Spider in Lair

April 10th, 2012 - 9:20 PM | Filed under Featured Photos | No comments

December 30, 2011 | Quirinópolis, Goiás, Brazil

An unidentified spider peering out from its lair in a tree branch.

Clearwing Moth

April 9th, 2012 - 9:52 PM | Filed under Featured Photos | No comments

~20mm wide | December 31, 2011 | Quirinópolis, Goiás, Brazil

This colorful moth in the family Arctiidae looks a little worse for wear. Nonetheless, it’s quite striking and I’m sure a fresh specimen must be even more so. I later saw another one of these near a porch light so it might be a common species.

While searching for a possible identification, I came across this blog posting. It describes how hundreds of caterpillars were invading people’s home in Piracicaba, São Paulo. With the help of a biologist, they found both the host plant and some pupae for rearing. What emerged looks very much like the moth above, identified as Cosmosoma teuthras, a common moth throughout Brazil. Check the site for photos of the caterpillars, pupae, and an adult. I have no idea if there are similar looking species, but it seems like a good possibility for what I found.

Cobra-cega (Blind Snake)

March 10th, 2012 - 2:47 PM | Filed under Featured Photos | No comments

~12cm | January 8, 2012 | Tupaciguara, Minas Gerais, Brazil

I came across this small blind snake as it slowly wormed its way along a clear patch of ground next to a corn field. I thought it first it might be a worm, but something just looked a little odd about it. I picked it up and through my hand lens I could see it had scales. I also spotted its tongue darting in and out of its tiny mouth.

I didn’t know it then, but I was in the initial stages of chicken pox. All I knew was that I was feeling poorly and wasn’t motivated to take pictures in the field. I stuffed it in a small container for pictures later. The next day I took a few photos as I held it in my hand. I released it later that day in a field much like the one where I found it.

My brother-in-law’s family suggested it was a cobra-de-duas-cabeças (snake with two heads). It does indeed have a rounded off tail, making it difficult to tell which end is which. Some digging this morning though suggests that that name is more properly applied to a different type of reptile which isn’t a snake at all: amphisbaenians or worm lizards. In addition to not being able to easily tell which end is the head, they have the ability to move equally well both forwards and backwards. Probably the more likely common name for the critter I found is cobra-cega (blind snake).

It actually does have eyes, but they’re vestigial. It simply doesn’t need them since it mostly lives underground. Here’s the best closeup I could get of its tiny head. Too bad I didn’t happen to get one with the tongue flicking out.

Head showing vestigial eye

Blind snakes belong to three families in the  infraorder Scolecophidia. Some reading this morning suggests I probably can’t determine which family this one belongs to based on external characters alone.

I suspected at the time and confirmed this morning that they mostly feed on ants and termites.

 

Lichen Moth Caterpillar

February 20th, 2012 - 8:09 PM | Filed under Featured Photos | No comments

10mm long | July 8, 2011 | Victorio Siqueroli Park, Uberlandia, Minas Gerais, Brazil

This cryptically colored little caterpillar reminds me of lichen moth larvae I’ve seen closer to home (Family Arctiidae, subfamily Lithosiinae). If so, it’s in the right place!

Tortricid Moth

February 19th, 2012 - 7:41 AM | Filed under Featured Photos | No comments

8mm long | July 8, 2011 | Victorio Siqueroli Park, Uberlandia, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Whenever I see a moth shaped like this, I assume it’s a tortricid. Probably not a bad guess, considering Tortricidae is one of the largest familes of Lepidoptera.

Resting Spider

February 18th, 2012 - 6:38 PM | Filed under Featured Photos | No comments

5mm long body | July 8, 2011 | Victorio Siqueroli Park, Uberlandia, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Resting with its legs held together on the edge of a leaf, this spider quickly grew tired of me. After a few shots, it slipped to the underside of the leaf.

Dorsal view

I think this is a crab spider in the family Thomisidae, perhaps a Tmarus species.

More Ants and Scales

February 17th, 2012 - 5:45 PM | Filed under Featured Photos | 2 Comments

5mm long | July 8, 2011 | Victorio Siqueroli Park, Uberlandia, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Besides the turtle ants, there was one other type of ant crawling around in the same area. They were quite aggressive, often taking a threatening stance with their gaster turned down and under their body. The one above seems to be saying, “Back! This scale is mine”. The scale above, by the way, differs from the ones I posted about earlier.

Forager?

The ants above were fairly active. The one below, however, never moved from the spot I found it. While I assume it’s the same species, it has a slightly different body build. Note, for example, how much wider the head is. Maybe it’s a soldier?

Soldier?

Side view

Shield Bug, Taking Flight

February 16th, 2012 - 5:15 PM | Filed under Featured Photos | 1 Comment

22mm long | July 8, 2011 | Victorio Siqueroli Park, Uberlandia, Minas Gerais, Brazil

This shield bug caught caught my eye mostly based on its relatively large size. What made the pursuit worthwhile though was accidentally catching it as it took flight. I enjoy getting to see some parts of the anatomy that are generally hidden.

Wings outstretched

Foraging Turtle Ants

February 15th, 2012 - 5:42 PM | Filed under Featured Photos | 1 Comment

4mm long | July 8, 2011 | Victorio Siqueroli Park, Uberlandia, Minas Gerais, Brazil

I spotted these turtle ants (Cephalotes sp.) crawling around on vegetation, occasionally stopping to solicit honeydew from scale insects. I’ve been somewhat enamored with these ants ever since seeing some of Alex Wild’s photos, particular the specialized nest guarding soldiers. Sadly, despite watching the workers, I’ve yet to successfully find a nest for an opportunity to photograph one.

I’ll have to satisfy myself with the foragers for now.

Dorsal view

Here’s another one taking honeydew from a scale insect.

Feeding from scale insect

Scale Insects

February 14th, 2012 - 5:55 PM | Filed under Featured Photos | 1 Comment

5mm long | July 8, 2011 | Victorio Siqueroli Park, Uberlandia, Minas Gerais, Brazil

I probably wouldn’t have noticed these scale insects were it not for the ants that would occasionally stop to feed from them.

Its difficult to see in the first photo, but each one has 20 or so waxy threads spiraling away from the body. It’s not clear to me where exactly they’re coming from. The threads are a bit easier to see in the next few photos.

Waxy corkscrew shaped filaments radiate out from the body

I wonder if the spirals don’t help the ants to locate the scale.

The scales excrete honeydew from a small orange tube (to the left above, right below).

Side view

Here’s what might be an immature form of these scale insects. The tube where honeydew is excreted is easier to spot here.

Immature scale? | ~2mm

And finally, here’s an ant soliciting honeydew from that same small scale.

Ant (~4mm) soliciting honeydew

I’ll separately post more photos of the ants.