Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

Wild Turkey(s), Meleagris gallopavo
Taking a short hiatus this week for Thanksgiving, but you can always refresh your knowledge on Wild Turkeys and Australian Brush Turkeys from the posts last year. See you next week!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Longlegged Flies

Condylostylus preying on Aleyrodidae
Longlegged flies of the family Dolichopodidae are true flies found worldwide in a variety of habitats. While their appearance varies, the adult flies generally have metallic colored bodies, long legs, and veined wings. Some larvae are predators while others mine plants, but all adults feed on small insects including whiteflies. Evidence of their existence dates back to the Cretaceous Period as many have been found in amber deposits.

An earlier post I wrote on Google+ briefly looks at the relationship between the longlegged fly genus Condylostylus and Aleyrodidae, also known as whiteflies.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


Whitefly, Bemisia
Whiteflies feed on the sap of plants, similar to the closely related aphids, mealybugs, and scale. They are most active during the warm parts of the day and prefer the undersides of leaves. Often confused for miniature moths, they are hardly 3 mm (1/8 inches) in length yet can become a serious pest when natural biological control is disrupted. They build up populations quickly and can breed all year in warm climates, and warm environments such as greenhouses. Greenhouse whiteflies and the sweetpotato and silverleaf whiteflies have a wide range of host plants and are the most common whiteflies to cause damage.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Rock Rose

Rock Rose, Pavonia lasiopetala
Rock Rose, also known as Rose Mallow, Rose Pavonia, Wright Pavonia, and Texas Swampmallow, is a native flower of the mallow family, Malvaceae, and can be found in Texas and Mexico. It is a highly versatile plant that can tolerate partial shade, numerous soil types, drought, and heat. Although it only lives for 3 to 6 years, it regularly and easily self sows its seeds. Similar to the another native shrub, Autumn Sage, rock rose will bloom from April to November. The foliage provides dense cover for wildlife as well as browse, the seeds are food to a number of game birds and small mammals, and the flowers are a favorite among many pollinators including hummingbirds.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Cellar Spiders

Cellar Spider, Pholcus phalangioides eating a cricket.
Cellar spiders of the Pholcidae family are spiders that wait for prey to entangle in their web and are often confused for a brown recluse. They have a number of other common names including vibrating spider and daddy long-legs spider. They are most often referred to as cellar spiders due to their preference of habitat of dark, damp places such as in basements and crawl spaces. When these spiders feel threatened such as when large prey disturb their web, they start vibrating vigorously back and forth. While the reason for this is not specifically clear, current thought points to the spider being harder to focus on, and therefore, harder to catch. The most confusing of the common names, daddy long-legs, has been used for cellar spiders due to their long legs, but also to a non-spider arachnid of the Opiliones family, also known as harvestmen. Contrary to popular thought, neither of these specimens contain venom that is fatal to humans. Harvestmen do not possess venom nor even have a means of deliver, and cellar spiders have only mild venom that cannot even be effectively injected into humans.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Texas Brown Snake

Texas Brown Snake, Storeria dekayi texana
The Texas Brown Snake is a subspecies of brown snake, a group of small, nonvenomous snakes. Brown snakes can be found throughout the central and eastern portion of the United States. They can be found in a range of habitats including woodlands, open prairies, marshes, and debris piles. Their diet consists of a variety of prey including earthworms, snails, and slugs, and so they are also often found in gardens. They rarely grow beyond 30 cm (12 in) and are best keyed out by their keeled scales.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Virginia Creeper

Virginia Creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia
Virginia Creeper is a native woody, deciduous vine often confused for poison ivy. It can be found throughout the eastern portion of North America and is relatively adaptable, tolerating shade, salt, and dry conditions including coastal dune areas. During the fall, the five leaflets turn brilliant shades of red. A variety of wildlife eat the autumn fruits including songbirds and small mammals, while the foliage is often consumed by both deer and cattle; however, the berries are highly toxic to human consumption mainly due to oxalic acid. The common name Virginia creeper comes from  the creeping tendrils to allow it to climb. Although great cover for many small animals, this vine can become parasitic and kill its host plant overtime if left unchecked.

Leaves of three, let it be;
Leaves of five, let it thrive.

While Virginia creeper and poison ivy often grow in the same locations, looking at leaflet number can help distinguish the plants. A brightly colored leave in fall could be either, but if it has five leaflets, it's Virginia creeper, and therefore harmless.