of my hobby. I'm not holding my breath, but at least I can try.