Thursday, October 29, 2009

Random Night Survey

I came across a sleeping Jerusalem Cricket earlier and somehow it didn't occur to me to take a picture, since I have that one posed and drying on the pinning board. Since they're nocturnal I thought I might look around outside and see if I came across any - as there are three at the bottom of our pool right now. I ended up running into different insects plus arthropods, gastropods, and salamanders. Below are the pictures - with quick general identifications.

Formicidae (Ants), Xystodesmidae (Millipede Family), Coleoptera (I have three specimens, will devote a later entry to more specific identification), Machilidae (Bristletails)

Machilidae, Xystodesmidae

Raphidophoridae (Camel Crickets), Pulmonata (Slugs, Snails)

Coleoptera, Forficula auricularia (European Earwig)

Carabidae?(Ground Beetle), Pulmonata, Anisolabididae (Ring-Legged Earwigs, male based on asymmetric pincers)

Pulmonata, Diplopoda (Millipedes, Class)

Forficula auricularia, Ensatina eschscholtzii (Monterey Ensatina)

Batrachoseps attenuatus (California Slender Salamander)

Pulmonata eggs, Araneae (Spider) eggs, Pulmonata

Agelenidae (Funnel-Web Spiders), Lumbricina (Earthworm)

Eventually I'll get around to keying the three Coleopterans, but at this point I still am rather busy with medical school. I should make it a habit to do night surveys - they're a lot of fun. Thanks to Phil for the salamander IDs - it pays to have a friend who knows herps and amphibians.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Apologies for the hiatus - I have been trapped by medical school obligations and it's hard to find a spare thought for other concerns. I will upload a picture as soon as the specimen is done drying (probably a week from now), but since it was an easy identification, I thought I would make a preview post. A common, large insect in California is the Jerusalem Cricket, family Stenopelmatidae. There are only two genera within the family: Ammopelmatus, which is critically endangered and only found in California in the Kelso Dunes of the Mojave Desert and coastal Point Conception, and Stenopelmatus, which is widespread. The insects are approximately 1.5-2 inches in length, with an awkward gait. They are wingless, have long antennae on a large head, and a black-banded abdomen.

Orthoptera; Ensifera; Stenopelmatidae; Stenopelmatus
Common Name: Jerusalem Cricket, Potato Bug

This family is unique in Orthoptera, for lacking wings, overdeveloped hind femurs, and auditory organs. They communicate with one another by producing vibrations on the ground with their abdomen, in place of rubbing their wings together as do most true crickets. Jerusalem crickets feed on decaying plant matter and some small insects, and are capable of burrowing into soft ground. They also emit a pungent smell, particularly upon death. The scent is similar to that produced by mantises and other insects. They are mostly nocturnal, so they are often encountered when gardening, lifting up logs and rocks, or when cleaning out pool filters.