Alternate title: "How to unknowingly expose your kids to a potentially dangerous bug and live to tell the tale."
This past weekend we went to pumpkin fest - it was a gorgeous, perfect day to spend sliding down a hay slide and playing in some corn pits. Near the end of the afternoon we came upon a large bug which the kids loved to (carefully) play with and investigate:
We did not know at the time, but that bug was a Wheel Bug (Arilus cristatus):
The [wheel] bug plunges its beak into its victim, pinning its prey with its front legs. It then injects enzymes into the victim, paralyzing it and dissolving its insides, and proceeds to drain all of the victim's bodily fluids. The bite of a wheel bug is painful and may take months to heal (sometimes leaving a small scar), so caution is highly advised when handling them.
Yikes! Guess we won't be handling these bugs in the future (at least not with kids :)).
This was one of the larger specimens I have seen scurrying around our yard; almost an inch in total length. What's that white ball it is carrying, you ask? Why, it's EGG SAC of course!!! So cool!
We started growing a batch of "Painted Lady" butterflies from caterpillar a couple weeks ago. Here are pictures of Libby releasing them into the wild (which we did a few days after they emerged from their chrysalids):
Arthropods are a diverse group that includes anything with paired jointed legs and a hard external skeleton (including insects, arachnids, and crustaceans). Behold the humble Coconut Crab (aka Birgus latro), the world's largest terrestrial arthropod:
The coconut crab is a derived species of hermit crab, though only juveniles carry around an abdominal cover (usually a seashell or coconut husk). Adults have a typical leg span of 3 feet and weigh 9 pounds. Larger specimens have been found spanning 6 feet and weighing 30 pounds.
The coconut crab is omnivorous, though it primarily dines on fleshy fruit, nuts, and seeds. The claws are as powerful as they are large - they can lift objects such as vegetation or rocks weighing up to 60 pounds (28kg) and use their massive claws to pry open all sorts of food (hence the origin of their name). Coconut crabs live alone in underground burrows, covering the entrance to keep the high humidity necessary for their lungs to function. While usually nocturnal they do occasionally venture out during the day if it's rainy or foggy.