Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Time-Lapse Video: Ivy Growing on a Tree

7 sec. wmv, 3.2 Mb

This video was made from a series of photos I took roughly twice daily over a period of about 7 weeks. A little past half-way through, after the tip had grown out of sight and there wasn't much new change, I decided to cut the ivy at the bottom. If you slow the video down, you can see the knife in the left lower corner in one frame. Also you can see short segments missing at the bottom of the shoots. I was about to call it quits for this project when I noticed the left one had a new bud growing just below where I cut it, so the extended version of this video is still in the making. It will probably be in the form of a higher quality, larger file. The Windows media version can be seen by clicking the above picture, the quicktime version and other time-lapse videos can be seen here.

This little project also led to some interesting photographs of ants herding aphids on the ivy.

I guess this would be a good place to mention to anyone looking for good time-lapse videos, a recent video of a monarch caterpillar transforming into a chrysalis at Burning Silo.

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Friday, August 25, 2006

Friday Bird Blogging: Owls

Click to enlarge

These are a couple of young owls my brother-in-law photographed on top of a damaged grain bin. I am not very familiar with the various owl species so I can't say what kind they are. If I had to guess I would say great horned owls. Hopefully someone can help me fill in the blank here.

Don't forget to check out Modulator's Friday Ark.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Home Depot Bucket


Monday, August 21, 2006

Radio Flyer


Friday, August 18, 2006

Larval Friday: Dirt Dauber

Enlarge and see the complete series

I believe that this is a dirt dauber or mud dauber wasp even though I haven't ever seen one build a nest quite like this. For one thing it was in very precarious position, attached to an electrical cord hanging from the roof of my house, and is also a nice round single cell. I first saw this when it was almost complete. It had just a small hole remaining open and I should have stuck around to get a look at the wasp working on it but I didn't. I came back later and saw the completed project and began to wander what was going on in there. I opened the nest and was going to try to cover it and just take serial photos, but the nest came off in my hand so I took it in and put it in a container where the rest of the photos are taken. If you go to the photogallery and see the whole series, you will see that it didn't make it through the entire metaphorphosis alive, but it did come near assuming its final form. It took less than 12 hours from when I opened the nest and took the first picture for the larva to devour the poor caterpillar. I believe it died sometime shortly after it came out of its nest. The total time from the first to last picture was about 6 days. I was completely suprised when I saw that the wasp had molted in that condition despite being dead for a couple of days.

Don't forget to check out the centinnial edition of Modulator's Friday Ark!

Also check out this month's best invertebrate posts at the 12th Circus of the Spineless.

Update 10/14/06: Thanks to Chaindropz at Ring Drops for identifying this as a potter wasp.

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Friday, August 11, 2006

Ants, Aphids and Ivy

click to enlarge and see more photos

For the last few weeks I have been taking photographs of some ivy growing in my backyard to make a time-lapse video. While in the process, I began noticing these tiny dots on the underside of the newest leaves at the tip of the shoots. After a few days of this, I took a closer look and some close-up photos and realized that these are aphids, also known as plant lice. I also noticed that ants were usually in attendance. I have read about the mutualistic relationships between ants and aphids, but didn't expect to see such a fine example right at home.

Basically what happens is that these aphids, use their long slender mouthparts to pierce tender leaves and stems to feed on the sap. Rather than process every last bit of the fluid, they just use a portion of it and allow the remaider to pass through their alimentary canal and secrete it in the form of a sweet substance known as honeydew. Some ant species use this excess fluid for their own nutrition and in return will provide protection from predators and parasites. There exists a wide range of interaction of these two organisms depending on the species involved. In many cases the ants will stroke the aphids with their antennae causing them to produce the honeydew on demand. In other cases the aphid will just produce it, and if it is not taken by the ant, it is just flicked off.

I am sorry to say that I don't know the specific identity of the ants or the aphids in the pictures I have taken. If you will look closely at the picture above, you can see the the aphid has just produced a drop of honeydew. It is the best shot I got out of over a hundred pictures. If you click here or on the picture, you will go to a photogallery where I have posted 17 more pictures of the aphids and ants. This includes two photos in sequence just prior to the honeydew offering. The rest are just nice close-ups of the ants and aphids on the ivy.

Here is a little more information on aphids. I also found a brief paper from the Russian Academy of Sciences describing an experimental investigation of ant-aphid interactions titled, "The Importance of Individual and Social Experience for the Interaction between Ants and Symbiotic Aphids." The most thorough (and I assume still relevant) information I found on the subject was in E. O. Wilson's, The Insect Societies, in a section called "The Trophobionts".

Don't forget to check out Modulator's Friday Ark.

Also check out this month's best invertebrate posts at the 12th Circus of the Spineless.

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Friday, August 04, 2006

Spider Friday: Wolf Spider

Click to Enlarge

I am not too good with spiders but I believe this is a Wolf Spider from the family Lycosidae. My dad caught it while working on his farm a few weeks ago. Its cephalothorax was about the size of a quarter. This picture was taken right after I released it.

Don't forget to check out Modulator's Friday Ark.

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