This year the core group of contestants was reduced by one because my sweet wife was at home sick. My boys both did their own pumpkins by themselves from beginning to end. Our guest judge was a neighbor who is a college professor with a PhD so he knows a thing or two. He correctly chose my pumpkin on the top far right as the winner. My 10 year old's was on the top left and it came in second place. My father got 3rd with his yearly standard pumpkin on the right in the middle row. My seven year old boy did a little too much work around the left eye of his and ended up blowing it out. It is the one on the left in the middle row. He got last place but I thought it was still pretty good.
My mother collected these "doodlebugs" a few days ago to show my children. I got interested and decided to try to video them in action. They are called doodlebugs because of the doodly patterns they sometimes make in the sand when moving about. They are also called antlions because ants are a staple of their diet. We have fed them so many ants and they always seem ready for more. Antlions are the larval form of an insect in the order Neuroptera, which also includes the green lacewing. They are classified in the family Myrmeleontidae, genus Myrmeleon. I do not know which species this individual belongs to.
It is really interesting to watch them build and use their sand pit traps. They move backwards burrowing into the sand in a circular pattern while tossing the sand out of the pits with rapid jerking of their heads. When the pit is deep enough they sit at the bottom with only their jaws exposed and wait on their prey, usually ants. If the ant is able to gain the footing to get out, the antlion showers it with sand causing it to slide back to the bottom.
This year I had a hard time making the effort because I was so fatigued after taking my kids camping. We had a good time though. Somehow we let my teenaged sister talk us in to letting 2 of her best friends judge the competition and believe it or not her kitty cat took the prize.
We had another good year for our annual family pumpkin carving contest. The smack talking was at an all time high, while the quality of work may be in question. We again did not allow the judge to know which pumpkin belonged to whom before judging in order to make it as fair as possible. In addition to the immediate family, we had 2 entries from relatives visiting from out of town. The top pic shows all entries. On the bottom are my household's entries. Mine is on the top right, it got 1st place. My wife got 3rd, it is in the top left spot. My oldest boy came in dead last. He actually made his design and cut it by himself this year for the first time, his is on the bottom. My youngest boy made the design and mom cut it for him, his is top middle and it earned the next to last spot. The judge somehow thought he was going for the R2D2 look and gave him a small break.
This young rabbit was found at my dad's doorstep several weeks ago. We believe it was killed and delivered by his cat. I had been thinking about doing a time-lapse of a decomposing animal for quite a while and figured that I would make the best of this fresh carcass. I built a box using a wooden frame and chicken wire to allow smaller animals and bugs in while keeping out the larger animals that might just drag it off. Here is the "rot box". Since the lid is removable to allow full sunlight, I may call it the "grow box" for future projects.
Here is the box after this project was completed with the lid open and the camera in place.
For the filming I used my new Pentax Optio WG-1 which is really durable and versatile. I started taking 1 picture every 12 minutes, but as the action sped up over the last two days I increased the frequency to once every 5 or six minutes. On the last day when I went out to check the progress, I was disappointed to see the whole rabbit was gone. There were no bones or anything left, so I thought a snake or something had gotten in and carried it off. However, after watching the playback, I realized that the maggots had devoured the entire rabbit. I was expecting a skeleton to stay together for several weeks and had planted some grass seeds to grow up and eventually beautify the whole gory scene, but it went way faster than I expected. The entire process took only 4 days.
A couple of weeks ago my father, a farmer who shares an interest in biology with me, told me that he had seen a bunch of springtails in the ditches around the fields on our farm. When I got free one afternoon, I went down with my camera to see for myself. I stopped at a large puddle of water in the middle of a gravel road after a big rain. This is what I saw. Click the pics to enlarge.
If I hadn't been prepared, I would have thought it was just a puddle with some light debris around the edge, but a closer look revealed the prize I was searching for, an abundance of springtails.
Springtails are hexapods that were previously considered by most to be insects that have now been reclassified by many as having a separate lineage from the insects. Springtails (Collembola) have been classified as an order within the class insecta, or as a subclass of Entognatha alongside insects in the subphylum hexapoda, or if considered to be a basal lineage of hexapoda then they are elevated to a class.
Springtails are small, usually less than 6mm, with these shown being 1-2 mm and are very abundant. Many species are known to be agricultural pests in some cases but beneficial in others.
The name springtail is derived from their spring-like abdominal appendage, the furcula, which is tucked underneath the body and held in place by small appendage called a tenaculum (or retinaculum). When threatened, the springtail rapidly and forcefully extends the appendage, forcing it into the air making it very difficult to catch for closer observation or as a quick meal. Shown below is a video I made of these tiny creatures using my iPhone 4S and olloclip macro lens(both are awesome). You can see the tails extending rapidly, but even under my microscope, I haven't clearly identified the tenaculum which is supposed to hold the furcula in place while tucked under the body. **these creatures had not been harmed or injured when I made this video, they just could not handle the smooth texture of the surface on which they were placed. I quickly released them back to nature after the video was made.** Sources Wikipedia - Springtail and bugguide.net
I have never been much of a New York Giants fan, and I have doubted them all the way to the conference championship this year. However, it now looks like time for me to give credit where credit is due. I think that NY has too much momentum at this point for New England to stop them. I couldn't really believe that Eli Manning was that great after their terrific upset of NE in Super Bowl XLII, but now I will say that he ranks among the best. Now on to the game prediction. I don't have much personal interest in these teams but I am looking forward to a close and very exciting game. The current line is Patriots winning by 3. I am going to flip that and say that the Giants will win by 3 with a final score of New England 27 - New York 30.