Luna moths are fascinating creatures. The Luna moth is one of the largest moth species in North America. Their host plants consist of hickory and sweet gum, but we convinced ours to chow down on pecan (which is a close relative of hickory). When they hatch out of the egg as a caterpillar, they are only 1mm in length. They shed their exoskeleton 5 times and can reach a length of 3 inches! When they emerge from their cocoon as a moth, they lack a digestive system (they don’t have a mouth!). They survive off of fat stores and live about 5 days. Want more info? Click on the caterpillar.
I often refer to these guys as ‘fancy earth worms’, they like to hang out in moist soil and chomp down on organic matter. One of their favorite foods is oak leaves. Their name means one thousand legs, but they only have 300 on average. This depends on their age though; young millipedes have very few legs. In order to grow larger they shed their exoskeleton like all arthropods do. Their defense mechanism is their hard exoskeleton, when scared they roll up in a ball to protect their legs. Millipedes often get confused with centipedes which are venomous. Come on out to RBNC this weekend and hold one! For more info, click the pic.
Cythia Moths are beautiful insects, as adults and as caterpillars. Their host plant is the Tree of Heaven, also known as Ailanthus. They were brought over from Asia and introduced to the US in an attempt to harvest the silk from their cocoons. After the female has mated with a male she lays about a hundred eggs. They hatch after a few days and are about 3 mm in length. They shed their exoskeleton about 5 times and in their 5th instar reach about 3 inches. They then spin a cocoon and pupate. A couple of months later (depending on external factors) they emerge as a moth. As an adult, they do not have mouths or a digestive system, so they live about 5 days in the wild. They survive off of fat stores they create as a caterpillar. For more information on these fascinating creatures click the picture!
Black Widow Spider
The female Black Widow Spider is easily recognizable due to its large black abdomen which is adorned by a red hourglass, and it is known for being deadly. However, its bite is rarely fatal to humans because it releases a very small amount of venom, although the venom causes a variety of unpleasant reactions and you should seek medical attention. Also, the males have venom but their fangs are not long enough to penetrate the skin, the female is the only sex that can harm you. Black Widows build an erratic web, sometimes referred to as a cobb web, in order to catch their favorite prey, other insects. The females have been known to eat their mates hence why they are called the black ‘widow’, but this doesn’t always occur. They are found all over the United States. See if you can find one of these fascinating arachnids! Want more info? Click the spider.
Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches
Like 99% of cockroaches, Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches are not a pest. They do not invade houses, or spread disease. Like most insects, they are beneficial. For example, they consume rotting fruit and other vegetation therefore recycling organic matter back into the soil. Furthermore, they can make a unique hissing sound with a mechanism not commonly used in the insect world. They force air out of breathing holes (trachea) in their abdomen. They use this hissing sound as a defense mechanism, an alarm call, or it maybe used to establish hierarchies between roaches. “The Madagascar hissing cockroach also begins its life in an unusual manner. Females create a cocoon-like egg case called an ootheca and carry their eggs (and neonatal nymphs) inside their bodies. They then bear living young, as many as 60 nymph roaches.” In order to grow larger like all arthropods they shed their exoskeleton several times. Pictured below is a female and nymph roach at River Bend, for more information on these fascinating creatures click the pic!
Scorpions are arachnids, they have eight legs and 8-12 eyes. They have a venomous sting that causes local pain and swelling at the injection sight. Scorpions give birth to live young (they are viviparous), and the female carries them on her back until their first molt. Scorpions are found on every continent and in virtually every habitat, except Antarctica. Scorpions are nocturnal, and eat small arthropods. They have have external digestion, therefore they liquify their prey before it enters their digestive tract. They also can consume and enormous amount of food in one sitting, and have a very slow metabolic rate and inactive lifestyle. These characteristics allow it to go months without a meal. Scorpions are pretty awesome!!!