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California’s Monarch Butterflies

Tuesday December 1, 2015
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by Donna M. Walker

Protecting California’s Monarch Butterflies

Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) Male – Note the two black spots on the bottom wings.

Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) Male – Note the two black spots on the bottom wings.

Black and orange wings soar through the air for thousands of milesthen flutter gracefully towards the ground where they find rest in southern and central California trees.

If there is one insect, because of its beauty, that has captured the heart of Californians, it’s the Monarch Butterfly

… unless of course, you happen to be an entomologist, then you probably find beauty in Jerusalem crickets – as only an entomologist could and would!

Map of Monarch Butterflies Fall Migration

Map of Monarch Butterflies Fall Migration

Migrating Monarchs

In southern California, once fall approaches, Monarch butterflies take refuge from their long journey south to the sheltering trees of San Diego, Orange, and Los Angeles Counties.

This little beauty, I mean handsome fellow, was captured by the camera on Bass Island, Lake Erie, Ohio.

There are two populations of Monarch butterflies in North America that are separated by the Rocky Mountains; each with different migration patterns.

The Monarchs east of the Rockies migrate south to spend their winters in Mexico.

West of the Rockies, here in California, Monarchs migrate from Canada to the coast of central and southern California where they overwinter.

Wintering Monarchs

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Pets and Pests

Thursday May 28, 2015
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There is no Poop Fairy!

Cat and Dog on Play Date Our pets are our family

Animal lovers absolutely love their pets. Pets are part of the family but they are incapable of cleaning after themselves!

Dogs poop, cats puke. Lucky us – we get to clean it up!

When the cat spits up a hairball, all of a sudden he’s my cat!

Normally, I wouldn’t use “pets and pests” in the same sentence but, our friendly companions do attract certain kinds of pests, especially dogs.

OK, so maybe I’m biased since I’ve always had several cats, to the point of bordering on “Crazy Cat Lady” . . . but – cats cover it up, keeps the flies away you know. …

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Winter Pests in Southern California

Friday December 19, 2014
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Wintertime Pests

Pests in California

Wintertime Pests in Southern California.

In Southern California, one of the ways you can tell its wintertime is when you see Californians remove their sunglasses! Otherwise, we natives (and those from afar) enjoy sunshine all year round, (wildlife and insects included). Winter in sunny Southern California is so mild that insects and wildlife enjoy not only the weather but the abundance of resources California has to offer, including our pantries. Plus, when the weather does turn cold and rainy (at least for California standards), insects and rodents are not shy about making your home their home during our short winter months. Read more

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Wintertime Mice

Thursday December 4, 2014
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Wintering Mice

Winter has arrived in sunny California, just in time for the House mouse to find a warm and cozy place to build a nest. …

There’s a Mouse in the House!

Mice and humans have lived together for eons in a “commensal” relationship, meaning they live on the same premises and eat at the same table (sometimes, literally!).

Three mice and cheese

Three mice discussing how to get a very large chunk of cheese back to their “living quarters.”

People are often afraid of mice and given their propensity to carry disease, they probably should be but others have a love of mice and keep them as pets.

For decades, mice in literature have captured the imagination of both children and adults. Mice figures in anthropomorphic drawings depict them with human characteristics in stories about these tiny-tailed creatures. Read more

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Giant Swallowtail Butterfly

Friday November 21, 2014
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Your Majesty the Giant Swallowtail Butterfly

Bird poop larva of swallowtail

The mature caterpillar of the Giant Swallowtail is so disguised as to deter predators into thinking its just a piece of bird poop.

Once Upon a Time . . .

This is a story about an ugly caterpillar that turns into a beautiful majestic butterfly; but before this sad-looking caterpillar grows up, it goes through an unsightly, humiliating stage that resembles bird poop!

Larva from the Giant Swallowtail Butterfly is a greenish-brown with white blotches that look like bird poop; therefore, it is often referred to as the Bird Poop Worm or Bird Poop Caterpillar. Read more

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Fiery Skippers

Wednesday October 29, 2014
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Butterfly or Moth?

These little butterfly-looking moths are the merriest of creatures. Skippers are considered butterfies but have traits of both moth and butterfly. Like moths, skipper bodies are a bit on the bulky side when compared to the slender butterfly. Who would have thought insects could have body types? The skipper is very alert and despite his or her plus-size frame, appears to skip through the air from flower to flower at a rapid pace!

Fiery Skipper close up

The Fiery Skipper has short antennae with clubs and a little hook on the end.

Dancing Skippers

Male and female Fiery skippers doing their courtship dance.

♪♫ Come Skip Through the Tulips with Me ♪♫♪

Skippers are in the family Hesperiidae, with over 3000 skipper species throughout the New and Old World but its the Fiery skipper that is most often spotted skipping through the air of California landscapes. Read more

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Invasive Red Bugs

Wednesday October 22, 2014
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The Red Bugs are Coming! The Red Bugs are Coming!

Close up of Red Bug

Red Bug found in Ramona, CA

There´s a New Bug in Town –

What is this “Red Bug” that´s been in the news lately? Is it harmful to the landscape? Does it bite?

Southern California has a new bug in town . . .

This one looks similar to the Red-shouldered and Box Elder bug, except it is very, very, tiny in comparison.

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The White Velvet Ant

Thursday October 2, 2014
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White Velvet Ants and the Creosote Bush

Did I just see a piece of fuzz run across the desert? What´s white with 2 puffs of fuzz, 6 legs, 2 antennae, and squeaks when disturbed? Did I mention the powerful and painful sting?

Thistledown White Velvet Ant on Coral Rocks

Thistledown White Velvet Ant on Coral Rocks

White Velvet Ants

This female White Velvet Ant isn´t an ant at all…..she´s a wasp! Velvet ants look like big hairy ants but they´re actually solitary living wasps.

The female has no wings and so, sad to say, she cannot fly but she sure can move fast.

Thistledown Velvet Ants blend in with the creosote bush because of their white hair which mimics the fuzzy “fruits” of the creosote.

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Signs of Spring

Tuesday April 15, 2014
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Signs of Spring

Sweat Bee on Native San Diego Sunflower

Sweat Bee on Native San Diego Sunflower

♪♫ Spring is in the air ♫ ♪

In Southern California, one can always tell spring is on the way right about mid-March. The honey bees are buzzing between new blossoms, native California chaparral flowers are in bloom, Black Phoebes and other birds are courting each other, new nests are under construction or last years are being remodeled. Oh, and the ants begin to appear, marching one by one . . .

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Death´s-head Hawkmoth

Wednesday February 19, 2014
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Death´s-head Hawkmoth – A Case of Misrepresentation

The Death’s-head Hawkmoth is also known as a “bee robber” but it’s not the bee he’s after . . . it’s the honey! The name “Death’s-head” is derived from the image of a skull and bones on the back of the thorax. There are three species of Death’s-head hawkmoths that belong to the family Sphingidae. Large in size, their wingspans can reach a whopping 5 inches!

Death's-head hawkmoth

Death´s-head Hawkmoth (Acherontia atropos) Male

This particular moth has been featured in art and film, including the poster of a famous blockbuster chiller, “The Silence of the Lambs.” Because of the skull-like image, the death’s-head hawkmoth has been associated with evil and the supernatural but in fact, the moth is quite harmless (unless you are a potato plant or beehive, then your leaves would get eaten and your honey nicked). Some cultures believe that if the moth flies into your house, it brings bad luck and death or misfortune are sure to follow.

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